Ready yourself for some groundbreaking news about the 2012 “Keep on Teaching” Forum Sept. 8. In its 22nd year of existence, this forum will undergo a metamorphosis. Our change came about as an opportunity to forward “The Year of Faith” as urged by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent Apostolic Letter: “The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. … The upcoming Year of Faith, is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops state on their website (usccb.org) that this Year of Faith “is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him.” Catechists embrace these words of inspiration, for they affirm the mission and task of catechesis. Thus, something new should occur during this season of “Keep on Teaching” to preface this year’s journey of faith.
In light of the above and coupled with the theme for The Year of Faith as “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” the organizers of “Keep On Teaching” gained another insight from Pope Benedict XVI: “This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of faith.” With this in mind, the new course was set for “Keep On Teaching,” one that transformed our traditional catechetical forum into a catechetical pilgrimage “for reflection and rediscovery of faith.”
Like most pilgrimages, our journey will visit sacred sites and historical places. Filled with prayer and reflection we will follow the first footsteps of Catholic people of faith in southern Maryland, so that we may rediscover what it meant to be a Catholic Christian pilgrim in colonial Maryland. We will “wade in the water” via water taxi to St. Clement Island where the first Mass was said in the 13 colonies by Jesuit Father Andrew White. We will pray there and listen to the wind as we hear the echoes of a hammer pounding down nails to build the first altar by the hands of a man of color, Matthias de Sousa.
We will travel to the Sotterley Plantation. Surely blacks who were enslaved there found a “blessed assurance” through a relationship with Jesus. History reveals that some of the slaves on this plantation were Catholics. Additionally we will visit historic St. Francis Xavier Church in Leonardtown, the oldest Catholic Church from the original 13 states, founded in 1640, built in 1731.
The pilgrimage will conclude by visiting St. Peter Claver in the St. Mary’s County town of Ridge, where the Oblate Sisters of Providence and the Josephite Fathers and Brothers once served. This was the home of a school, Cardinal Gibbons, patterned after Tuskegee Institute, often referred to as “The Tuskegee of the North.” The original church was built by African-American Catholics; some of their ancestors will host a down-home-cooked meal there for us. We will end our journey with Mass at St. Peter Claver celebrated by Redemptorist Father Kenneth Gaddy.
(Incidentally, as the old St. Peter was being cleared out for demolition, letters were found from a supporter; Mother Katherine Drexel, now a canonized saint.)
The “Keep on Teaching” Pilgrimage is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8, from 8 a.m. to 8 pm. The gathering place to board the motor coach is the St. Cecilia Church parking lot at Hilton and Clifton Avenues. Seating is based only on reservations, the cost is $55 per person. For more information please call the Office of African American Catholic Ministries at 410-625-8472.
Therese Wilson Favors is the Director of the Office of African American Catholic Ministries.
Copyright (c) Sept. 6, 2012 CatholicReview.org