By Deacon Seigfried Presberry
A National Black Catholic Men’s Conference was held recently at the Laurel Holiday Inn. I am known as one who does not attend such conferences but something drew me to this one and I am glad that I attended. I am also glad and proud to be a “Black Catholic man.” Can you as a black Catholic man say the same or are you, too, hiding out instead of “Stepping Out.” Where are you my brother?
The conference theme was “Stepping Out,” but before you can “step out” you must know how to do it. So we went back and explored our roots, our culture and heritage. We went back in time searching for our identity, our purpose and our mission. We needed a launch point and we found it through those who as black Catholic men endured some of the same struggles that you and I are facing today.
As black Catholic men in this millennium we must get back to community. To the times when we were church and it formed who we were and what we were. Our black Catholic community should and must reflect our culture. Our church has to be a community center where the needs of everyone can and must be met. We have to stop relying on others, take responsibility for our black Catholic Church and let the beauty of our “blackness” be the focal point of our celebration.” Going back in time can still teach us a lot about our Catholicism and our culture.
The framework has and is being laid for us as black Catholic men to build up the kingdom of God. We can no longer say “I am afraid to spread the Gospel” or “that is not me.” You can no longer come and go to church solely for your own spirituality and nourishment. Stop it! Please stop it! You see, I said and did the same thing when I was asked about becoming a permanent deacon for this Archdiocese of Baltimore. I was afraid and lacking in man-given talent. But the Lord our God looks at each and every one of us and gives us his strength and courage to achieve that which we think is impossible. So stop being afraid to let others know that you are a black Catholic man. Everything that you or I do is to praise God and God alone.
As you “Step Out,” remember that it is not about you, but God and love of neighbor. Go and challenge other black men about their spirituality and how they need to come to Christ. Our “blackness” is about empowering not enabling. If necessary, express your displeasure with the way our black men are living their lives and let them know that there is a God who forgives and is always there for us. As the saying goes, “use any means that is necessary” to bring them into the light.
We are black Catholic men who even in the midst of our struggles still have to recognize our need for God’s help for we can’t go it alone. We have to continue to gather in Christ’s presence in an atmosphere of trust, equality and anonymity to share personal feelings and experiences. We unconditionally have to accept one another and prayerfully support one another. The above statements in this paragraph illustrate why we as black men need to come together and express our love of God and neighbor.
Yes, I am proud to be a black Catholic and my prayer is that other black men will also. God’s word is alive and when you say that you have not been fed by his words then you went to the wrong store. May we embrace God and one another with all we have and all that we must be.
Deacon Seigfried Presberry is director of the archdiocesan Office of Prison Ministry.