the color of faith

During a year of hardships for Black New Yorkers, with a pandemic on top of resurgent awareness of racial injustices, the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry occupies a pivotal spot at the intersection of communities of color and the wider Church in New York. We asked Director Br. Tyrone Davis and Associate Director Leah Dixon how the ministry has fared during the health crisis – and what they’re planning for the future.

lessons

Br. Tyrone Davis, CFC  |  Director, Black Ministry  We’ve learned how we can get anything done with a little thought, creativity and good will (or good contacts).  What may have surprised us most is how successfully the unimaginable could be accomplished. The challenges of this time unveiled untapped creativity…and allowed us to call upon folks we otherwise might not have.

Actions

Br. Tyrone Davis  We were able to move forward with all of our events and programs as scheduled, albeit virtually, and add some new programs to the ministry – all with the objective of doing what we do well and as church! Our two biggest programs, the Pierre Toussaint Scholars Annual Retreat Weekend and the Venerable Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund Virtual Awards Gala both went remarkably well.

Leah Dixon  |  Associate Director, Black Ministry  A big change this year is simply not being able to see our Pierre Toussaint scholars in person and bring them together for bonding and networking. Our new class of scholars were interviewed virtually, and their interaction with the program and each other has been all virtual. We have provided opportunities for them to meet and bond digitally, but nothing is as effective as being physically together. Instead of our usual lunch/dinner meetings with scholars, I’ve met with them via Zoom and/or FaceTime.

Br. Tyrone Davis  For all our programs, we enlisted the support of various professionals and worked with some of our PTS alumni (talented young adults). Some virtual programs were prerecorded, so a lot of time was put into planning and production. We’re proud of and abundantly grateful to the dedicated team that worked with us, especially our college student leaders. They stepped up and generously offered themselves in acts of ministry and service – and professionalism.

During this time, in addition to our twice-weekly morning prayer line, we began reciting the rosary three times a week. Our prayer group has grown substantially, and we are joined by people from our archdiocese and beyond, as far away as California. Some of our new prayer leaders are people who normally served in secondary roles in our churches and faith communities, who are now leading the community in prayer and healing!

THE ROAD ahead

Leah Dixon  For the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Program, our biggest challenge is to continue with the same level of additional educational, spiritual and professional programming that we have afforded to our scholars in previous years. It’s hard to arrange travel or educational conference opportunities at this point in time. There is also the matter of funding during the time of Covid, as the program continues to grow. Needs increase for our scholarship program and our broader ministry, yet resources decrease. One major area of focus will be keeping our social media outlets active and up to date.

Br. Tyrone Davis  Our annual Black History Month Mass celebration will take place at 1:00 P.M. on Sunday, February 7, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In-person attendance will be limited (and somewhat discouraged); however, we will livestream the event on the cathedral website for the full community. The theme is “We remember; we celebrate; we believe!” A memorial program, a day of service and an educational/social justice program are also being planned.

HEALING divisions

Br. Tyrone Davis  If we’re going to address the issue of racial healing, there needs to be an acknowledgment of the existence of injustice in our society, and in our Church, as well. Part of that acknowledgment needs to come from the pulpit, which is why the Archdiocesan Priests Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Racism sponsored a workshop entitled “Preaching Against Racism” for New York priests and seminarians last October. Once there is sufficient local leadership, we need to create an environment and opportunity for conversation among the faithful. The parish communities need to figure some things out among themselves and with one another in ongoing prayer and dialogue. Then the entire community (Black and especially non-Black) needs to take action to eradicate racism in our midst.