With great joy, the Black Catholic Advisory Board of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend shares with you this Strategic Plan for the Evangelization and Pastoral Care of Blacks in our diocese! To do so is to share a two-fold sign that evangelization – the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ by his Church – is alive among Blacks in this Diocese.

The first sign is the existence of the diocesan Black Catholic Advisory Board established by our Bishop, Kevin Rhoades. Too often, when Black Catholics mention or practice our faith in this diocese, we are greeted with words or expressions that convey this sentiment: “I didn’t know there were Black Catholics!” Our advisory board’s existence makes it clear:

WE ARE HERE and our diocese recognizes and values our particular needs, concerns, and gifts.

To say “we are here” shows that our own evangelization is bearing fruit. When we share “what we have seen and heard” with others, we thank those who planted and nurtured the Good News of Jesus Christ within us. To quote Pope Paul VI: “Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the

Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.”

To say “we are here” reflects the broad diversity among Black Catholics. “We” are cradle Catholics and converts; laity, clergy and religious; married and single; from historically Black and White parishes; from the suburbs and the ‘hood; from America and the Pan-African diaspora. Yet each of us has heard the call of the Gospel “in our own language” and has responded with faith.

To say “we are here” recognizes our faith to endure as a double minority – having to defend our faith as a religious minority within the Black community while countering regrettable ignorance and even racism as a racial minority within the U.S. Catholic Church. But we are indeed here, members of the Body of Christ, and here to stay.

The second sign of hope for our evangelization is the promulgation of this strategic plan. It reflects genuine concern for both the evangelization and the pastoral care of Blacks; for without a plan, “the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

The strategic plan grew out of feedback from diocesan events (including the 2012 and 2013 “Day of Reflection for Black

Catholics”) and from over two years of monthly meetings between the newly formed Black Catholic Advisory Board, the Secretariat for Evangelization and Special Ministries, the Office of Catechesis and other special guests. The plan encourages Blacks to “be yourselves” and to “share your gifts.” It encourages others to affirm, nurture, and celebrate with Blacks. The Plan represents the faith, hope and love we have for our people and for our entire Catholic Church, the Body of Christ.

As such, the strategic plan is meant to be informative (providing historical context and resources) as well as an instrument and guide to be adapted to local circumstances. We extend a joyful invitation to ALL in our diocese, parishes, schools and Catholic institutions to read and embrace this plan; to pray for its success; and to work collaboratively with us -- and with those you alone can reach -- in order to achieve the plan’s vision, mission, goals and objectives.

Therefore, we pray, “May these words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you” (Psalm 19:14) – our diocese -- and, to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom we trust. We write these words – to quote that great apostle of love, St. John the Evangelist – “so that you may have fellowship with us … and that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

Black Catholic Advisory Board

Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend

November 2014