Black Priests Preserve History at Notre Dame

On October 24, a delegation of Black priests entrusted the Theodore Hesburgh Library with the its historical documents for the purpose of preservation and study. The delegation membership included: Fr. Kenneth Taylor, President of NBCCC, Fr. Clarence Williams, CPPS, Vice President and Archivist, Fr. Theodore Parker, and Deacon Melvin Tardy. This observance was established in 1990 by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC). On October 24, a delegation of Black priestNovember is Black Catholic History Month in the United States and Brazil. This observance was established in 1990 by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC). s entrusted the Theodore Hesburgh Library with the its historical documents for the purpose of preservation and study.The delegation membership included: Fr. Kenneth Taylor, President of NBCCC, Fr. Clarence Williams, CPPS, Vice President and Archivist, Fr. Theodore Parker, and Deacon Melvin Tardy.

The three priests were nostalgic about bringing the documentation to Notre Dame because of their personal histories with the university. “It is hard to believe that we were here as seminarians in 1970, and began the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association (NBCSA). And now we return almost 50 years later as priests. Things have come full circle,” Fr. Parker of the Archdiocese of Detroit. He had served on the Coordinating Committee of NBCSA.

The first meeting at Notre Dame there were 70 black seminarians from across the country. They were the guests of the National Black Sisters Conference which had formed two years earlier. Fr. Taylor was also present in 1970, and shared the amazing realization of returning these historical documents to a place that was instrumental in building the Black Catholic movement in its infancy. Photo of Moving DocumentsHe pointed out the context of handing over of the documents at this time. “November as Black Catholic History Month is a project of the Black Catholic clergy, so this is a perfect time to accept the invitation to place our chronicle with the Notre Dame archives on the American Catholic Heritage.”

This visit to Notre Dame University is one step towards a greater appreciation of the Black Catholic movement to be explored in 2018. Fr. Clarence Williams, CPPS is the chairman of the NBCCC 50th anniversary committee. “We are putting things in place as we approach in less than 18 months the 50th anniversary of our Black Catholic movement which began with the clergy leading it. The priests met with the National Interracial Justice Conference the week after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Detroit, Michigan.These priests asked that those Negro priests present could gather as a caucus to share their feeling and thoughts of the Negro mood.
 
The result of their meetings was a statement on the racism of the Catholic Church and the formation of a national organization, NBCCC. The rest is history.” The NBCCC has a standing committee to review documents and article that will continue to build this Black Catholic collection. Fr. Taylor stated, “We are open to the contribution of others who wish to preserve our Black Catholic History and invite their participation. In a special way, we dedicate our efforts in the memory of Fr. Cyprian Davis, OSB, who recently died. He took us be example to value the contribution of our unique Catholic journey. He was the keeper of the archives and now that he is no longer here to protect and preserve, we must take up that responsibility.”

Fr. Williams challenges the leaders to participate in the 50th anniversary of the Black Catholic movement this year.“We hope that Black Catholic leaders during this Black Catholic History month will go from their attics to their basement to discover and recover the various important documents , articles, photos and objects that tell our story, how we have come this far by faith.” Those wishing to contribute to the historical collection can find information on how to proceed on the NBCCC website www.tnbccc.com

Photo credit: Catholic African World Network