African Ancestry Committee Plans ‘Go Down Moses’ Retreat

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

A retreat for young African-American men is being planned by the HNP African Ancestry Committee for later this year. It will be held in Washington, D.C., according to David Hyman, OFM, chair of the committee. If all goes well, it will include 15 presenters, 30 participants and visits to ministries and historic sites in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

During recent meetings, the committee focused on planning the Dec. 27 to 30 event and reported on other recent projects.

The “Go Down Moses” retreat, whose proposed theme is “black leadership of Catholic men with other black men,” will be open to men between the ages of 18 and 40. Participants will stay in the Josephite Pastoral Center, said David, adding that this is “our committee’s big project.” David said that the committee aims to attract participants through many organizations. Once details are finalized, the retreat will be publicized.

The retreat is being held to both educate young men about Catholicism and interest them in religious life. During their stay in Washington, retreat participants will visit parishes, schools and other sites relevant to African-American history. “Our goal is to promote vocations and to develop black Catholic leadership,” David said.

The Go Down Moses concept comes from Fr. Fernand Cheri, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, who has run six similar retreats in the Midwest. “The name comes from the fact that Moses in the scripture was reluctant to be the leader and yet God anointed him to do so,” according to David. Br. Ferd is a member of the Interfamilial OFM African-American Apostolate Committee, to which several HNP friars also belong. The African Ancestry Committee is working on vocation promotion also through printed materials.

Several committee members also attended this summer’s National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC), held in Indianapolis, Ind. Committee members Gerald Hopeck, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., who was active with the black seminarians and the liturgies of the Congress, Neil O’Connell, OFM, of New York, N.Y., and Paul Williams, OFM, of Anderson, S.C., were among those at the July gathering.

Steven Pavignano, OFM, pastor of St. Clare Parish in Buffalo, and a former committee member, was an NBCC spiritual director. He traveled with nearly 30 delegates from the dioceses of Buffalo and Rochester to the congress. The NBCC was started in 1889 by Daniel Rudd in an attempt to bring black Catholics together to address concerns and to offer service to the Church. After almost 100 years, the NBCC reconvened and has met about every five years since.

This Congress XI was attended by more than 2,500 delegates who heard from bishops and celebrated Masses with them, and attended workshops and discussions on a variety of topics, including a draft of a pastoral plan and a Gospel concert.

“During the concert, the delegates from St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo were invited to take the stage,” said Steven. “They left to a standing ovation. At the end of the congress, Bishop Richard Malone charged delegates to bring home the pastoral plan and implement the 10 principles of the plan for the good of the African American Catholics and the strengthening of the Church in general. Delegates from Buffalo met in August to begin planning on how to make the implementation.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.