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Didier Kangbeni of Togo, left, at the National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla., with Shadrach Faton of Benin and Manuela Hugo-Krieger of Cameroon. All three belong to the Our Lady of Africa Chaplaincy in the archdiocese.

Fourteen from archdiocese participate in National Black Catholic Congress

Fourteen people from the Archdiocese of Omaha returned from the National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC) in Orlando, Fla., newly inspired to spread the faith and defeat exclusion and indifference.

Those leaders in the archdiocese’s NBCC chapter and Our Lady of Africa Chaplaincy were among about 2,000 people from around the country who gathered for the 12th annual convention July 6-9.

"They were very excited," said Father Vincent Sunguti, chaplain of the African community in Omaha, who didn’t attend the convention but visited with and spoke for the three representatives of the group who were there. "They came up with the slogan, ‘I am black, I am Catholic and I am a child of God.’"

Deacon Ernie Spicer, a member of St. Benedict the Moor Parish in Omaha, said he and 10 other members of the local NBCC sometimes face indifference and exclusion fueled by racism, in the church and elsewhere, but they would not give up the fight.

The national gathering also reinforced the emotional commitment and energy many black Catholics bring to the Mass and other sacraments, Deacon Spicer said.

"You experience the joy, excitement," he said. "It’s just uplifting."

Members of the NBCC who attended the conference – all members of St. Benedict the Moor Parish – also plan to reach people in the black community who are not active in the church and encourage them to return, Deacon Spicer said. The sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, are critical to life and faith, he said.

"This is the body and blood of Christ, not just a sign or a symbol," the deacon said. "I think we need to talk more about the reception of the sacraments."

Father Sunguti, who is from Kenya, said blacks in the community he serves as chaplain come from many countries, including Togo, Cameroon, Benin, Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria.

They can feel isolated as they work to retain their cultures while finding common ground in the United States, he said. The congress was a good opportunity for some of them to hear about others’ experiences and be part of the larger evangelization efforts by black Catholics, said Father Sunguti, who also is associate pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha.

"We don’t want to isolate ourselves," he said. "We want people to share the fruits of the faith and how they can grow."

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