Unity Explosion 2014 focuses on evangelization

By Catholic Spirit Staff

Unity Explosion 2014 was held June 12-15 near Houston. The conference theme was “Rejoice Together … Encouraged Forever!” and the mission of the conference was to address the leadership, ministerial, catechetical, liturgical and evangelization needs of families, particularly those of African descent. The conference was sponsored by Region X of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and was hosted by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. 
Unity Explosion began in 1989 in Dallas with the vision to liturgically recognize, embrace and share the gifts that American Catholics of African descent bring to the universal church. This year Unity Explosion celebrated 25 years as a liturgically focused, faith-based evangelization conference. 
Father Manuel Williams, pastor of Resurrection Parish in Montgomery, Ala., served as the 2014 conference pastor and attendees came from across the U.S. Thirty people attended from the Diocese of Austin.
Bertha Nyirenda, a parishioner from St. Albert the Great Parish in Austin, attended the conference for the first time. 
“It was a very enriching, inspiring and a spiritual experience for me. I enjoyed all the key note addresses, but I especially loved Father Warren Harvey’s presentation on the history of black Catholicism in America and his personal struggles and rewards as a black Catholic priest,” she said.
Father Harvey used humor to drive the point that the Catholic Church is home, no matter our skin color, gender or era we live in, she said.
“I can honestly say that I left the convention on Sunday 100 percent better than when I walked in that Thursday afternoon,” Nyirenda said.
Carolyn Collins, a parishioner of Holy Cross Parish in Austin, also said her faith was enriched during the conference. 
“I was richly blessed. The keynote speakers were outstanding. They each brought their own spirit, experiences and personal relationship with God to share with us. They each had their own story to witness how they stepped out on faith no matter the costs, sacrifice or difficulties … I believe the common theme in all their talks was that God had something for all of them to do and they found their gift to the world,” she said.
Lena Brown Owens, also a parishioner from Holy Cross Parish in Austin, enjoyed listening to a presentation by Father Ken Hamilton who provided information regarding the challenges of maintaining the Catholic faith in the African-American community. 
“His message was one of hope. He stressed that our religion is a gift and we need to do a better job at evangelizing others. He encouraged us to reach out and touch another heart with our religion, raise up our clergy and religious in prayer, and encourage vocations,” she said.
Johnnie Dorsey, director of the diocesan Office of Black Catholics, said about 350 people attended the conference.
“It was a tremendous opportunity for bishops, priests, religious and lay people to worship, learn, study and interact with one another as we discussed our responsibilities to evangelize,” he said.

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