On Mission: Feb. 18 collection benefits Black Catholics, other missions

By Danielle Madrid
Guest Columnist

Recognizing a need to call the faithful to support missionary work among Black and Native American Catholics, the U.S. Catholic bishops established the Commission for the Catholic Missions in 1884 to administer a national collection — the first of its kind in the U.S. to support missionary work. The Black and Indian Mission Collection was established as the embodiment of the Catholic Church’s concern for evangelizing the black, Native American and indigenous peoples in the U.S. This collection is the oldest national Catholic collection in our country and this year it will be taken up in parishes on Feb. 18, Ash Wednesday. 
The national Black and Indian Mission Office coordinates the annual appeal in U.S. parishes, and administers and distributes these funds as diocesan grants. Each year bishops request help from the Black and Indian Mission Office to support local parishes in the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel. These funds support pastoral ministry, Catholic schools and religious education programs in many dioceses. 
From inner cities to outland reservations, this collection supports the much needed financial assistance for the Black and Native American Catholic communities. Through our contributions, we work hand in hand with those who deliver the light of Christ to the impoverished, the isolated and the long suffering black, Indian, Eskimo and Aleut peoples of our church.
Every year the Diocese of Austin receives funds from this collection to help with Black Catholic Ministries here in Central Texas. These funds are used by the Office of Black Catholics to develop and provide leadership in establishing organized programs for the evangelization and outreach to the diverse communities of those Catholics of African descent within the Diocese of Austin.
The Office of Black Catholics was established in 1987 to address the needs of African American Catholics in the Diocese of Austin; Johnnie Dorsey has served as director of the Office of Black Catholics from 1987 to the present and also serves as vice-president of the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators.
Since its inception, the office has worked to share the Good News of Jesus Christ by encouraging all to see the Gospel message as one of unity, to be one in God and one in neighbor. The Office of Black Catholics is committed to improving the spiritual and social needs of black Catholics and fostering an understanding and enculturation within the Catholic Church by conducting workshops, seminars and days of reflection. 
Through collaboration with the Office of Black Catholics Advisory Board, the office is responsible for liturgies celebrated in the black culture, social and cultural events, days of reflection, and other events that foster evangelization. Some of the local activities that the Office of Black Catholics has recently been involved in include workshops on racism, coordinating and implementing Martin Luther King Mass and reception, conducting blood drives, participating in Legislative Advocacy Day at the Texas State Capitol, and interacting with the Holy Cross Social Justice Committee to address the topic of “Institutionalized Racism.” The office is also working with other Catholic entities in the Diocese of Austin to plan a community conversation with clergy, law enforcement and other community leaders to discuss ways we can ensure that all people are treated with dignity.
In addition to outreach within the Diocese of Austin, the office also collaborates closely with the National Black Catholic Congress Office and other Offices of Black Catholic Ministry in other dioceses within the U.S. The Diocese of Austin Office of Black Catholics has coordinated attendees to National Black Congresses held in 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012, hosted the National Black Catholic Men’s Conference in 2013, worked with other committee members on the development of a Strategic Plan for the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators, attended a Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, and visited with staff of Congressional representatives in the U.S. House and Senate, served on the administrative team for the Region X Unity Explosion Evangelization Conference and encouraged and coordinated the attendance of many Diocese of Austin attendees to several Unity Explosion Evangelization Conferences. 
We ask for your continued support of the Black and Indian Mission Collection, which will be taken up in the Austin Diocese on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18. Together, let us truly be missionaries through our sacrifice and the love of Jesus Christ we share.

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