WASHINGTON (CNS) – When Fredron DeKarlos Blackmon was elected to lead the Knights of Peter Claver last September, it was a natural progression of his involvement as a professional lay Catholic.
Just 34 years old, Blackmon has a “day job” as pastoral associate and director of liturgy and music for St. Joseph Parish in Huntsville, Ala. His election as supreme knight of the fraternal organization is just the latest piece of what he sees as a very fulfilling life in ministry.
The Knights of Peter Claver was founded by Josephite Father Conrad F. Rebesher in 1909 for African-American men who were barred from other organizations in the Catholic Church.
Blackmon was in Washington to participate in the Easter Prayer Breakfast hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House. Blackmon talked about the importance of Catholic schools in the inner city.
Q: What do want to see the Knights of Peter Claver accomplish?
A: There has to be a focus on working in development and evangelization to keep our Catholic schools open, particularly in economically deprived areas, in the inner city, in black communities. I’m a firm believer that Catholic education is apostolic work on the part of the church. We have an obligation, all of us as Catholics, but those needs are particularly poignant for black Catholics.
The second thing is vocations. We have to preach vocations. It is not just the responsibility of the diocesan director of vocations. It’s not the responsibility of the priest who gets up at Mass to preach vocations. This kind of stuff starts in the family. So if formation is from the cradle to the grave, we really need to start from the cradle as far as the importance of vocation to every state of life. We talk about the importance of vocations – to every status – but we are hurting for priests. We talk about how we need priests, we need priests, we need priests, but also, what about our consecrated religious?
In some of our schools, it would be particularly helpful if we had religious who look like the children that we have. But that’s not a luxury we enjoy. But we need to preach that each and every one of us, we all have an obligation (to encourage vocations).
The third point that is important to me is life issues. There needs to be a good pro-life movement within the African-American Catholic community.
Q: Are pro-life issues different in the white or Latino Catholic Church than in the African-American church?
A: I don’t know that they’re different. We have to do a better job of meeting people where they are. A priest could preach a homily in one place but due to cultural issues or whatever, preaching the same homily the same way may not get through to people. So we have to consider the context. … I could bring in whole staff of people to talk about pro-life issues, but it will fall on deaf ears if the people doing the talking have no ties to the community.