Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, gave a rousing address – “It’s All Grace: Drawn in Relationship to the Living God” – June 12 to kick off this year’s Archbishop Lyke Conference held June 11-15 in New Orleans.
He said by virtue of baptism, we are charged to evangelize and proclaim the “Good News” of the Catholic faith.
“Each sacrament is a promise of grace between God and his beloved – you and me – and for that love to be realized it requires action,” Bishop Murry said. “The sacrament of baptism requires every Christian to evangelize … to proclaim the good news in action and word” to those who don’t know him.
He cautioned that unless we live the Gospel, the words mean nothing. Jesus told the apostles to love as he loves; not to judge or condemn; forgive and be forgiven; celebrate the Mass and the Eucharist; and baptize “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Catholics also have to make a concerted effort to understand the Gospels better, so they don’t hesitate to evangelize in fear that they cannot explain the tenets of faith to others when asked.
“As difficult and challenging as evangelizing might be, I cannot stress enough how urgent and important this mission is for our time,” Bishop Murry said.
He said the key to evangelizing is to meet people where they are in their faith journey, just as Jesus did. Evangelizing requires listening to people’s stories, as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus.
“Jesus walked with them. … We are called to go out to others with care, concern and compassion and to walk with our brothers and sisters on their journey of life and to listen to them,” he said.
Bishop Murry said people are looking for meaning in their lives as they are surrounded by a world of violence and distraction. He emphasized that we are in a “battle for minds and hearts,” and only God can give meaning and purpose, to help people find peace in their suffering.
He quoted St. Augustine when he said, “We were made for God and will remain restless until we rest in him.”
Bishop Murry encouraged participants to go and make disciples not only in our parishes – where we are members of a baptized body – but beyond – to the 21 million nonbelievers.
The evening ended with a blessing of holy water, a renewal of baptismal promises and self-signing with holy water as the conference choir sang “Take Me to the Water.”
Have joyful celebrations
The conference, themed “Sacraments: Rituals Black and Beautiful,” explored through workshops each of the sacraments, offering a look at African-American traditions within the Catholic faith in planning liturgies, ministries of song, music and dance, supporting priests and religious, Catholic funerals, working in youth ministries, understanding what God expects as outlined in the “Our Father,” the hows/whys of Catholic worship and more.
Richard Cheri, executive director of the board of directors of the Lyke Foundation and conference choir leader, said the conference’s goal is to train and provide tools liturgical ministers can use to transform cultural gifts of African Americans into sacramental celebrations that are “both truly black and authentically Catholic.”
The written program itself was designed as a liturgical resource with liturgy and music that attendees could use as a guide when they return home. The Father Clarence Rivers Institute preceding the conference gave new insight to parish music ministers and prepared members of the 80-strong conference choir for conference celebrations.
Namesake of conference
The Lyke Foundation was founded to cultivate, celebrate and commission leadership to develop powerful and effective Black Catholic worship.
Its namesake was Archbishop James Patterson Lyke, whose many assignments included serving in Ohio teaching high school religion, as a member of the liturgical commission for the Diocese of Cleveland and active civil rights initiatives leader; in Memphis as an associate pastor and superior of the local Franciscan community and the first African-American chaplain for Marriage Encounter as well as a board member of the National Office for Black Catholics and president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.
In 1979, he was named auxiliary bishop of Cleveland and then served in Atlanta first as apostolic administrator and then was appointed the fourth archbishop of Atlanta in 1992.
By the time he died of cancer in 1992, he had established himself as a trusted voice for African-American Catholics by coordinating the writing and publication of “What We Have Seen and Heard,” a joint pastoral letter by black bishops on the richness of the black Catholic heritage in America.
His nephew, Andrew Lyke, who is secretary of the Lyke Foundation board, call Archbishop Lyke “a consummate liturgist” who loved the Catholic liturgy. In 1986, Archbishop Lyke was instrumental in coordinating the “Lead Me, Guide Me African American Catholic Hymnal” of 450 selections in conjunction with the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.
“Jim loved being Catholic. He loved being black. He found that the combination of black spirituality and culture and Catholicism fit hand in glove, and he celebrated that,” Lyke said. “He found ways to celebrate it in the African-American community and in the larger church.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.