The Office of Black Catholic Ministries will transition in May from one dynamic leader to another when current director Dr. Ansel Augustine leaves to become resident campus minister for student leadership at St. John’s University in Queens, New York.
His successor will be Father Daniel Green, parochial vicar at Blessed Trinity Parish.
“One of the greatest joys is seeing my ‘little brother’ use his gifts and share his gifts and be recognized for the gifts we see in him,” Augustine said of Father Green. “I couldn’t think of a more perfect person for this job. We’ve worked together for years, since he was in elementary school.
“He is my brother, even though our blood may be different. I am proud of all he has accomplished, and he knows he has my full support.”
At ease with youth
Finding someone relevant to youth and young adults was Augustine’s and Archbishop Gregory Aymond’s objective.
“That’s the key for the longevity of this office and for our churches, parishes and our schools – connecting to young adults,” Augustine said. “I pray I left it better in hands so it could be taken to the next level to serve our people in the way they needed.”
Augustine, who has worked with Father Green for almost 20 years on events such as the National Black Catholic Congress, annual Gospel Fest, Sankofa Day of Reflection, MLK Day On, Not Off, and Black Saints celebration, said he knows Father Green will do well.
“I want him to do the best he can,” Augustine said. “When I came into the position, it wasn’t ‘about me’ that the people wanted. If Father Daniel completely revamps and throws out the window everything I did, that’s fine. That might be what the people need. His gifts are different than my gifts. I admire his ability to work with all kinds of people. His patience, his organization skills are the things that stand out to me. But, most of all, his faith. There are times when I can talk to him and he can put the mess I’m dealing with into perspective like a true brother would. And, he’ll call me to the carpet if I need to be called to the carpet.”
Ease of transition
March 16 is a date now ingrained in Father Green’s mind, for that’s when Archbishop Aymond invited him to be director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries. While not totally surprised, Father Green had hoped it wouldn’t happen, considering his full plate as parochial vicar and an archdiocesan committee member reviewing confirmation guidelines.
He said Archbishop Aymond told him to think about it and pray over it as he would “pray with him and for him.” The archbishop did slip in that his personal prayers resulted in Father Green popping up as the person who would best energize the office.
Father Green said he did pray, and when he awoke the next morning, “There was a sense of peace about the request. It was still new, but it wasn’t like I was feeling overwhelmed by it.”
After reassurance from close friends and mentors, he accepted.
“It was that sense of continued peace that caused me to call (the archbishop) Saturday night and accept,” Father Daniel said. “Taking over from Ansel, I know the office is in a good place. I know I don’t have to build something from the ground up, but continue the great work going on.”
The archbishop was grateful for Father Green’s yes.
“I have a great deal of respect for him as a person and as a priest,” Archbishop Aymond said. “He has very good leadership abilities and spirituality, and he has a very good understanding of the needs for ministry to the black community. He has been involved in ministry in this community for youth, young adults and adults.”
Will have support
Father Green said his “yes” comes from the deep-rooted support experienced in his childhood parishes and relationships he has built in New Orleans. He said people are invested in him as well as in the office.
“I very much see the Office of Black Catholics as one of those driving places for black Catholics to realize we are part of something bigger than our local parishes,” he said. “We are a part of the church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. That is exciting to me to continue to work with people who have seen me grow up … and now being able to share the gifts that God has given me with them.”
While he expects a learning curve, even with his familiarity of the office’s activities, Father Green is confident he can rely on dedicated and faith-filled volunteers leading tasks at the office and at Blessed Trinity.
“In both places, there is a strong support system,” Father Green said. “But I know there’s always that behind-the-scenes stuff that you don’t see.”
Something else Father Green is pursuing with Father Kurt Young is trying to fulfilling another of Archbishop Aymond’s initiatives – bolstering native-born, black vocations in New Orleans.
“It’s everybody’s focus – we all want it but haven’t been able to put the time into it,” Father Green said. “I think it goes hand in hand with Ansel’s work in youth empowerment and investing in youth and young adults.”
He also will work with other offices to fulfill a synod goal of erasing racism by demonstrating the good work of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.