Looking Back, Looking Ahead
The NBCC convenes a national congress every five years. Each one renews and develops our mission with a Pastoral Plan. The next congress will be held in 2023.
Read on to learn more about our past national congresses, going all the way back to the first in 1889.
Our Next Congress
Congress XIII (2023)
Announcing the Congress Theme — “Write the Vision: A Prophetic Call to Thrive”
July 20-23, 2023
The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745
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Our Latest Congress
Congress XII (2017)
Orlando, FL | July 6-9, 2017
Theme: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God.
This historical gathering of Black Catholics and those who minister within the African American Apostolate was an outstanding witness and affirmation of the Catholic faith in our community and of our faith in each other. Many attendees expressed joy and gratitude at seeing so many present and had the satisfaction of hearing both their hopes and wishes, as well as their challenges and concerns, addressed and shared with many like minded brothers and sisters from all over the country.
Congress XII Mural
Created by Californian artist Enzo Selvaggi, the mural features a heavenly court of Black saints. Men and women of varied hue, tongue, nation and era are depicted as they worship the Christ child, Himself enthroned in the loving and nurturing embrace of the Blessed Virgin, the Seat of Wisdom.
Congress XI (2012)
Indianapolis, IN | July 19-21, 2012
Theme: Faith Engaged: Empower, Equip. Evangelize
Congress XI celebrated 25 years of gathering together as a congress of Black Catholics in modern times. This celebration of “What We Have Seen and Heard” brought the power of the Spirit to renew and strengthen the bond of Christian love that exists between us all.
So many in the Black Catholic community still struggle with the oppressive burdens of unemployment, inadequate housing, poverty and violence: the tragic legacy of the prevailing racism which still exists in society today. The Good News of the Gospel brings hope and strength to go on with the struggle, until the life and dignity of every person in the community is respected and honored.
Congress X (2007)
Buffalo, NY | July 12-15, 2007
Theme: Christ is with us: Celebrating the gifts of the sacraments
The vision for Congress X was to help Black Catholics articulate how the sacraments and the sacramental life, as gifts from Christ, are connected to our contribution to the Church and the world through our Core Principles, which were developed at Congress IX as an expression of our proclamation of the Gospel.
The celebration of the sacraments, and our understanding of the Church as a sacrament, is a constitutive part of the proclamation of the Gospel. If we cannot relate these gifts from Christ to our Core Principles, then we are missing a fundamental element of our Catholic Faith. If we do not appreciate the gifts that we have received from Christ, then we are in danger of taking them for granted—something we cannot afford to do, as it is Christ who is acting in these sacramental celebrations.
Congress IX (2002)
Chicago, IL | August 29 – September 1, 2002
Theme: Black Catholic Leadership in the 21st Century: Solidarity in Action
Congress IX was assembled to provide an opportunity for a wide population across the United States, the African Continent, and Brazil to discuss a Declaration of Principles which were formed to lead us to action in ministry. This congress served as an important event which helped to strengthen leadership skills and develop linkages so that all who minister do so in solidarity with those dedicated to serving persons of African descent in every community.
All who attended the Congress were motivated to return to their home dioceses and parishes on fire for the Lord and prepared to do His work in spreading the Good News.
Congress VIII (1997)
Baltimore, MD | August 28-31, 1997
Theme: What we have seen and heard—we proclaim and celebrate
This congress was a coming-home celebration. It was the last congress of the 20th century, and it was convened in Baltimore, the place of the last congress of the 19th century. Some 3,500 people gathered “to witness among leaders who share our spiritual heritage and life experiences, to see the church living what she articulates and to fellowship among Catholics who are proud to be like us.”
One of the outstanding innovations at Congress VIII was the introduction of “Word Events” that proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ through drama, music, dance, storytelling, role-playing and visual arts. Another highlight was the pilgrimage and dedication.
Congress VII (1992)
New Orleans, LA | July 9-12, 1992
Theme: Strengthening the African-American family
Most Reverend John Ricard, President of the National Black Catholic Congress, opened the gathering by stating: “We’re a small voice crying in the wilderness. But if we work at it, our voices will reverberate beyond the Catholic Church. As a church, this is the most effective way we can respond to the challenges of our times. Our delegates must be responsible for addressing the development of a diocesan and parish structure to ensure that definite activities are planned, monitored and evaluated to result in the strengthening of the African-American family.”
Recommendations from the congress focused on creating a unified national family policy and other social policies that would eliminate the disparity between families living in poverty and those in higher socio-economic levels.
Congress VI (1987)
Washington, DC | May 21-24, 1987
Theme: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send? Who will go for us? Here I am; I said. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8
This congress was held on the campus of the Catholic University of America. It opened with a look at the strides made by black Catholics in the United States: from the ordination of Bishop Joseph Perry in 1966 to that day on May 21, 1987, when 1,500 black Catholics assembled for a discussion on evangelizing to their brothers and sisters.
Sr. Francesca Thompson spoke of black identity, saying: “I define black power as black freedom. Black self-determination, and black pride, wherein, we as a people no longer view ourselves as without human dignity but men and women whole… with a God-given ability to carve out our own destiny.”
Congress V (1894)
Baltimore, MD | October 8-11, 1894
Little documentation was provided on this congress. Below is an excerpt from the address of Dr. William Lofton, President of the Congress, to the assembly. Lofton stated: “We hope to hail the day… when the American people, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and the laity shall rise up in their might and stamp out the prejudice which is today destroying the life’s blood of the country.”
Congress IV (1893)
Chicago, IL | September 4-8, 1893
The purpose of this congress was to address important issues such as discriminatory actions in Catholic schools, questions regarding whether the Negro should return to Africa, and the establishment of separate schools and churches for blacks. Approval was also given to the newly created St. Peter Claver’s Catholic Union. The closing Mass was attended by more than 5,000 people.
Congress III (1892)
Philadelphia, PA | July 5-7, 1892
The third Black Catholic Congress was tasked with drawing up a constitution for a permanent organization. The Congress went on record as favoring “education of the races” as well as supporting the provisions of the Brussels Treaty against slave trade in Africa.
Congress II (1890)
Cincinnati, OH | July 8-10, 1890
The second Black Catholic Congress issued a call for the establishment of an industrial school. In addition, the Congress demanded the abolition of the slave trade in Africa. In his address to the Congress, Dr. William Lofton of Washington, DC stated “the most imperative need is education.”
Congress I (1889)
Washington, DC | January 1-4, 1889
In his address to the first Black Catholic Congress, William H. Smith stated, “Truth is the strongest armor a person can possess, and we are told ‘You shall know the truth, and truth shall make you free. Our object is, or should be, the truth.’”
Two hundred delegates met with President Grover Cleveland, and Rev. Augustus Tolton celebrated High Mass. One point on the agenda was the recognition of women’s roles in evangelization. The resolution was also made that “we express our sympathy with our brethren of the Emerald Isle, who like ourselves are struggling for justice.”
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