The National Black Catholic Congress is continuing its young adult webinar series “Black Catholics and the Millennial Gap” with an event on Monday, December 6th at 7pm EST featuring ethicist Dr. Nicole Symmonds.

Entitled “Pseudo-Religion or Social Poetry: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church”, the event will be hosted by Byron Wratee of Boston College, one of the four Black Catholic systematic theology PhD students leading the series.

A South Carolina native, Wratee’s work utilizes Postcolonial and Critical Race Theory to interrogate ecclesiology, theological anthropology, and political theology.

Symmonds, who received her doctorate from Emory University, focuses on the experiences of Black women in America and is currently a visiting professor at Mercer University.

The theme of December's NBCC event comes from the recent criticism of modern social justice movements—including BLM—by the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles. Therein, he called such movements “pseudo-religions” born from a “Marxist” underpinning.

Pope Francis, on the other hand, called protesters in the wake of the murder of George Floyd “social poets” in an address to social activists in October.

“If you believe the gospel is true and you are, in your heart, Catholic, you’re not going to let Whiteness put us out,” said John Barnes II during the first event in the NBCC series on November 8th, entitled ‘Racism, Trauma, and The Catholic Church’. (Resources from that event can be found here.)

Barnes, a Los Angeles native who studies at Fordham University in NYC, focuses in his work on the intersection of systematics and the African-American religious experience, specifically Black Liberation Theology.

That first event was hosted by LaRyssa Herrington, a native of the Champaign, Ill. area who now studies at the University of Notre Dame, with a similar academic focus. She, alongside Barnes, Wratee, and Symmonds, are alumni of the Candler School of Theology at Emory.

Wratee’s Black Canadian colleague at BC, Chanelle Robinson, specializes in womanist theology and is also helping to lead the series. She did her master’s work in theology at the University of Toronto.

All five participants in the upcoming second installment are members of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium, which held its annual meeting last month at Notre Dame and featured Dr. M. Shawn Copeland giving a livestreamed headline lecture on “#BlackLivesMatter as Public Theology”.

An alumna of Boston College, Copeland also recently completed a term as a public lecturer at Emory.

The new series from the NBCC—founded in 1987 by Bishop John Ricard, SSJ and associations representing the nation’s Black clergy, sisters, and diocesan front office professionals—is part of a general ramp-up in its online presence, coinciding with Black Catholic History Month and including a brand-new website launched earlier this month.

Like the first event, December’s will be livestreamed simultaneously on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

The NBCC’s flagship event, a national in-person Congress gathering usually held every five years, is scheduled for July 20-23, 2023 in the Washington, DC area, following a one-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).


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