Recently renamed for its late cofounder Fr Chester Smith, SVD, the annual event seeks to draw men from across the African diaspora to unite in faith and fellowship for a set of plenaries, Gospel Masses, and workshops.
The theme for this year’s conference is “The Least of These,” drawn from Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40. The theme was also used for the BFM virtual Lenten Bible study conducted by Fr Charles Smith, SVD (Chester’s twin brother) earlier this spring.
BFM, which seeks to “spiritually recharge Afrocentric communities by renewing interest, commitment and devotions within the Roman Catholic Church,” is today led by Smith and Fr Ken Hamilton, two of the ministry’s cofounders.
Earlier this month, they announced this year’s national conference in partnership with the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry.
BFM was founded with the blessing of the Society of the Divine Word in 1993 by the Smith twins, Hamilton, and the late Fr Anthony Clark, SVD. The name of the organization comes from two prominent figures in the Black Catholic Movement of the late 20th century: Servant of God Thea Bowman and the late Auxiliary Bishop Joseph A. Francis, SVD of Newark.
“My mission, I think, has always been to invigorate young Black Catholic men and young men in general, as well as guys my age and older, who are individualized and left kind of isolated in their parishes around the country—as a matter of fact, around the world,” said Hamilton in a 2022 conference recap video released earlier this year.
“We have guys who are coming to this conference and have been for quite a few years.”
The 2023 conference speakers have not yet been announced, but last year’s event featured a wide cross-section of ministers and scholars, including the ordinary of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, where the event was held.
As such, the October gathering could feature an appearance from Archbishop Shelton Fabre of Louisville, installed in 2022 as the first Black Catholic bishop in Kentucky history—in an event just steps from where the NBCMC will take place. The conference has not been held in a diocese with a Black Catholic prelate since 2014.
In the past, the conference has also featured vendors and exhibitors from around the country, including booksellers, clothiers, manufacturers of Afrocentric sacramentals, men’s health advocates, and membership organizations such as the Knights of Peter Claver.
Black men of all ages and faith traditions are invited to attend this year’s conference, and registration starts at $100 for those under the age of 18. Adult early bird registration is $150. The fee, which can be paid online, includes lunch on Saturday and a conference t-shirt. For group registration, interested parties can email Dr. Cameron Beatty at email@example.com.
Discounted hotel rates are available before September 19 by booking at the Marriott online or by calling 1-888-236-2427 with the conference details.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.