This year’s National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) conference has begun, streaming its pre-conference session today to educators around the country.

Spanning from today until Thursday, the event aims to help Catholic school educators and administrators develop strategies for success during an unprecedented time of upheaval.

The NCEA is said to be the “largest private professional education organization in the world”, serving hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers who themselves minister to around 2 million students overall.

This year, their annual gathering—which usually draws thousands of participants to a central location—was forced online by the pandemic, after being canceled in 2020 (when the event was scheduled to be held in Baltimore).

The event was kicked off in part by a presentation from Dr. Shannen Dee Williams of Villanova, who presented on her specialty of Black Catholic history.

Dr Marcella Chiromo and Valarie Pearce (both of Friendzy in Portland) also tag-teamed a session on "Culturally Responsive Classrooms".

African Americans will remain a feature throughout the remainder of the conference, with Gloria Purvis delivering one of the conference’s keynotes tomorrow, followed on Thursday by ABC’s Byron Pitts (a Baptist who nevertheless champions Catholic education).

Various African-American speakers will also contribute to the 12 tracks of the conference—especially the one concerning diversity and inclusion.

As the country and the Church come to grips with the outsize impact of COVID-19 on Catholic education in the Black community, #NCEA2021 hopefully will provide a glimmer of hope.

Registration for the conference closes tonight, and participants will have access to the conference sessions for 90 days thereafter.


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