As with all organizations, several years preceded the formal establishment of the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators [NABCA]. Between 1970 and 1976, Diocesan Bishops opened Offices for Black Ministry [OBMs] in Detroit, Rochester, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, and Houston. Garland Jaggers, Detroit’s Director, and Father Jerome Robinson, OP, Rochester’s Director, gave birth to the idea for a gathering of OBM Directors for mutual support and sharing. Five Directors had the first recorded meeting of the Black Catholic Administrators on October 7 and 8, 1976 in Rochester, NY. Diocesan Black Catholic leadership was necessary to impact Diocesan structures and policies from within. They were surviving in unwelcoming and sometimes hostile Diocesan structures, and among some disapproving Black Catholics.
Although their Bishops had established the offices, doors were not always open. There was no handbook or job description except those the new Directors fashioned for themselves through their discussions, personal expertise, and organizational experiences. They mentored each other, expanded local leadership, and in 1985 NABCA became incorporated in Ohio. Since 1977, the Director of the National Office for Black Catholics [NOBC] was a member of NABCA. The NOBC, and later, the Bishops’ Conference, sought and received NABCA’s intervention to help resolve NOBC organizational issues and concerns through the 1980s.
During the past 30 years, the first bylaws were approved. There were consultations on the US Bishops’ documents, and with the Apostolic Delegate. Approving the vision of Mr. Lawrence Payne, then Houston OBM Director in 1984, NABCA began discussions and plans for a NABCA conference of Black Catholics on racism and evangelization. By 1985, NABCA changed the name to a National Black Catholic Congress for 300 people. Out of these first small efforts, came the present-day National Black Catholic Congress which includes representatives from national Black Catholic organizations. NABCA has continued its connection with the Congresses and members have been active participants, supporters and implementers of the plans and ministries that evolved. NABCA also collaborates with Region V to sponsor the Interregional African American Catholic Evangelization Conference that now includes several other regions. By 1996, NABCA had renewed its status as a tax exempt organization.
Core Agenda Remains
Situations of OBMs change, but NABCA’s core agenda remain: prayer and the Mass; in-service training; sharing plans, ideas and priority national issues; and charitable service. Affiliated members of NABCA, such as the Executive Director of the Secretariat for African American Catholics in the US Bishops’ Conference, and the Director of the National Black Catholic Congress are indicative of the growth of Black leadership. There had been a growing number of Diocesan multicultural or ethnic ministries and other offices that include or are directed by Black Catholics. In the 1980s and 1990s, NABCA offered its first publication, Guidelines for the Establishment of Offices of Black Catholic Ministries in Dioceses and Archdioceses, and a Guideline for Mentoring.
Dedicated to Ministry
Despite the decreasing numbers of OBMs, NABCA is still dedicated to ministry among Black Catholics within the Roman Catholic Church; and growth in African American leadership and participation at all levels in the Church.