Lyke conference in Texas to discuss how black Catholics can bring their gifts to Mass

Lyke conference in Texas to discuss how black Catholics can bring their gifts to Mass Worshippers recite the Lord's Prayer during a Black Catholic History Month Mass at the Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in New York City Nov. 18, 2023. Photo: OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

A national gathering will explore how black Catholics can “embrace the gifts” they bring to the church, particularly to the Mass, according to organisers.

Some 300 are expected to attend the 2024 Lyke Conference, which takes place June 18 to 22 in Grapevine, Texas. The event, launched in 2004 and held annually for most of the years since, is named in honour of the late Archbishop James P. Lyke, the second black archbishop appointed to the Catholic Church in the U.S., who died at age 53 in 1992 while serving as archbishop of Atlanta.

The Lyke Foundation sponsors the conference as part of its mission to continue the late archbishop’s legacy of fostering black Catholic liturgical expression. Among his pioneering accomplishments, Archbishop Lyke was instrumental in coordinating the production of the black Catholic hymnal ‘Lead Me, Guide Me,’ released in 1987 under the direction of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

This year’s conference theme, ‘Standing in the Need of Prayer – Reclaiming Our Black Catholic Liturgy,’ will explore the riches of how the Mass is celebrated in the “cultural expression of prayer” that characterises the experience of black Catholics, Lyke Conference director Richard Cheri told OSV News.

“(It’s) evident in a preaching style, a genre of music, a sacred dance and a real conscious effort to hear the voice of our young people,” said Cheri, brother of the late Bishop Fernand J. Cheri, who served as auxiliary bishop of New Orleans until his death in March 2023, and who had served on the Lyke Foundation board.

“I reflect on the ministry of my brother,” Cheri told OSV News. “He never apologised for being black and Catholic. … He brought (to the Church) something different.”

Delivering the conference’s welcome message will be Cynthia Bailey Manns, a lay delegate to the Synod on Synodality, adult learning director at St Joan of Arc Catholic Community in Minneapolis and adjunct professor at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in St Paul, Minnesota.

Manns will speak on ‘Gifts of Conversation in the Spirit,’ a theme that has been key to the synod process and that involves active listening, speaking from the heart and — as the Lyke Conference materials describe — creating “sacred space to listen to the protagonist, the Holy Spirit and allow ourselves to move from ‘I’ to ‘We’ and “continually encounter God.”