Later this month, close to 3,000 participants from across the nation, including over 100 from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, will gather for the 13th National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC). The NBCC will be held July 20-23, 2023 at the National Harbor in Maryland.

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Four of those participating in the Congress will be seminarians from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, marking the first time our Seminary has sent delegates to this gathering. Their participation is sponsored by the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing and is part of their Summer formation program.

Archbishop Perez blesses participants going to the National Black Catholic Congress. (Photo: Sarah Webb)

The National Black Catholic Congress began in 1889. It was initiated by Daniel Rudd as a lay movement to find ways to celebrate the gifts of being Black and Catholic in our Church. Also, the NBCC has always focused on addressing some key pastoral issues, such as racism, violence, parish life, Catholic schools, and promoting vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

The Congress takes place every five years. This year’s theme is “Write the Vision:  A Prophetic Call to Thrive.” In addition to daily Mass, participants will have the opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There will be numerous breakout sessions and a keynote address by Cardinal Wilton Gregory, current Archbishop of Washington and the first African-American Cardinal. Cardinal Gregory will speak on the gift of the Holy Eucharist in his address, “The Eucharist: Our Prophetic Call to Love.”

On a personal note, I have been a delegate at all of these Congress gatherings since 1987 as a youth delegate, deacon of the Mass, and presenter. Every time I participated in Congress I was further strengthened in my desire to serve God’s people.

Father Thorne served as deacon of the Word for the 1997 National Black Catholic Congress.

A key element of the NBCC is not only to gather and see friends, but also to return home with a clear plan to share the Catholic Faith among African Americans. My role this year is to lead a national survey that will produce a Vision Plan of Action for the next five years for ministry to Black Catholics.

Please keep in your prayers all who are participating in the NBCC, especially our seminarians: Robert  Bollinger, Joshua Brooks, John McCabe, and Edward Town.

Seminarians participated in a preparation meeting for the National Black Catholic Congress.


Father Stephen D. Thorne serves as the pastor of Saint Barbara Church in Wynnefield, chairperson of the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing, and a consultant for the National Black Catholic Congress.