F. DeKarlos Blackmon is a Mobile, Alabama native. He is currently the Director of the Secretariat of Life, Charity, and Justice for the Diocese of Austin, TX. He serves as a consultant to the USCCB Committee for Cultural Diversity for African American Affairs. DeKarlos has taught Scripture, sacramental theology, and moral theology, and a frequent speaker about liturgy in multicultural contexts, pastoral leadership, and education. He served at St Joseph’s in Huntsville as the liturgist and music director for twelve years, and also served as the Chairman of our Diocesan School Board. He is actively involved in pastoral ministry, outreach, promoting civic improvement, and developing youth. He holds graduate degrees in pastoral ministry, business administration and public management. Blackmon served as the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Peter Claver for six years, and the President of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights for three. We are delighted to welcome DeKarlos and his wife Kanobia back to their former home diocese to celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary with us. During the Eucharistic Congress on June 29, DeKarlos will speak to us about, “The Eucharist and Multicultural Communities of Disciples on Mission.”
In the Diocese of Birmingham, we have a storied history of traditionally African American parishes, integration (especially in the history of St Joseph’s in Huntsville), and the many joys, sorrows, and struggles that have and continue to shape the way our communities live and interact. DeKarlos brings a living witness to these experiences. But he also brings a tremendous amount of experience of the multicultural nature of our Universal Church from outside Alabama as well.
“For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.[s] 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“…preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Archbishop Samir Nassar was ordained a priest of the Maronite Catholic Church in 1980, in the Archeparchy (Archdiocese) of Damascus, Syria. In 2006, he was elected bishop by the synod of the Maronite Church as the Archbishop there, and Pope Benedict XVI approved his election later that year. Since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, things have become very difficult for Christians there. Many of the churches have been destroyed. The Archbishop himself has been very close to bombing attacks. He now spends much of his time abroad raising awareness for the plight of Christians there. Most of his See is in shambles and very few churches remain in use. He has said very often that in this situation, the Christians of Syria cannot trust the government or the rebels, and they are often left to fend for themselves without protection from either side. Archbishop Nassar will speak about, “The Eucharist, Unity, and Suffering Persecution.”
We have a parish of the Maronite Church here in Birmingham, St Elias. Many of the people in the Birmingham area know of it because of the beautiful food festival they host every year. However, the pastor Chorbishop Richard Saad (affectionately known around town as Fr Richard) is a frequent visitor to many Diocesan and parish functions at Latin Rite parishes. St Elias, like most Maronite parishes in the USA, is a Lebanese community. The Maronite Church is a fully Catholic Church, which adheres to the West Syriac Liturgical Rite, and uses the Syriac (Aramaic) language with some communities using hymns in Arabic or English in the US. The Maronite Church traces its heritage to St Maron, who was a contemporary and friend of St John Chrysostom. Parts of their liturgy go as far back as the Apostle James, and they also occasionally incorporate parts of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. The Maronite Church in this way occupies a unique place which bridges the Syriac Churches of the Middle East, the Byzantine or Greek Catholic Churches (such as St George Melkite Catholic Church in Birmingham), and the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Churches. They share valid apostolic succession, completely valid sacraments, and the same Faith as other Catholics, thought their liturgical expression is different because of location, ethnic heritage, and development which happened before our modern era of communication. One thing unique about the Maronite Church is that they have maintained full communion with the Roman Catholic Church throughout history, and therefore they have no counterpart Orthodox Church as is the case with most Eastern Rite Churches. What a beautiful heritage of Christian Unity and Communion!
Both of these Speakers will give a tremendous witness of how the Eucharist unites us in our One, True Faith. Whatever our race, color, financial status, language, origin, or other differences may be, a worth reception of Holy Communion unites us to God and to one another in one-and-the-same Lord Jesus.
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
1 Corinthians 10:16-17