Twenty years into her journey as a Catholic, in 2020, Marcia Lane-McGee found out that her baptism might be invalid. An adult convert to Catholicism who was confirmed after she completed an RCIA program after being raised in the Pentecostal faith, Lane-McGee found out her earlier baptism might not suffice, since it did not use the ancient, Trinitarian formula baptismal creed. After being advised by a priest that she should be re-baptized and re-confirmed, Lane-McGee refrained from receiving Communion. As she considered what it would be like not to be Catholic, she came to the conclusion that her faith is integral to her life. “If I wasn’t Catholic, I wouldn’t be Christian,” Lane-McGee said. She spoke at a breakout session at the National Black Catholic Congress XIII on July 22 at National Harbor, Maryland. There, she spoke about “Gifts of Black Catholics for the 21st Century Church,” with Shannon Schmidt, who co-hosts the “Plaid Skirts & Basic Black” Black Catholic podcast with Lane-McGee. As the 40th anniversary of “What We Have Seen and Heard,” the 1984 pastoral letter on evangelization by the U.S. Black bishops to Black Catholics approaches in September of next year, Lane-McGee and Schmidt spoke about four spiritual gifts of Black Catholics identified in the pastoral letter: a contemplative spirit, joyfulness, a holistic nature and a communal spirit. While Lane-McGee is a Chicago-area Montessori teacher, Schmidt serves as an Archdiocese of Chicago parish vitality coordinator, where much of her work is with Black parishes. “It is the joy that has seen us through” challenges, Lane-McGee said. “If my spirit is joyful, it can lead me to happiness.” Also of interest... Chicago presence at the congress The Archdiocese of Chicago sent 70 delegates to the 13th National Black Catholic Congress July 20-23 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Baltimore. The NBCC convenes a national congress every five years. The event featured a keynote address by Chicago native Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington. Archdiocese of Chicago delegates attending the congress included Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, who serves as vice president of the board of the Black Catholic Congress, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on African American Affairs and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; and representatives from each of the archdiocese’s predominately Black parishes including priests, deacons, lay leaders and young people. With “deaths of despair,” increasing in the United States, including suicide, drug overdoses, and mass shootings, Black Catholics should “cling to the Resurrection,” and engage with local faith communities, while they “work for the kingdom,” Schmidt said. “We need to be in community and in relationship,” she said. Lane-McGee joked that any church becomes a “Black church” when she is present and jested that she inevitably roots for Black families competing on Family Feud. “Everyone in this room has a praying grandmother,” she said, joking about how Black families have tended to be more religious than other Americans. “I don’t know a Black person that I don’t consider as family,” she added. “I don’t know if I like you yet,” she quickly modified her previous comment, which drew laughter from the audience. While Lane-McGee and Schmidt feel at home in Black Catholic churches, they believe, with Pope Francis, that there can be “unity in diversity,” with Catholics through the world united in the Apostles Creed, in the sacraments and teachings of the church, and in their communion with the bishop of Rome. “We are not uniform, but we are unified,” Schmidt said. “We have to respect each culture’s wisdom,” she added. She recalled how Franciscan missionaries used ornate monstrances to store the Eucharist for devotion in Latin America to show that Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is “higher than (their) sun god” and how these monstrances have come into use in churches around the world, and example of how one culture within the Catholic Church can be adopted in others. Ultimately, the two speakers emphasized that the gifts of Black Catholics are not solely to be shared with each other but with other Catholics, as well as other Americans. Reprinted with permission of Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.