August 12, 2022

Black Catholic Men’s Conference set for Oct. 13-16 in Indy

By Natalie Hoefer

For 18 years, the National Black Catholic Men’s Conference has been held annually in cities around the country. Like so many other annual conferences, the last two were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s conference, set for Oct. 13-16, is returning to an in-person format. It is also returning to the city where it was created and launched in 2004: Indianapolis.

This year’s theme is “We Were Made for More,” based on Joshua 1:9.

“I lost a lot of family in the last few years, including my twin,” said Society of the Divine Word Father Charles Smith. He and his twin brother Chester, also a priest of the same order, were two of the founders of the order’s Indianapolis-based Bowman-Francis Ministry, which developed the conference.

“I saw a lot of people dying, the suicide rate going up, an increase in violence, more people needing food, more homeless.

“That verse, ‘we were made for more,’ just kept on hitting my head and heart. We need to reaffirm our spiritual connections. We need to find that connection with God again.

“We were made for more than just trying to connect through computers and mass media. We were made for love, made as social beings, made to connect with one another. God is calling us to do something more than just living day to day the way we’re living.”

The theme will be carried through in the conference’s five keynote addresses—including one by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson—and numerous adult and youth workshops, including some offered in French.

“We’ll look at how we were made for more through a holistic approach—in terms of spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological,” said Father Charles, who is a chaplain at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Indianapolis.

Some workshop topics he mentioned include spirituality and mental health, the psychological effects of PTSD and suicidal thoughts, and spirituality and sports.

The latter workshop will be offered by Father Douglas Hunter. He is pastor of St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis and chaplain of the city’s NFL Colts football team.

Another local speaker is Tanzania-native Father John Kamwendo, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis. He will speak on pastoral do’s and don’ts when ministering to Africans and African-Americans.

The event will also include a youth rally at St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis on the evening of Oct. 13, youth track talks on rites of passage, vocations and more, as well as a health fair, vendor booths, Mass and time for praise and worship.

Other keynote speakers are Society of the Divine Word Father Kenneth Hamilton, co-founder of Bowman-Francis Ministry; Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Father Agustino Torres, founder of the Hispanic youth ministry Corazon Puro; Society of the Divine Word Father George Kintiba of the poverty relief organization Cross Catholic Outreach; and Dr. Levi Funches, a clinical pediatrician and an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The annual conference helps carry out the mission of the Bowman-Francis Ministry, named for two Society of the Divine Word priests and Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman.

In the mid-1990s, Father Charles was ministering in California and his twin was a pastoral associate in Chicago.

“We were comparing notes and seeing that children of our generation of African American Catholics coming in the early 1970s were leaving the Church in droves, even the adults—especially men,” Father Charles recalled.

When the brothers were both transferred to Indianapolis in 1995, they told their superiors they wanted to start a ministry “to evangelize and revive our people, Black Catholic men in particular, to take leadership and ownership in the Catholic Church,” said Father Charles.

The ministry has expanded in the last 27 years. According to its website, Bowman-Francis Ministry’s mission now is to “minister to the total Black Catholic: spiritually, physically and intellectually [and] … to offer many gainful avenues to meet the needs of Black people everywhere.

“Our programs and ministries are designed to empower men, women, young adults and youth to instill in them the tools needed to thrive in their personal lives and help them grow in their faith.”

But ministering to Black Catholic men is still one of the ministry’s primary goals.

“We want to help them grow spiritually and elevate them to transform their lives,” said Father Charles. “It’s not just a ministry but a movement calling Black Catholic men to true Catholicism and to create strong and faithful families, which creates better communities, which makes our nation better.”

(The National Black Catholic Men’s Conference will be held at JW Marriott, 10 S. West St., in Indianapolis, on Oct. 14-16, with an opening youth rally at St. Rita Parish, 1733 Dr. Andrew J. Brown Ave., in Indianapolis, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13. Registration for youths ages 13-17 is $65. Adult early bird registration is $100 before Sept. 1 and $150 after. The registration fee includes lunch on Saturday and a conference T-shirt. To register or for more information, go to For questions, contact Pearlette Springer, coordinator of the archdiocesan Black Catholic Ministry, at 317-236-1474 or

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