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African-born clergy, religious ministering in U.S. gather in New Orleans


  • Sister Joanna Okereke, a Handmaid of the Holy Child Jesus, who is program coordinator in the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church, center, listens to a speaker July 27. She was one of about 80 attendees at the 18th annual convention of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States in New Orleans. (CNS photo/Beth Donze, Clarion Herald)
  • Attendees at 18th annual convention African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States in New Orleans listen to a speaker July 27. (CNS photo/Beth Donze, Clarion Herald)
  • Jesuit Father Allan Deck, a teacher of theology and Latino studies at Loyola Maryknoll University in Los Angeles, gives the July 27 keynote address during the 18th annual convention of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States in New Orleans. (CNS photo/Beth Donze, Clarion Herald)

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NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- The growing numbers of African-born clergy and religious ministering in the United States are at the vanguard of an important moment in both the U.S. and worldwide Catholic Church, said Jesuit Father Allan Deck.

He addressed about 80 members of this rapidly emerging demographic of church leaders gathered in New Orleans for the 18th annual convention of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States.

"The church is growing in Asia, in Latin America and most especially in Africa," said Father Deck, a teacher of theology and Latino studies at Loyola Maryknoll University in Los Angeles, delivering the conference's keynote address July 27.

"So at this moment in time and as we move into the future, the life of the universal church, the leadership of the universal church -- and all the hard work that we need to do to evangelize -- more and more has to be assumed by up-and-coming groups, and one of those groups is the Catholic faithful of the various countries of Africa," he said.

Father Deck served from 2008 to 2012 as the first executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church; the secretariat was established in November 2007 by the bishops.

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