New leader for Office of Black Catholic Ministries brings background in social justice

Click play below to listen to a radio interview with Adrienne Curry. Story follows

As Adrienne Curry prepares to take on a new role as director of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Office of Black Catholic Ministries, she hopes to apply her extensive background in the social justice movement and her pastoral experience to support the Black Catholic community in Maryland.

“The bishops said that racism is a sin and it’s an affront to the dignity of the human person,” said Curry, a Chicago native who most recently served as the social action director for the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, “but, as they say, Catholic social teaching is our best-kept secret. So part of my job will be to educate people on the principles of Catholic social teaching and apply it to everyday life. So, definitely, eradicating racism is part of that. ”

For the past year, Curry has worked on her doctoral thesis at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky, studying anti-racism in the Diocese of Youngstown. She begins her new role in Baltimore July 5, succeeding Sherita Thomas, interim director of the office.

In announcing the appointment June 17, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said Curry will “advocate for the needs and concerns of the Black Catholic community and work to enhance the efforts of local parishes to eliminate barriers to evangelization, especially barriers of racial prejudice.”

The archbishop said Curry will serve as a member of the archdiocese’s Journey to the Racial Justice Coordinating Council and will help implement his call for racial justice that was discussed in his two pastoral letters, “The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence ”and“ The Journey to Racial Justice: Repentance, Healing and Action. ”

Curry ministered in a variety of roles in the Archdiocese of Chicago, including program director for Catholic Relief Services, the US bishop’s Baltimore-based international relief agency. She worked in Lexington as a pastoral associate for parish social ministry. In Youngstown, her responsibilities included overseeing programs of the diocesan Office of Social Action and managing grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Curry told the Catholic Review she is excited to come to an archdiocese that is considered a cradle of Black Catholicism in the United States. She loves the rich history of Black Catholics and hopes to raise awareness throughout the Catholic Church about the contributions of Black Catholics.

It is critical that Black voices be heard in the Catholic Church, Curry said, and that the community is represented at all levels.

“It’s very important that people of color are at the table initially – not as an afterthought, not after things have been decided,” she said. “We need to be there from the beginning so we can help set the tone and be part of the agenda.”

Curry said she is encouraging the Baltimore archdiocese has made racial justice a priority and that activities such as racial justice circles in the parishes are already making headway in promoting intercultural understanding.

“You have to meet people where they are,” she said, “and you have to see people as people. We all have commonalities. ”

Curry said she hopes parishes build on the work of evangelization already underway to make their faith communities as welcoming as possible.

“There are a lot of people who are unchurched,” she said. “So go out and meet and greet people. Have a basketball night for the youth or something. Do something to invite people in. ”

Curry, who holds a master of divinity degree from the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, said she plans to spend a lot of time visiting many parishes of the archdiocese and does not initially plan to register at a single parish.

“I want to meet the people and talk to the pastors,” she said. “It’s important for me to hear what people need and what they want before I do anything else.”

Email George Matysek at gmatysek@CatholicReview.org

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