Eight people from northwest Ohio will be honored with Drum Major Awards at the annual celebration of the life and works of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo and its Black Catholic Ministry office. This year's program, which includes bestowal of the awards, a Mass, and hors d'oeuvres after the ceremony, is at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 777 S. Main St., Lima, today at 4:30 p.m.
The Rev. Charles Ritter, the diocesan administrator while the bishop's chair is vacant, will preside and preach the sermon, and the Very Rev. David Ross, pastor of St. John the Evangelist and dean of the Blessed Junipero Serra deanery, will assist. Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, a choral group from Bowling Green State University, will provide music.
The awards recognize people who do good work in the area covered by the diocese, “people that are leadership from the community, as well as church leaders, as well as just extraordinary people who never get accounted for for the work they do,” said Nell Lester, coordinator of Black Catholic Ministry.
Connie Hornung of Lima, who is Jewish, and the Rev. Denis Ward, pastor of Lima's Second Baptist Church Baptist, are among the recipients. Three Roman Catholics from Toledo—Deacon John Algee III, Deacon Jose Romo, and Sister Virginia Welsh—are being honored. Three other Catholics also will be recognized as drum majors: Martha Jones of Mansfield, the Rev. Charles Obinwa of Lima who serves a parish in Fort Jennings, and Walter Potts of Lima.
The Drum Major Awards name comes from a sermon the Rev. King preached Feb. 4, 1968. The drum major instinct is “a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first,” which is common in all people, the Rev. King said. “We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade.”
The desire to be the person in front can cause problems, the Rev. King said, but he preached that “Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”
So Drum Major Awards recognize the servant aspect of leaders.
The Black Catholic Ministry office is in transition after its director, Michael Youngblood, died in 2011. “We're under construction,” Mrs. Lester said. “We have set together an advisory team that is working hard on getting things in the upcoming year together to present to the communities in our diocese.”
Black Catholics “are just a culture in the church sharing our gifts just like everybody else,” Mrs. Lester said. “You have your Italian culture, you have your German culture, you have your Irish culture. Well, we are black Catholic culture. We have a culture in the church and we have our gifts to share in the church.”
Mrs. Lester said that “Black Catholic Ministry” is used for the office name rather than using the term African American because the people are from many places. “Black Catholics can be from Haiti, can be from Jamaica, can be from Africa,” she said. “'African American Catholics' is basically the term that is used for people that are born of native African Americans, so when you put the term African American Catholic, it takes away from people from Jamaica, from Haiti, from Peru, from all over. So if we say black Catholics, well, then, that unites everybody because you have black Puerto Ricans, you have black people of different cultures all over. You don't want to exclude anybody from bringing their gifts to the church.”
Black Catholic Ministry works in Catholic education for one of its programs. “In our schools we have an abundant amount of children who are kids that are coming in from voucher programs, and a lot of them aren't aware of black Catholics in the church, in our diocese,” Mrs. Lester said. The office started sending black Catholic laypeople, priests, deacons, and nuns to give presentations in the schools as role models. "Possibly, maybe, one of those young men or women might want to become a priest, deacon, or a nun" after seeing the black Catholics doing church work. "When people see themselves in something, they want to be a part of it,” she said.