Bible for African-American Youth to Be Released

By Sciarappa, Nicholas | National Catholic Reporter, October 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Bible for African-American Youth to Be Released


Sciarappa, Nicholas, National Catholic Reporter


A new Bible will hit bookshelves in January. But unlike hundreds of others available, illustrations in this Bible will include New Testament images portraying Jesus as an African-American.

This is just one way The African-American Youth Bible, which contains commentaries, footnotes and art created by black Americans, hopes to evangelize and educate young black Catholics.

The Bible mimics the format of the successful The Catholic Youth Bible, published by St. Mary's Press. The idea began in 2009, when St. Mary's Press president John Vitek and Bishop John Ricard, president of the National Black Catholic Congress, met to discuss how they could help young African-Americans.

"We wanted to help serve a population of kids that no one is paying attention to, in particular, African-American Catholics," Vitek told NCR. "I looked around and saw none of the other publishers paying any attention to them."

For Ricard and Vitek, helping black youths meant creating a Bible. But a task that big did not come easily.

"It's very large; several books in one," Ricard told NCR. "It's a very ancient story over 2,000 years. Keeping that relevant today, interesting and appealing today, is such a challenge."

In order to create a successful Bible, Sp iritan Fr. James Okoye joined the project as editor. Okoye has a doctorate in Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

Okoye, along with a group of scholars and an editorial team, came up with a goal for the project: "to highlight black faith, holy people, outstanding black Catholic pioneers, institutions and role models; to deepen Catholic belonging and understanding; to show the African-American perspectives on the Bible; to include elements of African-American preaching and black art; and to include elements of African-American history and sources."

On top of those goals, the mission of The African-American Youth Bible is to cater to an audience of Catholic youths ages 14 to 22, and to balance what it means to be Catholic and what it means to be Christian.

"Many African-Americans are converts from the Baptist church, and the tendency is to overemphasize where the Catholic church differs from the other Christian churches. …

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