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NCR board backs Rowe as a ‘valuable asset’

NCR Staff
Kansas City, Mo.

The 13-member board of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, following a 45 minute discussion here June 1, welcomed the continuing participation of member Cyprian Rowe, describing him as a "valuable asset."

Rowe, a former Marist brother and a member of NCR's board since 1988, recently left the Roman Catholic church to become a bishop in the African American Catholic church, a congregation founded in 1989 by former Roman Catholic priest (now Archbishop) George Stallings.

The publishing company's "mission is to work within the Roman Catholic Church. Its outreach, however, is universal with a strong emphasis on the development of ecumenism. From its earliest stages, the NCR board has not limited itself to Roman Catholics," said a statement issued by the board. The board includes religious, clergy and lay members.

"Cyprian Rowe continues to be a valuable asset to the board while offering it much-needed perspectives," the statement concluded.

According to several members present during the session, the discussion was without "rancor" or bitterness toward Rowe, who spoke briefly about his decision to leave. Rowe said he had reached a point where "I could no longer live in a white community" as the only black member. He said he had grown up in a world where "if I responded to racism, I was wrong. ... I had no reason to go on correcting people racially."

He said that inside the church, despite several official documents promulgated by the bishops, black Catholics go largely unheard. He also spoke about the lack of attention to black and other multicultural issues by the NCR board, saying discussions about such matters often ended without any action taking place, according to sources at the meeting.

Comments from board members assured Rowe of the group's support for his decision, which was described at different times as "thoughtful and courageous" and one taken only after considerable prayer.

One member said that what Stallings has done could easily occur in the Hispanic community if a charismatic leader arose because Hispanics also feel neglected by the church. "People are not going to give up their culture for the church," said the board member.

"It was a wonderful meeting in many ways and I felt very affirmed," said Rowe in an interview after the meeting. "The board really showed the strength of its conviction not only in the questions they asked, but in their preparedness to hear what I had to say. There was a tremendous spirit of not only Christian charity but a real desire to hear exactly what I was saying in the way I meant it. The spirit of love was tremendously affirming for me."

Rowe, 61, was elected to the board in 1988. He has one year left in his current term.

In an earlier interview, Rowe, whose mother was Methodist, told NCR he had decided to become a Catholic at age 5. He had been influenced by the nuns and children in the church and school across the road from the home of the person who watched him after school. He joined the Marist Brothers after completing his sophomore year at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. In 1978, he joined the National Office for Black Catholics and in 1981 was executive director of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

National Catholic Reporter, June 20, 1997