Diocesan News

Vicariate Office of Black Catholic Concerns Honors Youth Leadership Ambassadors at 15th Annual Gala

By The Tablet Staff

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Vicariate Office of Black Catholic Concerns (VBCC) held its 15th annual Youth Leadership Ambassador Gala on Saturday, April 27, at Gargiulo’s Restaurant in Coney Island.

The VBCC Youth Leadership Ambassador program empowers a select group of high school students in Brooklyn and Queens with the skills to become leaders in their underrepresented communities, all the while growing their faith through service to their community and the Church.

Father Dwayne Davis poses with the six graduates of the Youth Leadership Ambassador program from the Vicariate Office of Black Catholic Concerns.

This year’s honorees included Bishop Robert Brennan, who told the group the honor was especially meaningful because the ambassador program means a great deal to him. He said he has witnessed their leadership abilities on display at events like the National Black Catholic Congress, World Youth Day and the Seek conference, a Catholic outreach organization that shares the hope and joy of the Gospel with the world. He told them God is doing great work through them.

Father Dwayne Davis, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Flatlands and founder of the program, also honored the graduating seniors, who announced the colleges they will be attending this fall. Along with educational, coaching, and entrepreneurship skills workshops, the group, founded in 2009, partakes in mission trips in the U.S. and abroad.

“The Ambassador Program aims first to meet the youth where they are on their faith journey and then help them deepen their relationship with Christ, through service,” Father Davis said. “It also seeks to bridge the gap of leadership opportunities by developing effective mentorship programs focusing on entrepreneurship, college and workforce readiness, and community building. This year, we celebrate 15 years of impact with the black Catholic community. So far, we have influenced over 150 youth leaders since 2009 and completed over 200,000 community service hours.” 

Other honorees lauded, “for their time, talent, and treasures” contributed to the Ambassador Program were accountant Greg Auteri; Brother Tyrone Davis, head of the Office Black Ministry for the Archdiocese of New York; attorney Ronald Russo, a parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas; and Jada Clarke, who, through her affiliation with Amazon, assisted the program’s charitable work, Father Davis said.

The gala was attended by nearly 400 guests and “was amazing, beyond our wildest dreams,” said Father Davis. “All our honorees are excellent ambassadors for our young people.”

Bishop Brennan was one of our honorees because of his long relationship with the Ambassador Program, all the time he spent with the young people, especially at last summer’s National Black Congress. He was so down to earth with them,” Father Davis noted.

Father Dwayne Davis poses with the 2024 Ambassadors of the Youth Leadership Ambassador program from the Vicariate Office of Black Catholic Concerns.

Youth Leadership Ambassador candidates are nominated from 20 parishes in the diocese. After an application and interview process, 30 teens were chosen to participate in this year’s program. The six ambassadors who will be graduating from high school and enrolling in college this year were honored at the gala.