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Subversive Habits Book Study

Join us as we take a deep dive into Dr. Shannen Dee Williams groundbreaking research, Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle. We will explore the lives, experiences, struggles, and advances Black Catholic women religious made in the long struggle for freedom.  This series will include prayer, study, and guest speakers.  Please join us for an exciting exploration of our Catholic history and the women who changed the course of our faith.

If you haven’t already registered, we invite you to catch up using the videos and materials on this page and to register using the link below and join us in the coming weeks.

Register for Remaining Sessions

Session One: Preface and Introduction

This first session covers the preface and introduction to Dr. Williams’ book. Deborah Rose, co-director of FutureChurch, provides a summary of the material and our guest, Sr. Anita Baird, DHM, offers her personal reactions.

View the Prayers, Questions, and Large Group Responses

2022 Mary Magdalene Celebration Download

Thank you for your interest in celebrating the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene with us. Celebrating and lifting up Mary’s true role as Apostle of the Apostles is one of the most important things we can do for our Church and world.

This year, recognizing that horrific violence of every kind rages around us, we turn our focus particularly to epidemic of gun violence. How does Mary Magdalene’s story instruct and inspire us today as we seek to bring about change?

Through this prayer service, we will intentionally place ourselves with Mary at the foot of the cross as she witnesses Jesus’ violent death and remember those who have been killed in incidents of gun violence. We then place ourselves with Mary in the uncertain time between Crucifixion and Resurrection as we hear Kimberly Rubio and X. González speak to us through their grief and trauma in the immediate aftermath of their own experiences of gun violence. Finally, we join Mary as she sets out to the tomb on that first Easter morning to discover the Risen One and consider how Christ is calling us to join Mary as bearers of the Good News in a world so desperate for it today.

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Fertile Ground: The Synod, Vatican II, and the Future of the Church

Sr. Maureen Sullivan, OP joins FutureChurch for another engaging four-week series exploring Vatican II documents as the foundation for the 2023 Synod. As we get more familiar with the documents of Vatican II and engage in the synod process, we make the Second Vatican Council a greater reality today.

Dr. Maureen Sullivan is a Dominican Sister of Hope from New York and Professor Emerita of Theology at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. She received her master of arts in Theology from Manhattan College in the Bronx and her PhD in Theology from Fordham University, also in the Bronx. The Second Vatican Council, along with its impact on our Church, is at the center of her theological research. She has written two books on this topic: 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II (2002) and The Road to Vatican II: Key Changes in Theology (2007), both published by Paulist Press.

Session One: Vatican II and Synodality

In this first session, Sr. Maureen provides a foundation, exploring Vatican II and synodality. Ongoing sessions will explore a number of Vatican II documents in depth and come to understand how Vatican II serves as the foundation for the upcoming Synod on Communion, Participation, and Mission. 

 

Transcript


Session Two: Dignitatis Humanae and Synodality

In this second session, Sr. Maureen discusses the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty – Dignitatis Humanae – and how it lays a foundation for the Synod on Synodality.

Transcript

 


Session Three: Dei Verbum and Synodality

In this third session, Sr. Maureen discusses the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Divine Revelation – Dei Verbum – and how our understanding of Scripture and Tradition bolster a synodal vision of Church.

Transcript


Session Four: The Legacy of Vatican II

In this fourth and final presentation, Sr. Maureen discusses the legacy of Vatican II as an unfolding reality that the Synod on Synodality continues today.

Transcript

 

 

In Our Own Words: FutureChurch’s Synod Report

Over the course of six weeks in Lent, nearly 600 Catholics from the United States and around the world, took part in FutureChurch’s synod listening sessions. Representing more than 170 Dioceses, they told their stories of faith and perseverance and shared their doubts, hopes, and dreams for a synodal Church. Below, you will find our full report. The report summarizes data from multiple choice questions and highlights recurring themes. Each of the included appendices details the written responses to open-ended questions of each and every participant.

View the Report

Please click on the rectangular “full screen” icon in the bottom right hand corner, to view. 

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Sean Gargamelli-McCreight’s Synod Witness on Faith and Public Life

FutureChurch board vice chair and co-founder of Benincasa Community offered this reflection on faith and public life for FutureChurch’s Lenten Synod Sessions for the 2023 Synod on Synodality. View the pre-recorded video, download a PDF, or read the text below.

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For the cry of the Earth and the cry of the Poor

Hello, my name is Sean Gargamelli-McCreight, and I am a member of Benincasa Community, a lay catholic community founded in the tradition of religious life and the Catholic Worker movement in New York City in 2015 and now also based as an emerging eco-spiritual center in Guilford, CT. As a community of believers dedicated to the works of mercy and justice in our Church and world, the question of how to live out a faith that does justice is everat the forefront of our hearts and minds. In our practice together, we attempt to listen to the sacred revelations found in creation and the life of Jesus.

In today’s scripture from the gospel of John we read that at his suffering, Jesus considered heaven and said, “I don’t pray for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all may be one.” (John 17:20)

Dorothy Day writes about the striving for heaven as the “building of beloved community”. A place within ourselves and around us where divisions cease and justice prevails.

When we read today that Jesus “looked to heaven”, can we imagine him deeply regarding and remembering hisbeloved community? Reflecting on the lives and faces of the people he loved in his life and his ministry, “notservants but friends” (John 15:15): Mary his mother, Joseph his father, Mary Magdalene his protector and proclaimer, Peter his confidant and his rock, his followers, the forgotten, forlorn, forbidden and forsaken. All of them, a part of his definition of heaven. And yet, Jesus doesn’t pray for them alone. As he cries out to God in pain,exclaiming his final words to those marginalized by the mainstream, suffering in solidarity with the oppressed, he prays for me too…for you, for the Romans and the Clerics, for our church leadership, the bishops and cardinals, for the privileged and powerful.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus in his mission and ministry came to redeem the whole world, but was predominantly present and preaching to those deemed by the dominant culture to be the “poor” and wretched. He was teaching among the troubled and ministering to the mistreated. His comforting words and healing message were primarily directed to those ostracized and battered by the bastions of the mighty. And yet, today he has a special message for this dominating culture. We must listen.. Listen to those who have been pushed to the perimeter, oppressed andyet living in fullness despite how they might be characterized as downtrodden.

Pope Francis similarly invites us to listen, “to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” Listen.

FutureChurch seems to have gotten the message. We are after all here for a “listening session” in this synodal process. And yet, what might it be like for us to continue in this practice of listening and sharing? To listen to a child, a friend, a family member, or someone writing and speaking about the pain that our Church has inflicted upon them. Our reflections from this six week process will be shared with our bishops, cardinals, and representatives from the Vatican. Let’s also ensurethey receive our message in the weeks, months, and years to come. Continue to ask your bishop or cardinal to listen to you.

Let’s remember Jesus teaches us that reform always happens from the bottom up not the top down (Matthew20:16), and we will even initially be reviled by those in power for our pursuit of justice and reform (John 15:18).But alas, the good news is Jesus promises those of us with a vigorous faith, that our grief will turn to rejoicing (John 16:16).

Many people here today know there is nothing quite as exhilarating as a group of “cradle catholics” showing up with signs, prayer, and song outside of your local cathedral or bishop’s mansion or even St. Peter’s Square insisting thatchurch leadership listen to our concerns about increased support for refugees, survivors of clerical abuse, women’s ordination, the lives of LGBTQ people, and an end to what Dr. Martin Luther King identified as the “triplets of evil” in America, racism, militarism, and unfettered capitalism. We can insist the United States Conference of Bishops listen to us on these issues.

Afterall, for a myriad of reasons, we are still here, still a part of the catholic tradition in one form or another. Either for ourselves or for others, we have an obligation to listen and to be heard in this movement for reform. To send the message that people are not leaving the Church in droves because of a “secularization of society”, but ratherbecause church leadership refuses to evolve with the faithful people.

We are not here to incriminate practices of faith from centuries past, for it is certainly the faith of our parents and grandparents and ancestors upon which we build today. The rituals, the devotions, the prayers are all the bedrock upon which we can strengthen the beloved community. And yet, Catholicism has changed and evolved throughout the centuries, and therefore in this growth we have become more Catholic, more universal, more whole, because people and communities on the ground have modeled what a more expansive, inclusive, and dare I say joyful faith can be. From the Cluniac Reforms to Vatican II, the Church does change. However difficult and hopeless it can feel at times, we are right in the middle of one such major shift in our tradition.

For many of us making our voices heard will mean demonstrating in front of these palaces of power. However, we know money talks too. So in this year’s Diocesan or Cardinal appeal consider writing a letter and sending it to yourparish priest, bishop or cardinal. Then, tell them instead of including money in your envelope you are making a donation to an organization working to support the rights of women, lgbtq people, indigenous groups, poc and black led movements, because you believe in the separation of Church and State and don’t want your donation included in the many millions of dollars they spend on the church’s lobbying arm to strike down public legislation protectingthe rights of women, and victim survivors, and LGBTQ people. Then if you feel like they’re still not listening to your concerns, bring a group back to their doorstep, and this time invite the media.

After several such actions in which members of our community and its supporters held vigils outside diocesan spaces advocating for sanctuary in catholic churches, in 2018 Benincasa was called upon to stand on the front steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral with victim survivors of clerical sex abuse in support of the Child Victims Act whichthe Archdiocese was vigorously opposing as it would significantly expand the “look-back window” and statute of limitations for individuals attempting to file suit against their perpetrators. During this outdoor liturgy, with yellow cabs weaving through traffic lanes and tourists meandering with arms full of shopping bags, we invited people to bring a favorite image or icon of Mary and together we prayed to Our Mother, with rosary beads in hand, for healingand intercession and the passage of this monumental law and an end to the Church’s opposition.

I’ll be honest, I don’t imagine Cardinal Dolan pays any attention to us when we show up at St. Pat’s on 5th Avenue, but people passing by certainly do and their reactions of love are all anyone really needs to keep vigiling for inclusion.

So to be Catholic, in public and in private, is to listen and to learn: to be in pursuit of making things whole, creating circles of community rather than pillars of power, what Jesus calls “a house with many rooms” (John 14:2). We’renot universal in the sense that to be Catholic is the only way to encounter the divine, rather to be Catholic means tomaintain a deeper presence to and acute awareness of the innumerable ways in which God is revealed through the vast diversity of Creation, diversity of faith, diversity of people and culture. To limit or diminish any sacred part of this creation is antithetical to a message grounded in love and listening. To this end, since our founding in 2015, it has been essential for us also to open our home to those in need with what Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day called “christrooms.” Temporary, supportive housing grounded foremost in community for folks who are facing housing insecurity, domestic violence, newly arrived immigrants, students, artists, and international activists. Along the way, we listen to each other and try to learn what makes every individual feel whole.

For each of us here today, this very catholic practice of “making things more whole” will take on many different forms, person to person and at various points in our lives. It is in this sacred variety divinity dwells. The question for all of us then becomes, how do we open our hearts to receive this unifying message and to share the message withthe powerful, even when it makes us uncomfortable? How might we know when faith and justice are coming to fruition in our Church? One way of knowing is certainly when American bishops and cardinals are feeling challenged by the social conscience of the laity, but we might also know when we sense the fullness of the Holy Spirit within ourselves, that gift Jesus offered us in his death and resurrection.

Unlike many of our Protestant brothers and sisters, as Catholics we are often conditioned from a young age to be passive recipients of faith not active participants. We are told we “receive” the sacraments, receive the body of Christ, receive reconciliation, receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit during confirmation, rather than being reminded that in every moment as an ecclesial body we’re renewing our baptismal rights as “priests, prophets, and kings.”

By virtue of Jesus’ life of inclusion, we are a part of a much more participative faith tradition than we are led to believe, and in this moment we are called to remind power that they too must listen. Like Jesus, let’s pray to our God that they, and that we, might listen and therefore know Jesus and know our creator more deeply.

Thank you, and much peace to you and your loved ones on this blessed day.

Possible questions for reflection

  • How might we know when faith and justice are coming to fruition in our Church?
  • In what ways have you encountered “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”?
  • How do you understand the question of heaven, beloved community, a house with many rooms? What issues are standing in the way of realizing this dream? What needs to happen in order to get closer to this ideal?
  • What does a faith that does justice mean to you? How important is it for faith and public life to intersect?

Sr. Anita Baird’s Witness on Race Relations in the Church

On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, Sr. Anita Baird, DHM generously offered a powerful and prophetic witness on race in the Catholic Church and in the world. Sr. Anita is a member of the Religious Congregation of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary having served as Regional Superior, Provincial Councilor, and most recently as United States Provincial. A trail blazer and history maker, Sister Anita became the first African American to serve as Chief of Staff to the Archbishop of Chicago in 1997. In 2000, Cardinal Francis George appointed her the founding director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Racial Justice. She is a past president of the National Black Sisters’ Conference and recipient of the organization’s Harriet Tubman “Moses of Her People” Award.

Read her text below or download a PDF of it.

Race Relations and the Catholic Church… Our Past – Our Present – Our Future

Sister Anita Baird, DHM

“IF MY PEOPLE, CALLED BY MY NAME, WILL HUMBLE THEMSELVES AND PRAY AND SEEK MY FACE AND, TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, THEN WILL I HEAR FROM HEAVEN AND WILL FORGIVE THEIR SIN AND WILL HEAL THEIR LAND”.  (2 CHRONICLES 7-14)

AS WE EMBRACE THIS SACRED MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF OUR CHURCH; A CALL TO BE A SYNODAL CHURCH…A PILGRIM PEOPLE CALLED TO LISTEN TO THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE SILENCE OF OUR HEARTS AND IN OUR COMMUNAL SHARING AS THE BODY OF CHRIST.  WE MUST ENTER THE SACRED SPACE OF OUR HEARTS AND FIND THE COURAGE TO SPEAK TO ONE OF THE GREATEST ISSUES OF OUR TIME AND THAT IS THE HISTORY OF SYSTEMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL RACISM THAT TO THIS DAY CONTINUES TO WOUND AND DIVIDE THE BODY OF CHRIST.

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A SOCIAL PROBLEM MORE ENDURING IN THE LIFE OF OUR NATION AND CHURCH THAN THE STRUGGLE WITH THE CONCEPT OF RACE.  IT IS THE LENS THROUGH WHICH MOST OF OUR SOCIAL ILLS PASS—SUCH AS CHRONIC HEALTH PROBLEMS, DRUG ABUSE, FAMILY BREAKDOWN, VIOLENCE, POVERTY AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION.

RACISM IS THAT EVER PRESENT, SILENT MENACE CLOAKED IN HOUSING PATTERNS, SCHOOL TEST SCORES AND THE UNEQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF DWINDLING RESOURCES AND WEALTH.

WHILE MOST OF US WANT TO BELIEVE THAT WE LIVE RELATIVELY FAULTLESS LIVES; WE ARE ENTANGLED IN A FORM OF EVIL THAT IS EVERY BIT AS PERNICIOUS AS THE BLATANT RACE CRIMES OF LONG AGO.

ACCORDING TO DR. JAMES CONE, THE PREEMINENT AFRICAN AMERICAN THEOLOGIAN AND FATHER OF BLACK LIBERATION THEOLOGY, “RACISM ENCOMPASSES THE UNDERLYING AND LARGELY COVERT SYSTEM OF RACIAL ADVANTAGE AND PRIVILEGE ENJOYED BY WHITE AMERICANS IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OR CHOICE, EVEN IF INDIVIDUAL WHITE AMERICANS WISHED IT OTHERWISE.  THEY CANNOT ESCAPE THE ADVANTAGES CONFERRED UPON THEM SOLELY FOR BEING BORN WITH WHITE SKIN.”

CONE VIEWS AMERICAN RACISM AS BEING SYNONYMOUS WITH WHITE SUPREMACY.  “WE LIVE IN A NATION COMMITTED TO MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIPS OF WHITE CULTURAL, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL DOMINANCE.  WHITE SUPREMACY HAS SHAPED THE SOCIAL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS ETHOS IN OUR CHURCHES, INSTITUTIONS OF LEARNING AND THE BROADER SOCIETY.”

FORTY-THREE YEARS AGO THE U.S. CATHOLIC BISHOPS WROTE IN THEIR PASTORAL LETTER ON RACISM, BROTHERS AND SISTERS TO US THAT “THE ABSENCE OF PERSONAL FAULT FOR AN EVIL DOES NOT ABSOLVE ONE OF ALL RESPONSIBILITY.”

WE MUST SEEK TO RESIST AND UNDO INJUSTICES WE HAVE NOT CAUSED, LEST WE BECOME BYSTANDERS, WHO TACITLY ENDORSE EVIL AND SO SHARE IN THE GUILT FOR IT.”

IN 1988, ST. JOHN PAUL II ASKED THE PONTIFICAL COMMISSION ON JUSTICE AND PEACE “TO HELP ENLIGHTEN AND AWAKEN CONSCIENCES ABOUT THIS MAJOR CONCERN:  NAMELY, THE RECIPROCAL RESPECT BETWEEN ETHNIC AND RACIAL GROUPS AS WELL AS THEIR FRATERNAL COEXISTENCE.”

IN 2018 POPE FRANCIS WROTE THE FOLLOWING.

“WE LIVE IN TIMES IN WHICH FEELINGS THAT TO MANY HAD SEEMED TO BE OUTDATED APPEAR TO BE REEMERGING AND SPREADING. FEELINGS OF SUSPICION, FEAR, CONTEMPT AND EVEN HATRED TOWARD OTHER INDIVIDUALS OR GROUPS JUDGED TO BE DIFFERENT ON THE BASIS OF THEIR ETHNICITY, NATIONALITY OR RELIGION, AND AS SUCH, BELIEVED NOT TO BE SUFFICIENTLY WORTHY TO PARTICIPATE FULLY IN THE LIFE OF SOCIETY. THESE FEELINGS, THEN, TOO OFTEN INSPIRE REAL ACTS OF INTOLERANCE, DISCRIMINATION OR EXCLUSION THAT SERIOUSLY HARM THE DIGNITY OF THOSE INVOLVED AS WELL AS THEIR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE VERY RIGHT TO LIFE AND TO PHYSICAL AND MORAL INTEGRITY,”  (SPEECH AT WORLD CONFERENCE ON XENOPHOBIA, RACISM AND POPULIST NATIONALISM, SEPTEMBER 20, 2018)

IN HIS SPEECH GIVEN SEPTEMBER 23, 2015 AT THE WHITE HOUSE POPE FRANCIS SAID, “MR. PRESIDENT, TOGETHER WITH THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS, AMERICAN CATHOLICS ARE COMMITTED TO BUILDING A SOCIETY WHICH IS TRULY TOLERANT AND INCLUSIVE, TO SAFEGUARDING THE RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS AND COMMUNITIES, AND TO REJECTING EVERY FORM OF UNJUST DISCRIMINATION.”

THE QUESTION THEN IS THIS.  ARE AMERICAN CATHOLICS REALLY COMMITTED TO BUILDING A SOCIETY THAT IS TRULY TOLERANT AND INCLUSIVE?

FATHER RICHARD ROHR OFFERS A CRITIQUE OF HOW CHRISTIANITY ALIGNED WITH EMPIRE AND COLONIALISM MANIFESTED SPECIFICALLY IN THE UNITED STATES.

“THE FORM OF CHRISTIANITY THAT HAS GROWN IN THE UNITED STATES AND SPREAD THROUGHOUT MUCH OF THE WORLD IS WHAT WE HAVE TO FAIRLY CALL “SLAVEHOLDER CHRISTIANITY.”  THE FOUNDERS OF OUR NATION DREW ON A CHRISTIAN TRADITION THAT HAD BEEN ALIGNED WITH EMPIRE BUILDING FOR MORE THAN A MILLENNIUM.  IT MUST BE SAID THAT THIS FORM OF CHRISTIANITY IS FAR, FAR REMOVED FROM THE GOSPEL AND THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS AS IT HAS FAILED TO RESPECT THE DIVINE IMAGE IN ALL BEINGS”.

MANY BELIEVE THAT SLAVERY IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD BEGAN IN 1619 BUT THAT IS FAR FROM THE TRUTH.

JESUIT FATHER JOSEPH BROWN, PROFESSOR AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY IN CARBONDALE, WRITES THAT “THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE ENSLAVEMENT OF AFRICANS WHO WERE FORCIBLY BROUGHT TO WHAT IS NOW THE UNITED STATES BEGAN LONG BEFORE THE EVENTS THAT LENT THEIR NAME TO “THE 1619 PROJECT”.

THE CATHOLIC SPANISH AND FRENCH COLONIZERS WHO ARRIVED HERE BROUGHT ENSLAVED AFRICANS TO THIS LAND AS EARLY AS 1526.  SURVIVING RECORDS AT ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA, CONFIRM THIS.

IN 1452 POPE NICHOLAS V ISSUES THE PAPAL BULL, ENTITLED DUM DIVERSUS (WHILE DIFFERENT) AUTHORIZING KING ALFONSO V OF PORTUGAL TO REDUCE ANY SARACENS, MUSLIMS, PAGANS AND ALL UNBELIEVERS TO PERPETUAL SLAVERY, FACILITATING THE BEGINNING OF THE PORTUGUESE SLAVE TRADE FROM WEST AFRICA.

THIS SAME POPE ISSUES A SECOND BULL IN 1455 ENTITLED ROMANUS PONTIFEX (ROMAN PONTIFF) AS A FOLLOW-UP SANCTIONING THE CATHOLIC NATIONS OF EUROPE’S DOMINION OVER DISCOVERED LANDS.

ALONG WITH SANCTIFYING THE SEIZURE OF NON-CHRISTIAN LANDS, THESE PAPAL BULLS GAVE CHRISTIAN EXPLORERS THE RIGHT TO CLAIM LANDS THEY “DISCOVERED” AND LAY CLAIM TO THOSE LANDS FOR THEIR CHRISTIAN MONARCHS, SANCTIONING THE ENSLAVEMENT OF NATIVE, NON-CHRISTIAN PEOPLES IN AFRICA AND THE NEW WORLD.

THESE PAPAL BULLS PAVED THE WAY FOR THE GLOBAL SLAVE-TRADE OF THE 15TH AND 16TH CENTURIES, HENCE BEGINNING THE 400-PLUS YEARS OF ENSLAVEMENT OF AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS SANCTIONED BY THE HOLY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BEGAN THE SLAVE TRADE AND BENEFITED FINANCIALLY FROM IT.

WHY IS THIS HISTORY LESSON NECESSARY?

BECAUSE HISTORY HAS BEEN REWRITTEN AND ERASED WHEN IT COMES TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE SLAVE TRADE IN WHAT IS NOW THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

THIS IS THE WHOLE POINT OF CRITICAL RACE THEORY…NOT TO MAKE ANYONE FEEL “GUILTY” BUT RATHER TO TEACH THE HISTORICAL TRUTH AND TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT. UNTIL WE DO THERE CANNOT BE AUTHENTIC ATONEMENT AND RECONCILIATION FOR THE SIN OF RACISM IN OUR CHURCH AND NATION.

AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST WE ARE FOUND WANTING AND WE BEAR THE GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY OF FAILURE TO STAMP OUT THE SINS OF RACISM AND INJUSTICE IN OUR NATION AND WORLD.  TOO OFTEN, WE FAIL TO BE THE LIGHT THAT SHATTERS THE DARKNESS OF SIN.

TOO OFTEN, WE ARE COMFORTABLE CO-EXISTING WITH EVIL, RATHER THAN FIGHTING TO EXPOSE AND ERADICATE IT.  OUR SALT HAS GROWN TASTELESS.

THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS OFTEN FALTERED AND MISSED CRUCIAL OPPORTUNITIES TO STAND WITH AFRICAN AMERICANS AND OTHER PEOPLES OF COLOR IN OUR LONG AND DIFFICULT STRUGGLE AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE.

FROM THE CHURCH’S EARLIEST DAYS IN THE NEW WORLD, IT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT REMAINED SILENT IN THE FACE OF THE GREATEST ISSUE CONFRONTING THIS COUNTRY—THE BUILDING OF THE WEALTH OF A NATION UPON THE ENSLAVEMENT OF BLACK PEOPLE.

THE MAJORITY OF THE SOUTHERN SLAVE-HOLDING CATHOLIC HIERARCHY CONSIDERED SLAVERY TO BE A POLITICAL RATHER THAN A MORAL ISSUE.

MOST SOUTHERN BISHOPS ALONG WITH MANY RELIGIOUS ORDERS, INCLUDING THE JESUITS, THE RELIGIOUS OF THE SACRED HEART, THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF NAZARETH, THE TRAPPISTS AT GETHSEMANE, AND SEVERAL DOMINICAN ORDERS, JUST TO NAME A FEW, OWNED AND SOLD SLAVES FOR PURELY ECONOMIC REASONS.

IT WAS NOT UNTIL 1958, ALMOST 100 YEARS AFTER THE EMANCIPATION OF THE ENSLAVED THAT THE AMERICAN BISHOPS ADDRESSED RACISM AS A MORAL ISSUE AND STOOD FIRM AS A BODY IN DENOUNCING RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AS IMMORAL AND UNJUST AS THEY WROTE:

“THE HEART OF THE RACE QUESTION IS MORAL AND RELIGIOUS.  IT CONCERNS THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD OUR FELLOW MAN.  IF OUR ATTITUDE IS GOVERNED BY THE GREAT CHRISTIAN LAW OF LOVE OF NEIGHBOR AND RESPECT FOR HIS RIGHTS, THEN WE CAN WORK OUT HARMONIOUSLY THE TECHNIQUES FOR MAKING LEGAL, EDUCATIONAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CHANGES.  BUT IF OUR HEARTS ARE POISONED BY HATRED, OR EVEN BY INDIFFERENCE TOWARD THE WELFARE AND RIGHTS OF OUR FELLOW MEN, THEN OUR NATION FACES A GRAVE INTERNAL CRISIS”.

WHLE THE BISHOPS MADE STRONG STATEMENTS ON THE NATIONAL LEVEL, LITTLE WAS DONE TO IMPLEMENT THEIR PUBLIC POSITION AT THE LOCAL LEVEL.

IT WAS ONLY IN 1965 THAT THE PUBLIC FACE OF THE CHURCH WAS SEEN STANDING WITH THOSE FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW WHEN DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. CALLED ON ALL OF THE NATION’S CLERGY TO COME TO SELMA, ALABAMA.  THE RESPONSE OF CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS WAS OVERWHELMING.  IT MARKED THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA IN THE HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CHURCH IN AMERICA AND PEOPLE OF AFRICAN ANCESTRY.

HOWEVER, TANGIBLE, SUSTAINING PROGRESS COMES PAINFULLY SLOW.

HERE WE ARE 57 YEARS LATER STILL NEEDING TO ADDRESS AMERICA’S ORIGINAL SIN, WHICH IS JUST AS LETHAL TO THE SURVIVAL OF WHITE AMERICA AS IT IS TO BLACK AMERICA.

WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY; YET WE HAVE A LIFETIME TO GO.

PRESIDENT BIDEN HAS JUST SIGNED INTO LAW THE “EMMETT TILL ANTI-LYNCHING LAW” MAKING LYNCHING A FEDERAL CRIME.  IT ONLY TOOK 124 YEARS AFTER THE END OF SLAVERY FOR THIS NATION TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT LYNCHING IS A HATE CRIME AND MUST BE PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

THE CHURCH HAS THE VOCATION IN THE MIDST OF THE WORLD TO BE THE PEOPLE REDEEMED AND RECONCILED WITH GOD AND ONE ANOTHER FORMING “ONE BODY, ONE SPIRIT IN CHRIST”.

GOD MADE THIS CLEAR IN ACTS WHEN PETER, THE DEVOUT JEW, WAS SUMMONED TO THE HOME OF CORNELIUS, THE PAGAN.

“GOD HAS SHOWN ME THAT I SHOULD NOT CALL ANY MAN IMPURE OR UNCLEAN…GOD SHOWS NO PARTIALITY”…FOR ALL SUCH DIVISIONS ARE NOW OBSOLETE, HAVING BEEN DESTROYED BY THE CROSS OF CHRIST, JESUS.”  (Acts 10:28)

IF THE CHURCH IS TO BE TRULY CATHOLIC AND UNIVERSAL, NO INEQUALITY ARISING FROM RACE, OR NATIONALITY, OR SEX CAN EXIST.  GOD WILL NOT BE MOCKED AND THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

RACIAL SUPREMACY, WHICH DENIES THE EQUALITY OF EVERY MEMBER OF THE HUMAN FAMILY AND SINS AGAINST THE CREATOR, CAN ONLY BE ERADICATED AT THE ROOT OF ITS EXISTENCE…THE HUMAN HEART.

WE MUST SEE ONE ANOTHER WITH THE EYES OF CHRIST; WE MUST THINK AS CHRIST AND LOVE WITH A CHRISTLIKE SPIRIT.  WE MUST ASK THE AGE-OLD QUESTION, “WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR” WITH A CLEAN HEART.

GOD CONTINUALLY CALLS US TO CONVERSION. GOD IS CALLING FOR SOCIAL AND ECCLESIAL TRANSFORMATION BORN OF THEOLOGICAL, RELIGIOUS AND MORAL CONVERSION.

TODAY, MANY CHURCH LEADERS ARE SIMPLY INATTENTIVE AND INSENSITIVE TO THE MORAL ISSUES INVOLVED AND TO THE BRUTALITY AND DEATH-YIELDING CONSEQUENCES OF INSTITUTIONAL RACISM.  THEY FAIL TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT RACISM IS A SIN AND A HERESY THAT NOT ONLY DIVIDES THE HUMAN COMMUNITY BUT ALSO SUSTAINS A PATTERN OF SYSTEMIC GENOCIDE.

SOME HAVE EVEN GONE AS FAR AS TO ATTACK THE “BLACK LIVES MATTER” MOVEMENT AS BEING MARXIST AND A PSEUDO RELIGION.

AS A RESULT, PEOPLE OF COLOR CONTINUE TO EXPERIENCE ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND PROFESSIONAL ALIENATION WITHIN SOCIETAL AND ECCLESIAL INSTITUTIONS.

THE REALIZATION OF RACIAL JUSTICE IN THE UNITED STATES AND IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH RESTS UPON THOSE CATHOLIC BISHOPS, PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS AND THE LAY FAITHFUL, WHO HAVE COME TO KNOW AND BELIEVE THAT RACISM DEHUMANIZES NOT ONLY PEOPLE OF COLOR BUT WHITES AS WELL.

RACISM KILLS PEOPLE OF COLOR PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY AND IT KILLS WHITE PEOPLE MORALLY.

IN CALLING US TO DISMANTLE INSTITUTIONAL RACISM, GOD PLACES BEFORE US A CHOICE OF LIFE AND DEATH.  WE MUST CHOOSE THE LIFE OF MORAL FORTITUDE AND TRUTH AS A CHURCH IN SPEAKING AND ACTING AGAINST THE SOCIAL INJUSTICE OF SYSTEMIC RACISM.

THOSE WHO BENEFIT FROM THE PRIVILEGES THAT COME WITH BEING WHITE IN AMERICA MUST DESIRE AND SEEK A CONVERSION OF HEART.   THEY MUST UNDERGO A SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION OF HEART ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF GOD.

THE CHURCH MUST DILIGENTLY INSIST THAT CHURCH LEADERS; PASTORS, PREACHERS, TEACHERS AND CATECHISTS, STUDY THE WORD OF GOD IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH AND THEN TEACH THE UNADULTERATED TRUTH ACCORDING TO SACRED TRADITION.

IF WE BELIEVE THAT “GOD CAN CHANGE HEARTS”, AND THAT THROUGH GOD’S DIVINE GRACE WE HAVE THE POWER TO ERADICATE RACISM, THEN WHAT MUST WE DO, AS MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST, TO CONFRONT THE SIN OF RACISM IN THE MILIEUS WERE WE LIVE, WORSHIP AND WORK TO BUILD A MORE JUST SOCIETY?

THE CHURCH MUST EMPOWER PEOPLE OF COLOR—CLERGY, RELIGIOUS AND LAY—TO USE THEIR COMPETENCIES AND TO DEVELOP THEIR GIFTS.

UNFORTUNATELY, WE MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE MAJOR HINDRANCE TO THE FULL DEVELOPMENT OF SUCH LEADERSHIP WITHIN THE CHURCH IS STILL THE FACE OF RACISM.

THE QUESTION THEN BECOMES, “HOW DO WE PROMOTE UNITY, ANTI-RACIST DIVERSITY AND INCULTURATION IN A CHURCH THAT IS STILL CONFRONTING THE SIN OF RACISM?

ARE WE WILLING TO SHARE POWER EQUALLY WITH THE POWERFUL AND POWERLESS?

CAN WE, AS CHURCH, COMMIT TO DISMANTLING RACISM IN ORDER TO MAKE ROOM AT THE EUCHARISTIC TABLE FOR ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN?

CAN WE DWELL TOGETHER IN GOD’S TRINITARIAN LOVE?

IN HIS PASTORAL LETTER, “DWELL IN MY LOVE”, CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE WROTE:  “OUR GATHERING FOR MASS IS ALWAYS A GATHERING IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER OF OUR LORD, JESUS CHRIST.  IN THE EUCHARISTIC ASSEMBLY WE SHARE ALL THE CULTURAL, RACIAL, ECONOMIC AND SPIRITUAL GIFTS GIVEN US BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO ENRICH AND TRANSFORM BOTH CHURCH AND SOCIETY.”

“IF SHE IS FAITHFUL TO HER LORD, THE CHURCH WILL NOT ONLY PROCLAIM WHO HE IS BUT WILL HERSELF ACT TO BECOME THE WOMB IN WHICH A NEW WORLD CAN GESTATE AND BE BORN.”

ARE WE READY TO BE REBORN?

FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL JUDGE US BASED ON THE WORLD AND CHURCH THAT THEY WILL INHERIT FROM US.

UNTIL THERE IS A RECKONING AROUND THE SIN OF RACISM WE CANNOT MOVE FORWARD.  WE CANNOT BEGIN TO CREATE A TRULY INCLUSIVE SOCIETY UNTIL AMERICA’S ORIGINAL SIN IS ACKNOWLEDGED AND ATONED FOR.  THEN AND ONLY THEN CAN WE INSURE EQUALITY FOR ALL PEOPLE REGARDLESS OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN, OR WHERE THEY COME FROM, OR THE LANGUAGE THAT THEY SPEAK, OR THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION, OR THE GOD WHOM THEY WORSHIP.

JESUS PRAYED TO HIS FATHER, AS HE PREPARED TO EMBRACE THE CROSS THAT “ALL MAY BE ONE…AS WE ARE ONE.”  JOHN 17:21-22

TO BE ONE WITH THE TRIUNE GOD IS TO BE IN PERFECT UNION WITH THE DIVINE AND IN TRUTH AND CHARITY WITH ALL MEMBERS OF THE ONE FAMILY OF THE CREATOR.

THIS UNION WITH GOD IN THE HOLY EUCHARIST MAKES US INTERDEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER.  EVERY CHRISTIAN IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BROTHER AND SISTER AND WILL INDEED PUT THEIR NEEDS BEFORE THEIR OWN.

THE EUCHARIST COMPELS US TO LIVE LIVES OF TRUTH, BUILT ON JUSTICE AND ANIMATED BY LOVE…TO BUILD A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH WHERE ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN CAN LIVE WITH HUMAN DIGNITY AND RESPECT.

THROUGH THE POWER OF THE EUCHARIST WE ARE ONE IN CHRIST.  THE COMMON DENOMINATOR IS NO LONGER COLOR, ETHNIC ORGIN, COMMON LANGUAGE OR COMMON INTEREST.

WHAT MIGHTY SOCIAL AND POLITICAL REVOLUTIONS WOULD COME ABOUT IF THIS MESSAGE OF LOVE WAS SERIOUSLY LIVED IN OUR COMMUNITIES, OUR CHURCHES, OUR WORLD?

OUR WORLD, NATION AND CHURCH ARE IN CRISIS AND WE NEED GOD’S TRANSFORMATIVE GRACE IF WE ARE GOING TO HEAL THE LAND AND SET THE CAPTIVES FREE.

IF WE TRULY BECOME WHAT WE EAT, OUR HEARTS AND MINDS WILL BE OPENED.  WE WILL NOT CLOSE OURSELVES BEHIND THE BARRIERS OF WEALTH, OR CLASS, OR COLOR.  WE WILL NOT DENY OUR COMMON HUMANITY AND SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE WHO CRY OUT IN PAIN AND DESPAIR.

TO BECOME WHAT WE EAT IS TO ERADICATE THE SINS OF RACISM, BIGOTRY AND HATRED FROM OUR HEARTS.

TO BECOME WHAT WE EAT IS TO NO LONGER KEEP SILENCE IN THE FACE OF WHAT IS JUDGED TO BE POLITICALLY CORRECT.

TO BECOME WHAT WE EAT IS TO RECEIVE THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BECOME CHRIST’S DISCIPLES AND WITNESSES.

TO BECOME WHAT WE EAT IS TO BECOME A SYNODAL CHURCH…A GRACE-FILLED, RESURRECTED CHURCH.

THIS IS OUR APPOINTED WORK AS CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS…TO PREACH NOT WITH WORDS BUT WITH DEEDS THAT WILL TRANSFORM OUR CHURCH, OUR COMMUNITIES, AND OUR INSTITUTIONS; TO PREPARE A TABLE, WHERE ALL ARE EQUALLY WELCOMED AS MEMBERS OF THE ONE FAMILY OF GOD.

I LEAVE YOU WITH THIS QUESTION AND CHALLENGE…

WILL WE COMMIT TO THE LONG TERM WORK OF REDEFINING AND RESTRUCTURING OUR FAITH COMMUNITIES TO ADDRESS THE LEGACY OF RACIAL SUPERIORITY AND SYSTEMIC INJUSTICE?

FOR NOW IS THE ACCEPTABLE TIME.  NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION.

MAY THE PRAYER OF JESUS, BE OURS…THAT ALL MAY BE ONE…IN THE EUCHARIST, WHICH IS AT THE HEART OF RACIAL JUSTICE.

Say Her Name Prayer Service

FutureChurch marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2022 with a prayer service inspired by the “Say Her Name” campaign, remembering the lives of Black women who have been murdered in our streets and in their homes.  While there is an appalling level of violence against women of color by police and others, these crimes are under-reported.  Together, we will remember their names, their stories, and their lives,  as we work together for racial and reparative justice.

Kayla August, a doctoral student at Boston College leads the prayer. Sr. Melinda Pellerin, ssj, a board member of the National Black Sisters’ Conference preaches. Alessandra Harris, Kimberly Lymore, and Vickey McBride serve as readers.

Download the text of this prayer service. 

Permission to stream and reproduce music obtained under ONE LICENSE #A-737115.

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