Where Are the Institutional Voices?

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

As a high school freshman attending a lily-white public high school in Danville, Kentucky, I learned soon that what I learned in the classroom was a small part of education for life.  Soon after beginning my freshman year, an associate pastor from my parish church issued a challenge to members of “Young Christian Students,” an association specifically geared toward Catholic students attending public schools.  He challenged us to meet with managers of local restaurants and ask why they did not serve Black customers.  With some nervousness, I accepted the challenge and met with three restaurant managers.  The answer was not a surprise:  “We do not want to lose our white customers.”  This was the beginning of a long journey for me to face the sin of racism.  I remain grateful to that priest for challenging me to face the reality of racism in this small town.  The challenge of personal responsibility remains in my actions.

Years later I was a graduate student in the School of Social Work at Barry College (now Barry University) and took a course in Institutional Racism.  The professor, Gil Raiford, an African American, challenged students to examine racism through the lens of our institutions, specifically educational, economic, religious, and political.  People of color rarely have a voice in the decision-making process within those institutions. How can change happen to remove racism from our institutions without the active participation of African Americans on all levels of decision making?  The questions and challenges remain.

We find few African Americans serving as Presidents or department heads in predominately white colleges.  It is only in recent years that courses in African American studies are offered.  College boards of trustees, high school boards and school boards in general too often have an inadequate representation of African Americans in any given location.

In our political arena, suppression of the “Black vote” is obvious and ongoing.  Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona, and in many other areas continue to reduce the number of voting sites, require a photo ID and engage in gerrymandering to discourage voting.  The challenges to the outcome of the most recent presidential election centered largely on Atlanta, Detroit, and Philadelphia, all with large African American populations.  Another troubling reality is that Congress has failed to extend the John Lewis bill on voting rights.

Without African American voices in education and politics, we often find inequitable funding for schools in poor neighborhoods.  According to the Center for American Progress, predominately Black schools receive $23 billion less in funding each year.  Schools in Black, indigenous, and Hispanic areas often have outdated materials, are under-resourced, and in many cases, are in buildings that are hazardous to their health.  Resources need to be updated or replaced.  Money matters in education!

Have our religious institutions played a role as moral leaders in addressing racism?  When was the last time you heard a homily on racism?  Or on any justice issue period?  Where were the religious voices of leaders after Charlottesville, after the murder of Black parishioners in Charleston?

Where are the black voices in your parish or your diocese – or are they, like my high school in Kentucky, lily-white and unaware of the issues facing our sisters and brothers of color?

From the parish and school board to colleges and Congress, our institutions are failing in our struggle to remove racism from our current reality.  It is always the right time to ask the hard questions of institutional leaders and demand that all voices be heard.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Lenten Resources from Around our Church

Celebrating Lent Together at Home
We enter this Lent differently than ever before. The traditional practices of Lent: PRAY, FAST, GIVE ALMS have taken on a much deeper and more spacious meaning in our lives as a world community. As a way to weave together these three practices, Sisters Maureen McGrath, OP (Adrian), Joan Scanlon, OP, and Teresa Tuite, OP, invite you to celebrate Lent together at home via ZOOM. This online Lenten observance will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 17, and continue on consecutive Wednesdays (February 24, March 3, 10, 17, 24) at 7:00 PM EST. Each program will include a common prayer, followed by a guest chef who will demonstrate a simple recipe that can be used for one of your own Lenten meals. The recipe will be provided for viewers’ use. The program will end with a short closing prayer or song. Each session is independent, so please join when your own schedule allows it. No registration is needed. If you are able to join us, click here.

Meeting ID: 994 3701 7988
Passcode: 840174


Dominican Sister of Peace Associate Sandra Bonneville has a very close, personal connection to the Ninth Station of the Cross. She shares it in a Lenten Reflection published in the Columbus Catholic Times.


The Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, Office of Peace, Justice, and Ecological Integrity has prepared a Lenten Calendar entitled A Lenten Journey from Racism to the Beloved Community. The quotes beginning each week are from people of color.

Click to view and download the 8 ½ by 11 version
Click to view and download the 8 ½ by 14 version


 

Posted in Thought of the Day

Ash Wednesday: The Art of Rending, Tending, and Mending a Broken Heart

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, I came upon a speech by Meryl Streep given at the 2017 Golden Globe awards that captured a painful moment we should not forget. I invite you to view Meryl Streep’s speech here.  In a way, this is all we need to know during Lent: that our broken hearts need mending. Healing is a slow and grace-filled process that requires our courage, not just on a cosmetic surface level, but in a deep way that gets to the roots of our pain.

Matthew’s Gospel for Ash Wednesday would have us rend our hearts, not our garments. To open up our broken hearts and seek healing, to tend to our hearts, seek compassion, receive the forgiveness and acceptance we long for.  This year, this very strange and challenging year, Lent may be an invitation to tend to our own broken hearts, in the places where we have lost sisters and family members without the ritual, the visits, the gatherings that help us remember. In the absence of touch, the embrace, the close physical encounters that help heal our hearts, how might we mend our hearts and the hearts of others?

Streep talked about the art of empathy. She asks: Isn’t that what actors do, offer a glimpse into the experience of someone else?  Reaching into that sacred space of another’s heart. The art of mending the broken heart, is this what we might be called to this Lent?

Last month, I mentioned an article in Sojourners magazine about this very topic. In God is in the Making, Makoto Fujimura talks about the art of kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics using gold, or silver to restore a cup or bowl. It is the act of repairing, but not masking the fractures. In fact, in kintsugi, the breaks still show, so that we can appreciate the beauty in the brokenness. I’m suggesting that in these days, the Gospel call to rend our hearts, not our garments, is calling us to open our broken hearts to the suffering of those– near and far –who are in pain. To again recognize that all of us have known disappointment, sadness, loss, and brokenness.

This is how Jesus healed. He met people where they were, not denying pain or suffering, but facing it, (rending open his own heart). He acknowledged the pain of the other (tending to the wound in the other). And He brought forgiveness, healing, and wholeness to the other.  (mending the other person)

The art of empathy is about presence to the suffering or disappointment of another person, with whatever circumstances we find ourselves: the sister down the hall, the children home from school, the spouse who goes out to work every day.  Could this be our call at this time as we look at one another with new eyes? Is the art of empathy what Lent is offering us this year?

Empathy demands deep listening to the experience of the other, even if we feel like we have heard the same story over and over again. The same complaint, the same whine, the same grumbling.  Empathy is an act and an art. It is an acknowledgment of a fracture, a wound, even a chronic condition. And we may not even know that our open hearts have begun to heal another person because we met them where they were, listening for a time and held their pain. We are all artists, all of us can rend, tend and mend.

As Princess Leia said, “Take your broken heart and make it art.”

 

For more Lenten resources from the Dominican Sisters of Peace, click here. 

Posted in Weekly Word

Change and Faith

February 2, 2021

Change and Faith

First published December 19, 2016

The call is a mystery. It begins and ends with God, but it loops through a very human individual. It is personal, but bigger than the person. The call comes out of who we are as well as shaping who we are. It has both being and doing components…. Those who describe themselves as called mean that they have made a commitment of life into God’s service, to be at his disposal, to be in his employ for the efforts of accomplishing his agenda. – Reggie McNeal (A Work of Heart)

I’ve been thinking a lot about change and faith lately.

I’m sure it’s because I am transitioning from my vocation as a journalist to that of Co-Director of the Office of Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

I can’t begin to tell you how many people have said, “You must really have a lot of faith to leave the newspaper (after 24 years) and start something new.” My reply has been, “Not really. I believe God has called me to this mission.”

Then I started thinking about my response and discovered that what I was finding difficult to reconcile is the idea that it takes “a lot” of faith to move into a place where God is directing us. I believe that faith is very potent and only a small amount may be required for amazing things to happen.

But more reflection brought me to the conclusion that as the proverbial mustard seed is very small, but grows into a big tree (Luke 13:19), so must our faith in God and Christ grow and increase. Because my faith is still growing, I guess I find it difficult to characterize it as “a lot” because my hope and prayer is to have a little more faith each day of my life.

By God’s grace, I have been gifted with enough faith to move from my comfort zone as a journalist (where God placed me to give voice to the voiceless by telling the stories of others) to a place of service in our Dominican community. Just as I followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit from my work as a Juvenile Probation Officer into the field of journalism, I am answering the call of God to leave the newsroom to serve God’s people in a new way.

I admit that it is not easy to leave a place of familiarity and enter into the unknown. But I find peace and great joy in knowing that God’s plan is still in full effect in my life. In his book, A Work of Heart, Reggie McNeal recognizes that God uses culture, community, communion, conflict and the commonplace to shape every person’s heart and to define her/his calling – a unique, divine assignment given by God for divine purposes.

Colette Parker, top row, center, welcomes 16 new Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace at a ceremony on Sunday, September 29, 2019, in the Chapel at St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School in Memphis, TN.

But the call requires faithful and active obedience, unwavering commitment, and devotion from the one who is called. My hope is for us to allow faith to work mightily and powerfully as we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in discerning God’s purpose for our lives.

For me, life is a journey of discovery, development and alignment. As we journey God shows us more about our calling, and the Holy Spirit works to strengthen our heart as we are brought to a point of realignment.

Leaving what I was doing and accepting the call as Co-Director of Associates was a realignment of my life and I am compelled to follow the path to which the Lord has led me.

Each of us has been gifted with an aspect of the glory of God that we can offer to the world. God uses every strength, weakness, heartache, success, relationship and experience to shape our hearts, to draw us closer and to equip us to fulfill our life’s calling.

Lord, teach me to unselfishly serve humanity. – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Posted in Thought of the Day

What Manner of Love Does your God Prescribe?

February 4, 2021

What Manner of Love Does your God Prescribe?

First published June 18, 2018

I wonder how many people were as incensed as I was when hearing U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III use the Bible to defend ripping apart families — arresting parents and placing children in internment camps (oops, I mean “detention centers”).

I wonder if my exasperation is similar to that of my Muslim friends who are often frustrated by the misrepresentation of their sacred book.

I am sick and tired of, dare I say, Christian extremists, trying to justify their oppressive views with biblical scripture (taken out of context). I’m no theologian (and apparently neither is Jeff Sessions), but the last time I checked, Christians were commanded to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

What manner of love abuses asylum seekers (who, by the way, have a right to come here), traumatizes children, and degrades human beings?

Everything within me rejects the attorney general’s spiritual arrogance and dangerously misguided and perverted interpretation of biblical scripture as justification for the inhuman treatment of immigrants.

I would like to draw attention to an alternative interpretation of Paul’s message via “Paul’s Letter to American Christians,” delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1956 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Rev. King described the basis of his sermon as what he imagined the Apostle Paul would write to Christians in America at that time:

Colette Parker, in the back of the photo, with other members of the Congregation’s NE Ohio Racial Justice Committee, which was awarded the Bishop Pilla Leadership Award in 2017.

“… American Christians, I must say to you as I said to the Roman Christians years ago, ‘Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Or, as I said to the Philippian Christians, ‘Ye are a colony of heaven.’ This means that although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God’s will it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it. You must never allow the transitory evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.”

As a Christian, I adhere to a just and loving God. I stand against the inhuman and unjust treatment of any human being.

Posted in Thought of the Day