Knowledge Is Power

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

I graduated from high school in 1967, and during those years the Dominican Sisters engaged us in so many ways to enlighten, inspire and motivate us to see what was going on with the war protests, the civil rights movement and the world of the missions. The high school was a charter member of the Catholic Students’ Mission Crusade and, as a result of my membership in it, I learned all about the Micronesian, Polynesian and Melanesian island groups and began my deep desire to visit some of the African countries. We sponsored bake sales and made caramel apples for sale to earn money to “buy” Pagan Babies (and we got to name them, too). We had the experience every two years of the CSMC Conference for high school students from around the country and held at the University of Notre Dame. 10, 000 students and mentors gathered to hear speakers from around the world, missionaries with years of experience, e.g., Maryknoll Sister Maria del Ray, author and world traveler to so many mission lands; Monsignor Ssebayigga from Uganda who told us of the Mountains of the Moon( and who just passed in 2006); John Cardinal Wright who sang about the “little boxes on the hillside that all looked just the same”, but he compared them to the hovels of Appalachia not just the sameness of suburbia; and so many other inspiring missionaries. They lit the fire in so many of us to get to the work of home missionaries or international missionaries. We would save the world for God because all of those people were heathens and needed our help! Boomers—-this was our truth then, and you know it!

Somewhere along the line, I read Michener’s book Hawaii, and, as crazy as it sounds, that is where I had my AHA moment about the colonial mentality of our church and white society. My attitude was never the same and I wanted to learn more about not only how the church repressed the native spiritualties, but also what the people in those different places really believed in and why. There is such a thing as African theology and spirituality and, like our Native Americans, their connectedness to the earth is immense and intense.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing, for true! My intellect and my spirit now know how much damage has been done to the minds of citizens of all countries. White is not the best; it is one among many. White is not the safest; it is just as fragile. White is not the strongest; it has its weaknesses. White is not the smartest, but it does have access to better education most of the time. White is not always right…..

A few days ago, there was the remembrance of Juneteenth, the day when the slaves on Galveston Island finally found out that Lincoln had freed them—two years before. Why did it take so long for them to hear something that was “old news” to Blacks in other states and unimportant to their white masters? Poor communication lines from outside the state have been blamed, but the White masters on the island knew and didn’t want to lose their workers before crops could be harvested and barns could be built, so they waited a little while. No harm done, and it kept the economy alive.

There is so much to unlearn about the growth and development of our country. History is still being written, still being discovered. It must not make us feel bad or depressed. It must make us want to really be the best at cherishing the lives of all those God has created. It must make us realize the mistakes that were made, why they were made and make sure they are not still being made or ever made again. It is hard work, but what we learn will guide us, and our prayers will inspire us.

Posted in Weekly Word

7 responses to “Knowledge Is Power

  1. Pat,
    How well I remember my youthful dreams as a Boomer, missionaries saving the world! How innocent and naive was my worldview at that time. I thought we knew all of the answers then, now I am not even sure what the questions are. I have enjoyed your blogs, glimpses of a new vision in these old eyes. Thank you!

  2. Yes, agree there is a so much to learn. In hindsight, any race or culture or even religious groups of people have a system of security. It is when something not like what that system of security looks like, that bias comes about.

    Your experience sounds as though it was helpful in spiritual love and growth & in the embrace of neighbor.

    In reading your blog, I recall a reading from this week, do not judge… in a letter and Jesus, further in the word, tells us we are to judge rightly, but God is the true judge. He reads hearts. And love covers a multitude of sin.
    On ward, striving for sainthood!

  3. Beautifully said!! Thank you!!!
    When we search for and speak to truth, the truth shall set us free!!

  4. Pat,
    I enjoyed your “trip down memory lane” about what we learned in Catholic School. Sadly, I too, am only lately coming to understand the ramifications of that mentality, and to know it was not all good. Thanks for calling it to mind, and calling us to try to revisit, re-learn, and repair damage of the past.
    Peace and Blessings,

  5. Well, as a boomer also and as a graduate of a predominantly white Catholic High School, I affirm your learning and desires from those days. I can remember my response to books like ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘Black like Me’.
    I too had recent aha moments…..I have seen the genuine smiles of the peoples in Africa who by my standards have nothing to smile about and I contrast those to those in the US who are descendants of those same tribes and what has been unjustly done is so evident…where are the smiles?
    My second was at a Juneteenth event….has anyone else noticed that the we honor General Granger on announcing that the enslaved individuals are free but how many of us saw the picture of the black regiment that accompanied him?
    Yet again white power gets the press.
    And do we remember the conditions in the Emancipation Proclamation?
    So many more sides to the stories we thought we knew.

  6. Pat
    A great blog telling of your AHA moment. We have so many of those moments that keep alerting us to the need to learn more and the quest for Truth. It make all the broohaha over Critical Race Theory pale in the light of the ancient human quest for wisdom and understanding. How much we still do not know!

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