Equity and Inclusion


In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters began by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.

From January 2021 through June of 2023, our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters collaborated on a project to provide information on prominent Black and Indigenous Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.

In May of 2022, Kevin D. Hofmann was named the founding Director of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion for the Congregation. With the goal of normalizing conversations about race and culture and discussing what it means to feel included and excluded, Kevin began contributing to this blog in June of 2022. He shares his unique experience of growing up Black in a white family in Detroit and educates on topics of equity and inclusion.

Equity and Inclusion Project

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college professor standing in the front of a classroom of students

I recently watched a video of a college lecture. The students were listening intently to the professor and in mid-sentence the professor stopped and singled out one female student. He spoke directly to her and told her to get up and leave his classroom and never return. After some protest, she gathered her books and left the classroom. The professor continued with his lecture as if nothing happened. 

A little while later he asked the students if they thought what happened to the expelled student was unfair. Several students spoke up and said what he did was unfair and unprovoked. He then asked why they chose to stay silent in the presence of injustice and the room went quiet. The professor then answered his own question. He explained that when in the presence of injustice we often choose not to speak up because we rationalize that it has nothing to do with us, it is not our business. He went on to explain that any injustice in our presence is our business. We must speak up because any one of us could be the next target.

How do we stand up and speak out for those around us? As we celebrate Pride Month I started looking into the injustices poured onto this community, and it would appear we are not saying enough.

As I delve into the statistics surrounding violence against the LGBTQ+ community, I can't help but feel a deep sense of sadness and outrage. It pains me to see that in a world that prides itself on progress and equality, countless individuals still face discrimination, prejudice, and violence simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. When I think about hate crimes committed against LGBTQ+ individuals, I am filled with a mixture of anger and disbelief. These acts of violence are not mere numbers; they represent deeply affected human lives:

·       In 2019, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program reported a staggering 4,927 hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity bias in the United States alone. Each of these incidents reflects the physical and emotional pain endured by LGBTQ+ individuals.
 
·       The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported a 20% increase in hate violence-related homicides targeting LGBTQ+ individuals in 2020. The fact that these numbers continue to rise is a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done.
 
·       Transgender individuals, especially transgender women of color, face a disproportionately higher risk of fatal violence. In 2020, at least 44 transgender and gender-nonconforming people were murdered, making it the deadliest year on record in the United States. Each life lost represents a devastating loss for their communities and loved ones.

So many beautiful souls are harassed, beaten, and killed simply because of how they identify. If we truly value life, then silence is not an option. We must speak up and speak out against ANY community member targeted by violence. If not, we are just like the students in that lecture hall who choose to look down and not speak out because it didn’t personally involve them. Let’s work to show up and speak out and continue working to make our campuses a safe place for all.

Learn more about the present-day realities of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and stigmatization at these sites:

GLSEN's National School Climate Survey
The Trevor Project
European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) Reports
ILGA World
 


Graphic with quote from and an image of Dr. C. Vanessa White

Black Catholic Project: Dr. C. Vanessa White

Dr. C. Vanessa White comes from a family of ministers of various faith traditions. She has known from a young age that she was being called by God and that God was close to her. As a young child, her mother read to her from a Bible storybook and Vanessa found that she loved hearing the stories of men and women of great faith and courage.

She was baptized as a young child into the Catholic faith, and at 16 years old she embraced her first ministry as lector. She attributes her love of Scripture as well as her love of liturgy and service to her mother, Doris Foster, and her aunt, Vivian Reed.

Currently, Dr. Vanessa White, D. Min., is a tenured Associate Professor of Spirituality and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and Director of the Certificate in Black Theology and Ministry. She holds a dual appointment as Associate Director of the Master of Theology program at Xavier University’s Summer Institute for Black Catholic Studies.

As a womanist practical theologian, her research is focused on the intersections of spirituality and praxis and is attentive to issues of discernment, health, women’s spirituality, racial justice, diversity/intercultural dialogue, leadership development, spiritual and ministry formation, spiritual practices, lay ministry, adult faith formation, and issues pertinent to the life of Black Catholics.

She also serves as an advisor/consultant for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for Certification of Ecclesial Ministry, which approves the standards for various ministries throughout the U.S. She was also a member of the advisory team for Fetzer Institute’s Study on American Spirituality, published in 2020.

In February of 2023, Vanessa became the first lay woman invited to preach a nine-day solemn novena in honor of St. Jude at the National Shrine of St. Jude, which was live streamed globally. Her articles and essays have appeared in New Theology Review, U.S. Catholic, America Magazine, and National Catholic Reporter. Her reflection on the Feast of Pentecost can found in Catholic Women Preach (Volume 1) that was published by Orbis Books (2022).

 

Reflection Questions

1) How do you (we) affirm, encourage, and collaborate with our congregational ecclesial members, family, friends, and colleagues, to continue the Mission of Jesus Christ in today’s ecclesial, social, and global contexts?

2) How have you encouraged Black and non-Black young adults, adults, and elders to participate in the evangelization, social justice, and ecological ministries of our church?

3) How have we Adrian Dominicans encouraged Black Catholic youth, young adults, and elders to collaborate with us in our ministries within the Black-American, Hispanic-Latinx American, Asian-American, European-American other local and global ethnic-racial Catholic and non-Catholic communities?

 

Prayer

God of justice, in your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception.

Through your goodness, open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being.

Open our minds to understand that all your children are sisters and brothers in the same human family.

Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviors, and speech which demean others. 

Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by racial discrimination, and their passionate appeals for change.

Strengthen our resolve to make amends for past injustices and right the wrongs of history.

And fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven and establish peace and equality for all in our communities.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

– Excerpted from Prayer for Racial Healing, Catholic Charities USA

 

Resources

Articles

A Portrait of Black Catholicism: Celebrating 40 years of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium, C. Vanessa White, America Magazine, January 9, 2018 
https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/01/09/portrait-black-catholicism-celebrating-40-years-black-catholic-theological

An Interview with C. Vanessa White, M.T.S., D.Min., Gordon Nary, Profiles in Catholicism, October 14, 2018
https://www.catholicprofiles.org/post/an-interview-with-c-vanessa-white

Authentically Black and Truly Catholic, C. Vanessa White, CNN, September 5, 2010
http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/09/05/white.catholic.black/index.html

Augustus Tolton: Pioneer Pastor, C. Vanessa White, U.S. Catholic, February 14, 2014
https://uscatholic.org/articles/201402/augustus-tolton-pioneer-pastor/

Videos

Black Spiritual History: A conversation with Dr. C. Vanessa White - National Black Catholic Congress, December 3, 2021
https://youtu.be/SXCQoKnscyI

Podcasts

Dr. C. Vanessa White: Discipline Leads to Freedom - Messy Jesus Business Podcast, January 27, 2022
https://messyjesusbusiness.com/2022/01/27/dr-c-vanessa-white-discipline-leads-to-freedom/

On Care for Our Common Home' Podcast: Dr. C. Vanessa White - September 19, 2019
Podbean: https://learnatctu.podbean.com/e/on-care-for-our-common-home-podcast-dr-c-vanessa-white/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdf55MSXdKc

 


images of Storme DeLarverie Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

by Kevin Hofmann
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion

In honor of pride month, I wanted to lift up women in the LGBTQ+ community and highlight their activitism. Three activists and trail-blazers you should know about are Stormé DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera. It is time they get their due for the contributions they have made to this country and the world. My personal favorite is Stormé because of her fierce determination.

Stormé DeLarverie was an influential figure in the LGBTQ+ community and is often recognized as one of the catalysts of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. As a biracial lesbian and a performer, Stormé used her voice and presence to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during a time when it was fraught with discrimination and violence. She was an entertainer and a bouncer at the Stonewall Inn, where she played a pivotal role in resisting a police raid that ignited the historic Uprising; rumor has it that Stormé was the first one who fought back against the brutal police violence and encouraged others to follow her example. Stormé's activism extended beyond that event as she dedicated her life to fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, particularly advocating for the rights and visibility of queer people of color. Her tireless efforts and fierce determination paved the way for progress and helped to shape the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, leaving an indelible impact on the community she loved. Stormé's legacy inspires and reminds us of the importance of intersectional activism and the ongoing fight for equality.

Marsha P. Johnson is an iconic figure in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality. She grew up as Malcolm Michaels Jr. in New Jersey. Despite facing societal challenges and struggling with her gender identity, Marsha embraced her true self and relocated to New York City's Greenwich Village in the late 1960s. It was in this vibrant and burgeoning LGBTQ+ community that Marsha's indomitable spirit flourished.

Marsha played a pivotal role in the historic Stonewall Uprising of 1969. Her passionate activism and unwavering dedication to justice made her one of the prominent figures at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, fighting against discrimination and police brutality. She fearlessly challenged societal norms, speaking out against the exclusion and marginalization faced by transgender individuals, especially within the broader gay rights movement.

Marsha faced many challenges in her personal life, including her experiences with homelessness, mental health issues, and navigating a world that often rejected her. Despite these obstacles, Marsha's resilience and determination remained unwavering, inspiring countless individuals to embrace their identities and fight for equality.

Alongside her close friend and fellow activist Sylvia Rivera, Marsha co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organization, providing support and shelter to homeless transgender youth.

Sylvia Rivera was a fearless and passionate LGBTQ+ activist whose efforts made significant contributions to the fight for equality and justice. As a transgender woman of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent, Sylvia experienced firsthand the intersecting oppressions faced by marginalized communities. She played an important role in the aftermath of the Stonewall Uprising, speaking against police brutality and advocating for the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Sylvia co-founded the STAR with Marsha P. Johnson. Throughout her life, she advocated for the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, highlighting their struggles within the broader LGBTQ+ movement. Sylvia's dedication and activism continue to inspire generations of activists, reminding us of the importance of inclusivity and fighting for the rights of all members of the LGBTQ+ community.


Celebration march for Pride Month with the LBGT+ community holding a rainbow flag

by Kevin Hofmann
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion

Pride Month, observed every June, is a vibrant and significant time for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies worldwide. It is a time of celebration, reflection, and activism. To truly appreciate the significance of Pride Month, we must delve into its rich history, tracing its roots back to the Stonewall Uprising and the subsequent milestones that have shaped the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Join us as we embark on a journey through time, exploring the origins, evolution, and continued importance of Pride Month.

1.    The Stonewall Uprising: Pride Month finds its origins in the events of June 1969, known as the Stonewall Uprising. In New York City's Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar, became the site of a pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history. Following a police raid, the patrons of the bar, tired of enduring regular harassment and discrimination, fought back. This resistance marked a turning point, sparking protests and demonstrations that would shape the future of LGBTQ+ activism.

2.    The Birth of Pride: One year after the Stonewall Uprising, in June 1970, commemorative events took place in New York City, marking the anniversary of the uprising. These events, called Christopher Street Liberation Day, included a march that spanned from Greenwich Village to Central Park. This marked the birth of what would eventually become known as Pride parades and festivals.

3.    Expanding Influence: In subsequent years, Pride events began to emerge in other cities across the United States and around the world. The growth of Pride celebrations created an opportunity for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies to come together, raise awareness, and advocate for equal rights. Pride became a powerful platform for visibility and solidarity.

4.    AIDS Crisis and Activism: In the 1980s, the LGBTQ+ community faced a devastating health crisis — the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Pride events became an important platform for raising awareness about the virus, advocating for research, and supporting affected individuals. The iconic display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at Pride parades brought attention to the magnitude of the crisis and the need for compassion and action.

5.    Legal Progress and Social Change: Pride Month continued to witness significant milestones in LGBTQ+ rights. The 1990s saw advancements such as the repeal of anti-sodomy laws, the establishment of LGBTQ+ support organizations, and the fight for marriage equality. As societal attitudes shifted, Pride celebrations became more inclusive, welcoming people from diverse backgrounds within the LGBTQ+ community.

6.    Global Impact: Pride Month has transcended national boundaries, spreading its message of equality and acceptance worldwide. Many countries now host their own Pride events, with each locale reflecting its unique cultural context. These celebrations, from São Paulo to Sydney, offer an opportunity for LGBTQ+ communities across the globe to unite and assert their rights.

Conclusion: Pride Month stands as a testament to the progress and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. From its humble origins in the Stonewall Uprising, Pride Month has evolved into a global movement for equality, representation, and dignity. It serves as a reminder of the struggles faced by LGBTQ+ individuals throughout history, while also celebrating the achievements and milestones attained on the path toward greater acceptance. As we commemorate Pride Month, let us continue to advocate for equality, challenge prejudice, and build a world where everyone can live authentically and with pride.
 


two black muslim boys riding their bikes side by side down a street

The new family was moving in and the neighborhood was buzzing. They were moving into the house on the corner of Outer Drive and Byrne in our Northwest Detroit neighborhood. Most of the neighbors were white and Catholic. To this point, I was the anomaly, I was a Black kid living with white Lutheran parents. The new family would change that. They were Black and Muslim, and we were told they were scary. I remember the rumors moving through the neighborhood like a cool breeze whispering, “Black Muslims hate white people you know.” Several adults warned us to stay away from them. 

The warning to stay away made the family seem more appealing. My best friend and I jumped on our bikes and slowly pedaled past their house as they unloaded furniture and knick-knacks. Their furniture looked a lot like ours, just a better quality. The children dressed the same as kids our age. I was expecting them to look different, but my eyes saw no difference. We passed by, coasting on our bikes, and we noticed there were several boys in the family and one small girl. They smiled at us. It wasn’t the sinister smile I was expecting. It was the “can you come play with us,” kind of smile. I was encouraged because I didn’t want to be the only one in the neighborhood with more melanin than most. But I was cautious because of the warnings, and I was cautious because I wasn’t sure how they would see me, a Black kid living with a white family. I wondered if their hate for white would extend to me.

A few days later, Omar and Hassan came walking around the corner as we played baseball in the street. We all tensed up as they approached. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but the assumption was they would be mean, angry, and hard to talk to. Hassan was the oldest, tall, skinny, friendly, and calm. He spoke first and introduced himself to our group and we didn’t know how to respond. He wasn’t anything like we were told he would be. Omar spoke softly and had a bigger personality and still humble and kind. They were just kids like us. I wanted to pull off their Detroit Tigers caps to unveil their horns because I was convinced genetically Muslims had to be different. There was nothing there. 

Finally, one of the older kids in our group asked if they wanted to play baseball with us. They said they had never played baseball before, but they were willing to learn. We were shocked that children our age had never played baseball, and we were excited to teach them. Hassan was on my team and Omar was on the other team and it was obvious by the way Hassan stood at home plate with a bat that this was new to him. The group was patient, and he was coachable and soon he caught on.  

While sitting on the porch waiting to bat, Hassan sat next to me and asked me all about myself. I told him I liked to collect comic books and said he did too. I told him I liked to build with my Erector set and he too liked to build things. Hassan turned out to be a nerd like me and I was so confused. I kept waiting for the scary Muslim to appear and scream, “All whites are the devil,” and he never did.  

A few days later Hassan returned and walked straight up to me and said, “I have something to show you.” He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled up a small figurine that he made. He had saved several green bread-ties and twisted them together to create The Hulk, one of my favorite comic book characters. He wanted me to have it. Someone who hates white people can’t be this creative.  

Hassan’s parents were strict, so I didn’t see him a lot. They spent a lot of time doing chores and working around the house. When Hassan would come around, he always had a new comic book character made out of bread ties. His Spiderman made from red and blue ties was my favorite.

Hassan had two younger brothers, Kareem and Abdul who were about 7 and 8 years old. They were just learning to ride bikes so they would often ride together down our street. On one of their first trips, Kareem started teasing us as he rode by calling us, “do do heads,” and my friend and I gave chase as we played along. Kareem and Abdul sped away on their bikes laughing. Their laugh was a deep, genuine, belly laugh that was simply pure joy. A sound that could drown out the loudest city sounds. From that day on Kareem and Adul would ride down our street looking for us, hoping we would chase them. We always did with no intention of ever catching them. We did it just to hear them laugh and scream. People who hate white people don’t laugh like that.

The family never lived up to the stereotype of what we thought a Muslim family should be. They were respectful, kind, gracious, and polite. They were much more kind than most of the kids in the neighborhood. What I realized was that they weren’t like that despite being Muslim. They were like that because they were Muslim and brought up that way. 

One of my heroes is the bumbling genius Ted Lasso from the TV series of the same name. He has a great quote, “Be Curious, not judgmental.” I think we lean more on judgmental as we grow up and become adults. But I have to tell you: curiosity helps make better friends.


Graphic with quote and an image of Bishop Braxton

Black Catholic Project: Bishop Edward K. Braxton

Bishop Edward Braxton was born on June 28, 1944, in Chicago, the third of five children of Mr. and Mrs. Cullen Braxton. After elementary school, Edward attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary for high school and then Niles College Seminary and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. His first Mass was celebrated at St. Philip Neri Parish (staffed by Adrian Dominican Sister) on May 17, 1975, where his family lived and his sister attended grade school.

His early years of priesthood were spent at a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and following these ministries he earned a PhD and an Doctor of Sacred Theology degree at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium. Bishop Braxton continued his studies with a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago, and then spent time at Harvard and the University of Notre Dame. His next assignment took him to Cleveland to become Chancellor for Theological Affairs to Bishop James Hickey of Cleveland at the request of the Archbishop Jean Jadot. From there he spent time in Rome as the Scholar in Residence at the North American College.

Bishop Braxton’s ministries and travels didn’t end here. His skills and expertise have taken him to Africa, Europe, Central and South America and a variety of locations in the U.S. In 1995 he was appointed to be Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis; one week later his father died. Bishop Braxton has served as Bishop of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and then as Bishop of Belleville, Illinois, where he retired in 2020.

Despite his many accomplishments Bishop Braxton has not been able to escape the prejudice imbedded in the American white population. He was moved around different dioceses at the request of priests and some archbishops. And his experiences as a “Black man” reflect the common treatment often foisted upon non-whites. He recalls one time he was stopped by the police for “driving while Black” and was interrogated (probably because he was not wearing his Roman collar). Perhaps his critics would not have been so hard on him had he been a “white bishop.”

Bishop Braxton’s preaching and writing skills are widely known. In his latest work, The Church and the Racial Divide: Reflections of an African American Catholic Bishop (Orbis Books), Braxton wrestles with this racial divide within the U.S. Catholic Church. He urges readers to recognize their own complicity in the racial divide without judging others and while remaining open to the Holy Spirit’s call to justice. He reminds the reader:

 

The racial divide is apparent to this day in many people’s systemic and systematic treatment of people of color as inferior and undeserving in this country. This leaves Black Americans at a disadvantage as they seek a good education, meaningful employment, decent housing, health care, and every other form of social advancement and benefits. All these instances of the racial divide are examples of racism.

 

Reading this work would expand all our thinking about the existence of racism with the Catholic Church in the United States.

 

Reflection Questions

1) If a Black priest were appointed to be your pastor, how would you feel?

2) Bishop Edward Braxton has gifted the Catholic population of the United States with much wisdom. Have you read any of his articles or his book?

3) What is “our Adrian history” of including non-white candidates in Adrian Dominican life?

 

Prayer

O God, help us to rid ourselves of the prejudices we carry, some on the surface, some hidden deep within our hearts.

Give us the strength to see all others as you see them.

Give us the sensitivity to work toward an eradication of all forms of racism and prejudice that are in our hearts, on our lips, or present among those to whom and with whom we minister.

We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus.

Amen.

 

Resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Braxton - Wikipedia entry on Bishop Edward Braxton

https://www.diobelle.org/bishop-emeritus/biography - Biography of Bishop Braxton by the Dioceses of Belleville, Illinois

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/author/312/bishop-edward-k-braxton - Articles written by Bishop Edward Braxton on the Catholic News Agency website

 


Diverse ages of two female Asian Americans at the top, one in the middle and two older gentlemen at the bottom

May is National Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and honor the rich and diverse history and cultures, as well as the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to the United States. This month-long observance honors the struggles and triumphs of the generations of AAPI individuals who have helped shape our country.

The AAPI community is incredibly diverse, including people from more than 50 different countries and ethnicities. This diversity is reflected in the vast array of cultural traditions, languages, religions, and customs that make up the AAPI experience.

One of the most significant contributions of AAPI individuals is their contributions to the economy, science, technology, and arts. AAPI people have played a critical role in shaping American society and have contributed to a variety of fields, from politics and business to entertainment and the arts.

Asian Americans have been instrumental in advancing the field of technology, particularly in Silicon Valley. From Steve Chen, Co-founder of YouTube, to Jerry Yang, Co-founder of Yahoo!, Asian Americans have played a vital role in the development of the Internet and the tech industry.

The AAPI community has also made significant contributions to the entertainment industry, from actors and musicians to filmmakers and directors. Stars like Mindy Kaling, Constance Wu, and Daniel Dae Kim have made significant contributions to Hollywood, paving the way for other AAPI actors and filmmakers.

The AAPI community has faced significant challenges, from discrimination and xenophobia to political marginalization. These challenges have only made the AAPI community more resilient and determined to make a difference in the world.

One of the most notable examples of AAPI resilience is that of Japanese Americans during World War II. Despite being unjustly interned in camps, Japanese Americans fought bravely in the 442nd Infantry Regiment, becoming the most decorated unit in American history.

We, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Partners in Mission, are honored and so fortunate to have AAPI people as members of our community. As the recent spike in violence against this AAPI people continues, we stand with all members of the AAPI community. You all are a valuable voice and hail from diverse cultures that help to make us a better community, country, and world. 


Male and female Native Americans

May is Indian Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the rich and diverse cultures of the indigenous peoples of North America. However, it is also a time to acknowledge the atrocities that Native Americans have suffered and the land that was stolen from them.

For centuries, Native American communities have faced violence, displacement, and cultural erasure at the hands of European colonizers. Their land was taken, their languages and traditions were suppressed, and their lives were endangered. The impact of this history is still felt today, with many Native Americans living in poverty and struggling to preserve their cultural heritage.

One of the most significant atrocities committed against Native Americans was the forced removal of thousands of people from their ancestral lands during the 19th century. This practice, known as the Trail of Tears, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native Americans as they were forced to walk hundreds of miles to designated territories. This act of violence was just one of many in a long history of broken treaties and promises made by the US government.

Moreover, Native Americans suffered a great deal at the hands of European settlers, who brought with them diseases that decimated entire communities. In addition to the physical violence and disease, Native Americans also faced cultural genocide as European colonizers attempted to forcibly assimilate them into Western ways of life. This included the suppression of Native American languages, traditions, and religions.

It is essential to recognize that the struggles of Native Americans are ongoing. Many indigenous communities still face significant challenges today, such as poverty, lack of access to healthcare and education, and environmental degradation caused by extractive industries. It is vital to support indigenous-led movements for social and environmental justice and work towards reparations and healing for the harm that has been inflicted on Native American communities. Sr. Susan Gardner and The Catholic Native Boarding School Accountability and Healing Project of the U.S. Bishops is doing just that and the work that they are starting here will bring about equity and healing to a community so deserving of both.(https://adriandominicans.org/News/sister-susan-gardner-op-participates-in-healing-and-reconciliation-project

This Indian Heritage Month, let us honor the resilience and strength of Native Americans while also acknowledging the atrocities that they have suffered. By acknowledging the past, we can work towards a more just and equitable future for all.
 


Graphic with quote and an image of Toni Morrison from 1970

Black Catholic Project: Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

Our Black Catholic of interest this month is Toni Morrison. She is one of the great American authors whose novels are overflowing with spiritual overtones and an exploration into the richness of gender and race. Toni Morrison was a Princeton professor and an American author. Her literary awards were numerous. She was a Pulitzer Prize Winner and author of 11 deeply significant novels. Although her novels were not of religious content, her books reflect her spiritual depths. She is considered one of our great Catholic authors.

Toni was born Chloe Wofford in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. During the first few years of her life, she was raised in her mother’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. This experience, especially the music, had influence on her as a person and as an author. Toni had Catholic relatives and became especially close to a cousin. This relationship, in part, led her to Catholic baptism in 1943, at the age of 12, at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Lorain, Ohio. In confirmation she took the name Anthony after the patron of her church. During college she changed her name to Toni (after St. Anthony) because many people had difficulty pronouncing “Chloe.”

Toni had difficulty with Vatican II. She suffered greatly when the Latin Mass was replaced. She felt that much “structure” was removed as a result of the Council and this was difficult. For her, Latin was the unifying and universal language of the Church. By 2007 Toni identified herself as a lapsed Catholic, but her admiration and respect for Pope Francis remained strong.

As a Black woman, Toni knew and professed the value of Black stories. She grew up in the Midwest in a family that possessed an intense appreciation and love for Black culture. Storytelling, songs and folk tales were a deep part of her childhood. The central theme of her novels is the Black American experience, particularly the Black female experience within the Black Community. Her novels talk about an unjust society and her characters struggle to find themselves and their cultural identity. She blatantly exposes racism, violence, and sexism.

 

Reflection Questions

1) If you have read any of Toni Morrison’s novels, which one(s) inspired you the most?

2) In what ways do fictional stories/novels teach us about real-life experiences?

 

Prayer

Gracious, generous God, inspire Black authors to deepen our awareness of the evil of racism in our own personal world through their writings.
May their stories enlighten and inspire us to act to combat racism.
Amen.

 

Resources

Black Catholic Messenger “Reflection: Too Few People Recognized the Contributions of Black Catholics-From Toni Morrison to Homer Plessy” - November 11, 2021, by Nadra Nittle
https://www.blackcatholicmessenger.com/nadra-nittle-toni-morrison-book

Literary Hub “On the Paradoxes of Toni Morrison’s Catholicism” March 2, 2020 by Nick Ripatrazone
https://lithub.com/on-the-paradoxes-of-toni-morrisons-catholicism

MSNBC Black History, Uncensored: Toni Morrison Knew of “Unspeakable Things” - February 7, 2023 by Ja’han Jones
https://www.msnbc.com/the-reidout/reidout-blog/toni-morrison-black-history-uncensored-rcna69520

Toni Morrison Remembered by Writers - August 10, 2019, by The New Yorker
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/toni-morrison-remembered-by-writers

 


by Kevin Hofmann
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion

 

April is Celebrate Diversity Month as well as Earth month! When I heard this is the month to celebrate diversity, I envision people all over the world inviting people who are not like them for dinner, they sit around a large table and stare at each other, waiting for cultural understanding to come through osmosis. The understanding never comes, and everyone leaves hungry because they were too nervous to eat while the powerfully diverse environment and the opportunity to learn is wasted. 

My wife and I have a small garden contained in three large metal oblong troughs that stand about three feet tall. It is an elevated garden because our aging backs insisted on it. In those containers, we mostly grow all kinds of peppers, from mild jalapeños to ghost peppers, which are hot enough to remove several layers of paint. 

Each year we prepare the soil because the better the soil, the better the peppers. If we don’t properly aerate the soil, the seeds will not take root or they will grow a stunted version of what they could have been. Creating an environment where the seeds are comfortable makes all the difference. A seed can’t flourish in a hostile unwelcoming environment.

People are the same, yet we often do this when we talk about diversity. So much time is spent on bringing in as many diverse people as possible and then we can’t understand why they do not thrive. They fail to thrive because no attention was paid to the environment in which they would be placed.

When I worked with schools, I would always get the question, “How can we create a more diverse teaching staff?” This was usually butted up against the statement, “We have brought in diverse candidates, but they don’t stay long.” My response is the same to both questions. “What have you done to create a welcoming environment for your new employees? What have you done to prepare the soil so the new 'seeds' can thrive? Is there a support system in place for the employee? Is there a Black community for the Black teachers that gives them a place to exhale?

Very often diversity and inclusion are used synonymously, but they are quite different. I prefer to talk about inclusion a little differently. I prefer to use the phrase, “Creating a sense of belonging,” instead of the term inclusion. Creating a sense of belonging means that we have turned over the soil, added nutrients, and prepared the soil to welcome the new seeds. Once the seeds are placed in the soil they feel “at home.” That “at home” feeling gives them room to exhale and an opportunity to be seen and heard. They, in turn, feel a part of our community. Allowing them to bring their full selves to the community benefits us all. We benefit from their unique input, ideas, and experiences.

So what does that look like? It means that we make room to talk about and learn from different cultures. We seek to hear voices different from our own and we commit to understanding we all don’t see the world the same way. It means being OK with that and being open to the fact that our way may not be the best way or the only way. It means understanding we are the cultivators of our environment. We have control over whether the environment is suitable for growth or too acidic to support life.

As spring approaches (please, oh please, let it be coming), let’s concentrate on building a community that is capable of supporting diversity. If we can do that, our community and garden will flourish.


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