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 begin by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.

Our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters are collaborating on a Black Catholic Project that begins on January 18, 2021, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This project seeks to provide information on prominent Blacks and Black Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.

 

Equity and Inclusion Project

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Hazel M. Johnson

Hazel Johnson, a woman whose Catholic faith led her to a place that many feared to go, speaking truth to power, still challenges and inspires many in the environmental justice movement ten years after her death. 
 
Here’s an account of her early life, according to a story by Brian Roewe and published by National Catholic Reporter:

“The oldest of four siblings and the only one to live past their first birthday, Hazel was raised Catholic, and at age 11, sent to a Catholic orphanage school after her mother became ill with tuberculosis, of which she died a year later. Her father, a truck driver, was often on the road and unable to take care of her.” For several years Hazel spent time in Los Angeles with her aunt, then returned to New Orleans to live with her grandmother. While working in a factory there, she met her husband, John.

The couple moved to Chicago, began a family, and she became a parishioner of Our Lady of the Garden Church, in Altgeld Gardens. She was active in the parish as a volunteer and was active in her neighborhood community. 

Altgeld Gardens Homes, a South Side Chicago housing project managed by the Chicago Housing Authority and originally built to house American war veterans, was surrounded by landfills, industrial buildings, and sewage-treatment plants. Hazel began to notice the prevalence of chronic skin and respiratory issues among her children and the other children living there. Following her husband’s death from cancer in 1969, she began to take a deeper look at how the environmental conditions in her neighborhood were impacting the health of her family and neighbors.  

In 1979 she founded the People for Community Recovery (PCR), that focused on fighting environmental racism as it affected the residents of Altgeld Gardens public housing project. She went on to become a leader in the environmental justice movement. 
 

(“Hazel Johnson, the Mother of Environmental Justice, was Catholic” by Brian Roewe for Earthbeat, National Catholic Reporter, February 26, 2021. Image of Hazel M. Johnson courtesy of PCR, used with permission.)


Resources

Videos

Hazel Johnson Speaks Truth to Power
https://video.wttw.com/video/hazel-johnson-pollution-chicagos-southeast-side-lhhtzc/

Poisoned Politics: The Ongoing Fight to Clean Up Chicago’s ‘Toxic Doughnut’
https://youtu.be/f0pF7k80EkA

Environmental Justice and Altgeld Gardens
https://youtu.be/CHDLfY9kU04

 

Articles

Fighting Her Good Fight: Hazel Johnson battles those who want to turn her Chicago housing project into a toxic dump - February 18, 1993
Los Angeles Times staff writer, Josh Getlin, interviews Hazel Johnson the organization she founded, People for Community Recovery and other venues including a visit with Robert Whitfield, Chief Operating Office of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Remembering "The Mother of Environmental Justice" - March 15, 2021
Nancy Unger, Professor of History at Santa Clara University, published “Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History” (Oxford University Press). In this book,  Unger recognized an important theme running through the three topics, women’s history, gender, and the environment.

The Mother of Environmental Justice: Hazel Johnson the the Toxic Doughnut - May 23, 2018
Environmental Justice Institute for Sustainability, University of Illinois
Lisen Holmström was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and is finishing up a M.S. degree in Landscape Ecology at the University of Illinois. This article was researched and written for ESE 498, the CEW capstone course, in Spring 2018.

Hazel Johnson, the mother of environmental justice, was Catholic - February 26, 2021
Article written by Brian Roewe, Earth Beat: Stories of Climate Crisis, Faith and Action


Reflection Questions

1. Hazel Johnson once said, “I definitely think I've been chosen by a higher power to do this work.”  Have you ever had a similar experience, that like Hazel Johnson, you knew your faith in God, a higher power, the Spirit was moving you or calling you to something special or beyond what you thought was possible?

2. Hazel Johnson had the courage to speak truth to power. She persisted even though many times she was ridiculed or criticized that she did not have the facts, or that she was just making up statistics. Hazel’s persistence models for us what fidelity to gospel values calls us do. What is Jesus calling you to do or to be?


Prayer

In Solidarity With All Creation

Oh how beautiful are your ways, O God, the works of your creation. Raise our consciousness to know and feel deeply in our hearts our connectedness to all that is.

Instill in us the gift of being co-creators and sustainers of life. Teach us new and unsuspected ways of living so that current and future generations can walk humbly in beauty, love all compassionately, and live justly in solidarity with all creation.

Loving and gracious God, give us the courage to seek this transformation of self and society and the strength to see it through. 

Amen

- School Sisters of Notre Dame Green Team
 


Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA
Servant of God

“We unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God’s healing, God’s forgiveness, God’s unconditional love.” 

These would be the final public words of a religious woman who dedicated her life to spreading the joy of the Gospel and promoting cultural awareness and racial reconciliation.

Thea Bowman was born in Canton, Mississippi, in 1937 to middle-aged parents, Dr. Theon Bowman, a physician, and Mary Esther Bowman, a teacher. Thea was their only child and they gave her the name Bertha Elizabeth. Thea converted to Catholicism through the inspiration of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity who were her teachers and pastors at Holy Child Jesus Church and School in Canton. These religious communities nurtured her faith and greatly influenced her religious vocation.

Gifted with a brilliant mind, beautiful voice, and a dynamic personality, Sister Thea shared the message of God's love through a teaching career. After 16 years of teaching at the elementary, secondary, and university levels, the bishop of Jackson, Mississippi, invited her to become the consultant for intercultural awareness.

In her role as consultant Sister Thea, an African American, gave presentations across the country – lively gatherings that combined singing, gospel preaching, prayer, and storytelling. Her programs were directed to break down racial and cultural barriers. She encouraged people to communicate with one another so that they could understand other cultures and races.

In 1984, Sr. Thea was diagnosed with breast cancer. She prayed "to live until I die." Her prayer was answered and Sister Thea continued her gatherings seated in a wheelchair. She died on March 30, 1990.

(Diocese of Jackson, MS; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration)

 

Resources

Videos

The Amazing Light of Sister Thea Bowman
Father Maurice Nutt, dear friend and biographer of Sister Thea, shares his recollections.

An amazing speech that is still so relevant to today.
On June 2, 1989, Sister Thea addressed the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thea Bowman and Sister Jamie Phelps, OP 
Adrian Dominican Sister Jamie Phelps speaks of her friendship with Sister Thea.

 

Articles and Quotes

Are We There Yet: Sr. Thea & Mike Wallace 
Father Tom Lindner shares a few observations, ideas, encouragement and challenges.

The Witness of Sister Thea Bowman
Christopher Pramuk, an Associate Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, wrote this essay for America magazine, June 24, 2014. It is adapted from his book, Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line (Liturgical Press, 2013).

The Making of a Saint
The Canonization Process, explained on the sistertheabowman.com website. 

In Her Own Words
Quotes from Sister Thea from the AZQuotes website.

 

Reflection Questions

1. “The history of Black Catholics presents us with a wondrous but too often forgotten cloud of witnesses. Could it be that the lives of these saints challenge many of us in ways that strike too uncomfortably close to home?”  (Christopher Pramuk, “The Witness of Sister Thea Bowman,” America magazine, June 24, 2014)

2.  Sister Thea believed that we all must work to tear down the walls of racial division in our segregated and polarized society and church by making the effort to truly be in contact with one another – to get to know another’s story, their joys, sorrows, hopes, and dreams. How are you able to tear down the walls of racial, gender, and socio-economic separations and divisions in your family, faith community, neighborhood, city/town, and nation? 

 

Prayer

Ever loving God, who by your infinite goodness inflamed the heart of your servant and religious, Sister Thea Bowman with an ardent love for you and the People of God; a love expressed through her indomitable spirit, deep and abiding faith, dedicated teaching, exuberant singing, and unwavering witnessing of the joy of the Gospel.

Her prophetic witness continues to inspire us to share the Good News with those whom we encounter; most especially the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. May Sister Thea’s life and legacy compel us to walk together, to pray together, and to remain together as missionary disciples ushering in the new evangelization for the Church we love.

Gracious God imbue us with the grace and perseverance that you gave your servant, Sister Thea. For in turbulent times of racial injustice, she sought equity, peace, and reconciliation. In times of intolerance and ignorance, she brought wisdom, awareness, unity, and charity. In times of pain, sickness, and suffering, she taught us how to live fully until called home to the land of promise. If it be your Will, O God, glorify our beloved Sister Thea, by granting the favor I now request through her intercession (mention your request), so that all may know of her goodness and holiness and may imitate her love for You and Your Church.

We ask this through Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Amen.


© 2018 Catholic Diocese of Jackson, MS. Imprimatur: Most Rev. Joseph R. Kopacz, Bishop of Jackson.


Photo of Mother Mary Lange with text

Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, OSP

Who among us today has the courage to "battle the odds," even in our own church, to do the work God calls us to? Elizabeth Lange is a noble role model for all the obstacles we face!

Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was born about 1784 in Santiago, Cuba, in a Haitian community. Well educated, she left Cuba in the early 1800s and immigrated to the United States. By 1813, she had arrived in Baltimore where there was a large free Black population. She recognized the need for the education of their children and opened a school for them in her home.

Lange became acquainted with Father James Nicholas Joubert, SS, a Sulpician priest who was attempting to teach catechism to the Black children in Baltimore. Finding them not able to read well, he approached Lange and Marie Balas, a woman living with Lange, who were already operating a school. He suggested that they should start a religious order for this work. Lange and Balas had already felt a call to religious life but did not know how to go about becoming religious since no order would accept women of color. But, with the help of Joubert and the approval of the Archbishop, the Oblate Sisters of Providence was established. Lange and the other women who joined her experienced poverty, racism, and many other hardships. However, they persevered and their work flourished. Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange died in 1882. She is, today, a candidate for sainthood.

If Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange's story is new to you, perhaps you might consider reading her life story, Finger of God, by George A. A. Yorkman, Jr., 2019.

 

Resources

Learn about Mother Lange’s history and legacy in these two videos:

Mother Lange's guild and her cause for canonization, including the video “In Her Words" - www.motherlange.org

Information on Mother Lange from the Archdiocese of Baltimore

 

Reflection Questions

1. Can you name some of today's “women of color" who have exhibited the courage and stamina of Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange?

2. What are the obstacles still present in "today's Church" that prevent people of color from full participation?

 

Prayer

O God, you gifted our American Church with the energy and enthusiasm of Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange. 

She had many battles to win to do your work. 

Help us, today, to add our efforts to make our Church a Church that welcomes all, and treasures the gifts of all.

In Jesus' name, we pray.

Amen.

 


Venerable Pierre Toussaint

Venerable Pierre Toussaint

Pierre Toussaint was born into slavery in Haiti on a plantation owned by Pierre Berard. He spent his early life working as a house boy, and his grandmother taught him to read and write. When Pierre Toussaint was 20 years old, he, his sister, his aunt, and two other enslaved persons accompanied the Berard family when they escaped the Haitian Revolution to New York City. 

Once in New York City, both Pierre Toussaint and Pierre Berard apprenticed with a leading hairdresser. Pierre Toussaint worked in the homes of rich women and brought creative skills with the complicated art of coiffure and became a wealthy man and was admired by the elite in New York City. During their appointments Pierre Toussaint would speak to his clients of Christianity, was a good listener, and gave excellent advice. 

When Pierre Berard died, he was destitute and his plantation in Haiti was in ruins. Although Pierre Toussaint could have purchased his freedom at that time, he chose to remain enslaved and discretely finance widow Berard: by day he would coiffeur women’s hair and by night he would care for his invalid mistress. He paid all her expenses and supported her until she died. 

After being enslaved for 41 years, Pierre Toussaint was freed by his mistress shortly before her death. He married Mary Rose Juliette Noel, whose freedom he purchased. Pierre and Mary Rose purchased a home where they sheltered orphans and helped them and others in getting an education and learning a trade. In addition, the couple aided refugees in finding jobs and assisted victims of yellow fever epidemic. Their charity was also extended to Haitian immigrants, helping them to become established in the U.S. with jobs, housing, and education.

Urged to retire and enjoy the wealth he had accumulated, Pierre responded, “I’d have enough for myself but if I stopped working, I’d not have enough for others.”

Pierre Toussaint originally was buried outside St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, where he was once refused entrance because of his race. His sanctity and the popular devotion to him caused his body to be moved to the present location of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Pierre Toussaint was declared Venerable in 1996.

 

Resources

Saints Resource article on Pierre Toussaint.

American Catholic History series (by Starquest Media) podcast on Pierre Toussaint.

Canonizing a Slave: Saint or Uncle Tom?” New York Times article, 1992

 

Reflection Questions


1) What was your reaction to the fact that a slave before the Civil War could be successful, wealthy, and sought after?

2) Of Pierre’s gracious philanthropy, what touched you most?

 

Prayer

Lord God, source of love and compassion, we praise and honor You for the virtuous and charitable life of our brother in Christ, Venerable Pierre Toussaint. 

Inspired by the example of our Lord Jesus, Pierre worshipped You with love and served Your people with generosity. He attended Mass daily and responded to the practical and spiritual needs of friends and strangers, of the rich and the poor, the sick and the homeless of the 19th century New York.

If it is your will, let the name of Venerable Pierre Toussaint be officially raised to the rank of Saint, so that the world may know this Haitian New Yorker who refused to hate or be selfish, but instead lived to the full commandments of heaven and the divine law of love – love for God and for neighbor.

By following his example and asking for his prayer, may we, too, be counted among the blessed in heaven.
 
We ask for this through Christ our Lord. 

Amen.

 


Julia Greeley Servant of God

Servant of God Julia Greeley

Julia Greeley was born into slavery on a Missouri farm sometime in the 1840s. As a slave, she was physically abused and became permanently lame. She lost an eye in a beating given to her mother.

After the Emancipation Proclamation, Julia was brought to Colorado by a wealthy woman, a Mrs. Dickerson, who later married William Gilpin, the first territorial governor of Colorado. Mrs. Dickerson was a Catholic and influenced both her husband and Julia herself to become baptized. Julia worked for the Dickerson family as a housekeeper and nanny.

In addition to her job with the governor's family, Julia was a familiar sight on Denver’s streets. She wore a floppy black hat and pulled a little red wagon, filled with food, clothing, and firewood for those in need. She used her weekly salary to buy these items, and when she ran short, she begged for items for her wagon. Julia was dedicated to the poor and had a special love for firefighters.

Julia was known for her Catholic Faith, and attended daily Mass at her parish, Sacred Heart Church. She had a deep love and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Therefore, it was fitting tribute that she died on June 7, 1918, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And it was in Sacred Heart Church, her parish, that her funeral was held which attracted large crowds of mourners. Julia Greely was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

After her death in 1918, Frances Wayne, a Denver Post reporter wrote, that her legacy included “eighty-five years of worthy living ... unselfish devotion ... and a habit of giving and sharing herself and her goods.”  In late 2016, her heroic life was officially recognized by the Catholic Church, which began the canonization process to declare Julia a saint. Her body has been moved to the Denver Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Today her official name is Servant of God Julia Greeley.

 

Resources

Biographical Information

Learn more about Julia Greeley and see a short video about her at www.JuliaGreeley.org 

Black Catholic History

Black Catholics in the American Catholic Church
Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP, discusses Black Catholics in America with Dr. Paul Lakeland for Fairfield University's "Voices of Others" video series: https://youtu.be/nTiNC7j-mZQ 

African-American Catholicism and St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, Chicago, Illinois
Ninety years ago, St. Monica’s Catholic Church, the precursor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, was the first Black Catholic Parish in the United States. Learn more in this news broadcast: https://youtu.be/hzr9L9KOBzo


Reflection Questions

1) How many more “people of color” who lived lives of holiness are hidden from our history?

2) How can these stories be “uncovered” and made known to today's Catholics?

3) Are you aware of how the rigid lines of separation and discrimination continue to maintain white supremacy in our society?

 

Prayer

This prayer was approved on June 29, 2017, by Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver for private use:

Heavenly Father, your servant Julia Greeley dedicated her life to honoring the Sacred Heart of your Son and to the humble service of the poor. 

Grant to me a generous heart like your Son’s, and if it be in accordance with your holy will, please grant this favor I now ask through Julia’s intercession (insert intention)… 

I pray this through Christ our Lord. 

Amen.
 


Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897)

Augustus Tolton was the first recognized Black Catholic priest in the United States. He was born in Brush Creek, Missouri, where he began his life “not as a human being, but as someone’s personal property, i.e. as slave of a white Catholic family.” Like many slaves, his mother was baptized because her owners were of the Catholic faith. She raised her son in her Catholic faith.

In 1862 the Tolton family escaped slavery by crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. They settled in Quincy, Illinois, where Augustus attended St. Peter’s all-white Catholic School. Even though racial conflict haunted Tolton most of his life, he remained devoted to God and the Catholic Church. He felt called to the priesthood; however, because of racism he was not accepted into a seminary in the United States and so he went to Rome and was ordained in 1886.

The Pope returned him to the United States to serve the black community in Quincy, Illinois, and eventually he became a pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church and school.  Racial tensions in Quincy led to his reassignment to Chicago, where he started St. Monica’s Catholic parish. Father Tolton’s success at ministering to Black Catholics quickly earned him national attention.  

This holy man of God was treated as a commodity – i.e., he was bought and sold. Despite this, because he was gifted by God, he became an accomplished musician, mastered five languages, and through his dedication as pastor and eloquent preacher, brought many to the Catholic faith.  

Augustus Tolton embodied our Adrian Dominican charism of contemplative prayer and action as a fruit of contemplation.  

 

Resources

Biographical Information

Biography of Father Tolton - Father Tolton Catholic High School in Columbia, Missouri

On the Road to Sainthood: Leaders of African Descent - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) - PDF by the Archdiocese of Chicago

Website on Tolton and steps towards canonization by the Archdiocese of Chicago

Black Catholic History

Timeline of U.S. Black Catholic History - National Black Catholic Congress

Black Catholic History - Seattle University's Campus Ministry

Video on the people of African decent on the path to sainthood - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Reflection Questions

1) When did you first become conscious of your racial identity?

2) When did you first identify the "other" as colored, Negro, Black, African-American, Latino, Hispanic, Asian, or white?

3) What contributions have Blacks and Black Catholics made to the society, culture and church that have benefitted all Catholics worldwide?

 

Prayer

God our Father and Mother, we pray together in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Ever present God, you called us to be in relationship with one another and promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered. In our community, we are many different people; we come from many different places, have many different cultures. Open our hearts that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us. We pray in faith.*

Glory be to our Father-Mother God and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

Amen!

 

*Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., from the Jericho Road Homily

 


portrait image of Henriette Delille against a black and white photograph of Black sisters in habit

Venerable Henriette DeLille, servant of slaves, pray for us!

At a time when chattel slavery objectified and brutalized Black women’s bodies, and Christianity and the Catholic Church were deeply entwined with the system of slavery, Henriette DeLille laid the foundation for a religious congregation of Black women asserting the “sacred meaning and value” of their bodies and lives. 

The Adrian Dominican Sisters join our Sisters of the Holy Family in celebrating the 158th anniversary today of their remarkable foundress, the Venerable Henriette DeLille, and in supporting her elevation to sainthood. 

Learn more about this amazing woman and her cause for sainthood:

Friends of the Venerable Henriette DeLille - https://henriettedelille.com/canonization-process

See also Dr. M. Shawn Copeland’s “The Subversive Power of Love” (Paulist Press, 2009)

 


People of African Descent on the Path to Sainthood

 

U.S. Black Catholic History Links

Black Catholic History page by Seattle University

Timeline from the National Black Catholic Congress

Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP, discusses Black Catholics in America with Dr. Paul Lakeland for Fairfield University's "Voices of Others" video series

News report on one of the oldest Black Catholic parishes in the U.S., St. Elizabeth Catholic Church (formerly St. Monica) in Chicago, Illinois

 

Recent Posts

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    Hazel M. Johnson Hazel Johnson, a woman whose Catholic faith led her to a place that many feared to go, speaking truth to power, still challenges and inspires many in the environmental justice movement ten years after her death.    Here’s an account of her early life, according to a story by ...
  • Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA Posted last month
    Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA Servant of God “We unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God’s healing, God’s forgiveness, God’s unconditional love.”  These would be the ...
  • Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, OSP (1784-1882) Posted 2 months ago
    Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, OSP Who among us today has the courage to "battle the odds," even in our own church, to do the work God calls us to? Elizabeth Lange is a noble role model for all the obstacles we face! Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was born about 1784 in Santiago, ...
  • Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) Posted 3 months ago
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  • Servant of God Julia Greeley Posted 4 months ago
    Servant of God Julia Greeley Julia Greeley was born into slavery on a Missouri farm sometime in the 1840s. As a slave, she was physically abused and became permanently lame. She lost an eye in a beating given to her mother. After the Emancipation Proclamation, Julia was brought to Colorado by ...
  • Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) Posted 5 months ago
    Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) Augustus Tolton was the first recognized Black Catholic priest in the United States. He was born in Brush Creek, Missouri, where he began his life “not as a human being, but as someone’s personal property, i.e. as slave of a white Catholic family.” Like many slaves, his ...
  • Venerable Henriette DeLille Posted 4 months ago
    Venerable Henriette DeLille, servant of slaves, pray for us! At a time when chattel slavery objectified and brutalized Black women’s bodies, and Christianity and the Catholic Church were deeply entwined with the system of slavery, Henriette DeLille laid the foundation for a religious congregation of Black women asserting the “sacred ...
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