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.

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

Now named the Equity and Inclusion Project, it continues in partnership with creators of the 2020 Black Catholic Heroes Project. Many images used this year were painted by students employed by the College for Creative Studies’ Detroit Neighborhood Arts Corps. These images are used with permission.

 

Equity and Inclusion Project

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An Extraordinary Family: The Healys of Georgia

The Healy Family

An Extraordinary Family: The Healys of Georgia

The Healy Family story begins in 1818 when Michael Morris Healy immigrated to the United States from County Roscommon, Ireland. Mr. Healy acquired acreage in Georgia through a government land giveaway and turned his land into a very productive and successful cotton plantation. Like many of his fellow Georgia cotton plantation owners, he also bought 49 enslaved people to work his fields, and among them was Eliza Clark Smith who he took as his common-law wife. Together they raised nine children.

Neither Eliza nor the children could be freed by Michael Healy, so to enable the children to receive the kind of education a prosperous family would want, Michael found schools in the North for his children to attend. The direction of the family changed when by chance, Michael Healy met Bishop John Bernard Fitzpatrick on board a ship traveling from New York to Boston. The bishop told Mr. Healy of a new school that was opening: the College of Holy Cross, which initially offered elementary school education. In 1844, James, 14, Hugh, 12, Patrick, 10, and Sherwood, 8, went to Massachusetts where they were baptized by the Jesuits of Holy Cross and began their studies. Young Michael Healy followed his brothers to Holy Cross in 1849.

James, Sherwood, and Patrick would become priests and all three of the daughters entered religious life in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The oldest daughter, Martha, would leave the convent and marry a prosperous Irishman in Boston. James became the second Bishop of Portland, Maine; Patrick, a Jesuit, was the second President of Georgetown University, and Sherwood was appointed Professor of Moral Theology and Director of Student Discipline at St. Joseph's Provincial Seminary in Troy, New York. Sherwood's career in the priesthood was cut short by his death in 1875 at the age of 39. Amanda Josephine joined the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph and would also at die at age 39. Eliza followed Martha into the Congregation of Notre Dame and went on to become a superior in the order. 

What is so extraordinary is that although some people, including the bishop knew of their origins, the Healys did not widely identify as Black in their lifetimes, but achieved many “first” accomplishments. 

 

Resources

Articles and Books

"The Healy's [sic]: An Extraordinary Family" on the website Footnotes to Irish History in the Americas (posted April 25, 2012)

James M. O’Toole, Passing for White:  Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920. University of Massachusetts Press (August 1, 2002)

"The Healy Family," from the website of the St. Joseph Catholic Church, Largo, Maryland

James Augustine Healy: The First African American To Be Ordained a Roman Catholic Priest,” Virginia Commonwealth University Social Welfare History Project  

"In the beginning, there were Black Catholics," U.S. Catholic article published on October 12, 2021, that details a 1993 interview with Father Cyprian Davis, OSB

"Celebrating the Contributions of Black Catholics" by Michael R. Heinlein on CERC (Catholic Education Resource Center), reprinted from Simply Catholic (February 1, 2022) Reprinted with permission from Simply Catholic.

"The Non-Racist Healy Family," by Larry Peterson on Catholic 365 (March 15, 2019)

Videos

"Passing in Boston: The Story of the Healy Family" talk by author and history professor James O'Toole
https://youtu.be/qPeM69lFwzE

“BLACK | IRISH - The Saga of the Healy Family in America,” trailer for documentary on the Healy Family by the African American Irish Diaspora Network
https://youtu.be/XcP0521S_Ns

“Who Was James Augustine Healy? A Black History Biography” by Shalone Cason, December 3, 2020
https://youtu.be/7zFEAT5rw8A

“The Life and Biography of Patrick Francis Healy” by the Knowledge Video Channel, March 3, 2022
https://youtu.be/QFpTO3vAyoI

 

Reflection Questions

1. What is of most significance to you in learning about this extraordinary family?

2. The relationship between Michael Morris Healy and Eliza Clark was not the kind of relationship we think of when considering relationships between a slave owners and enslaved women. Was Michael Morris Healy a man ahead of his times in his relationship with Eliza Clark? What are the implications of how they lived for other mixed race couples?

 


Prayer

For the Diversity of Races and Cultures


O God, you created all people in your image.

We thank you for the astonishing variety of races and cultures in this world.

Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of friendship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, 
until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; 
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Amen.
 

From the Lutheran Book of Worship and the Book of Common Prayer

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People of African Descent on the Path to Sainthood

Printable bookmark of African Americans on their Way to Sainthood (PDF)

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

 

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