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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Black Catholic Project: Father Clarence Rivers

Black man with extremely short hair smiling and wearing a white shirt with black jacket

Black Catholic Project: Father Clarence Rivers

While the energy to produce the Lead Me, Guide Me hymnal was the energy of Servant of God Thea Bowman, the hymnal itself is dedicated to Father Clarence Rivers, "who paved the way for liturgical inculturation and inspired Black Catholics to bring their artistic genius to Catholic worship."

According to the Lyke Foundation website:

Born September 9, 1931, in Selma, Alabama, into a family that was not Catholic, Clarence Joseph Rufus Rivers was enrolled in the fourth grade at St. Ann School following the family’s move to Cincinnati. Eventually, the entire family became Catholic, and Clarence discerned a call to the priesthood while still in high school. At the time of his ordination in 1956, he was the first Black priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and quickly confronted the reality of racism when the parishioners where he was initially assigned refused to accept him. Following his transfer to St. Joseph Church, the 32-year-old assistant pastor sought a way to promote more active congregational participation in the liturgy.

In the U.S. Catholic Historian article "Freeing the Spirit: Very Personal Reflections on One Man's Search for the Spirit in Worship," published by Catholic University of America Press, Father Rivers wrote:

"Brothers and Sisters in Christ: Although some sayings may be hard for us to hear and bear, we have been told to be open to the liberating truth. And the truth is that worship in most of our churches, most of the time, is dull and uninspiring."

He went on to say, given the transformative nature of the faith worshipers should be "exuberant proclaimers of the Joy of Life" and the "congregation a dramatic dance of life."

These insights prompted him in 1963 to develop and record "An American Mass Program," a series of compositions blending the call and response and rhythmic and melodic elements of the Negro spirituals with Gregorian chant. Father Rivers led the singing for the first official high Mass in English in the United States at the National Liturgical Conference in St. Louis in 1964. "God Is Love," which was to become Father Rivers' most beloved hymn, was the communion song for that Mass. The measure of the song's impact was that it received a 10-minute standing ovation. The success of "An American Mass Program" helped spark a liturgical music revolution in American Catholicism, finding acceptance in parishes across the country.

Upon Father Rivers’ death, November 21, 2004, at age 73, then Bishop Wilton Gregory said, through his music, Father Rivers "brought the church closer to African-Americans while at the same time enriching the Catholic church with a spiritual vibrancy and artistic expression that crossed all racial barriers." He characterized Father Rivers as "a pioneer musician, liturgist, and cultural treasure."

Image courtesy of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives

 

Reflection Question

Singing, Dancing, Procession, and Art – How can you use these culturally inclusive elements to help you be "exuberant proclaimers of the Joy of Life" and part of the "dramatic dance of life"?

 

Prayer

Psalm 149:1-4, ESVUK

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.

Amen.

 

Resources

Music on YouTube - Immerse yourself in Father Rivers' soul

God is Love Father Clarence Rivers American Mass Program 1966 (6:36)
https://youtu.be/ZXqfh5KxqYs

Bless The Lord Father Clarence Rivers American Mass Program 1966 (8:08)
https://youtu.be/nOM769nrzrI

American Mass Program (39:45) 
https://youtu.be/VF6R-q_9jmk 

Clarence Rivers, The Feast of Life CBS Special (20:26) 
https://youtu.be/ogKlfTLxI8I

Biographical Resources

Lyke Foundation information on Father Clarence Rivers – The Lyke Foundation cultivates, celebrates, and commissions leadership to develop powerful and effective Black Catholic worship.

Father Clarence Rivers' Obituary, Gilligan Funeral Home

“Freeing the Spirit: Very Personal Reflections on One Man's Search for the Spirit in Worship,” Clarence-Rufus J. Rivers, U.S. Catholic Historian, Vol. 19, No. 2, African American Spirituality and Liturgical Renewal (Spring, 2001), pp. 95-143 (49 pages), Catholic University of America Press

Podcast

Meet Father Rivers - Listen via podcast homepage on Libsyn | ApplePodcasts | Spotify | Amazon | Stitcher

 

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Avatar  Mary Mitchell last yearReply

In grade school in the ‘60s I was in a choir that sang the “Fr. Rivers Mass” and even met him when he visited our parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was a profound influence in my early spiritual life, and I continue to treasure the memory. I am so happy to see Fr. Rivers get the recognition he deserves.



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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