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.

Since January 2021, our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters have 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 and shares his unique experience of growing up Black in a white family in Detroit.

 

Equity and Inclusion Project

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Black Catholic Project: Summary of Survey Results

Collage of all the people and topics featured in this blog the past two years

Black Catholic Project: Summary of Survey Results

Thank you to all who completed our survey inviting your feedback on the 25 profiles and contributions of Black Catholics. We value your opinions. Here is a summary of the responses and, because we could not resist, we have included some reflection questions and a prayer at the end of this posting.

Forty-two persons responded; 34 Sisters; five Associates; one “friend” and two unidentified. At the end of the survey, 33 respondents wished the series to continue; five said no to this question.

Forty-three percent of respondents read most if not all the profiles and 75% responded that they learned something new about Black Catholics. Here are some sample responses.

  • I have seen how very important it is to see how structural racism has limited the stories and profiles of Black people accessible to read and experience.
  • There were folks I didn’t know were Catholic.
  • (I have) Grown in understanding the powerful and persistent role that Black Catholics have played in the Church – and how critical it is that this history is shared and known.
  • Yes, there is much more diversity among "Black Catholics" than I thought – from the Sisterhood of the Good Death to the enslaved Catholic persons from the Congo who led the Stono Rebellion.
  • I really had no thought about the faith of many of them. It was enlightening to do that.

Of the 25 profiles presented over the last two years, respondents were most inspired by Servant of God Thea Bowman but nine other profiles were listed as inspiring, including Kobe Bryant, our own Jamie Phelps, Nicholas Black Elk, Samuel Henderson, and Julia Greeley. Here are some sample comments.

  • Thea Bowman – Her courage to stand firm and inspire justice in the face of racist dismissal of her as a person. Thea's optimism and the light of her presence was able to pierce the very real racism in our church and in our world.
  • Kobe Bryant – went to weekday Mass. How much good he did with being so humble!
  • Jamie Phelps – Her determination and passion for sharing and living the Gospel.
  • Black Elk – A man of courage, faith, and integrity.
  • Samuel Henderson – His devotion to the Dominican friars during a plague and to the people who were also suffering
  • Julia Greeley – How she had too little herself but helped those less fortunate and preserved their dignity by doing so at night.

Respondents were most "surprised" by the Kobe Bryant profile. This comment was typical: "Did not know he was Catholic but impressed by his faithfulness and passing on his faith to his children."

Here are a couple answers to the question; "Has the Black Catholic Project impacted your knowledge of Black Catholics?"

  • I never realized there were so many Black Catholics. Growing up in a white society I was not exposed to anyone of color. What a loss for me as a child!
  • Broadened my understanding of the significance of Black Catholics in the life of the Catholic Church since the very beginning of the U.S.

To the question, “Has reading the profiles made you feel differently about Black Catholics?” Most said no – 22; 16 said yes. Some comments on the yes-side were:

  • I am more aware of how structural racism has built in a segregated vision of who are God's people.
  • More aware of others on the journey that have been not selected as beacons to be lifted in the darkness.
  • Prouder to be Catholic.
  • Maybe just making me more aware of the gifts so long overlooked by the Church. I also feel more comfortable with the variety of ways to worship (other than the stoic European model).

Those who answered “no” to this question noted that these profiles simply reinforced previous positive experiences.

  • I have known for a long time now what a powerful group of people they are. These profiles just strengthened my feelings.
  • I attend a church where a significant number of parishioners are African American so I already recognized some of the gifts of being in a diverse parish, but these profiles open me up to the importance of more education for all of us in our parish.

 

Resources

"The History of Black Catholics in America: The Black Catholic Movement reinvigorated the church, with liturgical innovation, new preaching styles and activist scholarship" by Matthew J. Cressler, Smithsonian Magazine, June 7, 2018 (also published at Zócalo Public Square).

"In the beginning, there were Black Catholics," a US Catholic interview with the late Rev. Cyprian Davis, December 12, 2020.

Black History Timeline, National Black Catholic Congress.

"Black Catholics in America," by Jeff Diamant, Besheer Mohamed and Joshua Alvarado, Pew Research Center, March 15, 2022.

The Overlooked History of Black Catholic Nuns, KETV Omaha, Apr 30, 2022.

The History of the Black Catholic Church in Detroit, American Black Journal, Detroit Public TV, April 26, 2022.


Reflection Question

 

As you reflect on the results of this survey, what questions do you still have? Please feel free to put those questions in the comment box (If you don't see the comment box below, click on the "Read More" link to see it).


Prayer

God of Diversity,

Help me to be curious;

help me to question what I know;

help me to seek you in faces unlike my own.

Help me to love.

 

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Avatar  Patricia Walter, OP last weekReply

Thank you for all your work on what was clearly a very worthwhile and important educational process.



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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