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August 23, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sister Elise García, OP, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), opened the organization’s August 11-13, 2021, annual assembly – held virtually this year – with a presidential address that outlined the history of racism in the United States and noted the complicity in racism of the Catholic Church, as well as among women religious.
“We, as Americans, have cheated ourselves of the full truth of our history, ignoring or eliding the painful stories that inextricably interweave and form the full fabric of our lives as African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Euro Americans, and Latinx Americans,” Sister Elise said in her Presidential Address, Creating Space for the Future: Cutting Deeper Grooves of Transforming Love into Evolution.
The issues of systemic racism and white privilege became especially clear in May 2020 with the murder of George Floyd and the killing of other African Americans by white police officers.
Sister Elise challenged the women religious to do the work of identifying racism and white supremacy, “acting to dismantle them in our personal lives, institutes, Conference, and ministries.” She encouraged all Christians to follow Jesus and to take on the way of the cross, a “giving over of oneself to the radical love and solidarity that Jesus lived, extending ourselves as kin to all who are marginalized, excluded, disinherited.”
Finally, Sister Else spoke of the inspiration of African American slaves, whose mysticism and faith were described by Dr. Shawn Copeland in her book, Knowing Christ Crucified: The Witness of African American Spiritual Experience. “Dr. Copeland has gleaned insights into what she calls the ‘dark and hidden wisdom’ of the enslaved by drawing on their narratives, their stories, and their spirituals.”
Sister Elise’s address was followed by a ritual asking forgiveness for the way in which women religious participated in racism and white privilege. Sister Elise was joined by Sisters Jane Herb, IHM, President-elect; Jayne Helmlinger, CSJ, Past President; and Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director.
During the prayer, each woman formally delivered an apology. “Before God and all who have been grievously harmed through the generations by our complicity as women religious in the enslavement of children, women and men, I – on behalf of our Conference and members – acknowledge these sinful acts by our congregations, offer a profound apology, and pray for forgiveness.”
Read Dan Stockman’s article about the opening of the LCWR Assembly in the National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report.
Feature photo: Sisters Elise García, OP, left, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and Jane Herb, IHM, President-elect, take part in a ritual marking the sorrow of women religious for their complicity in racism.
August 6, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Responding to a call from historian Shannen Dee Williams to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the Adrian Dominican Sisters and many other congregations have been exploring their congregations’ roles and complicity in racism with the goal of eradicating it. The COVID-19 pandemic and the May 2020 murder of George Floyd brought greater awareness to systemic racism in the United States, of which women religious were not exempt from racist practices.
An August 5, 2021, National Catholic Reporter Global Sisters Report article by Dan Stockman describes what congregations found and their efforts to address racism. "We as women religious are absolutely called to this work,” Adrian Dominican Sister Elise García, OP, President of LCWR, said in the article. “It's fundamental to who we say we are, and the first step is to revisit our history, all our collective history and our specific history.”
Read the entire article, “‘Our Reckoning’: U.S. Sisters Take Up Call to Examine their Role in Systemic Racism.”
Feature photo: Adrian Dominican Sisters pose with the community of Blessed Martin de Porres Mission, the Congregation’s first ministry to Black Catholics, West Palm Beach, Florida, 1938. Adrian Dominican Sisters Archive Photo