Reflections on Dismantling Racism


These days when I go to our back yard, and look out on God’s beautiful creation: the variety of birds feeding from our feeders, butterflies sucking nectar from the flowers, ripe mangos falling from our tree, palm branches swaying in the breeze—all is peaceful and at one. I sense God’s presence everywhere.

I think of all the violence, brutality, racism, poverty, sickness, pain and tragedy in our country and the world right now, I weep. I know this is not the world God dreams for us and I cry out, “Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth!”

We need prayer if racism is ever going to be erased from our planet. At a time when so many of us are in the “at risk” category and have more time than we ever expected, we can’t join protests, but we can pray!! Perhaps this is our calling during this time in our history.

While watching TV, I have been noticing the large number of white protestors walking hand in hand and side by side with our black sisters and brothers. I am struck by Father’s Massingale’s comment, “only when white people become upset enough to declare ‘this cannot and will not be’, will real change begin to be a possibility.” Are we seeing this now?? I think so. At least the beginnings. I have hope that this time, we are seeing something new and different taking place. That this movement will not only bring about police reform but continue until we as a nation embrace the root causes of racism that will lead to systemic change.

Carleen Cekal, SSND

Being uncomfortable is one of my least favorite places to be. I like to fix things, solve problems, make peace. And yet that word - uncomfortable - describes the first half of 2020 so well.

How long will we be "locked down"? When will the threat of the virus end? Will the demonstrations on our streets be peaceful? How can I support the efforts towards racial justice?

Time magazine offers some wisdom on the subject: "Being an advocate of change, being a true ally of the black community, requires the willingness to be uncomfortable." Robin Diangelo's New York Times bestseller, White Fragility tells us that "The key to moving forward is what we do with our discomfort."

Seems my biggest challenge for the second half of 2020 will be to own my discomfort, to stay in the moment, to not run ahead of grace, to believe deeply that if I truly listen to the voices around me, especially those of the Black community, to the voice of the Spirit, the path out of this discomfort will be revealed - but probably not today, not this week, and maybe not even this year.

Eileen Reilly, SSND

Racism and Me
Peg Regan, SSND

Silence is ViolenceFor many years, I have been a passionate advocate for just and respectful treatment of immigrants.  My concern, in part, I think, comes from my experience of living and being welcomed in other cultures. But in the last few weeks I have reflected on my “acceptance” of the status of our African-American sisters and brothers.  Since childhood, I have been aware of the “second class citizenship” and the lack of equal opportunities of Black people, but I was not upset about it. It was just how things were. However, I was consciously glad that I was not born Black!   I just accepted the unfairness, even in the years when I ministered in a predominately-Black parish!   In so doing, I have been complicit in the perpetuation of this grave injustice.  I didn’t do anything overtly racist, but I didn’t do anything to correct it either.
Like most of you, I have spent many hours over the past couple of weeks reflecting on this lived-reality.  My conscience tells me that I must finds ways to make amends because I am guilty of racism.

I read the Psalms and meditate on Scripture and pray for insight into words such as  “freedom”, “justice”, “oppression”  “… the Lord brought you out of slavery”… from an African American perspective. I will be supportive to Black friends and others who seek to end our society’s “original sin”. I will learn more about the social and economic history of our country and other countries in light of racism, and share this knowledge with others.  I will support movements for payments of “reparation” to the African-American community.  

I ask that we SSNDs, as a Congregation and a Province, make a generous contribution to a fund that will enable more progress (home mortgages, small business loans, etc.)  for members of the African American community. We might focus especially in the geographic areas where for more than a century we have benefited from the labor of people working for us at low wages (even when they were typical of those paid by other employers).

I will support efforts to undo the gross injustices leveled against Blacks in our legal system:  arrests, trials and imprisonments.

By Kay O'connell

"Many people--often graduates of Catholic schools--are emphatically "pro-life."  This might be the time in which we can work to widen the usual meaning of "pro-life"  so that its adherents turn their personal and group power to end any action that diminishes--or ends--the life-possibilities of a person of color." 
Kathleen Feeley, SSND

“I hope this will be a wake-up call for all!” 
Edna Cole, SSND

“Ashamedly, until only a few years ago did I know much about Black history in Canada. No one ever taught me in school that Harriet Truman ran thirteen missions of the underground railway just miles from where I was born here in Ontario.”
Mary Heather MacKinnon, SSND

Dear brothers and sisters in the United States, I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr George Floyd.

My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognise that “the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost”.

Today I join the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and in the entire United States, in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism. Let us pray for the consolation of their grieving families and friends and let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, intercede for all those who work for peace and justice in your land and throughout the world.

May God bless all of you and your families.

Pope Francis