Catholic communities organize activities to battle racism

| August 26, 2016 | 5 Comments

The site

Balloons, signs and flowers lay at the site where Philando Castile, 32, who was black, died July 6 after being shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Around the country, Catholic organizations, parishes, clergy and laity are taking action and bolstering efforts to build peace and battle racism, following a summer of violence.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated Sept. 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver, a national Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities. In a July news release, the bishops conference said the day of prayer and task force, chaired by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, are a “response to the racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas.”

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Bernard Hebda will lead a public prayer service at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at St. Peter Claver, 375 Oxford St. N., St. Paul.

On Sept. 11, St. Bridget in Minneapolis is hosting an ecumenical prayer and worship service with Minneapolis’ New Creation Church. “Come Together: Seeking God’s Peace” will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at St. Bridget’s campus, 3811 Emerson Ave. N., Minneapolis. Father Paul Jarvis, associate pastor, said the services will be ongoing at different locations, and participants will commit to pray for a particular section of the neighborhood.

Also on Sept. 11, when the United States commemorates the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis will host an “Evening Prayer for Justice and Peace” at 3 p.m. to honor all those who died and pray for an end to deaths from violence.

After the violence of July, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, noted in a press release “the need to look at ways the Catholic Church can walk with and help these suffering communities.” In an Aug. 4 letter, Archbishop  Gregory said that for gestures of mourning to be meaningful, they must be followed with action.

Listening and support

In New Orleans, St. Peter Claver Church is involved in community mediation with law enforcement and is working on a variety of other issues related to racial justice, including seeking just wages for all. In Baltimore, Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden leads regular prayer walks in neighborhoods plagued by violence. He also participates in a group of interfaith leaders in the city to work toward racial justice.

In Dallas, the city that witnessed the height of summer’s boiling point when a gunman opened fire on police — killing five and wounding seven officers and two civilians — during a protest, Holy Trinity Catholic Church is participating in gatherings with Dallas Area Interfaith, a group that brings various communities together to try to understand the problem of racism, as well as the recent shootings.

Holy Trinity parishioner William deHass, who has attended some of the gatherings, said that based on what has been discussed at the interfaith group, “some churches ignore or avoid speaking about racism.” But the aftermath of the violence has provided an opportunity for people of different races and faiths to listen and support one another, he said.

“It’s really the laypeople who believe that change and transformation can happen, and so there are a lot of positive things that are going on in neighborhoods and communities because people believe in the social Gospel teachings of the Church,” said Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, and a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. “People are grasping that and are almost compelled to be engaged and be involved.”

Sister Chappell said organizations such as Pax Christi and Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, have published guides showing where the two most prominent presidential candidates stand on a variety of issues, including issues of race.

“We’re not telling people how to vote,” she said, but the documents focus on issues that are impacting the poor and marginalized communities. “We have pointed out clearly based on the values of the Catholic social teachings, and what Pope Francis is saying, that we must be on the side of those who are vulnerable and poor, and we have laid out issues for people to look at where the candidates stand.”

Sister Chappell also will participate in talks as part of the USCCB’s task force to deal with issues of race. The task force will meet as part of “Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities.”

The USCCB offers resources to help parishes and communities seeking to organize events for Sept. 9 at its website.

The Catholic Spirit contributed to this story.

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Featured, U.S. & World News