The archdiocese’s Office for Black Catholics and the Sisters of the Redeemer held a Lenten retreat, “Break Every Chain, a Road to Racial Healing,” on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Spark Transformation Center in Huntingdon Valley.

Some 80 people attended the sold-out retreat, which was designed to engage participants in faith-based exercises and discussions to help transform people into active anti-racists who are committed to social justice, especially eradicating racism in all its forms within the Catholic Church, U.S. society, and themselves.

The daylong retreat started with a welcome from Sr. Anne Marie Haas, CSR, and opening prayer offered by Father Rayford Emmons, Pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Philadelphia’s Mount Airy section.

Antoinette Reaves led the retreat and served as keynote speaker. Barbara Purnell Boyle and Gloria Moseley joined her as facilitators. Participants were invited to set individual and collective intentions to call to mind the sin of racism and the effects of racial trauma in their lives. They led the group through a healing process of a deep contemplation of conscience, powerful lessons, and release of trauma.

In her keynote address, Reaves inspired the attendees with a call to action, “Let us break the chains that keep us bound to limitation and ignorance… Let us keep our hearts burning as we walk together so we can say as the disciples on the road to Emmaus leaving every conversation like this, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while Jesus spoke to us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?’”

She continued, “When we present authentic selves to one another, the work can begin. We are called to listen, learn, and have an authentic dialogue with each other. We need to learn about our people, our city, and all the unique individuals that we serve. We are beyond dreams and good intentions. We, in this moment, are being called into action.”

The retreat closed with Mass in the Redeemer Sisters’ Chapel, celebrated by Father Emmons with music from the Philadelphia Catholic Gospel Mass Choir.

Throughout the Chapel, banners for each of the six leaders of African descent who are on the road to sainthood—Pierre Toussaint, Mother Henriette Delille, Mother Mary Lange, Father Augustus Tolton, Julia Greeley, and Sr. Thea Bowman—were displayed.

“It is an honor for the Sisters of the Redeemer to partner with the Office for Black Catholics in the quest for racial healing,” said Sr. Anne Marie Haas, CSR.

Sr. Anne Marie Haas continued, “Truthfully, the more I learn, the more I recognize that there is still so much that I need to learn. The deep wounds caused by centuries of racism will not easily be healed. We are called to be instruments of God’s redemptive love, and true to that identity, we believe that healing is possible. We will continue to advance this essential journey of healing through open dialogue that acknowledges and moves past biases.”

Both the Office for Black Catholics and the Sisters of the Redeemer view the retreat as a starting point in the much-needed conversation on racial healing.

Those interested in being part of the ongoing conversation and journey can email


Amy Cranston is the Director of Communications for Sisters of the Redeemer.