A Town Hall Meeting on the mortal sin of racism and its effect on society, sponsored by the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, will be held on Sat., June 24 from 9:00 a.m. to noon at the Mount Saint Joseph Convent Auditorium in Philadelphia.

The event was organized following discussions between members of the Commission and Archbishop Nelson Pérez .

“We had met with the Archbishop on several occasions with the idea that his recent pastoral letter on racial healing was a step toward making sure people know the Commission exists and that this topic isn’t just for the Commission, but it’s a topic that we should all be addressing,” said Sister Owen Bonner, Commission member and a member of the elected leadership team of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia.

>>READ MORE: Archbishop Pérez Issues Pastoral Letter on Racial Healing: “We Are One Body”

Sister Owen said the Commission members discussed the need to host an event to talk about the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, and give Catholics in the archdiocese an opportunity to learn more about racism and share their perspectives on it.

“It’s the idea that if we start small, that the ripple effect will occur throughout the archdiocese and with other groups of people to talk about the sin of racism,” Sister Owen said.

“The hope is to get people from all over the archdiocese to come together, to pray together, to share stories together, and hopefully go home and take the next step, whatever that next step is in your home, in your parish, in your circle of friends, to continue the conversation so it doesn’t die on the 24th. We’re just igniting it and fanning the flame.”

The day will begin with prayer and a faith testimony from Honorable Lucretia Clemons, a member of the commission. There will also be a special showing of the commission’s new film that emphasizes the mortal sin of racism, the importance of racial harmony, and respect for every person. Everyone present will take part in small group discussions and healing exercises.

Sister Owen  says is important for Catholics to learn more about racism and how it affects people of color in parishes across the Archdiocese.

“Number one, because it is a sin,” she said. “Number two, because it’s what the Gospel calls us to, and I think as Catholics, in a sense, we’ve been silent. If it doesn’t affect us, we don’t have to deal with it. I could belong to an all white parish or even a culturally mixed parish, and it’s not an issue, but when you listen to the stories of people of color who have been shunned by the Church, it’s a matter of conscience that we address it.”

Archbishop Pérez launched the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing in 2021. The Commission is composed of 18 people and represents the diversity of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by race, age, gender, and language. The Commission is composed of clergy as well as lay men and women from city and suburban parishes.

The event is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending the town hall meeting can register by visiting https://forms.gle/7fwvLxJkdYTzJogt8.