This past week, I was blessed to travel to Cape May, New Jersey, to celebrate Mass and help lead a town hall on addressing the mortal sin of racism with the principals of our parish and regional elementary schools in the five-county Archdiocese. I was joined by other members of the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing: Jerry Davis, Alana Lee, and Marcelle McGuirk. This was one of the first times our current school leaders discussed this topic as a large group and they embraced the call of encounter, formation, and action.
During our presentation, we showed the video produced by the Commission that emphasizes the destructive nature of the mortal sin of racism, our shared responsibility to combat that sin, and respect for every person. We also reflected on Archbishop Pérez’s pastoral letter Racial Healing: “We are One Body.”
So much of our ministry, especially in Catholic education, begins with sacred encounter. In the encyclical on fraternity and social friendship, Fratelli Tuti, Pope Francis writes, “Life… is the art of encounter. I have frequently called for the growth of a culture of encounter capable of transcending our differences and divisions. This means working to create a many-faceted polyhedron whose different sides form a variegated unity, in which ‘the whole is greater than the part’”. (FT, 215)
I reminded our school leaders that these encounters and conversations about race can be difficult and, at times, uncomfortable. I also reminded them that the Commission is not a political body that looks at race from the lens of the world. Our work is rooted in Holy Scripture and our Catholic Social Teaching. Indeed, if there is any place we should be addressing racism and encouraging continued respect and care for every person, it should be in our Catholic Schools.
I am grateful for the leadership of the Office for Catholic Education for inviting the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing to participate in this workshop. I pray that through the intercession of our Philly Saints, Saint John Neumann and Saint Katharine Drexel, we will all learn how to live as students of our Great Teacher, Jesus Christ.
If a parish or school is interested in hosting a town hall on addressing the sin of racism, please contact Ms. Marchelle McGuirk at firstname.lastname@example.org and Rev. Stephen Thorne at email@example.com.
Father Stephen Thorne, Ed.D. is the co-chair of the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing and holds a doctorate in educational leadership. He also serves as pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Wynnefield.
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