WILTON—“We need to recognize that we are all God’s children and He loves all His children regardless of who we are or what we have,” Father Reggie Norman addressed all those who marched in the recent Walk for Peace and an End to Racism held in Wilton.
Members of the Wilton Clergy, the Wilton Police Department and Wilton Town Officials all spoke to participants who gathered in the parking lot of Our Lady of Fatima Church for an outdoor service which included short remarks, interfaith prayers and a lighting of luminaries.
“We are all in this together,” said Father Reggie, “and we need to work together to change this world that we live in.”
“We must listen, we must pray, we must put down the hatred and the fighting and come together because until all of us are taken care of none of us are good,” Father Reggie said.
Wilton Chief of Police John Lynch addressed the gathering, “Our department has worked really hard to come together to treat people with respect and we are all appalled by what we saw. We have a lot of work to do, and we will work harder to accomplish this.”
The crowd was asked to hold silence for eight minutes (the amount of time a knee was held on George Floyd’s neck). In a jarring demonstration, young and old alike took a knee, raised their signs and bowed their heads in solidarity.
Reverend Shannon White of Wilton Presbyterian Church said, “it is not any person of color’s job to teach white people about racism. We need to reflect and have conversations and to convict each other and then go and have honest and real collaboration.”
“I’m calling us to accountability…to do the hard work,” said White. “We have to face this. We have to look at why it is difficult for people of color to live in this town. We need to be able to ask the hard questions and confront each other and then be in conversation with one another. ”
Protesters came forward to light luminaries in honor of names or concepts that they wanted to keep in mind and hold in prayer. A woman came forward to light a luminary for her son Noah, who is eight years old. “Society has decided that this boy would not see his 25th birthday,” she said, “I ask for all of you to cast that down because he will.”
A young man came forward to light a luminary for people of color who are diagnosed with autism and do not have the same resources available to them. He explained that he lost his speech when he was younger but was able to get it back through therapy. “This balloon is for all those individuals of color who don’t have the same resources or access to therapy like I did,” he said.
Rev. Shannon White wished everyone a safe return to their cars. “Be careful. Officers are going to take care of you. Thank you very much to the Wilton Police Department.”
The group began marching at 5:30 pm on the sidewalk down Route 7 to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church’s parking lot for the outdoor service. Participants then walked back to their cars at the train station.
Participants wore masks and maintained social distancing according to CT State and Wilton Town guidelines during this time of pandemic.
Father Reggie Norman reflects on recent murder of George Floyd, subsequent protests
WILTON—“The history of our Church is rooted in social justice,” said Father Reginald Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima and episcopal vicar for the Apostolate of African American Catholics. “We have always done our part and always preach that life is sacred.”
Father Reggie explained that he has spoken to his congregation about this topic in light of the recent murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman and the subsequent protests following the tragedy.
“The Catholic Church is one of the few churches that takes care of everyone regardless of race or religion,” explained Father Reggie.
When asked about the Church’s response to recent events, Father Reggie explained that many of our United States Bishops have spoken, including a message from the USCCB and Bridgeport Diocese’s Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, whose statement can be read here. Father Reggie also said that the Offices of Black Catholics and other clergy are involved in peaceful protests.
“We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion,” reads the statement from the USCCB.
“The problem for the black community,” explains Father Reggie, “is that we didn’t come [to America] on our own. We had to fight harder for assimilation.” Father Reggie explains that even though America is made up of people who came from many different countries, the black community did not have the same choice and that makes their experience unique. “When this injustice happens we all have to speak up now—that’s what it’s going to take to change this,” Father Reggie said.
In his Pentecost Sunday homily, Father Reggie told his parishioners, “We are best when we are working at our best level possible—that is God. We remember that the followers of Jesus were given the ability to speak in different tongues so that all might hear the message of Christ…who wants to redeem all of his children.”
When asked what suggestions he has for people who want to help but don’t know how, Father Reggie said, “Well first is to pray.” He also said that one must speak up within their own family and circles when they see injustice happening, remain educated and have empathy for those whose lives are directly impacted every day. “Because unless you are black you don’t have any idea what it is like. We’ve been conditioned—we don’t understand the struggle.”
Father Reggie gave examples of times when people of color have to be wary—“driving while black,” being under surveillance while patronizing a store, others being nervous when they are in an enclosed space with them, just to name a few. Father Reggie explained that these are things non-POC’s have never had to experience, and empathy is crucial.
“The pandemic is teaching us what is really important,” said Father Reggie. “A communal effort is far greater than our individual goal.”
Father Reggie stressed the importance of educating ourselves and of maintaining a rapport with law enforcement to ensure that lasting change is made. “If we have the ability to speak about it things can get better. The important thing is to let people have a voice.” Father Reggie did explain that we cannot resort to violence, saying that “it is not okay to fight a crime with another crime.”
“The Catholic Church teaches that life is sacred from conception to natural death,” said Father Reggie. “But we often forget those who are in the middle. We have to speak up for them just as much. Because all life is sacred.”
Father Reggie shared, “We all have a past but we have to make sure that we don’t repeat history.”
By Elizabeth Clyons