Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Louisville Archbishop Kurtz Pleads for Justice

LOUISVILLE— After a controversial grand jury decision regarding the death of Breonna Taylor, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville called for unity to work for racial justice and to combat racism, while many in the city of Louisville braced for protests.

Two officers that were shot overnight are expected to recover. Over 127 arrests were made overnight as residents took to the streets, some damaging businesses, amid peaceful protests.

The archbishop made his plea on Wednesday, September 23, shortly after the announcement of the grand jury’s decision to indict one of the police officers involved in Taylor’s death.

“I again join with citizens throughout our community and the nation in mourning the tragic death of Breonna Taylor,” said Archbishop Kurtz in the statement, which was distributed to clergy and leaders within the Archdiocese of Louisville and provided to CNA.

Taylor, 26, was killed March 13 in Louisville during a police raid of her apartment. Taylor, a Black woman, was shot five times by the police after her boyfriend initially fired at the officers who breached Taylor’s apartment’s door to execute a warrant. The officers involved were white. An issue of contention is whether, and how loudly, the officers announced themselves when entering the apartment.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, acknowledged firing the first shots, and claimed that he thought the police were intruders. Walker has said he did not hear officers announce themselves as police.

On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted one of the officers who served the warrant, Brett Hankison, with three counts of “wanton endangerment” for firing three shots into and near Taylor’s apartment. Hankinson was fired from the Louisville Police in June. The other two officers were not indicted. None of the shots fired by Hankinson were those which struck Taylor.

“Whatever our reaction to the decision by the Grand Jury and the Attorney General’s Office, we must now come together to work for racial justice,” Archbishop Kurtz said Wednesday.

“There is no question that our nation’s original sin of racism continues to destroy the lives of persons of color and that racism extends through so many systems of our society… educational, economic, religious, housing, criminal justice, voting, and employment,” said the archbishop.

The Church, said Archbishop Kurtz, “stands ready to work with civic, community, educational, business, and non-profit partners to address these issues.”

No officer was directly charged with Taylor’s death. The charges of “wanton endangerment” carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison each.

Taylor’s mother received a $12 million wrongful death settlement from the City of Louisville.

The city declared a state of emergency before the grand jury’s decision was announced. The phrase “Justice for Breonna Taylor” has become one of the most prominent rallying cries of the Black Lives Matter movement, and her portrait has been frequently featured on posters and banners at protests.

Archbishop Kurtz said he respects the First Amendment right to protest, but pleaded for peace “and the rejection of violence” during demonstrations.

“Let us all join in prayers for Breonna Taylor’s family and friends and for justice, peace, and healing in our community,” said Archbishop Kurtz.

By National Catholic Register

An ongoing conversation

BRIDGEPORT—As the culmination of seven weeks of the well-received webinar series “Conversations About Race” hosted by The Leadership Institute, the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics, last night’s “Conversations About the Conversations” brought about a lot of important discussions.

The two panelists were Janie Nneji a member of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield and Father Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton and episcopal vicar for Black Catholics in the diocese. “I have been intensely interested in what the Church can do to heal the racial divide,” explained Nneji, who has piloted a study in her parish using Bishop Braxton’s 2015 pastoral letter, along with books and videos in order to facilitate a conversation and work toward healing.

“This is my third or fourth job,” explained Father Reggie of his role as the episcopal vicar for Black Catholics in the diocese, “but it was the one that I find the most passion in.”

Panelists began the webinar discussing highlights of the seven-week series, what moved them, change them and challenged them. Listeners were then invited to ask questions or begin discussions in the chat.

Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership Institute shared that one of the things that was most eye-opening for him was when Gloria Purvis used the phrase “we can walk and chew gum,” referring to the fact that just because we say that Black lives matter doesn’t mean that white lives don’t and just because we say that racism in a pro-life issue doesn’t mean that we feel any less strongly about other pro-life issues. “I had never thought about it so simply,” shared Donovan.

Nneji shared that she was shocked to hear that some people had never heard it said that racism was a sin, and that racism was a life issue and contrary to the Word of God. “To me it was very important that I am also involved in many pro-life circles and have bemoaned the fact that it is not always as womb to tomb as I would like it to be,” shared Nneji.

Panelists enjoyed how both Chatelain and Villalobos discussed how to have a conversation and how it is important to listen to others’ stories when beginning to engage with others on these difficult topics and to find common ground. “I think that was an effective tool in having a conversation,” said Nneji.

“I thought the series was excellent. As a Black Catholic, having gone back and read some of the Bishop’s pastoral statements and my disappointment is that the Church has gone to battle over many different issues and I don’t think they have raised the racism issue up to the level of concern and dedication of resources to which they should,” shared Nneji. “But I think having the conversations was a good start,” she said.

Father Reggie said that Armando Cervantes’ conversation on multicultural voices allowed listeners to see the issue of racism as a bigger picture, and to recognize other cultures that are struggling as well.

“As a Black man I’m tired of talking about this. I talk about this all day every day and sometimes it’s very frustrating because no matter how much you talk some people are just not going to get it,” explained Father Reggie, sharing that Gloria Purvis’ discussion gave him a new perspective and approach and inspired him to speak up in areas where he might not have before.

Father Reggie encouraged listeners to work with their pastors and show them the way that they wish to learn more about certain issues. “You are the Church, if you can get some people together and do it that is a start,” he said.

Panelists discussed how important it is to make sure that parishioners of color feel welcome enough to continue coming to church. “The reality is that none of us own the Church, it’s God’s Church we are just temporary stewards of it and we should be welcoming and let anyone in who wants to celebrate God. We contradict ourselves when we say our doors are open but want to limit who comes through.”

“We need to make sure our parishes are places of acceptance and healing and preaching and teaching and all of those things,” said Donovan.

“The Church is not a sanctuary for Saints it is a hospital for sinners,” shared Father Reggie, explaining that that’s something we all need to work on recognizing as a Church.

Panelists discussed that the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism is currently working on developing anti-racism training for diocesan staff as well as within the parishes, as well as plans for Black Catholic History Month in November.

(To watch all the webinars from the Conversations About Race series and for a growing list of resources visit www.formationreimagined.org.)

Dr. Marcia Chatelain: An embrace of social justice is an embrace of faith

BRIDGEPORT—”I hope that my talk today can help you bring home some of the strands of the conversation and hopefully give you the vocabulary to share the information within your parishes, schools and community,” said Dr. Marcia Chatelain, the presenter of the seventh of several webinars titled “Conversations About Race” being hosted by The Leadership Institute, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.

“I think a lot about the Lenten season when I think about the issue of racism,” said Dr. Chatelain, explaining how living antiracism is connected to one of the most impactful stories of the New Testament.

Dr. Chatelain compared white supremacy to the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). “A similar bargain has been put before many people and it is the reason why white supremacy continues to sustain itself and take on many forms. We are often told that we will have the very best, the best financial rewards, schools, opportunities for our children if we bow before some of the tenets and values of white supremacy,” Dr. Chatelain said.

Dr. Chatelain explained that racism is the externalization of the contempt for people because of their racial identity by withholding care, justice or safety; stating that racism is an obstruction of the ability to facilitate and receive these things.

“We are in a moment right now where people feel deeply compelled to pick sides,” said Dr. Chatelain. “One of the reasons why I think this is happening because we have never before had the ability to chronicle who we are in specific moments as we do now,” she referenced social media and our current ability to access information in a way that is quicker and more available than ever before.

“Regardless of where we stand on a position there are structures in place that normalize inequality in the places that are designed to meet health, housing, nutritional, educational, legal and social needs of people,” the speaker said. “What are we allowing in our society to obstruct people from feeling as cared for and loved as the creator has cared for and loved us?”

Dr. Chatelain explained that bias is an unfounded or narrowly dawn preference or affinity for people or peoples at the expense of building substantive and loving relationships with others.

“Especially now, I think we see the importance and human need of community,” she said. “When it comes to racism, we see our immense power to actually intervene in these problems,” said Chatelain, specifically referencing the Church and its great power to create change, especially in light of its great diversity.

Dr. Chatelain explained that segregation is the result of structural racism and interpersonal racism and it shapes all aspects of American life, from school to neighborhood to church.

“Racial scripts comprise what our families, schools, churches, neighborhoods, political parties and other influential entities teach us about difference, human value and acceptable behavior,” explained Dr. Chatelain, making clear that these scripts are sometimes not explicitly written but are enforced by the community we live in.

“We are a faith tradition that is based on renewal,” Dr. Chatelain said. “We have to have the confidence that our faith will pull us through any tension we feel while standing up for racial justice.”

Dr. Chatelain explained that race shapes how people view and perceive the world around them, especially in reference to feelings of freedom and fear, and expression and understanding of faith.

Chatelain also explained that Catholics are very active when it comes to service, especially prison ministry. She urged listeners of the importance of taking this service and turning it into action in terms of great systemic change.

“So much of the work is about a kind of reflection process,” Dr. Chatelain urged listeners to speak from a place of personal experience when discussing racial justice.

About Dr. Marcia Chatelain 

Marcia Chatelain is currently a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Previously, she was a Reach for Excellence Assistant Professor of Honors and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.  She is a proud native of Chicago, Illinois, and an even prouder graduate of the following schools: St. Ignatius College Prep, the University of Missouri-Columbia (bachelor’s journalism/religious studies), and Brown University (A.M. and Ph.D., American Civilization).  She is a scholar of African-American life and culture, and her first book South Side Girls: Growing up in the Great Migration (Duke University Press, 2015) reimagined the mass exodus of black Southerners to the urban North from the perspective of girls and teenage women. Dr. Chatelain’s latest book, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America examines the intersection of the post-1968 civil rights struggle and the rise of fast food industry.

Next Thursday at 7 pm, The Leadership Institute will be hosting a conversation about the conversations facilitated by the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. In this final webinar, listeners will have the opportunity to discuss what differences we can make in our parishes, schools and communities based on the previous webinar conversations.

(Visit formationreimagined.org for more information.)

‘Through all of this, I remain hopeful’

BRIDGEPORT—“There is an urgent need to focus on the lives of Black people.  We, as a Church, have the means to focus on the needs of the African American Communities without forgetting about the needs of other marginalized groups,” said Pamela Harris, president of the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators.

Harris was the fifth presenter of several webinars being hosted by The Leadership Institute, the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.

Harris also serves as director of ethnic ministries for Diocese of Columbus, Ohio and as a consultant to youth ministers and religious educators across the nation.

“I am happy to have this conversation because it allows all of us from different backgrounds to come together and have honest conversation,” Harris said as she began her discussion on race and Catholic Social Teaching.

“As imitators of Christ, we are called to strive to live a life of holiness and be in right relationship with one another,” explained Harris. “It is easy to fall into despair with all that is happening in our nation…yet, through all of this, I remain hopeful.”

Harris explained that racism is complex, personal, institutional and systemic. “As a Church, we should be as serious about eradicating racism as we are about other issues,” said Harris.

Harris referenced 1 Corinthians, where St. Paul writes that we are all One Body in Christ. “We are the temple of God…the Spirit dwells in each of us and among us,” she said. Harris explained that, because of this, it takes a community to dismantle the sin of racism.

Harris discussed that racism is a pro-life issue, as it destroys the dignity of the human person.

Harris shared practical steps for eradicating racism—pray, acknowledge sin, have conversations (cross-racial dialogue), be open to encounter and new relationships, resolve to work for justice, educate ourselves, work in our churches, work to change structures, work for the conversion of all and have a commitment to life.

“It doesn’t have to be a conversation that comes from a negative place,” Harris explained that we all put ourselves in a vulnerable state to have these important conversations.

Harris shared a list of African American holy men and women who are on the road to sainthood for us to look to for help. “It is important to recognize the many different faces and cultures in our Church,” Harris explained.

Harris also shared that November is Black Catholic History Month—a great opportunity for us to celebrate the long history and proud heritage of Black Catholics.

She shared that moving forward, it is important for us to have honest, meaningful and productive dialogue that will lead effective action. “We need to be honest with ourselves and address any prejudices or biases we might have.”

During the Q&A session, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano thanked Pamela Harris for her talk, commending her for a very faith-filled focus. He stressed the importance of a “conversion of hearts” when it comes to racism. “We have to start with ourselves, with have to start with Christ,” Harris agreed.

“When it comes to social media and the news we get bits and pieces of it so it is hard to decipher who is doing what,” Harris addressed a question about how to reconcile looting and destruction that often accompanies protests.

“It is an unfortunate bias when we are looking at the media. You are going to have people who are going to take advantage of the situation. Sometimes it is all about the anger that has been manifesting for so long, which is unfortunate of course, but we have to focus on how we can be in the community and help people understand that the peaceful way is certainly the focus of more of us,” said Harris.

In discussing Catholic Social Teaching, Harris explained that “one great thing about Catholic Social Teaching is that there are action items to accompany each of them. We are the Catholic Church, we can equally address each one without holding any one of more importance than another.”

She discussed that one of the main focuses of Catholic Social Teaching is finding the right and most respectful way to ensure that everyone is safe and standing on equal ground.

About Pamela Harris

Pamela Harris is the director of ethnic ministries for Diocese of Columbus, Ohio and president of the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators. She has been instrumental in the conversations with youth ministers and religious educators and has been a featured guest with similar webinar series hosted by the NFCYM.

Archbishop Gregory: Mass of Peace and Justice

WASHINGTON—On Friday August 28 at 4 pm, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory will celebrate a Mass of Peace and Justice in honor of the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. People are invited to watch the livestreamed Mass from St. Matthew’s Cathedral via this link.

The Archdiocese of Washington’s website at adw.org will also include a link to the Mass, as will a related article on the Catholic Standard’s website at cathstan.org.

At the 1963 March on Washington, Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle—who began integrating parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Washington shortly after becoming the archbishop of Washington in 1948—offered the invocation before Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Cardinal O’Boyle retired in 1973 and died in 1987.

Archbishop Gregory was installed as the current archbishop of Washington in 2019, becoming the first African American prelate to lead the Archdiocese of Washington. A leading voice in the U.S. Catholic Church for racial justice, Archbishop Gregory recently spoke on “Race in America: The Faith Perspective,” in an online forum sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.

He also recently spoke in a related panel discussion sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.

After the May 25 death of George Floyd—an African American man who died while under police custody in Minneapolis after an officer knelt on his neck—Archbishop Gregory issued a statement noting that “this incident reveals the virus of racism among us once again even as we continue to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.”

Washington Auxiliary Bishops Mario Dorsonville, Roy E. Campbell, and Michael Fisher will concelebrate the August 28 Mass, which is being organized by the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach.

(Right) Then-Washington Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle, at podium, offers the invocation on August 28, 1963 at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. At right is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech that day. (CS file photo)

Catholic Standard article

Armando Cervantes to present this week’s conversation on race

BRIDGEPORT—Armando Cervantes will present this week’s “Conversation on Race” about Multicultural Voices on Thursday August 20 at 1 pm.

Armando brings over two decades of parish, diocesan, regional, national and international experience and leadership. Armando graduated from UC Irvine with a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences with an Emphasis in Public and Community Service. After receiving his master’s in Pastoral Theology from Loyola Marymount University, Armando received his Executive MBA from Chapman University. Armando was one of the co-masters of ceremony for Region 11’s Regional Encuentro and the National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas.

The webinar series, produced by the diocesan Leadership Institute and has featured talks by teachers and pastoral ministers, and will run through September 3. The talks are live-streamed at 1 pm each Thursday and then rebroadcasted at 7 pm each evening.

According to Dr. Patrick Donovan, director of the Leadership Institute, the webinar series is designed to inform those who attend about the sin of racism and the Church’s teaching regarding it, the many forms that racism and bigotry can take, its history in our society and the personal, economic and social consequences that racism has had on the lives of generations of people.

Upcoming talks in the series:
AUGUST 27 – Pamela Harris Race and Catholic Social Teaching
SEPTEMBER 3 – Dr. Marcia Chatelain Living the Faith, Living Antiracism

(To register to join the “Conversation on Race,” visit the Leadership Institute: www.formationreimagined.org. Click to view all of the resources and information about joining the conversation: www.formationreimagined.org/conversations-about-race-main.)

Taking God’s Love to Heart Requires Sharing it with all

BRIDGEPORT— The great revelation of Christianity is that God’s love is available to all, but we as Christians must work to live up to that understanding in our church, our community and in our own lives, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his Mass for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

“God’s mercy knows no bounds and is not afraid to go into the shadows of this world. Twenty-one centuries later, no one among would dispute this revelation of Christian faith; Christ is the savior of all people, all humanity. God’s love is offered to all.”

However, while we have an understanding of words, we have not always taken them to heart, the bishop said, noting that Christians must work to root out racism, self-righteousness and division that exclude others.

The bishop’s homily was based on Matthew’s account of the Canaanite woman (15:21-28) who asks the Jesus to heal her daughter even though she is a Gentile, and Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Rom 11:13-25, 29-32), celebrating God’s love for all, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

The bishop noted that after much suffering and struggle, St. Paul, who was formerly zealous to follow the law, came to a larger understanding that God’s love was open to all.

“Through the revelation of Christ in his life, St. Paul was coming to understand what the Lord was actually doing by reaching out to the woman who was not Jewish in an area that was pagan,” he said. “ St. Paul came to the truth that God’s love and mercy are destined for every person made in his image and likeness.”

The bishop said Paul was chosen to be a vessel to invite all people- even the Gentiles of his time and those thought to be outside of the covenant or of salvation—into “the Joyful , liberating, intoxicating, message,” of God’s love, and that we as followers of Christ have same responsibility.

“We are his instrument to invite all children to encounter him, fall in love with him, and respond to him,” he said.

The bishop said the power of the scripture is a challenge for us to be honest with ourselves; not only to understand the message but to live it in our hearts as we deal with social justice issues.

“We as nation and as people of faith continue the journey to confront the evil of racism in our midst,” he said, noting that racism holds people back and denies opportunity based on the color of someone’s skin or their country of origin.

Even those with the best of intentions to heal and reform the Church must guard against “a growing self-righteousness in the Church in which people are dividing themselves into groups and camps based on preference or their understanding of the tradition,” he said.

He said that such thinking “Sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly, creates divisions that restrict God’s generous love and creates ‘have’s and have-nots.’”

The danger of thinking that there is only one way forward is that someone chooses “ another portion of tradition, another way to pray, or another language,” that somehow they may become part of the have-nots” who are not welcome or equal, he said.

“In God’s eyes, that’s a lie. In God’s eyes, we are all loved wildly, generously, irrevocably,” he said.

The bishop began his homily by noting that as a young man he had little interest or understanding of history, but that over the past ten years he has developed a great interest in the story of the past.

“History is the narrative of the human experience, the expose of the human heart and its challenges, triumphs and sufferings.”

The bishop said that when he looks into the eyes of his grandnephew and niece–three and five-years old respectively– he wonders when they reach the age of 61, as he is now, what they’ll read about the history of our own generation in light of the challenges we face and the teaching of the gospel.

“Faced with this basic revelation and truth, when the history is written of my life and yours is written, what will they read?” he asked.

In brief remarks following Mass the Bishop invited all to join in the ongoing “Conversation about Race” webinar series sponsored by the Leadership Institute, and he said now is the time to confront vestiges of racism in the Church

“As we admit and face clear-sightedly the sins of the past and those that endure in our midst, can we dare to hope that we can write a new chapter of history in which all God’s children are treated equally and lovingly and united together to offer the message of salvation to a waiting world. I pray that it is a reality through you and me.”

Conversations about Race: The webinar series, features talks by teachers and pastoral ministers, began on July 30 will run through September 3. The talks are live-streamed at 1 pm each Thursday and then rebroadcast at 7 pm each evening, with a question and answer sessions moderated by a member of the diocesan ad hoc committee against racism. (To view a recording of previous webinars, visit this page and click “previous webinars: https://formationreimagined.org/events-home/.)

BISHOP’S ONLINE MASS: The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.

An Overview of ‘Open Wide Our Hearts’

BRIDGEPORT—Danielle Brown was the presenter of the second of several webinars being hosted by The Leadership Institute, the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.

Danielle Brown is the associate director for the Ad hoc Committee Against Racism of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

During the webinar, Brown discussed “Open Wide Our Hearts,” the USCCB document in which, “the bishops say that racism arises when, either consciously or unconsciously, a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior and judges other people of other races or ethnicity as inferior or unworthy of equal regard.”

The document addresses many points, including that racism is a sin, especially when it excludes, mistreats or discriminates against people of another race.

Brown explained that the letter was the response to rising societal racial and ethnic hostility prevalent in 2014/15. “It was really the election of Barack Obama that sparked a lot of nationalist ideologies and xenophobic rhetoric,” explained Brown.

“Open Wide Our Hearts” specifically rejects organizations formed out of racist ideology, calling participation in them or fostering them sinful.

In the letter, the bishops call for a conversion of heart. They discuss racism and systems of racism, identify groups particularly impacted by both and a call to action and conversion.

The bishops reiterated that racist acts are a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister created in the image of God.

Brown explained that the letter also calls out the “sin of omission,” which occurs when individuals, communities and even churches fail to speak out against racial injustice. They also condemn institutional racism in all its forms.

The letter touches on the Native American, African American and Hispanic American historical and contemporary experiences.

Brown shared that the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism has been tasked to promote justice, and to facilitate ongoing national dialogue and reconciliation by holding listening sessions and providing resources for parishes, schools, college campuses and catechetical.

“We need to recondition ourselves to see people really based on the content of their character…to see people for who they are and for their souls and how their culture informs that,” Brown said.

The USCCB letter issues a call to action, calling for dioceses to aid communities of color with struggling schools and parishes, provide catechetical training resources, youth ministry programs and support for families. The bishops also call each other to self-education through cultural and learning institution visits, and by presenting and preaching the entire Christian doctrine on racism.

“One of the biggest pronouncements that the bishops make is that racism is a life issue,” said Brown. “It’s unfortunate that many Black people had to die in front of our faces and we had to watch them die over and over again on our screens for us to realize that people having biases can affect the life-span of people of color and does on a daily basis.”

Brown explained the importance of looking at how health care disparities are affecting people of color and how health outcomes tell a story of how true this disparity is.

“Implementation has changed, most certainly, over the last two or three months,” Brown explained that many bishops are putting together committees and beginning to pay more attention to the issue of racism.

During the Q&A session, Danielle Brown encouraged listeners to be advocates for anti-racism within their own parishes and communities, by having conversations with their priests about things they would like to see and hear.

Brown explained the importance of doing what we can within our diocese to reach the people in our communities.

“Only love can draw out hate,” said Brown, “conversion as it relates to any sin is the same as converting to the person of Jesus Christ. It takes somewhere between 30 and 60 times until someone becomes open to the idea.” She explained that for people to get to the place where you are there needs to be a conversation that is digestible, coming from a place of love.

About Danielle Brown
Danielle M. Brown, associate director of the ad hoc Committee Against Racism at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), was born and raised in the Archdiocese of Detroit. She is a lawyer licensed in the State of Michigan. Before coming to the USCCB in May 2018, she served on several boards, commissions, and ministries in Lansing, Michigan, including co-founding and leading one of Renewal Ministries’s first young adult discipleship chapters, I.D.916, now known simply as I.D. She was also a diocesan delegate at the USCCB Convocation of Catholic Leaders and the National Black Catholic Congress in 2017. Previously, she was a three-time governor appointed appellate administrative law judge in the State of Michigan, and an assistant deputy legal counsel to the Governor of the State of Michigan.

(For a recording of this webinar, along with all resources mentioned, the previous webinar recording, or to sign up for future webinars, visit formationreimagined.org).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to change the world

BRIDGEPORT—Gloria Purvis was the presenter of the third of several webinars being hosted by The Leadership Institute, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.

“So much of the conversation on race has been politicized, said Purvis. “As Catholics, we have to remember that we fight against racism because it is a sin. It contradicts the very word of God—that every person is created with dignity and respect.”

“As Catholics, we believe that we should live in a community where we share the common good—where I would not want to see my neighbor be deprived of anything,” explained Purvis.

Gloria discussed how racism is not only an ideology, it is a system, prevalent in practices, policies, institutions that began with slavery. “Once we let slavery into our country that was the beginning of the need for us to realize that we must have a spiritual response to the evil.”

“We abolished slavery but what happened to freed blacks after that? What we saw was a concerted effort to keep blacks subjugated,” said Purvis. “Our country has a history that I don’t think we have really dealt with or admitted on a spiritual level—a history that is contrary to the Gospel.”

Gloria explained that the sin still is there and can infect even those who claim to preach the Gospel.

“We need to have a real come to Jesus moment as a Church,” she said.

Purvis said that she noticed that the values of people who claimed to be pro-life completely went away when it came to George Floyd. “His past did not make him any less a child of God,” said Purvis. The same way people dehumanize infants in the womb, people dehumanized George Floyd.

“There is a difference between a criminal committing a crime within a community,” Purvis explained. “There is not as great a violation of the public trust as a police officer who is paid to protect the people they serve using violence. To say we can have one or the other is a way to deflect from police brutality and the gross injustice inflicted on the Black community.”

“It is okay if you don’t like that organization (referring to Black Lives Matter) but what are you doing in the cause for racial justice?” Purvis raised the question. She said that her response to those people would be, “Your issue isn’t with the organization it is that you haven’t been able to find a place for you in the racial justice movement—let me invite you to do so.”

Gloria explained that we have to help people understand that we are missing a conversion of heart on a massive level. She suggested we name it, apologize to God for it, and do some type of reparations and reconciliation for it. 

“There seems to be an idea that if there is to be some kind of recompense toward descendants of slaves that it would somehow take away from or punish white people…that justice to our neighbor is some kind of punishment to white people—they must not believe that there has been some kind of injustice on Black people as a whole.”

Gloria explained that if we understand that racism is a sin we would not be surprised that it still exists. It deforms their humanness and puts a wedge in the human family.

“Imagine what would happen if Catholics really got involved in the fight for racial justice and for police reform…,” Gloria addressed the listeners. “Imagine what would happen if we expected people to be treated a certain way—if we demanded criminal justice reform and health care that would care for the poor properly. If we could come in with this vision as Catholics.” 

Purvis discussed that racism is a life issue because it deals with the dignity of the human person. “The answer is to bring the full Gospel to bear,” she said.

“As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to change the world, to expel evil and not be so wedded to political parties,” Purvis said. “The only person you should be worried about offending is Jesus Christ. You are making the Gospel too small and being false in your witness.”

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano thanked Gloria, “for an inspiring and honest conversation.” Purvis commended the bishop for making these webinars available, stating, “you are truly a shepherd to your flock.”

About Gloria Purvis

Gloria Purvis is a graduate of Cornell University and she worked for nearly two decades in the mortgage industry before becoming a risk management director at a major financial services company. She served on the National Black Catholic Congress’ Leadership Commission on Social Justice, and as an Advisory Board Member on the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Respect for Life Department as well as the Archdiocese of Washington’s Pastoral Council. Gloria is the co-host of EWTN’s Morning Glory.

(To view a recording of yesterday‘s webinar and to see previous webinars, visit this page and click “previous webinars: https://formationreimagined.org/events-home/.)

‘Conversation on Race’ series launches Thursday

BRIDGEPORT—Sr. Melinda Pellerin, the first African American Sister of St. Joseph in the Northeast and the former Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, will lead off the “Conversation on Race” in the diocese with a webinar discussion of “Race and the Catholic Church” on Thursday July 30 at 1 pm.

The webinar series, produced by the diocesan Leadership Institute and featuring talks by teachers and pastoral ministers, will run through September 3. The talks will be live-streamed at 1 pm each Thursday and then rebroadcast at 7 pm each evening, with a question and answer sessions moderated by a member of the diocesan ad hoc committee against racism

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano called for the “Conversation on Race,” to explore the issue of race within the diocese and its institutions, to support diversity and multi-culturalism within the Church and the community, and to discuss racism within the context of Catholic Social Teaching.

“Without proper knowledge, effective and thoughtful action is not possible. For this reason, I invite all to join in these ‘Conversations on Race’ as we begin to respond in faith to this most important issue,” said Bishop Caggiano.

According to Dr. Patrick Donovan, director of the Leadership Institute, the webinar series is designed to inform those who attend about the sin of racism and the Church’s teaching regarding it, the many forms that racism and bigotry can take, its history in our society and the personal, economic and social consequences that racism has had on the lives of generations of people.

Scheduled talks include:

JULY 30 – Sr. Melinda Pellerin Race the Catholic Church
AUGUST 6 – Danielle Brown Open Wide Our Hearts
AUGUST 13 – Gloria Purvis Topic TBD
AUGUST 20 – Armando Cervantes Beyond Black: Multicultural Voices
AUGUST 27 – Pamela Harris Race and Catholic Social Teaching
SEPTEMBER 3 – Dr. Marcia Chatelain Living the Faith, Living Antiracism
Thursdays at 1 pm

In November 2018, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new pastoral letter against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love. In the letter, the bishops invite all people of faith to conversion. We are called to open our minds and hearts to Christ’s love for all people and to the experiences of those who have been harmed by the evil of racism.

“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” said Pope Francis, June 3, 2020.

In June of this year Bishop Caggiano formed an ad hoc committee against racism to response to the call for change in the Church and the larger community. The committee includes clergy and religious, as well as lay men and women who will develop a strategic vision and practical steps to foster diversity and work for equality.

ABOUT SISTER MELINDA: Sister Melinda Adrienne Pellerin took her final vows of chastity, poverty and obedience October 13 as a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield after 10 years of discernment and formation during which her varied ministries included working with children in a day care in Kansas, starting a sewing program at a sober living house in Chicago and directing the SSJ’s Homework House in Holyoke.

She was baptized at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield and attended the former Holy Family Parish and School and the former Notre Dame High School. She earned a degree in history and secondary education at Annhurst College in Woodstock, Conn., and a master’s degree in educational technology from Lesley College.

A retired public school teacher, Sr. Melinda taught in Massachusetts at the middle and high school levels. She taught the International Baccalaureate Program at Springfield’s High School of Commerce and criminal justice at the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. She also coached a mock trial team that was the first inner city team to go all the way to finals in Boston, and in 2004 she was the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

The webinar series is sponsored by the Leadership Institute, the diocesan ad-hoc committee against racism and the Apostolate of African American Catholics.

(To register to join the “Conversation on Race,” visit the Leadership Institute: www.formationreimagined.org. Click to view all of the resources and information about joining the conversation: www.formationreimagined.org/conversations-about-race-main.)

Fr. Norman Invites All to Join Conversation on Race

BRIDGEPORT—Father Reginald Norman, Episcopal Vicar for African Americans in the Diocese of Bridgeport and pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, invites all to join the “Conversation on Race,” a webinar series sponsored by the Leadership Institute, beginning Thursday July 30, 1 pm.

In the following video Father Norman share a few thoughts about why these conversations about race are important, why it’s more than a Catholic issue, and how we can prepare our hearts and minds for the webinar series.

In his welcoming remarks Father Norman defines the problem of racism in personal and Gospel terms and invites all people to work together to seek a solution.

He begins by noting that contemporary Americans played no part in the decisions that enslaved African Americans and led to atrocities against Native Americans, but we all have inherited the aftermath and as followers of Christ have the responsibility to work for change.

“When we talk in this moment in history we are obligated by faith to do our part as God asks us to love him and love one another. We must acknowledge we are all children of God and created in his image… as we work to cure ourselves of the ugly disease of racism,” he says.

Father Norman acknowledges Black Catholics make up less than 3% of the faithful in the diocese. He said many did not feel welcome in the past and that he hopes the conversation will be the first step in bringing people back to the Church and healing the wound of racism.

The Leadership Institute has created a new webpage that includes Father Reggie welcoming and encouraging folks to participate in conversations/webinars; Links to all conversations/registrations; Suggested podcasts; Suggested articles; Suggested videos and movies

Webinars featuring talks by Catholic teachers and those in ministry will be live at 1 pm each Thursday and then rebroadcasts at 7 pm each evening with the Q&A monitored by a member of the Diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism formed by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

To register to join the “Conversation on Race,” visist the Leadership Institute: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5sypr5d0RyuDviEgepxuzw
Click to view all of the resources and information about joining the conversation: – https://formationreimagined.org/conversations-about-race-main/

What Father Tolton might say about racial injustices

CHICAGO—Father Augustus Tolton, the first identified Black priest ordained for the United States, would likely be disappointed by what he sees going on in the United States today, said Father David Jones, pastor of St. Benedict the African Parish in Chicago.

“I think ‘disappointed’ is a key word. I think people can understand that and it helps to tie into the frustration that Black people are feeling and always experiencing.” Father Jones said.

The Archdiocese of Chicago opened Father Tolton’s cause for canonization in 2010, and Pope Francis declared him “venerable” in June 2019, after a theological commission has unanimously recognized his “virtuous and heroic life.” Two steps of the process remain—beatification and canonization. In general each step requires confirmation of a miracle attributed to the sainthood candidate’s intercession.

As the first Black priest ordained for the United States, Father Tolton struggled against rampant racism in the years following the Civil War but was known for bringing people of all races together. For that, he was persecuted by his brother priests and people in the white community of Quincy, Illinois.

The priest, also known as Augustine, was born into slavery in 1854 and died in 1897 at age 43. He was denied access to seminaries in the United States after repeated requests, so he pursued his education in Rome at what is now the Pontifical Urbaniana University.

In many ways, the unity Father Tolton worked for is still out of reach in the church and society, Father Jones told the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“We sit in churches on Sundays and we’re OK with how segregated we are in church,” he said. “That shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t be OK.”

The priest pointed out some basic steps that could be done to address this problem, starting with liturgical music.

“You know we have very little in our Catholic resource of liturgical music for pastoral purposes that comes from African American composers. So, we always, from this part of the world, have to go the Protestant community to get music and fit it into a Catholic liturgy,” Father Jones said, before adding: “We can do better than that.”

Father Tolton’s example of welcoming people of all races to Mass also makes sense to Father Jones, who acknowledges the church still has work to do in this area.

He said even now “there are still lots of (Black) folks who are Catholic who tell you the stories about what was said to them when they tried to go to Mass at a certain parish.”

Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, postulator of Father Tolton’s canonization cause, believes Father Tolton can be an example for people during this time of racial division.

“In him, I think we see a priest-pioneer of reconciliation,” Bishop Perry said. “We hope that he looks down upon us and sees this as a wounded country from his place amongst the saints and angels. I think this is where we can plead for mercy and holy assistance from him in this time of racial crisis.”

The bishop also said the saint is an example for what it means to be a Catholic.

“He really had a love for the Catholic Church. He believed that the Catholic Church had the means, really, to unite people of every race and give everybody the dignity that’s due everyone,” he said. “His own pastoral practice drew men and women of whatever skin tone together under one roof and that’s what got him into trouble down in Quincy.”

Bishop Perry said one area where the church could effect change is “spatial racism,” which relegates poor people of color to living in certain neighborhoods.

“Chicago is known to be one of the most segregated cities in the country. We’re playing this racial hopscotch all the time, where as soon as Blacks or Hispanics move in, whites move out. And it never stops,” he said. “Are we saying enough in our pulpits about it? Are we saying enough in our religious education programs with young people?”

The law says people have to work and live together equally, but at the end of the day everyone goes home to their racially segregated neighborhoods, he said.

“Even our Sunday worship is divided,” he said. “This whole experience of single-racial parishes we should understand is really kind of abnormal. They don’t echo the Pentecost event, which started the church to begin with.”

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and they were able to preach in the various languages of people gathered in Jerusalem, people who looked different from one another. They were all united around Christ.

“You’d think for all of our education, our own social awareness and for all of the ease of communications that we have, that some of these boundaries and borders between us and amongst us would have been erased,” Bishop Perry said. “But it seems to have stirred more fear of people toward one another, unfortunately.”

Valerie Jennings, an archdiocesan parish vitality coordinator, said she has experienced that fear all of her life as a Black woman in Chicago.

She spoke of a recent encounter with a white woman while she and her husband were walking their dog in the largely white affluent suburb where she lives. Jennings was a safe distance away from the woman but when the woman saw her and her dog, the woman yelled at her to keep her dog away and shouted: “You people, what are you doing here?”

It’s an encounter that still puzzles and troubles her. Jennings also talked of experiences attending Mass at white parishes as the only Black person in the congregation.

“You try to say good morning and they just give you this look. I don’t know what they are thinking. It’s very unwelcoming,” she said. “I can see how these single-race parishes came to be because white people didn’t want us around them. When I think of what happened to Father Tolton in Quincy, they did not want him anywhere around them. He was basically chased away.”

Jennings said Father Tolton would be wondering why more hasn’t been done to embrace people of all races since his time.

“We have an opportunity right now to change the narrative and the experience of Father Tolton,” she said, adding: “I see more universality in the marches going on right now than I see on Sunday morning.”

She also thinks the priest on the path to sainthood might also see the positive aspect of the peaceful protests for racial justice. “I’m hoping that Father Tolton is clapping his hands and jumping for joy saying, ‘See my people and not just Black people—but see my people.'”

By Joyce Duriga  I  Catholic News Service

 

Bishop announces “Conversation on Race” webinar series

BRIDGEPORT– As the first step in the diocesan response to root out the sin of racism and bigotry wherever it may be found, the diocesan Leadership Institute will sponsor a weekly webinar, starting on Thursday July 30th at 1:00 PM and again at 7:00 PM.

The webinar is designed to inform those who attend about the sin of racism and the Church’s teaching regarding it; the many forms that racism and bigotry can take; its history in our society; and the personal, economic and social consequences that racism has had on the lives of generations of people.

“Without proper knowledge, effective and thoughtful action is not possible. For this reason, I invite all to join in these “Conversations on Race” as we begin to respond in faith to this most important issue,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Online registration is available at formationreimagined.org.

Download the printable flyer

Ad hoc committee against racism holds first virtual meeting

BRIDGEPORT—On a late June afternoon, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano gathered virtually with the diocesan appointed ad hoc committee against racism for their first meeting.

This committee was established as a response to the call for change in our communities. The committee includes clergy and religious, as well as lay men and women who will develop a strategic vision and practical steps for the diocesan response to sin of racism.

“I am very grateful for your willingness to come together to address this particular moment of opportunity and grace in our midst,” said the bishop. “It is an opportunity to take a tragedy and make it a real opportunity for long-term change.”

Committee members expressed their optimism about the work that could be done. “It is my hope that the diocese will be a more just place—a place that welcomes everyone and allows opportunity to everyone, especially to come and know the Lord,” the bishop said.

The bishop began by updating the group that Foundations in Faith has secured upwards of $40,000 for any initiatives that may come out of the committee. Bishop Caggiano also announced that he has been appointed to the USCCB’s ad hoc committee against racism, which would make for a good opportunity to share resources and ideas amongst the groups.

It was discussed that The Leadership Institute will host several webinars this summer to advance the conversation about racism, cultural diversity and how simply by listening to one another, we can begin to affect change.

The webinars, which will feature experts from the field of academia and ministry, will begin on July 30, and continue every Thursday at 1 pm until September 3.

Topics include:

  • Race and the Catholic Church
  • Race and Catholic Social Teaching
  • How to have a conversation about race
  • Beyond Black: Race and Multiculturalism
  • Growing in Awareness and Knowledge
  • Teaching Peace

A preliminary video will be introduced featuring Father Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima and episcopal vicar for the Apostolate of African American Catholics. The webinars will be recorded and archived for the benefit of everyone throughout the diocese.

For complete details on the webinars and to register, please visit The Leadership Institute’s website at www.formationreimagined.org.

The committee discussed how these webinars could be a great opportunity to drive interest to different apostolates, such as the Apostolate of African American Catholics, that some may not know much about.
The hope is that these webinars will provide opportunities for those of other languages to have similar conversations in their own language.

Committee members expressed their desire to create interfaith dialogue and ecumenism within our communities.

“We need to find ways that communities that exemplify our diversity are being heard—how do we find a vehicle that allows us to create unity?” a committee member questioned.

Another goal of the committee is to invite youth to have a role in the and to make sure principals and schools are equipped with the resources they need.

“We have an opportunity to bring people to ever-more conversion,” said the bishop.

Committee members discussed the great diversity within our diocese and the importance that all communities feel represented. “A mile in this diocese can be like 1,000 miles, to see how communities can sit side-by-side and not even interact,” the bishop said.

“We need to examine honestly and thoughtfully the institutions – how we operate, how we spend our money so that the institution itself changes,” he said.

“At the end of the day racism is a life issue,” said Dr. Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership institute and facilitator of the ad hoc committee. “We need to look at it as part of the whole of Catholic social teaching.”