LCWR’s call to women religious to address systemic racism and our complicity in it ignited the Sisters of Charity of New York to focus intentionally on raising awareness, educating and acting to change racist attitudes and behaviors in ourselves, personally and as Congregation. We’ve taken time to look at our Congregation’s history and the history of religious life in the United States through the lens of racism.
The 1619 Project Online Conversations: Members of the PJIC Office’s Voting & Anti-Racism Committee, recognizing the need to change, heal and make reparations, decided that one concrete action was to invite people to join five online conversations on the book, The 1619 Project, by Nicole Hannah Jones. Each monthly conversation focused on a specific chapter of the book.
Sandy Figueroa, Co-Chair of Voting & Anti-Racism Committee and SCNY Associate, and John Alexander, a committee member, planned and facilitated the conversations. The flyer inviting Sisters, Associates, Colleagues, and others to participate was clear. Requirements were commitment to attend each conversation; read the assigned chapter and reflect on prepared questions before each conversation. The format of each one-hour discussion was: an opening prayer/hymn, an introduction to the chapter, break-out sessions of a half hour, and then in the main room, comments and closing prayer. A guest speaker was invited to present at one of the sessions.
Most participants were white. Most were Sisters of Charity and Associates. The goal of our gathering was for us to grapple with enslavement and white supremacy. With only two of the approximately 26 members Black, we asked ourselves if a more diverse group would have helped. What is difficult to communicate but what many participants expressed in their evaluations was that the insights, questions and sharing, both during the one-hour discussion and after each session in the exchange of emails, were powerful. Participants came from different perspectives and experiences. They spoke, wrote, listened, and responded with respect and openness to one another. The final evaluation shows that participants found it a rewarding experience and want to continue in the Fall.
The 1619 Project Online Conversations will continue this Fall beginning the second Tuesday of October and continuing on the second Tuesday of each month for five months. New participants are welcome!
Walking in Another Person’s Shoes is another way we have tried to raise awareness and learn Black history and culture. Since January 2022, Sandy Figueroa and Margaret O’Brien, SC have shown films to our retired sisters at Mount Saint Vincent Convent, films that allow the sisters to walk in another’s shoes. Though the focus of this initiative is to primarily watch the film, the sisters stay afterwards and share what they saw, heard, and experienced. Films that have been shown are Loving, Hidden Figures, A Better Life, Glory, Sounder, Selma, Harriet, 42. This initiative will also continue in the Fall.
As we continue to listen and learn, we seek to open our hearts, minds and hands that we may act together to dismantle racism and create a culture that is welcoming, just, equitable and equal. We thank our colleagues and the many groups and organizations we walk with on this Laudato Si’ journey towards transformation and conversion. We invite you to join us!