We moved a lot when I was a child. I was born in Boston, but we quickly moved to Marblehead, Mass. When I was three, we moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., and when I was six we moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. Looking back on my life, I was incredibly fortunate to have been in an environment of a mixture of diverse peoples that is Hawaii at such a formative age.
I do remember moving to Virginia when I was nine-years-old and being confused by the antipathy shown to African-Americans there.
The Northern Virginia to which we moved in 1963 had raw, blatant, state-sponsored discrimination. It was still against the law for whites and blacks to marry one another! (The supreme court case which forever ended anti-miscegenation laws, Loving v. Virginia, wasn’t handed down until 1967.)
Childhood can be a confusing time. Those who attended grade school in the states will recall the confusing taunt of “You’ve got cooties.” We didn’t have any idea about what cooties were, but we knew that we didn’t want them.
In my grade school, I remember a similar taunt, “You’re a n*igger lover.” I can remember being as confused with this taunt as I was with the cooties one. As an adult, I now know that racism has to be learned. This taunt was simply how racism was being taught to and reinforced among the young, the next would-be generation of racists.
Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of races. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the determining factor for the exercise of human rights. It mocks the words of Jesus: “Treat others the way you would have them treat you.” Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation.
Unfortunately, almost 40 years later, we haven’t moved very far. The march in Charlottesville, the flood of YouTube videos showing the oppression in which people of color suffer daily, the remarks by the president about “sh*thole countries,” the exclusion of people from Muslim countries (recalling the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act), the suffering inflicted upon those fleeing violence and seeking asylum are all reminders that America’s original sin, racism, is still alive and growing stronger.
I urge you to reflect on how the bishops ended of their pastoral letter:
There must be no turning back along the road of justice, no sighing for bygone times of privilege, no nostalgia for simple solutions from another age. For we are children of the age to come, when the first shall be last and the last shall be first, when blessed are they who serve Christ the Lord in all His brothers and sisters, especially those who are poor and suffer injustice.
And, finally, just because we need to laugh, a Friday piece of humor:
The Franciscan friars of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus cordially invite you to the solemn profession of their brother Friar Abraham Seramieux Joseph OFM into the hands of Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen OFM on Saturday, August 25, 2018, at 11:00 a.m., at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 135 West 31st Street, NY, NY 10001
A reception will follow. Those wishing to attend are kindly asked to RSVP by August 1to Sharon Berrios at 646-473-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Voicing their support for the revitalization of Franciscan life in the US, six provinces of the Order of Friars Minor have voted to form one new organization.
On May 30, the friars of each of the six provinces voted at meetings in their communities to support the formation of one new organization. It will comprise the almost 1,000 Catholic Franciscan friars belonging to the existing six provinces – both brothers and priests – and will be headquartered in a yet-to-be-determined location.
“The other provincial ministers and I are delighted with the outcome of the vote,” said Friar David Gaa, OFM, provincial minister of St. Barbara Province. “This is an important step in the process of revitalizing Franciscan life in the United States.”
The Franciscan friars of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (based in Franklin, Wisc.), Holy Name Province (headquartered on 31st Street in New York City), Our Lady of Guadalupe Province (Albuquerque, N.M.), Sacred Heart Province (St. Louis, Mo.), St. Barbara Province (Oakland, Calif.), and St. John the Baptist Province (Cincinnati, Ohio) have been in dialogue about unifying their communities since 2012.
“The new entity will better serve the friars’ fraternal life and mission in the United States by making adjustments to the current administrative structure,” said Friar Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, the provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.
Like many other religious communities throughout the United States, the Franciscans are facing a reduction in its members. During the 1960s and 1970s, the number of Friars Minor in the United States peaked at 3,252, but today the numbers are down below 1,000 friars.
The reconfiguration will not happen immediately. The next step in the process is to obtain approval to unify from the Order’s minister general, Friar Michael Perry, OFM, who is based in Rome. Should he decide that such a reconfiguration would be helpful to Franciscan life and ministry, he will appoint a delegate to visit the friars in the United States. If his delegate’s report is favorable, it is expected that the process of reconfiguration will move forward.
Meanwhile, the process is continuing as issues of canon and civil law are resolved. Franciscan leaders expect that the new province will be officially formed in late 2022 or early 2023.
The worldwide Franciscan Order, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, comprises brothers and priests who work in a variety of settings including parishes, schools, retreat centers, and social justice ministries. Today, St. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, remains one of the most widely known saints, revered for his affection for nature and care for creation.
Most of the Franciscan friars of the Order of Friars Minor in the US will meet May 30, 2018, to cast a crucial vote about their future. The friars will meet in province-wide meetings, called chapters, to vote whether or not to support the formation of one new province that will comprise the almost 1,000 Franciscan friars belonging to the existing provinces.
The Franciscan friars of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (based in Franklin, Wisc.), Holy Name Province (headquartered on 31st Street in New York City), Our Lady of Guadalupe Province (Albuquerque, N.M.), Sacred Heart Province (St. Louis, Mo.), St. Barbara Province (Oakland, Calif.), and St. John the Baptist Province (Cincinnati, Ohio) have been in dialogue about unifying their communities since 2012. One US province, the Immaculate Conception Province, also based in New York City, had already decided to not participate in the process.
While the number of religious is growing in Asia and Africa, it is dropping in Europe and in the US. Provinces that once comprised more than a thousand men are now down to only a few hundred; provinces that started fewer friars are now similarly much reduced in number.
An integral part of the process is also the revitalization of Franciscan life in the US by opening up new ministry opportunities to the friars.
Since the power to create provinces is reserved to the minister general and his councilors in Rome, the friars will vote on whether to have their provincial ministers petition the minister general and his council, asking them to allow these six provinces to form one new province. Should the minister general decide that such a reconfiguration would be helpful to Franciscan life and ministry, he will appoint a delegate to visit the friars in the US. If his delegate’s report is favorable, it is expected that the process of reconfiguration will move forward.
Because issues of canon and civil law need to be resolved, should the process move forward, the new province will not be officially formed until at least late 2022.
Please remember the friars in your prayers on Wednesday as they make this important step.