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This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to Cape May, New Jersey, to participate in an important event focused on Catholic faith formation. The event was a Mass celebration and town hall discussion on addressing the mortal sin of racism. It was an honor to be joined by other members of the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing, including Jerry Davis, Alana Lee, and Marcelle McGuirk. Our goal was to engage with the principals of parish and regional elementary schools in the five-county Archdiocese and encourage them to embrace the call for encounter, formation, and action.
Embracing the Call for Encounter, Formation, and Action
During the town hall discussion, we shared a powerful video produced by the Commission that highlighted the destructive nature of racism as a mortal sin. We emphasized the shared responsibility we all have in combating this sin and promoting respect for every person. Additionally, we reflected on Archbishop Pérez’s pastoral letter, “Racial Healing: We are One Body.”
It was evident that this was one of the first times the current school leaders had discussed the topic of racism as a large group. However, they were open to the conversation and fully embraced the call for encounter, formation, and action. This was a significant step forward in addressing this crucial issue within our Catholic education system.
The Importance of Sacred Encounter
In our ministry, especially in Catholic education, sacred encounters are essential. Pope Francis, in his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,” writes about the art of encounter and the need for a culture of encounter that transcends our differences and divisions. He emphasizes the importance of creating unity that values the whole over the parts.
I reminded the school leaders of the significance of these encounters and conversations about race. I acknowledged that these discussions can be difficult and uncomfortable at times. However, I also emphasized that the work of the Commission is not rooted in politics or worldly perspectives. Instead, our work is grounded in Holy Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching. As Catholic educators, it is our responsibility to address racism and promote respect for every person within our schools.
Gratitude for Leadership and Invitation
I am grateful to the Office for Catholic Education for inviting the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing to participate in this workshop. It is through initiatives like these that we can make a real difference in addressing the sin of racism and promoting Catholic faith formation. I also extend my gratitude to the school leaders who actively engaged in the town hall discussion and demonstrated a commitment to creating positive change within their schools.
Prayer for Continued Learning
As we continue on this journey of Catholic faith formation, I invite all of us to seek the intercession of our Philly Saints, Saint John Neumann and Saint Katharine Drexel. Let us learn from their example and strive to live as students of our Great Teacher, Jesus Christ.
Hosting a Town Hall on Addressing Racism
If your parish or school is interested in hosting a town hall on addressing the sin of racism, I encourage you to reach out to Ms. Marchelle McGuirk at email@example.com or Rev. Stephen Thorne at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be able to provide guidance and support in organizing such an event.
Father Stephen Thorne, Ed.D., is the co-chair of the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing and holds a doctorate in educational leadership. In addition to his role as co-chair, he serves as the pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Wynnefield.