Our work as catechists takes place in the wider context of a country whose schools and churches stubbornly remain segregated by race. Numerous articles I’ve read this year in Christian publications address segregation in our churches:
Elizabeth Rios writes in Prism, “How can the church be an example to the world when it is riddled with racism and hatred? What will it be – racial harmony or racial divide? As Christians we need to be intentional about healing the racial divide.”
Maryann Love writes in America that we need to “work through the present-day ramifications of our persistent past, not only as individuals…but as communities—what are we doing to end unaccept- able racial inequities.”
The OSP IHM Board of Directors, representing 2,000 women religious, published a statement against racism this year in the National Catholic Reporter, “Racism led to barriers of separation among us for over a century…Therefore, we commit ourselves to the work of undoing racism…within ourselves, our congregations, our church, and our global community.”
Regarding schools, Jonathan Kozol writes in The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, published by Crown Books, that American schools are as segregated today as they were when Brown v. Board of Education was passed 30 years ago, with public schools now spending about $6,000 less per student/year in schools serving Black and Hispanic children.
Aware that we serve children, our actions in this regard are even more important. What are chil- dren learning from our materials, our atriums, and our churches about living in and working for racial harmony? Are they driven through black neighborhoods to a downtown church serving white families? Do white sheep hint that the Good Shepherd is for white people? Does the Eurocentric Plan of God teach that European countries are privileged in God’s kingdom?
This issue of ECHOES will try to help us consider such questions and offer some steps we can take to become healers of the racial divide. We in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd are also called to take a close look at the reality of segregation in our own atriums and consider how our materials, our introductory events, our courses, our conferences and our association as a whole either contribute to this divide or work to heal it. If we are not part of the solution, we remain part of the problem.