This year’s Trinity Sunday was also the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, and very close to the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. Chris Dwyer, a member of our Facing Racism group, addressed parishioners at each Sunday Mass on May 30, 2021 about how we can answer the call to take action. His remarks are below:

 

We just passed the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. For many of us, this past year has brought a new awareness of how entrenched the plague of racism is in our country. In many ways I think we in this moment are not so very different from the disciples in today’s gospel. They went up the mountain unsure what was going to happen next. I’d be willing to bet that many of them thought that Jesus was going to be the one to initiate the action. I imagine they were quite surprised when he put so much of the responsibility on them. He told them YOU GO, and make disciples of all nations.

And so it is with us today. Many of us are truly heartbroken at the racism we have witnessed, but often find ourselves saying, “what power do I have to change things?” Or feeling like we’re too busy with other obligations. Or perhaps we just look away because it’s uncomfortable, whether we admit that to ourselves or not. However, Jesus is unequivocal: he calls each of us by name to action. 

There are many ways to respond to this call. The St. Sebastian & St. Catherine Facing Racism Committee has held numerous racial justice events over the past year. We gather regularly to reflect on the uncomfortable truth of racism together. We support and challenge each other to find where Christ’s call to sisterhood and brotherhood is leading us. Through the reflection and prayer that we have done, we have formed action groups, each focused on working in the way that they feel called. Each group is planning events this summer and fall. Some examples:

The Fighting Mass Incarceration Group has been urging legislators to budget funds to make the criminal justice system more just. Funds for treatment and diversion and transitional jobs are still in the budget. They are working to ensure these programs remain a priority.

In June & July, the Education Group will offer opportunities for parishioners to view the Nelson Mandela exhibit together at the Milwaukee Public Museum, followed by a discussion. They are also are planning presentations for the Fall on Voting Rights, and on Workplace Discrimination

The Social Action group is planning a session on the past, present, and future of racial segregation in the St. Sebs and St. Catherine’s neighborhoods. They are also exploring a partnership with youth in the school and faith formation programs.

More information on each of these events will be in the bulletin and other parish materials as they come up. I also encourage you to join one of our meetings. If you have felt confused or defeated because you don’t know where to start when it comes to working against racism, please join us. There is no long term commitment necessary, and no special qualification required.

For many people, the year since the murder of George Floyd felt like something entirely new. But racism is not new, nor is Jesus’ call for us to be active, not passive, in the work toward true sisterhood and brotherhood in Christ. We hear his call from the mountaintop outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago. We hear his call from the shores of Virginia in 1619, when the first African slaves were brought to this continent. We hear his call from the Milwaukee county jail in 1854 when Joshua Glover narrowly escaped to freedom from the clutches of his former enslaver. We hear him calling us from the streets of Tulsa, 100 years ago tomorrow, when 10,000 black people were made homeless as a white mob burned Greenwood to the ground. We hear his call from the 16th street viaduct in 1967, when a group of youth marching for fair housing were met with curses, bottles, and worse. We hear his call from Sherman Park in 2016. We hear his call from Minneapolis one year ago. Go out to all nations, he says. Do something, not nothing. If you feel moved, please join the Facing Racism Group in one of our events or one of our meetings. You are most welcome. To get more information, contact the parish office, they will get you in contact with one of our members. 

By no means is this group the only way you can work to end racism in our country. You can take action by talking with your family, your neighbors, you can take action at work, you can educate yourself by reading a book, or doing a Google search. But when our children and grandchildren ask us what we did in 2020 and 2021 to combat racism, I pray that we may all be able to answer with pride: I did not stand by. I answered the call. I took action.

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