Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre offered thanks and encouragement Aug. 20 to dozens of local Catholics who have taken part in the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Moving Towards Oneness process to help dismantle racism over the last year.
“The work is hard, the work is slow, but the work is being done — by you. And I thank you very much,” Archbishop Fabre told the roomful of Black and white Catholics who gathered at the Catholic Enrichment Center in West Louisville.
Moving Towards Oneness was created by what is now the archdiocese’s Office of Multicultural Ministry in 1988 and revived after racial unrest began to swell in 2020. It brings together parishioners of mostly white churches and parishioners of mostly Black churches over the course of five to six weeks. They share a meal, pray together and take part in group discussions. In particular, African American parishioners are asked to share their personal experiences of racism as white parishioners listen, but also share about themselves. Representatives of about 15 parishes have taken part in the process.
During the Aug. 20 gathering, participants reported to the archbishop what they learned during the process and shared some recommendations they believe would help heal racial division in the local church and society.
Brenda McWaters, a member of the Cathedral of the Assumption, said the experience affirmed her belief that “silence is complicity” in perpetuating racism.
Camille Woods, a member of Christ the King Church, said she wanted to see Black and white Catholics worshipping together more often.
The participants made a variety of recommendations, such as re-establishing a Catholic school in West Louisville; ensuring that Catholic school curriculum accurately teaches about racism and its history; ensuring the sin of racism is discussed by church leaders, including in homilies; seeing more representation of Black Catholics in The Record Newspaper; and acknowledging and addressing racism in the church today.
Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the Office of Multicultural Ministry, said the experiences and recommendations from participants would be compiled into a report.
The dream, she said during an interview about the event, is for the process to lead to progress in the local church and community.
“How do we say what needs to be said in such a way that people can hear?” she said. “It does no good to do something that no one will use.”
Archbishop Fabre offered an answer to that question during his remarks at the Aug. 20 event.
“Always remember we have to walk with people where they are,” he said. “Remember that we can’t expect people who are just wading in … to be where we are. Challenge them to grow, but begin with them where they are.”
He noted that the most profound moments in Jesus’ ministry happened one-on-one — one person at a time. Regardless of policies and laws, change must come from the heart, he said.
“We have to understand that until we have a change of heart, it doesn’t matter what the laws say,” the archbishop said.
“I’m not discouraging policy change,” he noted. “The church is in the unique position to say we have to change people’s hearts. Jesus said, I came not to abolish the law but fulfill it.”
“Never ever forget the difference that you have made already,” he told participants, cautioning them against feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the work.
He also reminded them to lean on prayer.
“Don’t forget the power of prayer,” he said, adding, “Authentic prayer will always lead us to action.” Without prayer, action can veer into other agendas, he said.
The church’s work is about “healing and reconciliation among people of different cultures,” he said.
In response to a question, Archbishop Fabre suggested participants share their experiences in Moving Towards Oneness with others at their parishes. He recommended asking the pastor for permission to speak about the process during the announcements at the end of Mass. He also suggested participants ask if they can contribute prayers of the faithful on the topic of racism.
“It doesn’t have to be top-down,” he said.