Local initiatives highlight racial justice

Young members of St. Augustine Church, from left, Alona Davis, Idale Green Jr. and Alexis Cammack participated in a February 2020 liturgy to mark the historic Black parish’s 150th anniversary. A new resource encourages Catholics to visit for worship at traditionally Black parishes, part of a larger effort to “walk in the shoes” of Black Americans. (Record File Photo by Ruby Thomas)

As the latest movement for racial justice emerged in the United States last spring, the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry became a hub for conversation.

“We were inundated with calls from the white community,” said M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the office. “They wanted to understand. ‘How did I not see it?’ ‘What can I do to understand?’ ”

Those conversations and others in the archdiocese helped lead to the development of a variety of resources and initiatives on racial justice.

Next month, the archdiocese will host an Archdiocesan Leadership Institute on Zoom with Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La. He will discuss, “Witnessing to the dignity of the human person as an antidote to the grave sin of racism.”

Coming out this month — Black History Month — is “Walking in My Shoes: Challenge to Eradicate Racism,” a booklet available in digital format that offers a host of resources for a self-guided study.

The locally-created resource is meant to help the user understand the experience of a Black person living in the United States today. And it can be used over the course of a year or more, according to its creators. The booklet was a joint project of the Office of Multicultural Ministry and Catholic Charities of Louisville.

“You have control,” said Mandley-Turner, whose office led the project. “The beauty of this thing is it may take you a year, it may take you two years. You do it at your own pace.”

The booklet is divided into four areas:

  • Listen: This section provides a link to a video featuring local Black Catholics discussing their story and experience of racism.
  • Learn: This section lists more than a dozen links to articles and a documentary. The topics range from an article called “How can I have white privilege when I am poor?” to educational articles about historic events, such as the Tulsa massacre of 1921.
  • Reflect: Links to music, poetry, art, articles and prayers offer the opportunity for reflection in this section.
  • Act: The final section offers nine suggestions for direct action, such as worshipping at a traditionally Black Catholic church; visiting memorial markers in Louisville related to the slave trade and using Black-owned businesses.

Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, CEO of Catholic Charities of Louisville, noted that the stories shared by local Catholics in the “listen” section are particularly important.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how sizable the Black Catholic community is. You might assume that all the Catholics in Louisville are German and Irish the way so many of us are,” she said. This resource “gives people information and an opportunity to learn about the experience of people right here in their own community.”

“When people do learn, it changes their perspective. I don’t think there are many people in our community whose hearts won’t change,” she said.

The booklet is designed to be flexible and used by individuals and groups alike, said Mandley-Turner. It can be used by anyone, including families, schools, youth or young adult groups and social concerns committees. And its flexibility means it can be used in any way the user decides to use it.

Parishioners of St. Augustine Church celebrated the parish’s 150th anniversary in February of 2020. A new resource encourages Catholics to listen, learn, reflect and act to “walk in the shoes” of Black people in the U.S., including by worshipping with Black Catholics at traditionally Black churches. (Record File Photo by Ruby Thomas)

“Where do we start? You can start anywhere at any point,” Mandley-Turner added.

In addition to “Walking in My Shoes” and the upcoming ALI with Bishop Fabre, the archdiocese also has past resources that are still available:

Last fall, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and other leaders penned columns on the topic of racism in The Record and the archbishop shared preaching resources with pastors. The columns are available at therecordnewspaper.org/category/racial-justice/.

The archbishop’s TV show “Conversations with Archbishop Kurtz” highlighted the sin of racism in September and the November episode celebrated African American Catholic “heroes,” including Daniel Rudd, Father Augustus Tolton and Sister Thea Bowman.

On Nov. 1, the archdiocese dedicated and blessed a memorial to Rudd at St. Joseph Cemetery in Bardstown, Ky. Rudd was born into slavery in Bardstown in 1854 and went on to become a prominent Catholic civil rights leader. Visiting this memorial is listed in “Walking in My Shoes.”

When it is safe to gather again, the Office of Multicultural Ministry plans to host a prayer experience on the topic of racism and racial justice.

To take part in the upcoming Zoom conference with Bishop Fabre, contact Linda McLemore at 585-3291 or lmclemore@archlou.org.

“Walking in My Shoes” is available on the website of Catholic Charities and the Office of Multicultural Ministries. Additional resources related to racial justice are available on the Archdiocese of Louisville’s website.

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