Moving Towards Oneness educates, creates bonds 

After its revival in 2020, Moving Towards Oneness gathered Catholics from predominantly white and Black parishes to discuss social justice, racism and other topics to help build relationships and foster conversation. (Record File Photo by Ruby Thomas)

When the 1980s-era Moving Towards Oneness program was revived in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, those who signed up to participate knew they were in for some uncomfortable conversations.

Tianna Barnes was aware of that, but she also knew that the environment would be safe for those tough conversations.

For local Catholics who “want to welcome more diversity into their parishes or … want to engage in conversation that may be uncomfortable, but they want a safe place to do it from a Catholic faith perspective, this is a good opportunity,” the St. Martin de Porres Church parishioner said in a recent interview.

Moving Towards Oneness is an initiative of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry. It’s meant to improve race relations by helping parish groups build relationships across cultures.

Most groups that participate meet multiple times over five or six weeks to complete the program’s agenda. In the past two years, small groups from 27 local parishes have participated, according to the Office of Multicultural Ministry.

Bob Glaser, a St. Bernadette Church parishioner, said the Moving Towards Oneness meeting agendas offered time for discussing books, articles and media, while also giving participants opportunities to share personal stories and their own experiences. His group included St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church parishioners.

A group of parishioners from Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Frances of Rome and St. Bernadette churches shared personal stories during their first session of Moving Toward Oneness, an initiative of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry, in July 2021. The program aims to improve race relations by building relationships. (Record File Photo by Ruby Thomas)

“I think the biggest thing about Moving Towards Oneness is it gave us a forum to get together with other people and other parishes, especially a predominately Black parish, and listen and hear what their experiences are,” said Glaser, whose parish is predominantly white.

He also felt moved by the program to take what he’s learned beyond the meeting room.

“It convinced me that we need to do more, not just go through the Moving Towards Oneness program and not just let it stop, but carry it on to the parish,” he said.

Deborah Wade, who has has participated in two groups of Moving Towards Oneness since 2020, said the experience left her feeling “very grounded and very heard.”

Wade, a St. Martin de Porres parishioner, said the program helps empower people and gives them the skills and tools they need to have effective conversations about racism, bias and discrimination — within the program and beyond.

During one meeting, Wade said, Breonna Taylor came up in conversation. A white participant said he believed the police were justified in the actions they took.

“I let him talk and then I gave my opinion,” she said during a recent phone interview. She said she had a similar conversation with a work acquaintance, who exhibited prejudice based on race. She used what she learned during Moving Towards Oneness to navigate the difficult parts.

“A lot of times, because people … don’t look at themselves in an open and honest way, people can ignore and not be conscious of racism that’s out in the world,” she said.

Brenda McWaters, a parishioner of the Cathedral of the Assumption, shared during an Aug. 20 gathering with Archbishop Fabre what her small group experienced and accomplished during the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Moving Towards Oneness process. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

“The program OMM has is really amazing because it’s in the every day,” Wade said. “You just have to have the tools and the equipment to challenge and say, ‘That may be your opinion and this is mine.’ We may agree to disagree.”

While the experience has helped her handle conflict, she said it also brought her closer to people.

“A lot of the people that were from the various churches — Epiphany and Holy Spirit and St. Patrick — I never would have met without going through this program,” said Wade. “We still keep in contact here and there.”

Brenda McWaters, a member of the Cathedral of the Assumption, said the program has had a major impact on her life — she met some of her closest friends in the program with participants from St. Bernard and St. Augustine churches.

“We just embraced and cried,” McWaters said during a recent phone interview, referring to one of her new friends. “We’re just the best of friends now and I couldn’t live without her. I’ve made good friends from both churches. We all have.”

She noted that most of the St. Bernard participants were white men and most of the St. Augustine participants were Black women.

“Some of these men had never had a relationship with a Black female and didn’t know much about them,” she said. “To watch them grow,” ask questions and learn about their experiences was really touching.

The group set a goal to “combat and dismantle racism in our lives and in our hearts,” McWaters said. She feels like they’re on the right path to meet that goal.

“I had a lot of moments of, ‘How did I not know this?’ ” McWaters said. “A lot of people in the group didn’t know about systematic racism. Now, I look everywhere to make sure Blacks are involved in everything, and that’s something I didn’t do before.”

Beth Wiseman, a parishioner of St. Frances of Rome, said the program was a great source of information for her. The program, which uses books, YouTube videos, podcasts and more, provides endless ways to continue learning about racism and privilege, she said.

“There were so many tools there to continue your education in this area, and what white people need is education in this area,” Wiseman said.

Through Moving Towards Oneness, Wiseman also has come to know the staff of the Office of Multicultural Ministry and attended two of the office’s pilgrimages for racial justice.

“All the things going on there with OMM that I had no idea that was going on,” Wiseman said. “That’s a good thing — it introduced me to OMM and all the things they do. I’ve done the pilgrimage twice and I never would have done that” otherwise.

So far, five additional parishes have signed up to begin Moving Towards Oneness in 2023. If your parish is interested in learning more about or participating in the program, contact the Office of Multicultural Ministry at 471-2146 or omm@archlou.org.

Kayla Bennett
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Kayla Bennett
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