Racism symposium draws close to 200 people

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre prayed the Act of Contrition during the Racism Symposium held at the Flaget Center March 1. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre opened a daylong symposium on racism by leading participants in the Act of Contrition. 

The event drew close to 200 people — including high school students, pastors, educators and archdiocesan staff — to the Flaget Center March 1.

The archbishop, who was one of several speakers, said he was grateful for the event and used his time to reflect on the “sin of racism.”

“We need more opportunities like this to be in dialogue with each other, where we drop our guards and enter into conversation with each other,” much like Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops have called Catholics to do, he said. 

“None of us are perfect, but we can continuously be learning and understanding what it means to be a neighbor to someone racially different from me. … to see their wounds and to bind those wounds up.” 

The day also included presentations given by Sister Anita Baird, a member of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary; Father John Judie, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville; and Franciscan Father Daniel Horan, a professor and author of “A White Catholic’s Guide to Racism and Privilege.”

The event was organized by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry.

M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the OMM said this event was two years in the making. When she first thought of it, she said her hope was that 50 individuals would come “with open ears, minds and hearts ready to embrace who we are and whose we are as people of God,” she said during an interview at the symposium.

Looking over the room filled with individuals from “rural, urban and suburban” areas, she said, “I know we were brought together in order to make something happen. There’s no way you can be in this room and not feel the synergy. … There’s no way you’re going to leave without having experienced some transformation.”

High School students participated in the opening of the Racism Symposium held at the Flaget Center March 1. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Sister Baird’s presentation centered on the importance of capturing historical truth when addressing racism in the nation and in the church.

She said it is important that those present understand the church’s role in slavery. She was taught, and most people still believe, that slavery began in this part of the world in 1619. 

“That is far from the truth,” she said. “It began in the 16th century with the blessings of our church.” 

She explained that the church issued papal bulls in the 15th century that endorsed the doctrine of discovery, which permitted the “brutal” conquest and colonization of non-Christian countries and people in Africa and the Americas. 

“It set the stage for the enslavement of Africans and the annihilation of the native peoples and the taking of land,” said Sister Baird.

She went on to say that history has been “rewritten and erased,” including the history of the church’s involvement in the slave trade in this nation.   

“Until historical truth is taught, there can’t be authentic atonement in the church or the nation,” she said.

Franciscan Father Daniel Horan spoke during the Racism Symposium held March 1 at the Flaget Center. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Father Horan’s presentation also touched on the importance of historical truth.

Father Horan said that states across the nation — including his state of Indiana — have passed or are attempting to pass legislation prohibiting the discussion of historical events as they pertain to race. 

These laws and the proposed legislation stem from a “desire to silence genuine truth-telling. They have nothing to do with education and everything to do with politics,” he said. They’re intended to allow school children to “remain in the dark on the country’s history.”

Father Horan called on white individuals listening to him at the symposium to keep learning so that they can better recognize racial injustice. 

“That’s the cross that is ours to pick up and carry,” he said.

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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