Yesterday, our Congregational Leadership Team sent the following letter to Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky.
Dear Bishop Stowe,
Greetings of peace to you in this time of Pentecost. We, the Congregational Leadership Team of the Sisters of Joseph of Carondelet, an international congregation of women religious with four provinces in the United States, are writing to thank you for your leadership in our Church. Most particularly, we are grateful for the way you stand with our most marginalized brothers and sisters: the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and people who are the targets of racist rhetoric and violence.
We read of the events that recently took place in Detroit when Auxiliary Bishop Battersby made it public that Fortunate Families would no longer be welcomed in any facility affiliated with the archdiocese. That same article mentioned that you are the ecclesial advisor to the executive director of Fortunate Families, and that Bishop Gumbleton is the local ecclesial advisor to the group. That puts you in prophetic company, and thus it surely makes you the target of much criticism and worse.
We are aware that a public statement like that of Bishop Battersby not only speaks loudly in his archdiocese, but that it puts pressure on other bishops, especially men like you who have publicly supported LGBTQ people and their families. We also admire you because this is not the only controversial issue on which you have taken leadership in our Church. We have read about your stance on broadening the views presented in Faithful Citizenship, your support for immigrants, and your public calls for US bishops to exercise greater leadership in denouncing the racism that is growing in our country. We agree with you on all these issues.
Bishop Stowe, we write today as your sisters to thank you for being the kind of leader the Church in the United States needs. We pledge to stand with you in solidarity with our oppressed and marginalized sisters and brothers and to keep you in our prayer that you may have the grace and strength to continue to act with wisdom and courage. If there is any other way we can support you, please do not hesitate to call on us.
In these days of Pentecost, we thank God for you and ask the Holy Spirit to be with us all as we strive to understand and respond to the signs of our times.
Congregational Leadership Team
Last week, our Province Leadership Team in St. Paul, Minnesota, sent a letter to their local elected and church officials in the wake of the fatal arrest of George Floyd. Their letter was also published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Their letter reads:
Sadness, frustration and anger are but a few of the disquieting emotions resulting from the egregious fatal arrest of George Floyd of Minneapolis. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Again we feel the pain that the use of violent force is wreaking.
We urge elected officials and the entire community to boldly address ways in which we demean or deny people their human dignity and rights. We implore our law enforcement agencies to pursue realistic alternatives to the use of deadly force. We support police training that places, as its overarching principle, respect for every individual in order to reduce the dangerous fear experienced by and of law enforcement. Let us act in ways that demonstrate that all lives, indeed Black lives, matter.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet pray for the family of George Floyd, for all those struggling with his senseless death, the officers who must live with the results of their actions, and for the entire community. As a women’s religious community, we are impelled also to seek greater awareness of Whiteness and ways in which we contribute to the systems of oppression and division. We want to see all systems honestly and boldly address root causes of injustices. We are “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,” again revealing systemic injustice causing indescribable suffering to all and disproportionately to our Black brothers and sisters.
Today, the Congregational Leadership Team sent the following letter to the province leadership team in St. Paul thanking them for speaking out:
We are writing to thank you for the letter you sent to the St. Paul and Minneapolis mayors and elected officials and to Archbishop Hebda about the murder of George Floyd and the deeply-rooted injustices that led to it. We were fortunate to be on the list of people who received the text of the letter. You could not have expressed the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet position better. We pray with you that your voice, our voice, will make a difference as the people of the Twin Cities try to recover from the trauma of this last week and move forward to a more inclusive community.
Congratulations also on having your letter printed in the May 29 edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. We know how rooted in St. Paul the CSJs are. Your words brought comfort to people and also supported them in peaceful and constructive action.
Our work on the chapter directions is just beginning. Your letter identifies racism as a system of oppression which we need to acknowledge and root out in ourselves so that we can walk together with all the citizens in our cities. We look forward to going deeper and journeying farther with you.
By Jenny Beatrice, St. Louis Province Communications Director
As a friend was telling me about her routine work woes, the conversation took a turn when she attributed the problems to the race of her employees. Shocked by her comment, I was speechless. I hoped that the look on my face spoke to my disapproval, but I knew deep down it wasn’t enough. How could I have stayed silent?
Months later, at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet’s congregational chapter meeting, we recited a prayer that brought me back to that haunting moment: “When human dignity is not honored, may I speak out … When rights are not respected, may I speak out … When I am most afraid to speak out, may I speak out nonetheless.”
At that same meeting, the sisters called us to “bold conversation and prophetic action” to work toward dismantling systems of oppression. And I realized my silence was more than just a slip-up — it was part of perpetuating injustice.
In her book So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo says, “There is a good chance that you, regardless of race, have tried to have these conversations in the past. There is also a good chance that they have not gone well. So ‘not well’ that perhaps you have been afraid to ever have these conversations again. If that
is you, you are not alone.”
A relative uses a racial slur at Thanksgiving dinner. A co-worker emails you an offensive joke. A neighbor makes comments about the Black family that moved on the block. Knowing these uncomfortable situations will arise, we can better participate in “bold conversations” by being ready to respond.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s guide, “Speak Up,” recommends having a response in mind before an incident happens. “Open-ended questions are often a good response: ‘Why did you say that?’ ‘How did you develop that belief?’”
Describe the behavior, and don’t label the person. You can say, “You’re classifying an entire ethnicity in a derogatory way. Is that what I hear you saying?” Avoid labeling and name-calling (from “Speak Up”).
Oluo says, “If you hear someone at the water cooler say, ‘Black people are always late,’ you can definitely say, ‘Hey, that’s racist,’ but you can also add, ‘and it contributes to false beliefs about Black workers that keep them from even being interviewed for jobs …’”
You cannot control another person, but you can draw a line. You can say, “I don’t want you to use that language when I’m around.” Then follow through on your limits (from “Speak Up”).
Oluo says, “You must get used to being uncomfortable and get used to this not being about our feelings if you plan to help and not hinder people of color in the efforts for racial justice.”
Even when we say “all the right things,” we must remember that change happens slowly. Most people take small steps and don’t change their belief systems overnight. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of speaking out. Oluo says that you may not get very far at that moment, “But it gives people something to think about. These conversations, even if they feel fruitless at first, can plant a seed to greater understanding.”
So when human dignity is not honored, when rights are not respected, when we are most afraid … may we speak out.
This article appeared in the 2020 issue of Carondelet Magazine. Find downloadable versions of this and every issue on the Carondelet Magazine page.
The Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet and the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph truly celebrated Laudato Si’ Week this May 16-24! With a special focus on reducing or eliminating single-use plastics from our lives, our members were educated and inspired. We prayed together and acted as one.
The online discussion groups were energetic and insightful. After watching on our own, we had online discussions of two excellent videos on plastics (Frontline: Plastic Wars is still available for viewing). Participants had a profound appreciation for the reflective presentations offered by Sr. Linda Neil and illustrated by Sr. Marion Honors. Both “The Be-attitudes for Care of Our Common Home” and “Living Simply in a Consumer Society” are available to watch online.
Federation artists shared artwork, poems, and prayers for all to engage in reflection and use for social media.
All participants were invited to action by:
Laudato Si’ Week was closed out with a powerful prayer celebrating the gifts and challenges of being members of this one sacred Earth community. It invited us to recommit to aligning with the Creator’s dream for our Earth.
Throughout the week participants shared their shock at how they have they have been duped by the plastic industry into thinking that recycling plastics was actually occurring when 91% of plastics produced in the last 15 years have not been recycled.
Inspiring poetry and quotes from Laudato Si’ helped participants go deeper as they pondered the calls of Laudato Si’ to care for our common home and simplify our life for the life of the world.
Inspired to make a difference, they journeyed farther in their commitment to action. Joining together they responded boldly to bring about systemic change to save our planet.
It’s not too late for those of you who were not available this week to share in these activities. Links throughout this article will take you to resources and actions you can take. You can still find all of the details on our Laudato Si’ Week webpage.
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The Sisters of St. Joseph move always towards profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet is a congregation of women religious that traces its roots to France in 1650.
Today, we have four provinces in Albany, New York; Los Angeles, California; St. Louis, Missouri; and St. Paul, Minnesota with a vice-province in Peru. The Congregational Offices are home to the Congregational Leadership Team and a small staff who provide support to our sisters, associates, and friends around the world.
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