From Homelessness to Hope & Healing: Witnesses of a Living Christ | April 17, 2021 Essay

In our reflection on the Gospel this week we meet two men who encounter our resurrected Savior on a dusty road. We don’t know much about these men other than Jesus revealed himself to them. Once they realize who Jesus is they immediately head back to Jerusalem to find the eleven apostles to tell them the good news: Jesus is risen.

While they share their account with the apostles, Jesus appears and greets them saying “Peace be with you.” The apostles are startled and scared. Jesus shows them the scars on his hands and feet. Jesus can tell they are not convinced so he asks if they have anything to eat. While they eat, Jesus reminds them of his words, “I told you the Son of God must die for our sins to be forgiven.” Luke’s Gospel proclaims, “He opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” and ends by saying, “you are witnesses of these things.”

Children are the poorest age group in America with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. The lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children without homes or at risk of homelessness. There are more than 4.1 million youth who experience homelessness each year without a parent or supportive adult. No matter what we understand about the definition of poverty we know that it involves children not having enough. Not enough access to healthy food, not enough adequate shelter, not enough access to quality health care, and not enough good education.

We may ask ourselves, where do we see God in this suffering? What is it we need so God can open our hearts and eyes to see the suffering of these children? Luke tells us today that once we have knowledge and understanding we become witnesses and must act. It is important to remember that witnessing is not a passive act.

First, we believe the scripture is telling us we all have a role to play in bringing about the kingdom of God. The risen Christ did not appear just to his closest friends. Before Christ appeared to the disciples, he revealed himself to two seemingly unassuming men traveling on a road. Many of us may never have worked with children or youth before but maybe we should ask ourselves, “What does Christ require of us when it comes to some of the most vulnerable amongst us, children who live in poverty and/or children who are without homes?” Jesus approaches these two men for a reason. Just as Jesus calls each of us for a particular purpose.

We are called to pray and to read scriptures, so we get a better understanding of Christ and what he requires of us as witnesses to his resurrection. We are called to the celebration of the Eucharist where Christ reveals Himself to us. And we are called to serve one another, so as concerned Christians we seek out opportunities to support the most vulnerable among us, children in our community who need loving, caring adults. We arm ourselves with knowledge so we can witness and advocate for the needs of vulnerable children in our community. And we, like Christ, lift up the most marginalized among us, children experiencing homelessness, for all to see so they might have the love, support, and opportunities that all children of God deserve to make our world a better place for all.

– Sr. Nancy Downing, CND, and Prof. Anne Williams-Isom

Please join us Monday, April 19th, for a webinar on “Journeying with Youth: From Homelessness to Hope and Healing.” To register, click here.

From the Pastor | April 16, 2021

FROM THE PASTOR

 16 April 2021

Dear Parishioners,

Many of us may be familiar with the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” When schoolyard banter led to more heated exchanges, it was a quick and easy response to name-calling. The problem is that the rhyme cannot be more removed from the truth. What we utter or put to pen, especially in meaningful moments, is usually a reflection of who we are and what we believe. Simply stated, words matter, and words can be hurtful.

The essay that was published in last weekend’s e-newsletter and parish bulletin uncovered the hurt being experienced by our LGBT parishioners as a result of a document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). The direct response to the question of whether same-sex unions may be blessed was a straightforward and concise one. It was, “no.” To have expected any other answer from the CDF at this time would have been overly optimistic of those presenting the question, but it needed to be asked as dioceses around the world are being encouraged by Pope Francis to convene local synods of members of the faithful, both clergy and lay. The response was disappointing to many, especially those who are in same-sex relationships and their families. Although disappointing, the negative response came as no great surprise. What did shock and offend the sensibilities of many, including members of the Church’s hierarchy, was the explanatory note that accompanied the single-word response. Can it be that the CDF failed to understand that words matter and they can be very hurtful?

There is one undeniable truth that is foundational to everything that we believe. Where love is found, God abides. As a corollary to that belief, human relationships anchored in love are intrinsically sacred. The only thing disordered in the explanatory note was the circular arguments and flawed logic used by the CDF to reach its conclusion. Let us hope that in time official pronouncements of the Church will acknowledge the dignity of each person, no matter their sexual orientation, and the sanctity of the bond that, at times, unites them in a committed way.

We cannot change the words or the gravamen of the CDF’s explanatory note. What we can do is acknowledge the significant impact that statement has had on parishioners who identify as LGBT or parents of LGBT children. It is understandable that their collective reaction was that once again their Church failed them. We now have the responsibility to express in words and deeds how valued they are by us as fellow parishioners.

We are a more vibrant and nurturing parish because we reflect the rainbow of diversity that is the real world – a world created by God and considered “good” at the end of each day of creation, with the highest accolade, “very good,” reserved for the human person. Therefore, let us embrace one another with words that convey honor and respect, words that bestow blessings on all who call this parish their home, and words of compassion and love for our LGBT sisters and brothers who now look to us to be models of what the Church is called to be.

May the hallmark that distinguishes us as a parish be that we love one another for who we are – whether straight or gay, married or divorced, or known by any other labels that mark our differences. When that truly happens, acceptance and understanding will anchor us. Then we will know that God abides among us.

Sincerely in the Lord,

Fr. Yesalonia

Viola Liuzzo, a Civil Rights Martyr, 1965

Viola Gregg Liuzzo was a Catholic, and later Unitarian, activist in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. She finished her studies to become a medical laboratory assistant, before enrolling in Wayne State University in 1963. Viola was a 39-year-old middle-class, white mother of five children and married to Anthony Liuzzo, an official with the Teamsters union and lived in Detroit, Michigan.

Liuzzo was a member of the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She spent some of her youth in Tennessee and Georgia and knew firsthand about the racial injustices that African Americans often suffered in the South.

She was motivated to join the efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the marchers after seeing televised footage of hundreds of peaceful protestors being clubbed and tear-gassed by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday.” She listened to the plea from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and decided to drive to Selma, Alabama from Detroit to join in the Selma to Montgomery march. This was the campaign for voting rights for African Americans in the South, led by Rev. King on March 21, 1965. The National Guard and the U. S. Army were called in to protect the civil rights activists. Upon their arrival in Montgomery on March 25, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech on the steps of the state capitol to a crowd of around 25,000 people.

Viola called home at 8 pm to let her family know how joyful the day had been. In addition to the march, Liuzzo helped drive supporters between Selma and Montgomery. After King’s speech, Viola called home at 8 pm to let her family know how joyful the day had been. She volunteered to drive another SCLC civil rights marcher, Leroy Moton, an African American teen back to Selma. As they were driving on Highway 80, a car with KKK members pulled up alongside Liuzzo’s Oldsmobile and a passenger in that car shot Viola in the head. The car careened off the road into a ditch and Moton either passed out or played dead until the other car left the scene.

The second phone call to the Liuzzo house that night was not joyful news. James Liuzzo was told that his wife was fatally shot while driving Leroy Moton, an African American teen back home to Selma.

President Lyndon Johnson quickly responded within 24 hours of Viola Liuzzo’z murder. He called for a televised press conference to announce the arrests of the KKK members- Eugene Thomas, Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr., William Orville Eaton, and Gary Thomas Rowe. He also demanded an immediate Congressional investigation of the KKK. Rowe was a protected paid informant of the FBI and testified against the KKK men. Despite eyewitness testimony and ballistics evidence, the KKK members were all acquitted in the Alabama courts. However, they were found guilty of violating Viola Liuzzo’s civil rights by a grand jury and sentenced to ten years in prison.

Liuzzo’s funeral in Detroit was attended by many dignitaries, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  However, after her death, her reputation was slandered and many false accusations about her morality, drug use, and dedication to her family ensued.  As a result of these accusations, the Liuzzo children were taunted and threatened. A cross was burned on their lawn and round-the-clock protection was needed for the next two years. Years later in 1978, documents were released through the Freedom of Information Act and it was discovered that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover masterminded this smear campaign.

Viola Liuzzo became a martyr of the Civil Rights Movement, and the only white woman murdered during this struggle. It is believed that her death was not in vain and helped spark the passing of the Voting Rights Act five months later. She received many posthumous awards, including the prestigious Ford Freedom Humanitarian Award. Finally, in 2015, Wayne State University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, the university’s first posthumous award.

It may seem like this chapter in our history has gathered many layers of dust. Yet, today, we see the dust storm once again swirl around voting issues in the South and beyond, it is time to shake the dust from our sandals and continue the journey for justice.

– Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate

In Response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith | April 10, 2021 Essay

In light of the recent document released by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), I feel compelled to write something to the parish. In general, this response to the dubium, or doctrinal question, of whether same-sex unions can be blessed, says nothing new. The CDF confirmed the orthodox point of view that same-sex marriages cannot be blessed. The wording in the explanatory note, however, was quite harsh, equating committed loving relationships of persons of the same sex with sin. Understandably, the members of our LGBT Catholics & Friends ministry were left with emotions that ran the gamut from anger to sadness to talk of leaving the church.

We know that cars, buildings, sports teams, fences, even weapons can be blessed. The document stated that “individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching” can be blessed. But our legal unions cannot be blessed. To be clear, this was not about the sacrament of marriage. This was only about a blessing for unions.

We are people of deep faith who want to remain Catholic. Being born gay has its cross to bear repeatedly. Not only does this decision from the hierarchy open old wounds, but it adds fuel to the fires of hatred coming from a minority of Catholics who do not have a gay person in their lives. The reasoning focuses solely on sex and ignores the other facets of a relationship.

My son was recently married to his husband. The marriage could not be held in the church, and their nuptials could not be blessed. My son and son-in-law are in love. They were married in their twenties like their friends around them. They have dreams and aspirations like any newly married couple. Thank goodness our large Christian family surrounds them with love and support. Actually, our church community too…this community of St. Ignatius Loyola. And quite frankly, I have needed support as a mother of this gay child, now married in this world/climate. Like any parent, I want the best for my child and his safety too. I have found much support here in the community of St. Ignatius Loyola.

After the statement from the CDF was released, we held a ministry meeting for our members to voice their responses. Fr. Yesalonia joined us, along with our regular advisor, Fr. Hilbert. We opened with a meditation about the Old Testament character Esther, which focused on the phrase “for such a time as this.” We closed with a solemn reading from the Book of Job, and a closing prayer encouraging us to remember God’s gracious love for us so that we may share it with each other. In between, we each voiced our reactions, which speak of our faith and love of Catholicism. Here are a few selections from the many reflections:

– My son, who is also gay, asks why I keep banging my head against the wall because the Church doesn’t want gay people. But I refuse to believe that.

– We need more straight allies engaged as advocates so that the Church can’t write LGBT people off as a small minority.

– I want a full marriage for my son, not just a blessing!

– The CDF is spinning this only from the sex point of view. From the outside, people don’t realize how faithful this community is.

– We need more women in leadership positions in the Church. That’s our hope to make it more compassionate. I’m not leaving the Church. But I am rebranding myself as a Jesuit Catholic, rather than just Catholic.

– I don’t care what the hierarchy in Rome says. My faith has nothing to do with that. But it’s very damaging to many people, especially the young.

– I’m absolutely furious at the denigration of our relationships! We need to be more visible. We owe it to the kids!

– We need to help LGBT people in less supportive places. We should engage our own St. Ignatius community and other “little c” churches to change the “big C” Church.

– Jesus walked against the current. We have the opportunity to live the gospel from our reality. The LGBT community needs to feel the unconditional love of God. They need to see another face of the Church, and we are this face.

I’d like to ask a question of the parish in general. Would you consider expressing support for the LGBT members of our church? Many LGBT Catholics are just beginning to feel welcome for the first time in our parishes. How can you show that you value them and the gifts they bring? Maybe it’s making a statement of your own or signing a petition. Maybe it’s sharing your concerns for LGBT Catholics with clergy or members of the church government. Maybe it’s offering friendship and welcome to an LGBT person in your life whom you haven’t gotten to know well yet. Maybe it’s participating in parish activities sponsored by our ministry, or inviting us to participate in your events. What concrete actions can you take to show your support and love for your LGBT brothers and sisters? We have gotten through the pandemic and have grown in many ways. Please keep the LGBT Catholics of our parish and their friends and families in your hearts.

– Ellen Long Stilwell, Parent Member, Co-Chair with Bruce Rameker, LGBT Catholics & Friends Ministry

Elect, Candidates, and Catechumens | April 3, 2021 Easter Vigil

THE ELECT (Those to be baptized)
Kristy Gilbert
Kevin Liang
Emilio Ramos
Donmonique Tierra

CANDIDATES FOR FULL Communion
Emily Hughart
Matthew Santucci

ROMAN CATHOLICS FOR FULL INITIATION
Celie Gruber
Megan Langlais
John Oliphant
John Sullivan
George Tierra

Our Savior Lives! Alleluia, Alleluia | April 3, 2021 Essay

Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is this reality that anchors our faith. Without it we would have succumbed to the depths of despair this past year as we tried to avoid and eradicate the sinister tentacles of Covid-19. The anguish of darkness has been forever dispelled by the radiant light of hope that conquered death itself. We walk in this light whenever, by word or deed, we proclaim our belief in Jesus Christ and embrace each day as a gift from God. We rejoice and are glad that Our Savior lives.

On Easter, more than on any other day, we can say with conviction that God has not abandoned us. The death of God’s Son was but the overture of a symphony of joy. Love has triumphed over evil. The shackles of fear have been broken. The thinly veiled notion of being in control of our own destiny no longer has meaning for us. Yes, we have experienced in ways never imagined the frail nature of life itself. We have been abruptly grounded on the shoals of helplessness, but we are not trapped. We are more resilient and stronger, set free by the providential care of God. There is a thunderous, rising tide to our faith whose source is the movement of stone from a now-empty tomb. Our Savior lives!

Whether in the church or remotely, we gather this Easter to witness to our faith. We join in prayer to celebrate God’s love. Many of us will be reunited with families and friends after a year of being separated out of an abundance of caution for one another’s health. The warmth of longed-for embraces of loved ones will not be dampened by the tears of joy that accompany them. The radiant glow of broad smiles will reflect what we believe to the very depths of our souls. God’s love for us is never-ending. Our Savior lives!

Even amid our joyful celebration, we acknowledge the reality of another world where fear and despair cast a long shadow. The darkness of evil, hatred, bigotry, and indifference blocks the light of hope for all too many of our sisters and brothers, in our own country and around the world. On this Easter Sunday, they continue to be victimized by unjust systems and structures of racial, ethnic, economic, and religious prejudice. Their rights as citizens are being taken away from them by those who fear losing their privileged positions. They are denied their inalienable rights and otherwise routine blessings because they are in same-sex relationships or identify as LGBTQ. They are huddled in masses at the borders of freedom and denied entry. They are the homeless, the hungry, the marginalized of society, whose dream of a better future is always illusive. On Easter, they cry out for compassion, mercy, and understanding. Their energy is spent on mere survival; there is little left for them to join the chorus of voices singing the refrain, Our Savior lives.

How do we reconcile the different realities of our world as we observe this Easter?  We who have been given the gift of faith know that there is nothing – neither sin nor sadness, nor doubt, neither war nor terror, nor abject indifference, not even a virus – which can dim the brilliance of what we celebrate today.  Our joy and gladness will take on their true meaning when we respond in love to those who cry out from the shadows.

May our faith make us bold this day.  May the Resurrection of Jesus Christ give us joy. God is with us – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That is the message of hope we bring to the world. Let us rejoice and be glad, Our Savior lives!

May the blessings of this holy day sustain us as joyful disciples of Jesus Christ. Happy Easter!

– Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor

In Gratitude: A Gift for Generations to Come | Watch This Space: The Lady Chapel

On this Easter weekend, we are absolutely thrilled to announce that the Lady Chapel restoration is almost complete.

We are grateful to the Riley Family for so generously underwriting this historic project. Jim and Ellen Riley, and their four adult daughters Brigid, Shannon, Kerry-Lynn, and Courtney have been a part of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola for a decade and it holds a very special place in their hearts. Jim and Ellen’s four grandchildren were baptized at St. Ignatius and their daughter Courtney was married here in September of 2019. Two of their grandchildren attended the St. Ignatius Loyola Day Nursery.

The story of how this gift came about is beautiful. When the Church shut down last March, the parish began livestreaming Mass from the Lady Chapel at 5:30 P.M. each day. This jewel-like space dedicated to Our Lady, Mother of the Church became the spiritual centerpiece of the parish. Thousands of people worshiped with us, virtually, for the next several months. This set off a spark, inspiring the Riley’s to take a closer look at the Chapel. In discussions with Fr. Yesalonia and architect Michael Doyle, Principal of Acheson Doyle Partners Architects and parishioner at St. Ignatius, it became clear that visitors may be unaware of the Chapel beyond an imposing wooden door. The project was guided by the Riley’s wishes to honor the Blessed Virgin, to make the space more physically accessible and to properly restore the historical elements of the chapel.

Two weeks ago Conservator Ismael Checo and his associate, Pancracio Almonte, completed their work on the reredos. All of the wood elements on the altarpiece– the winged figures, four Jesuit Saints, and the crucifix have been painstakingly cleaned and repaired. The original painted panels, concealed for decades by thick fabric, have been cleaned, retouched, and authentically restored. A vibrant fleur-de-lis pattern, meant to evoke stained glass, is now visible.

The Chapel is now identified by large, bronze letters in the entryway frieze. Two metal gates have been installed, featuring strapwork motifs are based on the Baptistery design, the Jesuit IHS sunburst, and the “M” for Blessed Mary. These doors have thick glass and can be seen from the Narthex. The reredos will be lit.

St. Ignatius is looking forward to welcoming you back to the Lady Chapel very soon.

Keeping Watch… | March 27, 2021 Essay

The Palm Sunday readings have always been unsettling and sad for me. Even though the day begins with a joyful celebration, it ends with the passion of Christ. I have always imagined myself being there with the other disciples as Christ faces his destiny as the Son of God. A searing pain invades my heart and tears flood down my face as this passage is read. How could the people want Jesus condemned to death?

Jesus was a teacher-rabbi, a healer, and the One who came to fulfill the law. He gave us these two commandments that everything else hangs onto—Love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself. It seems pretty simple to understand that Jesus was Love…and Love has enemies, too.

As Jesus’ disciples and followers accompanied him into Jerusalem for the observance of Passover, a fanfare of palms and the singing of “Hosanna” (in Aramaic meaning save or savior) filled the air as a joyous celebration. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” The arrival of Jesus signified to the crowd to prepare the Way of the Lord, to allow Jesus to enter into their hearts, and to follow him. So, why would Jesus’ followers be fearful? Jesus was countercultural, and they knew that the sentiment of the Romans and the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem did not mesh with Jesus’ teachings.

Despite his knowledge that one of his disciples would hand him over to his Passion, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal. Little did his disciples know this would be the Last Supper and Jesus was still showing them the Way to carry on after he was gone. During that night, not one of them was able to stay awake and keep watch with him.

Keeping watch. Jesus still invites us to keep watch. A few years ago, I couldn’t help but think about that night Jesus spent alone contemplating his death. One of my best friends whom I met as a student at Syracuse University was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Joanne was the scientist and lapsed Catholic and I was the spiritual one with unwavering faith. Although it was stage one cancer, the tumor was on a blood vessel and the surgeon had to shrink it before it could be removed. That tumor wouldn’t shrink. During these months, we talked on the phone, made lunch dates, visited for Christmas, and spent girls weekends with Cindy, another Syracuse friend. As I accompanied Jo and witnessed how the disease and prognosis changed the course of her life, I kept watch with her.

During the last two weeks I prayed with her, she reaffirmed her belief in God. This wasn’t the end. It was only the beginning of Eternal Life with God and it reminded her that she would be healthy in Heaven and see her parents again. When she was admitted to hospice, I stood watch until she passed. Two weeks later a single feather wafted upon my path and a lone seagull flew over my head at Mercy by the Sea. Joanne was Home.

Faith carries us through death, even though fear and sadness grip at our hearts. It is important to stay awake and keep watch in the darkest hours of a friend’s life. Jesus taught us this. He asked one of his disciples to stay awake and keep watch with him. Palm Sunday is the invitation for us to keep Jesus company, to stay awake and keep watch.

– Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate

Welcome, Protect, Promote, and Integrate

Our nation has to undertake a comprehensive reform of its immigration laws and policies that will include addressing the issue of those in this country without legal status. Pope Francis, in “Fratelli Tutti,” makes it clear that this is a moral imperative.

Pope Francis is emphatic in declaring that we cannot embrace a culture of walls, physical, moral and spiritual, that deny human dignity and divide the human family. “…New walls are erected for self-preservation, the outside world ceases to exist and leaves only “my” world, to the point that others, no longer considered human beings possessed of an inalienable dignity, become only “them.” …We encounter ‘the temptation to build a culture of walls, to raise walls, walls in the heart, walls on the land, in order to prevent this encounter with other cultures, with other people.’” We are members of one family, brothers and sisters to each other. We cannot close our individual and collective hearts to our brothers and sisters who seek to migrate for reasons of economic necessity, threats to their personal security, or for reasons of political or religious persecution. To retreat behind walls of indifference, or outright hostility impoverishes us spiritually (as well as economically and culturally) and harms those whom we exclude.

Every nation has the moral obligation to protect its citizens, but that obligation has to be kept in balance with the moral obligation to provide assistance and acceptance to migrants. Unfortunately, some political leaders will exaggerate the threat that migrants pose to their country in order to gain and consolidate political power. “…In some host countries, migration causes fear and alarm, often fomented and exploited for political purposes. This can lead to a xenophobic mentality, as people close in on themselves, and it needs to be addressed decisively…Migrants are not seen as entitled like others to participate in the life of society, and it is forgotten that they possess the same intrinsic dignity as any person…For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable, since it sets certain political preferences above deep convictions of faith: the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love.”

“Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarized by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.” This is a challenging declaration by Pope Francis. Ideally, migration ought not to occur at all. More must be done by the international community to ensure that all nations have the resources to provide a dignified life for all their peoples. Until that happens, “…we are obliged to respect the right of all individuals to find a place that meets their basic needs and those of their families, and where they can find personal fulfillment.” Our responsibility, therefore, is to welcome migrants, protect them from harm, and promote their full integration into our societies. We should see ourselves as “undertaking a journey together, through these four actions, in order to build cities and countries that, while preserving their respective cultural and religious identity, are open to differences and know how to promote them in the spirit of human fraternity.” We must see migrants as a source of enrichment, not impoverishment.

It is easy to fear those who are different from us and the change to our settled way of life that they represent. It requires courage to recognize how those differences enrich us and make our way of life more vibrant. Now is the time for our nation to overcome our fear and offer welcome to those already here and to those still yearning for the opportunities our nation affords.

– Fr. Mark Hallinan, Associate Pastor

Thea Bowman and Her Fight for Racial Justice

Years ago Fr. Hallinan took a group of us to paint the interior of St. Aloysius School in Harlem. Impressed with the school, I became an annual donor and received yearly reports showing smiling children, sometimes with a reference to Thea Bowman. When the school closed in 2016, reminders of Sr. Thea faded away. Lately, I wondered which African-Americans the church has recognized and came across Thea Bowman’s name. Her fight for racial justice and her joy in God and in life inspire me, so I want to share her story with you.

In 1989, Sr. Thea Bowman, teacher, preacher, singer,  evangelist, author, vocal critic of racism addressed and challenged the USCCB to accept her bringing “my whole self, my Black self, all that I am, all that I have, all that I hope to become. I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture … and give it to the church.” She reminded them that “Black Catholic Christians often feel like 2nd or 3rd class citizens in the holy city … until they take their place in the leadership.“ She started her address by singing “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”. She ended with bishops, arms locked together with her, singing “We Shall Overcome”. Some bishops had tears in their eyes.

 In her address to the bishops, Thea answers her own question: “What does it mean to be Black and Catholic?” She makes me wonder what does it mean to be white and Catholic. Do I bring my whole self to the church? Do I encourage others to bring their whole selves? Do my actions invite people who are not white to share the pew with me?

 Thea Bowman earned a doctorate in English from Catholic University and taught elementary school, high school, and college. Her grandfather was a slave, father a doctor, and mother a teacher. Reared in Mississippi, Thea’s Methodist family sent her to Catholic school. She converted to Catholicism and became the first Black nun in her order.

 Many schools awarded her honorary doctorates, including Boston College, Georgetown, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

 Here is a clip of Bowman, dying from cancer and restricted to a wheelchair, addressing the bishops: Watch the video

– Laura De Boisblanc, Parishioner