Racial Justice Commission? What?
Why does the Catholic Church need this? What do you do, anyway?
These were the questions asked of me at a recent Catholic spiritual event by a believer with sincerity in his heart. Good questions.
I attended an area Catholic high school and obtained not only an academic road to college, but also an experience that remains both important and present in my life. I experienced racism. We never want to talk about it, because it makes us uncomfortable. (We search our own minds and hearts, examining if the shoe fits.) Yes, there is racism even in our church, where parents are privileged to teach and mold children into what Jesus wants.
Yes, during those high school years there were many parties and social events in people’s homes, but we were either not invited or my African-American and Latino friends were made to stand outside — their parents did not want us inside their homes. It felt odd to have to wait outside even when we had to do a school team project. What were they afraid of?
Unfortunately, this type of treatment followed me into my professional life, but I prayed our church was different now. Yet today I still hear the whispers, in the pews, in parishes — race still divides us, as though the color of our skin, brought about by our global origin, changes everything. The dark pigment was given to us to protect us from the sun, and now the protection is viewed as a reason to divide the Christian family.
We as the Body of Christ have a directive from our God to love our fellow man as he love us. Yes, at Pentecost the Holy Spirit made it possible to speak in the same tongue, to be heard and understood, to share our belief in the Righteous and Risen Lord, to thrill in each other’s culture and eventually reunite in our common home with Our Lord.
Our goal in the Racial Justice Commission is to assist in the inclusion and integration of diverse cultural groups into the life and mission of our parishes. Our churches are more diverse than ever and will continue to be the refuge for those who seek a productive life, providing a welcome home to those that have come to us, worshipping in unison as they did at Pentecost.
So yes, we need a Racial Justice Commission, now more than ever, when our public and political discourse often turns coarse and degrading. Remember that the type of degrading discourse toward our brothers and sisters we hear in public can be found in our pews. Remember our children, Pentecost and our divine directive: Love your brothers and sisters — as you have loved me.
Zoe Rodriguez is a member of the Racial Justice Commission.