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The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” – John 14:2




I once lived in a Jesuit community where some (white) men did not appreciate the meals cooked by brothers from other countries (and races). One man chose to register his displeasure by purchasing a can of dog food and placing it in our pantry. Hearing and later seeing this, I said nothing and did nothing. Perhaps I shook my head, laughing. The can remained there many months until a new man moved into the house and threw it away.


Maureen O’Connell recently published a profound book. Dr. O’Connell is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University and Boston College, a former professor at Fordham University, and a long-time member of the JARS East organizing group. Her new book is Undoing the Knots: Five Generations of American Catholic Anti-Blackness, which takes Philadelphia as its canvas.

The more I sit with the book, the more I appreciate its title, and especially its subtitle. I sometimes say that all three words are important in the name “Jesuit Antiracism Sodality,” but the most essential one is sodality. It highlights our reliance on faith, as expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “We have this treasure in clay jars.”

This book invites me to consider further the word antiracism, which is set up as a negative reaction to something else: racism. That doesn’t seem quite right. The reactionary negativity of course comes from racism itself, as it does from anti-Semitism or any other prejudice. Being is the norm, not anti-being.

The anti-Black (or anti-anything) knots are negative blockages, and to undo them is to honor our inherent connection. If Mary can undo knots, she can undo nooses.

This month’s reflection was provided by Sean Toole, SJ, of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Estill, SC. If you would like to volunteer to provide next month’s reflection, please contact Sean:

The views and opinions expressed in this reflection do not necessarily reflect those of Jesuits USA East.

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