The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East
“The word of the LORD came to Jonah, son of Amittai: Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness has come before me. But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish, away from the LORD. He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down in it to go with them to Tarshish, away from the LORD.” – Jonah 1:1-3
I was watching the evening news with a fellow Jesuit recently when two women came on as commentators. One was a Black woman with long braids and the other a Latina woman with a nose piercing. My fellow Jesuit loudly declared, “Well, better change it–we can tell they have nothing worthwhile to say.” A few days earlier, another Jesuit made a sarcastic comment regarding “woke” and “PC culture.” A few months ago, a third Jesuit had picked me up from the airport. On the drive, he derided the predominantly Black neighborhood as full of “thugs” and “ghetto-folk.” While these moments themselves have certainly led to my desolation, perhaps my greater desolation was how rarely I have spoken up to my fellow Jesuits in these situations. In my desire to not be “that Jesuit,” I have instead allowed fear to cloud my judgment. Having been scolded by superiors and province staff in the past for speaking up, I find myself sometimes hesitant to be a prophetic voice, particularly among our own. My desolation is fear and complicity.
That said, I find myself encountering consolation during my research in the archives. As I read through our Jesuit historical documents, I find moments of grace and participation in the Kingdom. I have encountered chicken and fuel cooperatives, labor rights education classes, credit unions, and racial justice workshops. The best of these were led by lay people, with Jesuits largely playing a supporting or learning role. I find moments where Jesuits ignored the threats of angry white homeowners and business owners who were angry about the location of a school for Black Catholic children. Instead of acquiescing to the protests, Black lay leaders and Jesuits moved forward with the important work. I find particular consolation here because it helps me recognize ways forward today. While we Jesuits often like to (and frequently demand to) lead important projects, we have examples of collaboration from our past. We have examples of Jesuits who worked humbly for justice.
This month’s reflection was provided by Ken Homan, SJ, of Georgetown University in Washington, DC. If you would like to volunteer to provide next month’s reflection, please contact Sean: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this reflection do not necessarily reflect those of Jesuits USA East.