USA East Provincial Fr. Joseph O’Keefe, SJ, has called each Jesuit to pray and reflect deeply on racial justice and equity work, suggesting that Lent may be a time to undertake this effort. We are asked to examine our conscience, no matter where we are in our lives and ministries, confront the reality of racism, and ask how is God calling us to respond?
Our intention is to offer a wide range of educational, prayer and reflection resources, something that meets us where we are without being overwhelmed. Looking across all these resources, you might develop a process that looks like this:
- For those less familiar examining racial justice and equity issues, spend time with definitions and key terms available in the “Prelection” section.
- Under “Stories and listening,” hear the experiences of 2 or 3 people in our province that emphasize the importance and urgency of this work. Allow the stories to center your prayer and reflection.
- Pray with the racial justice Examen that best fits your racial identity.
- Review the prayer resources and choose one or two for your Lenten prayer experience.
- Read/listen to one of the reflection resources to deepen your prayer experience.
Let us ask God for the grace and conversion to more deeply understand and work against racism in our hearts, in our community, and in our ministries.
Recognizing that each of us are at different places in our own racial justice journey, we present a range of resources intended to allow you to find the right point of entry for you.
Before offering prayer resources, we encourage those that would find it useful to spend time reviewing definitions (from the Ignatian Solidarity Network) and key terms (from Jesuits West CORE) essential to enter deeply into racial justice work.
Visit these resources to more deeply explore ideas of white privilege (Peggy McIntosh article) and white superiority (Ignatian Solidarity Network, excerpt from 21-day Ignatian Racial Equity Challenge).
Storytelling and listening
- The Office of Ignatian Spirituality offers reflections from two spiritual directors: Fr. George Bur, SJ and Boreta Singleton who facilitated a reflection on their own life experience working to address racial justice rooted in the 1984 pastoral letter on evangelization from U.S. black bishops- “What We Have Seen and Heard.”
- Mr. Christian Verghese, SJ offer a reflection on why it is so important for Jesuits in our province to examine racial justice and equity issues, especially during Lent.
- As part of the Conversations That Matter video, Mario Powell, SJ, shares his reflections to the question: how have the experiences of racial injustice in our society and movements such as Black Lives Matter had an impact on your community life and ministry?
Racial awareness Examen
- Shared by the Office of Ignatian Spirituality and written by Elaine Ireland, these two Ignatian examen guide reflections on the role that race, racism and racial bias play in our lives and society. The first examen is written for everyone. The second is written primarily for people who identify as white.
Prayer resources– These resources include more material than you will likely need. Our hope is that by offering a variety of prayer resources, you’ll be more likely to find one that matches your desire.
- The seven last words of the unarmed, composed by Joel Thompson, is a multi-movement symphony and choral work honoring the lives of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Kenneth Chamberlain, Amadou Diallo and John Crawford.
- Lift Every Voice: A Lenten journey to racial justice. These daily reflections released by ISN in 2016 focus exclusively on racial justice. The daily readings are the same except for Sundays and feast days.
- The Jesuit Post has developed an online anti-racism retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises entitled “Know Justice, Know Peace: A Jesuit Antiracism Retreat.” Through a series of twelve talks, the retreat seeks to help Christians reflect on the issue of racism and identify ways to respond. The talks are intended to be accompanied by inner reflection and prayer.
- Network Catholic Social Justice Lobby has a very good weekly reflection series that was originally released during Lent called- Recommit to Racial Justice
- The Racial Divide in the United States– A 2015 letter by Bishop Braxton includes a six-part study guide developed by USCCB.
- Fr. Bryan Massingale: How the church can combat racism and white privilege. Interview with Michael O’Loughlin.
- Recorded in the summer of 2020, amidst demonstrations for racial justice across the U.S., this interview with Fordham theologian Fr. Bryan Massingale digs deeper into the content of his NCR article: “The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it.”
- Fr. Massingale says, “it isn’t until white people are as outraged about racial injustice as people of color that we are going to see substantial change in this country.” What does that imply about your work for racial justice and equity?
- In analyzing the interaction between Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper in Central Park in the summer of 2020, Massingale cites it as evidence of the ways that white people are socialized to view the world and people of color without their conscious knowledge or realization. Many white Americans believe they are “unmarked by the racism that surrounds them.” What are some of the ways that racism has subtly influenced the ways you view the world and what you see as normative in Catholic America or to be a U.S. Jesuit?
- One step Massingale identifies that we can take to address racism is to understand the distinction between being uncomfortable and being threatened. He believes there is no way to have an honest, effective conversation about race in America without making white people uncomfortable. Systemic racism works in favor of white people and against people of color. Sit with that discomfort for a while and talk about it with God. How do those feelings drive you to work for change?
- Pray for the grace to heal the spiritual disorder of racism. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into my life, change my heart, allow me to see what I would rather not see. Ask for the profound grace of conversion, to recognize that our country needs to go in another direction and that we need changed hearts to do it.
- In 1967, the Superior General Fr. Pedro Arrupe wrote a letter to every Jesuit in the U.S. on the gravity of the current racial crisis as a call to action. After outlining our national ideals and religious ideals, Fr. Arrupe offers several policy ideas about how Jesuits can be involved in racial justice work.
- Reflect on how we as individual Jesuits have met and failed to meet this call to action.
- Reflect on how our Jesuit institutions have met and failed to meet this call to action.
- What might Fr. Arrupe write to Jesuits in the U.S. today?
- How are members of the USA East Province called to respond to the racial justice and equity issues of our time?
- Father Albert Foley: How one priest took on the KKK by Kristen Hannum. U.S. Catholic
- Anti-racism work is a lifelong commitment. Are you ready? By Patrick Saint-Jean, SJ. U.S. Catholic.
History of Jesuit slaveholding
Three resources, among many possibilities, to offer context on Jesuit slaveholding:
- Black History Month: Confronting the Mixed History of the Jesuits by Br. Ken Homan, SJ. The Jesuit Post.
- The Jesuits and Slavery by Adam Rothman. The Journal of Jesuit Studies.
- Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation Project of the Jesuit Conference
Community conversation resources
- 6 Guidelines I’ve Learned for Talking About Race by Sullivan McCormick, SJ. The Jesuit Post.
- Fr. John Dardis, SJ, General Counsellor for Discernment and Apostolic Planning, talks about spiritual conversation.
- Guidelines to promote safe and respectful conversations on racial justice shared by Dr. Luz Marina Díaz, Director of Religious Education at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, NYC.
These Lenten prayer and reflection resources were collected by a working group comprised of:
- Fr. Ken Boller, SJ
- Fr. Jim Carr, SJ
- Fr. Dan Corrou, SJ
- Fr. Jim Croghan, SJ
- Mr. Nicholas Napolitano
- Mr. Kevin O’Brien
- Fr. George Quickley, SJ