Many strides already being made in area of racial harmony
Although it is easy to become discouraged, there are many signs of hope regarding growing racial harmony in our area, said members of the discussion group who gathered at Brother Martin High last month to reflect on Archbishop Alfred Hughes' 2006 pastoral letter, "Made in the Image and Likeness of God: A Pastoral Letter on Racial Harmony":
➤ During last October’s “Month of the Rosary,” various cultural groups were invited to St. Paul the Apostle Church to recite a decade of the rosary in their own language, reported Sister of the Holy Family Laura Mercier. A reception followed. The rosary guide “Unity in Diversity: A Scriptural Rosary,” produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, is available at the Office of Racial Harmony by calling 861-6272. The neighborhood rosary model – in which faithful from multiple church parishes rotate to different households to say a weekly or monthly rosary – is another means of fostering racial and cultural unity within the church, Sister Laura said.
➤ The archdiocesan Office of Religious Education offers two 10-hour courses that explore issues of race: “Made in the Image and Likeness of God”; and “Race: The Power of an Illusion.” For more information, call Walter Bonam at 861-6273.
➤ The Micah Project, a national, multi-denominational non-profit dedicated to fostering human dignity, enjoys a strong Catholic presence locally. The New Orleans chapter of the group focuses on two areas: education and mass incarceration, the latter which is deleteriously affecting suburban families as well as urban ones, said St. Peter Claver parishioner Alena Boucree.
➤ Dominican Sister of Peace Suzanne Brauer hailed the work of the Institute of Black Catholic Ministry at Xavier University. “It’s focused on African-American theology, but it is open to everyone,” Sister Suzanne said. “For me as a Caucasian coming to minister in the African-American community, it helped me to understand the history, the culture and also the dreams for the future – how to be a village, how to be church.”
➤ After attending World Youth Day on Oct. 27, Boucree was heartened by the diversity of the Catholic teen leadership group Teen CROSS. “That young leadership program has allowed African-Americans, Hispanic, Vietnamese, Caucasian people to come together, not just to do service, but to think on a bigger scale,” Boucree said. “Each of (the event’s emcees) welcomed everyone in their own cultural style, and it was received across the board. For me, it was a sign of hope that those teens were able to walk into an arena and be themselves, to participate and contribute in a very healthy way.”
➤ On Martin Luther King Day 2013, the Episcopal Diocese of New Orleans launched an initiative to become a “Non-Racist Church,” with laypeople and clergy engaged in a yearlong study of their church’s history of racism. Sister of the Holy Faith Teresa Rooney, racial harmony liaison for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, has a working relationship with the local Episcopal Church’s Commission for Racial Reconciliation, chaired by Lee Crean. At the commission’s request, Sister Teresa’s office gave racial sobriety workshops to local Episcopalians and copies of Archbishop Alfred Hughes’ pastoral letter on racial harmony to use as a study guide. The year of study will culminate Jan. 18, 2014, with a Service of Reconciliation at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans.
➤ Don’t discount the powerful work of racial reconciliation already going on at parishes, schools and on an individual basis, said Madeline Curtis, a parishioner of St. James Major Church who feeds the hungry three times a month at Hope House. “As individuals there are many things people can do to alleviate the burden on the church, because when parishes only have one priest, that one priest can only do so much,” Curtis said. “It starts with each of us. We are God’s eyes, feet and hands.”