Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., wrote in a World Day of Peace reflection in 2015 about his hope that families, parishioners, neighbors and others will engage in fruitful conversations about encounters between white police officers and young men of color and about related issues.
"It would be particularly valuable if people of different racial backgrounds could partake in the same conversations," Bishop Braxton wrote. "There are surely some Catholics who would rather not have these conversations. But our Christian faith in Christ, the redeemer of all people, urges us to overcome our hesitation."
Those conversations continue to occur and are fruitful. Parishes such as Mary Mother of the Church, St. Francis Xavier (College Church), St. Alphonsus Liguori (Rock Church) and St. Alban Roe, and larger institutions such as Fontbonne University and St. Louis University have stepped forward to host the dialogue and are to be commended.
Another opportunity is right before all of us on Sunday, May 28, with the Walk of Trust departing from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis at 2 p.m. A rally and prayer program will be held at 4 p.m. at the Chaifetz Arena on the St. Louis University campus. The solidarity walk is a step toward healing divisions in the community as it promotes unity, healing and prayer.
Bishop Braxton pointed out that surveys and other sources suggest a great gulf exists between the way many black and white Americans viewed the confrontations at the time — a gulf that is the racial divide. He explained that many members of the Church may have only infrequent and somewhat superficial contact with Catholics of a different racial background.
At a gathering at Mary Mother of the Church Parish in south St. Louis County May 15, one participant in a dialogue on the issues, a white woman, told of her joy of occasionally attending Masses and events at parishes with a predominantly African-American congregation. It's a practice we certainly encourage — getting out of our comfort zones and meeting people who we would not otherwise encounter.
We're fortunate that Bishop Braxton's words in the document he wrote two years ago still are referenced, and its suggestions must continue to be implemented. It's right on the mark. "Painful 'breaking news' accounts call all Americans to rededicate themselves to the work of peace and reconciliation among our citizens of different races; ethnic origins; and social, cultural, educational, economic and religious backgrounds," Bishop Braxton stated. "As Catholics, as members of the Body of Christ, the Church, this is more than a call; it is our vocation, born of baptism."
We're called to continue the dialogue. We must embrace the uncomfortable uncertainty of it all to find a common language and push forward in healing the racial divide.
Walk of Trust
• Sunday, May 28
• Departs from the Cathedral Basilica at 2 p.m.
• Rally and prayer at 4 p.m. at the Chaifetz Arena
• A detailed schedule and route can be found at www.pilgrimageoftruststl.com/walk
"Discrimination belies both our civil and religious traditions. The United States of America rests on a constitutional heritage that recognizes the equality, dignity, and inalienable rights of all its citizens. Further, we are heirs of a religious teaching which proclaims that all men and women, as children of God, are brothers and sisters. Every form of discrimination against individuals and groups — whether because of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, economic status, or national or cultural origin — is a serious injustice, which has severely weakened our social fabric and deprived our country of the unique contributions of many of our citizens. While cognizant of these broader concerns, we wish to draw attention here to the particular form of discrimination that is based on race."
U.S. Catholic bishops, "Brothers and Sisters to Us," 1979