On a recent summer afternoon, Joyce Jones stood outside of her parish, St. Alphonsus Liguori “Rock” Church, praying and listening.
Holding an image of the Black Madonna and child, Joyce stood along Grand Boulevard with about 200 other people as they prayed for racial justice. The event was organized by a group of parishes in the archdiocese called the Catholic Racial Justice Collaborative, and co-sponsored by the archdiocesan Peace and Justice Commission.
“It was encouraging as a Black person to see the support of my white brothers and sisters and the signs that they were holding up,” Joyce said, and “to see people who weren’t afraid to say that Black lives matter.”
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson established the Office of Racial Harmony, hiring Joyce in October as program director. In her role, which falls within the auspices of the archdiocesan Peace and Justice Commission, Joyce raises awareness of the sin of racism and serves as a resource facilitating conversations and developing relationships across racial boundaries and among various faith communities.
The Office of Racial Harmony is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal, and is slated to receive $50,000 from the 2020 appeal.
In fostering racial harmony, Joyce noted that laws and policies can always be changed, but it’s changing hearts that’s going to make the biggest difference. In serving as a resource to parishes, she said, “this is not just for people who are Black or white. It’s Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Vietnamese — all of the ethnicities represented in the archdiocese.”
Since October, Joyce has facilitated conversations among parishes, schools, offices and agencies of the archdiocese. She’s also been part of several public events, including organizing and hosting a virtual panel discussion, “Living Beyond Discouragement,” which focused on the effects of COVID-19 on the African-American community and the death of George Floyd; and hosting a presentation on the history of Black Catholics in St. Louis and participating in a virtual panel discussion on racism hosted by the Office of Young Adult Ministry. She also collaborates with the work of the Peace and Justice Commission, serving as chair of the Racial Equity Task Force.
A year after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, Joyce was instrumental in forming the North City Deanery Interracial Relations Committee to address issues related to race and racism. In 2015, the committee co-sponsored with the Peace and Justice Commission a walking pilgrimage in St. Louis near Delmar Boulevard to allow the faithful to cross the “Delmar Divide.” The committee also has hosted a speakers’ series and summer revival, among other activities.
Joyce said the North City Deanery committee catapulted the work on racial harmony in the archdiocese. “People (ask) me to give them resources on the unrest” currently happening in the United States, and how to talk to others about it, she said. She added that she looks to resources within the Church including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its ad hoc Committee Against Racism, the National Black Catholic Congress, and the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans.
In June, Joyce was invited by the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church to be part of “Journeying Together: A National Intercultural Encounter for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults.” The effort is a yearlong process of encounter and dialogue for young people and those who accompany youth, collegians and young adults in the Church.
Joyce previously served as business manager at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester and at her home parish, St. Alphonsus. She has a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies and Christian ministry from St. Louis Christian College and is pursuing a master’s degree from the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans.