Our Lady of the Assumption Marist Parish, Atlanta, Georgia have begun a new program: Dismantling the Sin of Communal Racism: They recently published this article:
Peace and love to all from Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church (OLA) in Brookhaven, GA. We send our prayers for hope and healing to all, as we join in combatting the urgent crisis of our time.
We are beginning a journey to dismantle the communal sin of racism in our church, our school, our parish, and our community, and we appreciate the opportunity to share our work and to seek the prayers and guidance of all. Our Identity
We are a parish and congregation born in 1951 in the north Atlanta suburbs, amidst Jim Crow segregation, rising white supremacy, and the struggle for civil and human rights. Today, we are a parish of 1,700 households and more than 5,500 parishioners, and we reflect, in part, the increasing diversity of Atlanta. We have vibrant Indonesian and Latino communities who have found a welcoming home at OLA, but we remain largely a majority white church with a small number of Black parishioners.
Mosaic - OLA Marist Parish - Atlanta
In recent times, and especially following the death of George Floyd, members of OLA have felt the urgent call to address racial injustice in a visible and transformative way. In our work, we are inspired by the life and example of Sister Thea Bowman , a leading Black Catholic religious sister, educator, musician, and scholar. From her birth in 1937 in the small town of Yazoo City, Mississippi, Sister Thea rose to become a powerful and tireless voice against racism, sexism, and injustice, within the United States and beyond. Though her life was cut short by breast cancer in 1990, her spirit and influence continue to spread far, wide, and deep.
Sister Thea embodies the very qualities and virtues of Mary and the Marist Way: strength, wisdom, fearlessness, steadfastness, humility, grace. In 2018, Sister Thea was declared a Servant of God, marking the first of four steps toward canonization in the Catholic Church.
Since our blessing and kickoff as a new OLA ministry in August 2021, we are engaging in sacred dialogue and conversation within our ministry to discern our mission and focus. To date, we have joined together, via Zoom meetings and other communications, to name the urgent issues that challenge our ministry. We are asking hard questions:
- What are our lived experiences of racism?
- How do we define Racial Justice? How do we define and engage in Restorative Justice?
- What are our thoughts about the Black experience in our church?
- How do we ensure that Antiracism is a key, integral theme in our homilies, prayers of the faithful, parish activities, parish ministries?
- How do we ensure that children in our OLA school and parish receive Antiracism education, training, and experiential learning?
- As a majority white congregation and parish, how do we authentically engage with members of the Black community – both Catholic and beyond?
- How do we combat the alarming rise of white supremacy in our midst?
Responses of Parishioners to Survey on Dismantling Communal Racism
Our Hopes and Dreams
While we are continuing in formation together, we are expressing our hopes and dreams for the ministry. Here are some key responses and themes from our members, also captured in our "Word Cloud".
- Authentic, real discussions about race
- Better understanding of structural racism and short- and long-term remedies
- Fluency in the language of racism and our historical actions and inequities
- Reduction in racial stereotyping, animosities, and violence
- Identifying of the racism in ourselves and the complacent racism in our church, community, and society
- Work with other faiths in understanding the impacts of systemic racism
- Education to all seeking information about racism and how to end it
Our Path Forward
- Visible change in our communities
As is often said, "A journey of thousand miles, begins with a single step." Our journey has begun.
Take Action …
We are largely shaped by stories defining our cultural and religious beliefs and values. The stories and life lessons that form our racial biases and perspectives are given and passed down from one generation to another by those we love and trust the most…our families, friends, our places of worship, and schools we attend. Break the generational cycle of racism.
Holy Mary, we seek the grace and understanding to be converted from the individual and communal sin of racism that continues to devastate our Black community and its institution of family.
Please guide us to an understanding that racial justice and respect of life is as important as pro-life causes.
Help us not to be in denial of power systems that give advantages at the expense of others.
Help us to use our white individual and systemic influence in our families, communities, schools, parishes and other institutions to dismantle any system and form of racism.
We pray in the name of Jesus, pleading for your intercession. Amen.
Credits: Racial Justice Ministry Team Members, Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Atlanta, Georgia