Catholic church

Uniting in Faith: The Church's Role in Overcoming Racism

I was taken aback and at first didn't know how to respond. I had only been at the parish for two weeks and wasn't sure how much I should push back. But, you could see that this older gentleman wanted my opinion because he asked again, "So, what do you think about those people taking over?"

Whenever I'm in an awkward situation, sarcasm creeps up, so I responded, "What do you mean by 'those people'? Who are 'those people'?" I knew very well he was referring to the growing Latino community in our parish. Before our pastor had arrived, they had been relegated to celebrating Mass in the basement of the parish center and not in the church building. Despite the majority of kids and teens speaking English and attending schools, they had separate programs on a separate night. I don't know when it all started, but it had to end.

Finally, I responded to the man, "I can't wait to meet them and journey with them in faith. I'm sure there are some great leaders ready to help this parish grow. And by the way, I don't think they would appreciate being referred to as 'those people'." Before he could respond, I walked away.

Over the past several years, our parish has been learning how to be multicultural. We have several cultures and nationalities present in our parish, and creating an inclusive environment has its challenges, but the fruit always outweighs the labor. Unfortunately, racism and bigotry prevent us from doing what God has called us to do.

This country is becoming more and more diverse each year (Read more HERE). However, to assume the problems of racism will naturally go away is somewhat naive. What the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calls for in their document "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love - A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," is the following:

"What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change, and the reform of our institutions and society. Conversion is a long road to travel for the individual. Moving our nation to a full realization of the promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all is even more challenging. However, in Christ, we can find the strength and the grace necessary to make that journey." - (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 7)


Bottom line, we in the local church have a role to play. While you might not see racism in your parish community, the only way you will know is by:


What is the single biggest challenge individuals, families, the next generation, etc., are facing in your mission field? It's a question that we don't ask enough, and that's why many of the ministries we lead don't engage people. If you want to reach people on the fringes and combat the evils of the world, like racism, then you have to understand what is happening in your community.

Knowing your mission field means spending time in it, whether that's through school events or attending local government meetings. It's patronizing local businesses and building relationships outside of the church walls. It's work, but it's necessary if you want to reach people for Christ.

When you go into your mission field, not only will you learn more about the people God has called you to serve, but people will feel seen by the Church. One of the reasons evils like racism emerge is because people don't feel seen or heard. They're ignored, and the problems they face are unaddressed.

To get more into the mission field, make sure you are spending at least a few hours doing something for the community, without the expectation of getting anything in return. Try to meet people different from you and get to know their story. It'll change your heart, and even your mind, on what you need to do to fulfill God's calling.


I asked a good friend of mine, "What's one of the best ways we can combat racism through the local Church?" His response was, "We have to have the conversations as much as possible." In other words, our conversations have to be proactive and not just reactive to when something happens. We need to talk with people who are different from us, and we have to listen to their stories.

Even if we don't live in diverse communities, we need to revisit Church teachings about faith, justice, and systemic evil, especially when it comes to topics of race and culture. Those conversations aren't easy, and that's why we also need to pray together. Communities that center themselves in prayer allow the Holy Spirit to guide them through those conversations.

If you aren't sure how to start those conversations, reach out to people you know who have the skill set. If you are looking for resources, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a page that you can access HERE. But, most importantly, make sure the conversations include different voices, and above all, promote prayer and listening. The more we can talk about these issues, the more we can bring justice to light.


I'll be honest, I wasn't sure about writing this post. Despite working in a parish that strives to be inclusive as we become more diverse. Despite serving on the board of a ministry that struggles with systematic racism, this topic intimidates me because I don't want to come off as uneducated, irrational, or close-minded. But, the reality is, even if I was confident in my stance, I would still need to be open to learning and listening.

I recognize that racism in our society, and our parishes isn't the only issue we face when it comes to bringing God's love into the world, but it shouldn't be the last thing. It's okay to make yourself uncomfortable and vulnerable. When you educate yourself on these matters, you allow the Spirit to mold your hearts.

So, as we continue along this journey of faith together, let's not forget about those in the margins, those who are looked over and forgotten. Don't be afraid to start the conversation and remember that conversion is a long road to travel, but in "Christ, we can find the strength and the grace necessary to make that journey."

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