Unity in Diversity
We celebrate authentically
unity in diversity
by challenging ourselves
to unveil our white privilege
– declared at FSPA’s A Revolution of Goodness, June 2018
We are on a journey to dismantle FSPA racism. Committed to awareness, analysis and action, we are praying, learning and acting with those who grant us the insight and courage to know how we can begin dismantling FSPA racism. Our efforts are:
- raising awareness of our participation in systemic racism
- analyzing our congregation’s anti-racist vision
- acting authentically for racial equity
Our work is guided by our FSPA mission to be loving presence through prayer, witness and service, recognizing that all people are children of God and beloved of their Creator.
White Privilege Symposium Reflections
Several sisters and partners in mission on staff attended the White Privilege Symposium either at the La Crosse Center or virtually Dec. 3-4, 2021. We invited attendees to reflect on their experience and will share on this page throughout 2022.
Reflection by Sister Georgia Christensen
What does it mean to be a white woman in these challenging times?
As so beautifully pointed out at the White Privilege Symposium ...
white women are a bridge between white men and people of color.
In the small group session I attended on what it means to be a white woman, several ideas surfaced and were shared. How we serve as that bridge is really in our control. Oftentimes we find ourselves subservient, undervalued and often ignored by white men. Yet, we sometimes ignore and undervalue and place expectations on people of color. To me being the bridge includes taking the negative lessons learned and experienced from the one end of the bridge and revolving them into a positive response for the other end. The way we were treated or the way we’ve always done it, doesn’t hold today as the way forward. Times are different; we are different. Today we interact with people from many different backgrounds and experiences than we ever did before.
As a white woman, and in particular as a white professed religious woman, I need to show a more compassionate and inclusive face than I ever did before.
Reflection by Sister Sarah Hennessey
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
-Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail
I have good will but am I really seeking a deeper understanding? Is my acceptance only lukewarm? How am I continuing to practice and learn to unveil my white privilege?
Everything is connected: our minds, our bodies, our souls. Also economics, politics and the climate crisis. The genocide of indigenous people in the Americas and the increase in assassinations of environmental activists today. The history of Black Wall Street, the Tulsa massacre and the killing of Black and Brown people today.
We are all connected. We are living on this one fragile planet.
Part of my white privilege means that I get to choose when and how often I think about the social construct of race and its real implications. I can step in and out of being an ally. And I do. There are times when I am educating myself and other times that I am not. Moments when I advocate for change and others where I do not.
This is my white privilege.
White Privilege Symposium keynote speaker Debbie Irving asked us what are our anti-racist practices. If we are trying to be healthy, we have an exercise regimen. So if I am trying to do anti-racism work, what is my daily practice? Debbie suggested being curious, staying open, and reflecting daily on my practice of being anti-racist. In the workshop about being allies, we talked about listening with curiosity, speaking our truth with love, and trying to create an environment where vulnerability is OK. My hope is to find concrete ways to move from being an ally to being an advocate to really staying engaged and being an accomplice. For me this means becoming aware of our complex history, continuing to learn, acknowledging my participation in oppressive systems and being accountable for my own words and behaviors.
This is not the work of a weekend, this is life-long work.
This is not something I do alone, but a movement we participate in together.
Reflection by Sister Karen Kappell
What impressed and moved me was the resilience of keynote speaker Winona LaDuke and her fierce efforts to support care of the earth and tribal rights to land. She is a water protector. I join with her in her concerns and efforts. From Winona’s perspective, “In choice we have two paths, the green and the scorched. In scripture we hear ‘choose death or choose life.’” I carry from her a deeper desire to choose life, to work on the path of renaming, reclaiming and rebirthing.
Winona LaDuke spoke extensively about the Canadian oil-and-gas-transport company Enbridge building an expansion of a pipeline, Line 3, to carry oil through fragile parts of Minnesota’s watersheds as well as treaty-protected tribal lands. Much of her presentation is covered in this New York Times article, "Winona LaDuke Feels That President Biden Has Betrayed Native Americans."
Social Responsibility Speaks: our partner in this ministry
We've partnered with Social Responsibility Speaks to become an Anti-Racist organization. Social Responsibility Speaks believes "that humans have a social responsibility to care for one another, work towards a more just society, and endeavor to educate others to do the same ... if we treat symptoms and not the cause, the problem will reoccur because the root will still bear fruit."
Social Responsibility Speaks will guide FSPA through a range of services, including education and an assessment of our organization, "centered on the fact that organizations' 'diversity' challenges are often a result of misunderstanding how to achieve it."
'Our reckoning': US sisters take up call to examine their role in systemic racism
"If you really understand what happened in the past, you can identify your previous behaviors and try to correct them. And I think that's what sisters are after this time." - M. Shawn Copeland
Read Global Sisters Report's article "'Our reckoning:' US sisters take up call to examine their role in systemic racism."
Educating ourselves and our children about critical race theory
"The education most needed to address racism in our society extends well beyond our schools. It begins with each of us asking ‘why.’ It begins with critical self-reflection, with identifying our inadvertent microaggressions and unveiling our own white privilege," shares Sister Julia Walsh in her article published by the La Crosse Tribune.
Why language matters: how do I value diversity and work for oneness? Presented by Sister Laura Nettles, presentation highlights include why language matters, the problem with racial colorblindness, when to not talk about race and how to talk about race.
Franciscan Federation passes new resolution for JPIC Work
As a member of the Franciscan Federation, FSPA is pleased to share that the resolution passed for the 2021-22 is Confronting Racism with a Franciscan Heart. With mentions of both Fratelli Tutti and Laudato Si, Pope Francis' two prominent encyclicals, the resolution reminds us of our calling to a "way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel" and of the connection "between praising the God of creation and recognizing our duty to care for each other by caring for the planet." Intended as a concrete response to those directives, the call to action is to "a collective Franciscan voice to respond as peacemakers as we confront Racism with a Franciscan Heart."
Read and act: Confronting Racism with a Franciscan Heart
Prayer shared by Loyola University Campus Ministry, Spirituality of Sister Thea Bowman
Watch Exploring Intersections: Racial Justice
How do we deal with our country’s racist history and the long-term consequences? How do we support racial justice today and work to become an anti-racist society? And how does racial justice intersect with the critical issues of migration and climate we also face? This episode of “Exploring Intersections: Catholic Sisters on Racism, Migration and Climate” addresses these issues and more. Our three panelists, Emily Lazor; Sister Patricia Rogers, OP; and Sister Mary Lou Specha, PBVM, bring a diverse perspectives and personal experiences to the table as they engage with host Charish Badzinski in this lively and eye-opening conversation.
Exploring Intersections Action Items
1. Start a discussion group in your parish to read and talk about the book: Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Father Bryan Massingale.
2. Not only people of color, but also white people have to figure out and share their story when it comes to racial incidents – how did they honestly feel and react.
3. Attend a training on systemic racism – at least three days or more.
View more action items and resources from our Exploring Intersections collaboration.
Studying FSPA History
As a congregation called to unveil its white privilege, and as the country continues to confront systemic racism, FSPA recently accepted an invitation to study more deeply a portion of our history: our ministry at St. Mary’s Boarding School in Odanah, Wisconsin, 1883-1969.
Our hope is that as we engage our own discomfort by listening to the painful and tragic stories of the Ojibawe people and others, we can take action in dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in ourselves and our areas of influence. Our call is to address our complicity in unjust systems, both historically and now, and strive to enhance dignity and wholeness to those who have suffered for generations. May God grant us the perseverance necessary for such a mission of reconciliation.
As we continues this path toward healing, we will share resources and information on our Truth and Healing page.
La Crosse County Historical Society, September 2020
"A troubled past: The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and St. Mary’s Indian School"
Vision and Direction by the end of 2021 ...
Update: we are currently reviewing our comprehensive review provided by Social Responsibility Speakers, our partners in this ministry. We are working to review our 2021 action and set our 2022 vision and direction.
- FSPA as a congregation and organization will have further developed the 2018 mission to unveil our white privilege by working to become an anti-racist organization.
- Our sisters will further engage in prayer, reflection and learning about the impact of racism in religious life.
- Our partners in mission-staff will learn about systemic racism and begin to identify elements of white supremacy within the FSPA organization.
- Our partners in mission-affiliates will delve deeper into their understanding of systemic racism in the life of the Church and our society.
- Our partners in mission-prayer partners will pray with us in a spirit of humility and repentance as we grow in our awareness of our complicity in racism, praying for the grace of conversion and healing.
- The general public will identify FSPA as a congregation and organization that is responding to the signs of the times in its efforts to dismantle systemic racism in its areas of influence.