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 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.
2022 Vision and Direction
1. FSPA will cultivate a culture of humility, considering first what needs to be addressed in our own racial biases, history and organization as we join others to address the racial injustices of our society and church.
2. FSPA will increase its commitment to unveiling our white privilege at our 2022 Mission Assembly: A Revolution through Encuentro, Our Journey to Oneness.
3. Our sisters will engage in prayerful listening, dialogue and discernment about the impact of racism in our religious life and the Church.
4. Our partners in mission-staff will learn the elements of systemic racism and how to constructively address them through regularly promoted and sponsored educational opportunities.
5. Our partners in mission-affiliates will join us as we delve deeper into understanding the impacts of systemic racism in the life of the Church and society.
6. Our partners in mission-prayer partners will pray with us in a spirit of cultural humility and repentance as we grow in our awareness of our complicity in racism, praying for the grace of conversion and healing.
7. 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 itself and its areas of influence.
Read and act: Confronting Racism with a Franciscan Heart
Prayer shared by Loyola University Campus Ministry, Spirituality of Sister Thea Bowman
2022 Education Series
Informal Sharing: creating awareness, sharing event opportunities, sharing the work of FSPA partners and other congregations or groups; it is through these microlearning opportunities that FSPA is preparing for more formal training coming fall 2022.
“Cracking the Codes: Identity and Culture” is a really quick (less than one minute) message about what makes us human kind, as introduced by poet and Hip Hop Artist Y. Jelal Huyler.
“Cracking Codes: Unconscious Bias” is a seven-minute video that was introduced to sisters and partners in mission who attended YWCA’s racial justice training. They consider this video foundational to Anti-Racism and DEI.
Anti-Racism Legislation H.R. 40 and Systemic Change
Congress has an opportunity to pass H.R. 40, a bill that would establish a commission to study the legacy of slavery in the United States, its impact today, and ways forward toward healing and reconciliation.
Read Global Catholic Sisters Report "The time for reparations is now" for some calls to action that include watching Network Lobby's H.R. 40 Webinar to learn more about reparations and the call for President Biden to establish a commission.
And, on our Truth and Healing page, we're following H.R. 5444 / S. 2907, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the US. NABS' one pager is a great resource that summarizes Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Policies Act.
On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, enshrining June 19 as the national day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Though Juneteenth had been celebrated as early as the 1890’s, the elevation of this day to a federal holiday allows our country the collective opportunity to reflect upon our history, examine the forces that continue to undermine the freedom of Black Americans, and actively work to dismantle these forces. As we continue the work of our Provocative Movement, it is important that our congregation understands and celebrates Juneteenth as a continuing effort to dismantle racism today.
Why is Juneteenth Important?
Juneteenth marks a date of major significance in American history and shows us that freedom and racial equality have always been
a hard-fought battle for Black Americans – a battle that continues to this day. It not only spurs conversation about the origins of our
current racial conflicts but it prompts vitally necessary education about white supremacy and its manifestations in policies and political action.
How Should We Celebrate Juneteenth?
There are many ways we can observe and celebrate this holiday, from supporting Black businesses to educating ourselves, to using our voice to spread love. We can also take time to share the stories of Black people we admire and learn about prominent Black figures in American history. But most importantly, on Juneteenth, we must recommit to the work that needs to be done for reconciliation to address and correct our participation in unjust structures. Ultimately, Juneteenth is a continuing call for justice.
Juneteenth and Our Catholic Faith
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from the inhumane and long-term effects of systemic racism. Juneteenth is more than a day of celebration. It is a challenge to be accountable to one another as members of a beloved community. It is a call to enter into a conversation with each other, creating a
time and space where all people can flourish. As Catholics and a congregation, we have the chance to play a significant role in breaking down the walls of racism.
As we commemorate June 19th, let us celebrate the day when freedom was finally proclaimed, and let us ask our Lord through prayer and reflection to guide us individually and as a congregation to work for racial justice.
Prayer for Juneteenth
Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image. Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil
and to make no peace with oppression. Help us, like those of generations before us who resisted the evil
of slavery and human bondage in any form and any manner of oppression. Help us to use our freedoms
to bring justice among people and nations everywhere, to the glory of your Holy name through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.
Read Critical Race Theory, by Sister Julia Walsh
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.
Watch Language 101, by Sister Laura Nettles
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.
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.
Truth and Healing: our history at St. Mary's Indian Boarding School
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.
Subversive Habits, by Shannen Dee Williams
According to Global Catholic Sisters Report, "The extensively researched book, which includes more than 100 pages of citations, tells the history of Black sisters in the United States, from the "few girls of color desiring religious life" and their 1819 attempt to join the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to 2018, when the National Black Sisters' Conference honored Patricia Grey, formerly Mercy Sister M. Martin de Porres, as its foundress at its 50th anniversary."
Read Global Sisters Report "New book tells the 'beautiful' but 'painful' history of Black Catholic nuns
Read the introduction and purchase "Subversive Habits"
Watch: Sisters of St. Joseph host book launch
Described as "a sacramental moment" and "profoundly transformative" by our Sisters of St. Joseph, the event far exceeded our expectations for participation. The sisters were humbled by the opportunity to help Dr. Shannen Dee Williams, the author, bring to light the painful history of racial injustice for Black Catholic sisters in our Church.
The Sisters of St. Joseph wanted to create an opportunity for further reflection for those who might be interested and would find it a helpful way to process their experience. To that end, they formulated several reflection questions and an option to share responses. Find this opportunity to reflect here.
'Our reckoning': U.S. 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."
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. Below is a series of reflections and experiences shared by attendees.
Sister Georgia: The way we've always done it is not the way forward
White Privilege Symposium 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.
Sister Sarah: This is my white privilege
White Privilege Symposium 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.
Sister Karen: Winona LaDuke's fierce efforts as water protecter
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."
Sister Eileen: Cultural Humility
White Privilege Symposium Reflection
by Sister Eileen McKenzie
Using words she heard throughout the symposium, Sister Eileen created this word cloud, highlighting: Listen, Be Curious, Dignity, Love, Cultural Humility, Intent vs. Impact.
When you see or hear these words, what stirs within you? What would you add? Let us know.
Sister Meg: We need to stop, just stop, and listen
White Privilege Symposium Reflection
by Sister Meg Earsley
She spoke her truth.
Full of story and sorrow and heartbreak.
And I stopped and listened.
I listened to her sorrow and her despair,
when she said she couldn't see a future
He told his truth.
Full of story and resilience and strength.
And I stopped and listened.
I listened to his hope and his fortitude,
when he inspired all of us
with his enthusiasm and love.
It's time to leave the stage my friends,
to pass the mic to those whose voices
we have not yet heard.
To hear the stories,
to join in the heartache,
to invite the inspiration.
We need to stop,
Andrea: my white privilege and racism feel imprinted upon me, steeped in ignorance and fear
White Privilege Symposium Reflection
by Andrea Van Sickle, partner in mission on staff
I viewed the keynote and recorded presentations and they were very impactful. Early on in Debbie Irving’s presentation, she spoke of how anti-racism work makes visible that which was previously invisible. This resonates deeply with me. It is not just what I see with the organs of my eyes, though my eyes have seen much, and more and more, over time. Rather, it is an all-body and soul kind of seeing, accompanied by expanding knowledge, realizations, understanding and the tugging calling to be con-tactful and aligned with others in community, and with right action.
Understanding intersectionality is crucial. The essential, very personal work of openly inquiring into who am I, the truths of my experience, from birth to now, is big work! And some of it is very painful to hold. The layers that wrap my white privilege and racism feel imprinted upon me, and steeped in ignorance and fear. The truth is, “I’d rather take chances than be on my guard, that side of the moon is too dark…” (from Tret Fure, “That Side of the Moon”).
My heart’s desire is to be open and loving, to live from here.
My consciousness is emerging. My subconscious and unconscious realms are also relevant. Each New Year, a small group of friends and I gather to create vision boards. It is a meaningful, meditative and social time together. As I contemplate my vision board this year, pictured below, some things are visible that were previously invisible.
The FSPA Anti-Racism Team meets regularly as a large group and more frequently in our small groups as follows:
Social Responsibility Speaks (SRS) Consultant Subgroup: Sister Kristin Peters, Patricia Roth, partner in mission; Margaret Bluske, affiliate; Sister Helen Elsbernd
Education Subgroup: Sister Laura Nettles; Sister Julia Walsh; Meg Paulino, affiliate and partner in mission; Deb Scoville, partner in mission; Sister Helen Elsbernd
Communications Subgroup: Rochelle Nicks, affiliate and partner in mission; Sister Eileen McKenzie; partners in mission Jane Comeau, Sierra Richter-Bellville and Jessica Doering