The joint leadership of Maryknoll Sisters, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners issued the statement “A Call for Anti-Racist Transformation in the United States” on June 10, 2020. Maryknoll Lay Missioners continues to reflect on what we hope is a kairos moment of transformation — for our association, church, nation and world —that will lead us to no longer accept racism as a given.
No matter where we live in this world, the evil of racism afflicts every person. Institutional, structural and systemic racism fosters obscene inequity with respect to power, opportunity, wealth, employment, access to health care and education, the environment, safety and many other areas. The sins of white supremacy and white privilege serve only to divide and wound what the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as the Beloved Community.
[The] Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.
We believe that real progress toward this vision of one human family and global justice is possible, but — echoing the joint Maryknoll statement — only with sincere sorrow and atonement for our own failings and sins of commission and omission, followed by conversion rooted in a deep commitment to solidarity and substantive concrete action.
Recognizing our own sins
“Inspired by the mission of Jesus to live and work with poor communities in Africa, Asia and the Americas, responding to basic needs and helping to create a more just and compassionate world” (Maryknoll Lay Missioners Mission Statement), we also uphold a vision in which we strive to become “a dynamic anti-racist organization that reflects the ethnic and cultural richness of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and the world”(Maryknoll Lay Missioners Vision Statement).
We acknowledge that too often we have fallen short of these ideals. Too often, we have directly and indirectly — through our silence or failure to act — perpetuated the very policies and perspectives we strive to work against.
We acknowledge the historical reality of colonial and paternalistic approaches to mission in the Catholic Church, whereby white Euro-centric people entered predominantly non-white spaces with the intent to alter those spaces. This is our history and a legacy we must work actively to overcome.
We also acknowledge that within Maryknoll Lay Missioners, our missioners of color and other nationalities, as a minority voice, have not always received the space they deserve despite, at times, their closer proximity to the populations we work alongside. Likewise, the communities who welcome us have not always been fully considered in decisions that impact how we engage with them.
While our intentions have been good, our actions typically reflected the practices of the times. We acknowledge that white-centric belief systems often shaped the way we work, even at the expense of fully welcoming all cultural families to Maryknoll Lay Missioners.
We believe it diminishes our ability to listen and accompany in what Maryknoll has called “the fields afar” when our institutional bias is historically inculcated in our practices. We recognize that we need to unlearn and learn, and to realign our mindsets and actions in solidarity with our diverse team of missioners and black, brown and Indigenous peoples throughout the world.
We humbly and sincerely ask forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings, our past and present racist actions, and our silence and failure to act when something more was demanded of us.
We ask for God’s grace to be an instrument of change as we strive to more faithfully mirror our mission, vision statement, and purpose with regard to diversity, equality, and anti-racism.
Our commitment to resist racism in Maryknoll Lay Missioners
As we strive to deepen our solidarity with our sisters and brothers marginalized by racism, …
- We commit to examining our complicity in the sin of racism, to atone for our sins, and to courageously open ourselves to the grace and gift of God’s creative work for internal change.
- We commit to surrounding those suffering from and mourning the effects of racism with our compassion and prayers.
- We commit to truly listening with open hearts and minds by stepping out of our usual spaces in order to dwell silently in the truth of our black, brown and Indigenous sisters and brothers too often ignored.
- We commit to sharing the sorrow, anger and frustration of black, brown and Indigenous peoples and to joining them in speaking truth to power with the Black Lives Matter and other movements around the world that strive to dismantle the systems of injustice, inequities, and racism that exist in our institutions.
- We commit to deepening our reflections with our missioners and staff on racism and white privilege.
- We commit to making our way forward as a place of diversity, equality, and inclusion by inviting experts to partner with us as we strive for systemic and sustainable change in our organization.
- We commit to an ongoing discernment of our collective call to “love God with our whole selves, and our neighbors as ourselves.”
- We commit to developing culturally sound guiding principles as benchmarks of our transformation so that we may …
Lift ev’ry voice and sing
‘Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies
May we — and the entire family of God — open ourselves to the breath of God that our hearts may overflow with love, that our will be God’s will, that we be formed by grace and courage for the opportunities before us, and that our collective work lead us to become the beloved community God desires for us.
Maryknoll Lay Missioners, July 1, 2020