5 Ways You Can Cultivate Peace and Work for Racial Justice

USCCB president, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, recently announced a Day of Prayer for Peace in our Communities, to be celebrated in faith communities across the country on September 9.

In interviewing numerous faith communities in preparation for this day about their responses to violence, racial tensions, and systemic racism, we have encountered amazing stories of deep faith, persevering hope, and effective action to build peace and counter racism.

nbc1In West Baltimore, St. Peter Claver Catholic Church was on the front lines in responding to unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray. Parishioners continue to build on efforts begun four years ago to address neighborhood safety and improve community-police relations. They also participate in Bishop Madden’s prayer walks in neighborhoods plagued by violence.

In Ferguson, MO, parishioners at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are engaging a “Lean In” listening process across cultures and raising awareness about racial issues. Children at the parish school study saints of various cultures to reflect on how they can imitate these heroes by engaging in efforts for dialogue and peace. All around St. Louis, MO, parishes are joining with congregations of other denominations so that people of faith can have Sacred Conversations on Race (+ Action), which challenge participants to encounter one another and discuss the uncomfortable topic of racism.

In Dallas, TX, Holy Trinity Catholic Church is working with other faith groups to improve police-community relations and work on racial and economic justice. Because of the interfaith group members’ long work to build relationships with law enforcement, Holy Trinity and others were prepared to respond immediately when the recent shooting of police offices occurred. They now seek to address problems with housing, healthcare access, and payday lending that are connected to racial disparity.

Other stories of hope abound—in Minneapolis, New Orleans, Savannah, Springfield, and countless other cities.

If you feel as inspired by these stories as we do, then take that as a sign of encouragement from the Holy Spirit to discern how your own community might be called to respond.

Here’s how you can get started.

  1. Pray Together. Use these prayers from the USCCB during Eucharistic celebrations. Gather to pray and reflect. Many faith communities are using the bishops’ letters on Brothers and Sisters to Us and What We’ve Seen and What We’ve Heard, as well as Bishop Braxton’s The Racial Divide, as starting points for reflection and discussion. You can access all of these on the USCCB racism page as well as a video, other reflections materials, and more. The WeAreSaltAndLight.org diversity and racial justice page also contains some excellent resources for reflection.
  2. Reach Out Together. Create intentional opportunities for members of your faith community to listen to the stories and experiences of people of ethnicities, languages, and cultures different from their own. This resource on Building Relationships, Creating a Culture of Encounter through One-to-Ones can help guide your efforts for encounter. Another fantastic resource for facilitating encounter between different ethnic groups within a faith community is PICO’s Year of Encounter with Pope Francis program.
  3. Bring what you’ve learned through reaching out to pray and reflect on the hard questions. Gather with other representatives, including decision makers, in your faith community and ask the hard questions: Does the leadership of our institution reflect the diversity of those we serve? Are the many faces of the diverse body of Christ represented in decision-making processes? How are we inviting and forming leaders? Who is missing around the table? In our worship together, and in activities of our community, do we cultivate welcome, hospitality, and participation for people of all cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds? How do we invite our members to reflect about and understand racism? Privilege? The dignity of all people? Whose untold story do we need to listen to? Are we preaching on, and praying together about, these difficult issues? How are we currently working to change perspectives and address the causes of racism?
  4. Learn Together. Make an effort to learn more about racial disparities and the causes of racial tension. Learn about the historical struggle for racial justice in the United States and some of the challenges that remain. In recent years, there has been ample media coverage on disparities in education, housing, employment, the justice system, and other areas. Use the Process for Group Discernment to draw from your experiences of prayer, reflection, encounter, and study to discern what action the Holy Spirit might be calling you to take as a community.
  5. Act Together. Some of the faith communities highlighted above chose to reach across faith traditions, joining ecumenical and interfaith efforts to work together on racial and economic justice. You can discover what efforts might already be happening in your community at the PovertyUSA.org website. Other communities felt called to commit to practical changes in the ways they practice hospitality, cultivate leaders, and celebrate cultural traditions. Others are just beginning, but are engaging in important encounter and dialogue that can lay the groundwork for future efforts.

What is the Holy Spirit calling you to do, together with your family, neighborhood, parish, school, or other faith community? What will be your first step?

The Sluggish Pursuit of Racial Justice

(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

The U.S. Bishops said it back in 1979 with “Brothers And Sisters to Us.”  Their words continue to have a powerful impact in the Catholic community:

“Racism is a sin, a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.  Racism is a sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of race … it mocks the words of Jesus, ‘Treat others the way you would have them treat you.’”

Racial and ethnic strife have remained issues the Church has addressed from the very beginning. Now in our present day, in a climate of ever-expanding freedoms, every Christian is obliged to apply Christ-like critique to personal preferences and judgments in effort to steer clear of seeing others as somehow different.

“They are not like us” is something we hear commonly said.  So, we avoid their neighborhoods.  We avoid social interaction with those people.  We stand from a distance and imagine how bad they are in order to justify our lack of involvement with them.  And ‘because those kinds of people are different, they are not necessarily entitled to, or they don’t deserve, or are not interested in working toward what resourceful and otherwise people like me are entitled to or work for.’

Added to this is the fear of shortages, the fear that we are not treated fairly in comparison to others, the fear of foreigners entering our space.  Regular media reports about the encroachment of refugees and migrants seeking respite from war and conflict, religious or ethnic persecution typically stir fear in people.  While it is a human penchant to differentiate, differentiation acts counter the sensibilities of the Christian message of love of neighbor we received from Jesus Christ.

We look to the Christian template in Acts 2, which inspires mixed class, mixed race and mixed generational communities, and we see that it must translate to our faith communities, as well. Communities in which we would never aspire towards mono-racial parishes because we would recognize they are incomplete, admitting that we are responsible for the application, punctuation and scheduling the universality of God’s kingdom, which is always the higher rubric in the Christian dispensation.

Indeed, the social imperatives found in the gospel are some of the most challenging messages to get across in preaching and Christian formation. It is a genuine struggle getting these ideals across to people, even to sincere Christians.  Material wealth and well-being are deemed manna from heaven. People prefer to live this way – economic advantage and opportunity enable us to live this way. But as positive as advantage, free enterprise and choice are deemed in our democracy, they unwittingly work a divide in the human community.

The City of Chicago is often representative of some of the most glaring disparities in opportunity: housing, education and access to health care.  Disproportionate numbers of people of color live in misery, condemned to lives of desperation, fueled by depression, and crime chosen as a path by anti-social elements in the sub culture.  Adding to the challenge of the Christian task are the people on the other side who easily dispense themselves from indifference and numbness felt in the face of some overwhelming social inequities surrounding us.

Whereas our nation has addressed many legal barriers to ending racism with civil rights legislation, we must continue to be vigilant for we are now challenged to deal with attitudinal and economic barriers to ending racism. The Church’s voice, strong in instances, muted in others, has tried to break through social walls that divide.  We find that people listen and may even nod in the affirmative to what is preached, but certain stubborn social patterns continue.

Christian faith affords us opportunities to reach to the deepest recesses of our hearts to search out attitudes and dispositions and information from our rearing that need discarding if we would live as a redeemed people. For example: ‘From where do my impressions of others originate?  Do I tend to label people or place them in categories?  Do I tend to expect the worse or the best from others regardless who they are?  When are the numbers of minorities close by too many for my comfort level?

What attitudes and approaches are we leaving to the young in legacy so they can help eradicate this original and pernicious sin of our society called racism?

Most Reverend Joseph Perry is an Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and Episcopal Vicar for Vicariate VI. Bishop Perry is the Diocesan Postulator for the Cause of Canonization of Father Augustus Tolton.

This blog post was adapted for ToGoForth. Read the original version on the Catholic Chicago Blog.


This week, Catholics from all over the country are gathering to pray and learn about what it means to dismantle internalized judgments of our neighbor. The Social Action Summer Institute hosts a number of sessions to help bring about this clarity at Saint Xavier University on July 17-21st. For more information, visit: www.chicagopeaceandjustice.org/SASI. You can also follow the conversation on social media #SASI2016.

I don’t know how I feel . . .

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Today, as usual, I stopped by my local coffee shop where the friendly, courteous barista asked me, as she does every day, “How do you feel?”

I blurted out my routine, perfunctory, usual, everyday customary response: “Fine, and you?”

I walked out and pondered the lie. . . . I wasn’t fine. In fact, I don’t know how I feel. I returned to the coffee shop and spent an hour talking with her. Neither of us was “fine.”

After the recent killing of those sworn to protect and serve in Dallas AND the killing by  those sworn to protect and serve in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Ferguson, and so many other cities… I honestly don’t know or understand this feeling. It has gone beyond sadness, gone beyond disgust, gone beyond anger, beyond sorrow, beyond fear. This feeling for me and for so many others is new, yet to be defined or given a name.

Angrily, I am prepared to answer the standard litany of questions from folks about the victims:

“Why didn’t he just not resist?”

“Did he have an arrest record?”

“Did he have a job?”

“Was he married to his children’s mother?”

“Why aren’t you as upset when it is ‘black on black’ murder?”

“If the officers are guilty, why are there never any convictions?”

“Were the officers white?”

“Was the sniper black?”

“Was he connected to any ‘terrorist’ movements?”

ENOUGH!

Sadly, more people are killed. More people not going home for dinner tonight or ever again.

Police officers who overwhelmingly help us sleep comfortably at night and are often times underappreciated were senselessly killed as they protected folk who voiced displeasure and concern about the killing of young men around the country.

Earlier this week, we witnessed yet again young African American men killed at the hands of a system that is paid for and sanctioned by our tax dollars or by society. Young lives and children of God also taken too soon. Lives that have dignity, persons who by U.S. legal standards are innocent until proven guilty. And yes, the lives of those shot dead in inner cities are just as valued, just as precious. Life matters. For urban youth, for law enforcement, for us.

… I don’t know how I feel . . . perhaps a bit guilty for still being here, as an African-American male who has also, like so many other persons of color, looked down at an un-holstered revolver during a traffic stop. For some reason, I and the persons traveling with me were spared. I don’t know how I feel.

… I don’t know how I feel as I joyfully celebrate progress while simultaneously sadly lamenting regress. Poverty, crime, unemployment, environmental racism, and despair flourish throughout the country, yet disproportionately in black and brown communities.

…I don’t know how I feel. I have so many good friends in law enforcement, mostly in North Texas, including Dallas, who are experiencing intense pain, and feeling vulnerable and exposed as they protect and serve with dignity and professionalism.

… I don’t know how I feel when folks still find comfort in asking the same old, tired questions that seem to comfort and appease their consciences and not address the problems.

I feel confused as we chalk this one up and wait for the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one. The next government sanctioned, gang related, rage-filled, terroristic, domestic violence, or mental illness caused- killing of another of our brothers, our sisters, our children . . . and then wait on the next one.

There will be vigils, prayers, protests, and screams of anguish, trials, and tons of tears but will there be change?

I don’t know how I feel . . . hopeless, in despair, weak, I just want to just sleep, but can’t. Because to use the mantra of the new movement, I have to “stay woke”. To heed the words of Pope Francis, “Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armour’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!” To heed the words in Matthew 26:52: “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

I don’t know how I feel, but I feel like there has to be a better way.

A retired prison warden friend of mine reminded me that on most prison yards, there are no guns. Prison guards don’t have them and yet they figure out a way to take down the most hardened criminals without shooting or killing them.

Sometimes I feel like giving up but then I remember that anti-violence and restorative justice efforts are steadfast and aren’t giving up despite overwhelming odds. Fr. Michael Pfleger and the faithful around St. Sabina’s Catholic Church in Chicago are not giving up. The California Catholic Conference is not giving up. Rev. Michael McBride and the dedicated folks in the Live Free Movement aren’t giving up. Despite all, folks aren’t giving up!

I feel encouraged by this new movement of young folk of all races that seem to have more energy, more clarity, and more optimism than movements of the past. For the most part, they are peaceful and determined.  They are not giving up.

I thank God that I can still feel … feel for Dallas AND Minnesota AND Baton Rouge AND…

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.


 

Faith-based Groups Leading Efforts for Racial Equity

Rich WoodPope Francis, on his recent visit to the United States and in his customary hopeful tone, remembered “the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans.  This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed” (Sept 26, 2015).

Many Americans—Catholic and non-Catholic alike—remain inspired by Pope Francis’ visit. Yet America also struggles to live up to his hopeful vision of eliminating racism and prejudice. Racial controversies roil our universities, incidents of racialized policing lead to deaths, and mass incarceration curtails the life chances of too many young black and brown men. We have failed to build racial equity into the fabric of our society. That task remains urgent three decades after the U.S. bishops diagnosed it thus: “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it means an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Brothers and Sisters to Us, 1979).

The bishops and Catholics in the United States have been putting money into that struggle for decades through the annual collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which takes place in many parishes throughout the United States in November. CCHD’s systematic investment in faith-based community organizing in dioceses and archdioceses around the country represents perhaps the Church’s best investment in fighting racism and working for racial equity in America. These groups fight poverty by empowering people in poor and working class communities to work for social policies in line with Catholic social teaching—often collaborating across racial and ethnic lines.

Many CCHD-funded groups have come to focus on explicitly working for racial equity. One such group is Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild (POWER).  POWER brings together Philadelphians across lines of race, income level, faith tradition, culture, and neighborhood. More than 40 congregations from every section of the city have actively participated in the building of POWER, which works to address racism and promote policy changes to improve communities in Philadelphia, such as fair funding for education, economic dignity through fair wages, and access to affordable housing.

The work of POWER in Philadelphia is but one example of how CCHD-supported groups are realizing the hopes Pope Francis expressed during his visit to the United States. There are hundreds of groups carrying out this work throughout the United States. These kinds of local faith-based organizing efforts offer Catholics a chance to be part of answering those questions.

Answer Pope Francis’ call. Learn more about what CCHD-supported groups are doing in your area and get involved!

Richard L. Wood serves as a consultant to the CCHD Subcommittee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the author of the just-published A Shared Future: Faith-Based Organizing for Racial Equity and Ethical Democracy, and works as a professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico


Learn more about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the state of poverty in the United States at PovertyUSA.org.

During the month of January, don’t forget to celebrate Poverty Awareness Month using this printable calendar (en Español), longer daily reflections (en Español), and our daily emails.  These resources provide food for prayer and action to address poverty in the United States. 

Let the People Vote!

Donna GrimesThe 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is August 6, 2015.

My heart rejoices when I see images of the ink-stained fingers of new voters, particularly in countries where the right to vote has been suppressed or denied.  This symbolism has greater significance when, despite much apprehension, the process proceeds peacefully.  Thus, achieving the right to vote signifies more than full citizenship.  It affirms the human dignity of a people; recognizing that they, too are created in the image and likeness of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1700).  In reality, justice reaches beyond court decisions, legislation and policy changes.  Rather, habitually doing what is right and just yields a conversion of hearts . . . eventually.

This year, we celebrated the relative success of the March from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago, which resulted in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  While not the first effort to protect voting rights of African Americans, the legislation is a significant milestone in the quest for human rights and full citizenship for many groups in this country.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 confirmed terms of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, which established that “the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”  Much progress has been made, but there is still far to go, as debate continues around voter ID laws, legislative redistricting, and other practices which many perceive as limiting the ability of minority populations to vote.   As the saying goes, we take one step forward and two steps backward.

There are also many signs of hope. In March of this year, prior to traveling to Montgomery, AL to participate in the Archdiocese of Mobile’s observance of the anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery, I witnessed the ordination of Most Rev. Fernand Cheri OFM, in New Orleans.  Bishop Cheri is the 25th African American bishop.  African American Catholics traveled near and far for the ordination and for evening vespers and a reception at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Holy Family.  This community, comprising mostly African American women religious, was founded in 1842 by Venerable Henriette Delille, whose struggle for religious freedom and human dignity in the United States still inspires us today.

When I arrived in Montgomery, AL, I noted the small crowd and minimal press coverage—in contrast to coverage for the Selma leg of the march earlier in the month, as President Obama, numerous dignitaries and busloads of ordinary citizens flocked to the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge to retrace the steps of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and hundreds of civil rights foot soldiers.  Rev. Dr. Bernice King delivered her father’s speech from the steps of the State Capitol in her own similar oratorical style.  Barred from speaking at that location, her father spoke from the bed of a pick-up truck.  To the question, “How long?” both crowds responded, “Not long!”  Also noteworthy among the speakers in Montgomery 2015, was the daughter of former Alabama Governor, George Wallace.  She highlighted her father’s transformation after a failed assassination attempt landed him in a wheel chair for the remainder of his life.  Those present caught a glimpse of redemption.

Since I was an African American Catholic school girl during that era, my emotions and moral compass vacillated throughout the trip – propelled by memories, maturity, reflections on present day speeches and homilies; and the simmering reality of current news events reminiscent of the violence and struggles of the past.  The 50th Anniversary Mass at St. Jude Catholic parish also generated a plethora of emotions.  City of St. Jude was Campsite #4 in 1965, the final rest stop before ascending to the Capitol.  Today, we honor the victory of the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, cognizant that this 50th anniversary is our modern day Campsite #4, a rest stop on the road toward justice.

Donna Grimes is Assistant Director – African American Affairs in the USCCB Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

Racism, Inequality and the Right to Vote

Adkins-Jason-head-shot-605x818

Jason Adkins

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, which is one of the most important and effective pieces of civil rights legislation enacted in this country’s history, more work needs to be done to ensure that racism and other inequities do not inhibit anyone from fully participating in community life.

For example, racial inequities in our nation’s criminal justice system impact voter participation.   Many states disenfranchise persons with a felony conviction who have completed their time of incarceration but have not completed their full sentence, including periods of supervised release.  In other words, even those who have left jail or prison and are living and working in the community and paying taxes cannot vote if they have not finished their period of probation or parole.

Disenfranchising felony offenders disproportionately impacts minorities.  In Minnesota, for example, approximately 7.4 percent of African-American and 5.9 percent of American- Indian Minnesotans are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, as opposed to only 1.1 percent of white Minnesotans.

Catholic social teaching encourages greater attention to disparities that impact voting participation.  The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states that “participation in community life is not only one of the greatest aspirations of the citizen, called to exercise freely and responsibly his civic role with and for others, but is also one of the pillars of all democratic orders and one of the major guarantees of the permanence of democratic life.” (no. 190.)

Our justice system has changed

Historically, a felony conviction resulted in what is called “civil death”—a concept dating back to ancient Roman jurisprudence.  By committing a crime, one had offended the peace of the community and, therefore, rightfully lost the privileges of participating in civil society.  Yet, when these rules barring the restoration of civil rights until the full sentence is completed were instituted, the criminal justice system looked a lot different than it does today.

In 1858, when Minnesota became a state, there were 75 felony crimes enumerated in statute.  Today, there are 368 (and the list continues to grow).  Only 30 people were in prison in 1858, and there was no probation system.  Today, there are approximately 16,000 people incarcerated in Minnesota, and 75 percent of felony convictions result in probation.  47,000 Minnesotans are on some form of supervised release and unable to vote.

Yet, there is no evidence that losing the right to vote deters crime.  It is merely punishment for punishment’s sake.  Fortunately, a rethinking of the punitive criminal justice policies of the past is occurring across the ideological spectrum.  In Minnesota, legislation that would restore the vote to those on supervised release has obtained broad bi-partisan support and hopefully will be signed into law soon.

Responsibility, rehabilitation, and restoration

Solidarity, a foundational principle of Catholic Social Teaching, is defined as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all” (Solicitudo rei Socialis, no. 38).  In their document, “Restoration, Rehabilitation, and Responsibility” (2000), the U.S. Catholic bishops declared that in matters of criminal justice, “solidarity calls us to insist on responsibility and seek alternatives that do not simply punish, but rehabilitate, heal, and restore.”

The bishops encouraged lawmakers to redirect the vast amount of public resources away from building more prisons and toward better and more effective programs aimed at crime prevention, rehabilitation, and reintegration.

In fact, the premise of supervised release programs is that an offender and society are better off by re-integrating people back into our communities.  If offenders continue to be reminded, however, by the collateral consequences of a conviction that they are not like everyone else, how can we, as a society, have expectations that they will act as responsibly as everyone else?

Restoring the vote to those who are out of prison and living and working in our communities under supervised release can promote successful reintegration into the community, as voting can be a powerful, concrete, and symbolic way to contribute to one’s community and to feel invested and empowered to play a positive role. In other words, it serves the common good. Fuller integration of people into their community and involvement in civic life logically results in stronger ties and feelings of empowerment, which can help to lessen feelings of disconnection and frustration that can contribute to future crime.

The Church should continue to be at the forefront of providing a policy framework that cuts through the false “either/or” rhetoric of criminal justice debates.  It should emphasize the need to integrate the policy goals of restoration, rehabilitation, and responsibility—not just retribution—and highlight the themes of justice and mercy for the disenfranchised and others on the margins of society.

Jason Adkins is executive director and general counsel of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

It Ain’t the First and It Ain’t the Last

“It ain’t the first and it ain’t the last!” That was the response of Avery, an elderly man who is always at my barbershop (though he never seems to get a haircut) when he was asked about the current unrest in Baltimore.

McCloud headshot

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Indeed, many of us said after the Ferguson turmoil, polarity, and finger-pointing that it could happen anywhere. We acknowledged that issues in many of America’s inner cities were at a boiling point. Twenty-three years since Rodney King and twenty three days since Freddie Gray.  From the west coast to the east coast and countless cities in between, lives have been lost and reduced because of racism, classism, unjust laws, oppressive systems, and benign neglect. From coast to coast we have seen a rapid rise in hatred, racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, inattention, and abandonment. Impressions of our sisters and brothers have been reduced to what is reported by the ever so selective evening news, or discriminatory twitter or latest Facebook feed.

Yes, another straw has broken another camel’s back and another spark has been fanned into flame as the ever so elusive peace continues to avoid our cities. It is important to note that there are always many straws and many sparks long before the camel’s back is broken or the fire erupts.

Exclusion and marginalization continues to plague communities and manifests itself in often violent protest. In the words of Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel: “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility” (no. 59).

It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of people who struggle with poverty or marginalization do not show their disgust in violence. Rather they participate in peaceful prayer services, marches, and demonstrations. A far greater number do nothing at all but find themselves paralyzed trying to figure out what might do the most good.

It would be unwise to assume that the problems are only one dimensional, that it is only racism, or only classism, or only family structure, or only urban, rural or suburban. The issues are complex and require a complex and diverse response. No response only fuels more smoldering embers.

Avery continues to lament with grief, “it ain’t the first and it ain’t the last!” Have we given up on Baltimore? Ferguson? New York? Etc.? And what of the ones who would be husbands or fathers? Scholars? Role models? Stewards and caretakers of inner cities?  Is it totally impossible to dream that Baltimore could be “the last”? Is it possible that enough courageous faithful people could rise and say, “Enough!” Could it be that folk will call racism the sin that it is and commit to doing whatever needs to be done to eradicate and dismantle it? Can decent affordable housing shelter people in all neighborhoods? Why can’t we ensure education that provides a path to college and then a path to employment? How can we reform the criminal justice system so that it doesn’t target and oppress people of color?

Numerous questions, and frankly, I don’t have a good answer for any of them, but I am certain apathy and indifference doesn’t maintain the status quo; it only makes matters worse.

“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.”   (1 John 4:16)

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.