“Justice is what love looks like in public.”
This quote from Cornel West was the heart of Fr. Bryan Massingale’s presentation at Saint Louis University on the Spirituality of Racial Metanoia. The April event was part of the Sharing the Whole Story program offered by the Jesuits USA Central and Southern (UCS) Province’s Office of Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education, in conjunction with the university.
Conversations about race are hard. Teaching about race, racism and the Black American experience can be even harder. The UCS Province is dedicated to preparing educators at its 12 secondary and pre- secondary schools to make teaching these difficult subjects just a little more comfortable, while furthering social justice.
The Office of Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education fulfills the UCS Province’s educational commitment to middle and high schools. The three- person staff meets with school leaders, conducts reviews and provides training for Ignatian educators, from new teachers to experienced administrators.
“Our mission is to support our schools in developing competent, compassionate and committed leaders in service to their students and the broader society,” said Ron Rebore, Ph.D., provincial assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education.
In recent years, the secondary ed. office has increased its focus on province schools’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. They’ve also launched Sharing the Whole Story – a four-cycle workshop series designed to support the instruction of middle and high school teachers covering Province Office Focuses on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion American history from 1619 to the present day.
The program was designed by Saint Louis University Associate Professor Katrina Thompson Moore, Ph.D., whose area of expertise is Black history in the United States. Each cycle features presentations from scholars, instructional resources and new curricula tools.
Another recent offering from the secondary education office was a Colleagues of Color Retreat for faculty and staff of color at Jesuit schools throughout the United States.
“The only goals of this retreat were to experience God through the Spiritual Exercises and to have some time to connect with others,” said Fr. Chris Kellerman, SJ, a member of the province social ministry staff. “We weren’t asking them to give us feedback on what it was like to be a person of color in Jesuit schools or to come up with an action plan or something. It was purely an opportunity to be with the Lord and perhaps make some new friendships.”
When Fr. Massingale spoke at Saint Louis University, he challenged his predominantly white audience to recognize that a racially just society requires radical change. He likened the process to the Rite of Reconciliation, with each step – from examination of conscience to penance – as necessary to the nation as they are to the soul. The process, he says, must be firmly founded in love and spirituality.
“We cannot eradicate racism only through political means,” he said. “We need a new way of being, a spiritual revolution.”
This revolution, he says, may begin in a way familiar to those who’ve experienced the Spiritual Exercises: by acknowledging oneself as a loved sinner.
The next cycle of Sharing the Whole Story will begin in the fall of 2023 in St. Louis.