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Parishes Have Sacred Conversations on Race (+ Action)

Following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, our parish, St. Charles Borromeo, sought to encounter our African American brothers and sisters in nearby congregations to listen and learn about their experiences. We had four rewarding encounters but were unable to sustain the effort. Then we heard about Sacred Conversations on Race (+ Action), an innovative parish-based program that facilitates encounter and challenges participants to examine the uncomfortable topic of racism. The conversations are a program of Metropolitan Congregations United, an organization which receives funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. We joined with 15 other congregations in our county to reflect, together with participants of other races and ethnicities, to learn about how racism occurs on both the individual and systemic levels. The conversations led the group to identify specific areas where policy changes are needed, including education, housing, and the justice system. Small groups are now working to meet with local officials to draw attention to changes needed in these areas. For example, we have met with the superintendent of schools in our city, and will meet with presidents of district school boards, to talk about the negative consequences of out-of-school suspensions for children in K-3; increasing minority participation in Advanced Placement courses; and increasing hiring of minority staff as teachers and administrators. The Sacred Conversation process has provided an avenue for us to encounter one another across racial barriers and then work together for important policy changes for a more just community.