On the morning of Jan. 24, in the hall of St. Patrick Church in South LA — one of the oldest in Los Angeles — 13 people gathered under conditions familiar to any parish: pastries, nametags, small talk, and polite laughter, and when all sit down in the comfortable chairs arranged in a large square, the first thing they do is sing a hymn.
And when they were done with that, they got down to business.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Anti-Racism Task Force, focusing on African Americans, has been meeting once a month since last September, charged by Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez to address the “stain of racism.” Similar task forces have been formed in other California dioceses as part of a statewide initiative launched in 2020 by the state’s Catholic bishops.
Perhaps the theme sounds a bit grandiose, but it’s a fight the members of this task force know well. They’ve dealt with racism both personally and publicly for years. They are aware of the countless like-minded, well-meaning groups and commissions that have come and gone before them, agreeing that racism is a problem, drafting a document, perhaps taking a group photo, and going on their way without much actually happening.
It fell to St. Patrick’s pastor and task force coordinator Msgr. Timothy Dyer to invite prospective members to participate. Most of the responses he got had something in common.
“I told Tim that I didn’t want to be part, I can’t be part, of something that is one-and-done,” said Sister Angela Faustina of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. “This has to have a goal of producing a plan of action that is ongoing.”
Carl Cohn, former superintendent of Long Beach and San Diego school systems, agreed, saying that “unless this is rooted in the Church going forward, nothing of value will happen.”
Msgr. Dyer assured members that he “absolutely agreed this has to come with action.” Likewise, in his letter announcing the task force’s formation, Archbishop Gomez wrote that its members would engage in a “process of prayer, dialogue, and action,” that that process will lead not only to a “plan of action” but engage in the subsequent “work of implementation.”
Exactly what should be implemented, and how, dominated much of the meeting because, for the first time, Archbishop Gomez was among those gathered.
For nearly an hour, the task force’s members made their suggestions, their “Asks” of the archbishop, things they believed are necessary for real action. They talked about arranging for African American Catholics to tell their stories, and about how those stories would best be presented.
There were requests for the task force to have its own landing site on the archdiocesan website.
Sherry Hayes-Peirce, a social media strategist and parishioner at American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach, advocated for a better, stronger online presence. She believes in creating spaces for African American Catholics to tell their own personal stories, such as task force member Audrey Shaw’s heart-wrenching story of initially being denied Catholic baptism because of the color of her parents’ skin.
“Telling stories will change people’s hearts,” Hayes-Peirce said….
The above comes from a Feb. 1 story in Angelus News.