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Archbishop Lori establishes coordinating council to lead efforts against racism

Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., will lead an archdiocesan coordinating council established to implement recommendations to fight hatred and racism and prioritize equity and inclusion. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

Archbishop William E. Lori has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., to lead a coordinating council established to implement recommendations to fight hatred and racism and prioritize equity and inclusion.

In announcing the formation of the council, the archbishop noted this was a primary focus of his 2019 pastoral reflection, “The Journey to Racial Justice,” in which he said, “Now more than ever, we need to be the servant leaders Jesus calls us to be, by acknowledging and sharing the burden of those who have for too long suffered from the sin of racism.”

The council will include archdiocesan personnel from communications, education, clergy formation, human resources, vendor and contract management, social justice, evangelization and vocations, parish renewal, independent schools, outreach and the original racism workgroup. 

The group will consult with people in parishes and schools and other experts to implement recommendations in communications, formation, representation, restorative and social justice, and clergy personnel. It will work closely with Sherita Thomas, interim director of the archdiocesan Office of Black Catholic Ministries.

The recommendations came from an extensive consultation process that included listening sessions and a racism work group. 

“Their findings remind us that the promotion of racial justice is a fundamental aspect of discipleship,” Archbishop Lori said. 

Some of the recommendations are broad but others are very specific. 

For example, in the representation section, the recommendations call for an archdiocesan vendor policy that “values and ensures inclusion and diversity and includes a goal of awarding 33 percent of all Category II through IV capital projects contracts to minority contractors and principals – not sub-contractors.”

Father Raymond Harris, pastor of Holy Family in Randallstown, is a member of Archbishop William E. Lori’s Journey to Racial Justice Coordinating Council. (CR file)

Under restorative and social justice, the plan recommends establishment of “an Archdiocesan Truth and Reconciliation Commission to conduct an extended public forum to receive testimonies about the legacy of racism perpetrated by the Archdiocese of Baltimore (parishes, schools and Catholic institutions) against African Americans and prepare a blueprint for reconciling and the healing of those wounds.”

Bishop Lewandowski said the formation of the coordinating council is just one of the ways the archdiocese will take the recommendations that came from the process and “make them part of the everyday life of the archdiocese.” 

He foresees a long-term process, not a short-term project. The council will look at all the recommendations through the various “lenses” of the archdiocese – Catholic education, education and formation for priestly ministry, finance and parish life, for example.

Each segment of the coordinating council will form a group to work on the recommendations in their specific area of ministry.

Bishop Lewandowski said the council’s role is to meet periodically to ask the questions: “What’s happened since the last time we’ve met? What’s going well? Where have you had difficulty or come up with obstacles?”

The council will be the problem-solving and solution-seeking group, he said. The process will not be easy “because we’re talking about change of mind, change of heart, conversion – conversion is never easy.

“And that’s where the coordinating council can come together and say, let’s pray about this, then think creatively about it, and then let’s consult the people we know who have been through this already: the change agents, the thought leaders in our community,” Bishop Lewandowski said, referring to people and organizations that have experience addressing diversity and inclusion and are “already on the journey toward ending racism.”

Sherita Thomas, interim director of the archdiocesan Office of Black Catholic Ministries, will work closely with Archbishop William E. Lori’s Journey to Racial Justice Coordinating Committee. (CR file)

The council hopes to find the people “who have been in this work and have seen where it can lead. And they know the blessings, but at the same time, they’ve seen the blunders. We know that there are people who can give us good counsel and advice moving forward and help us in our process,” he said.

He said the group acknowledges it will be easier to have a Mass of healing and reconciliation, for example, than to address any structural racism or bias in the way the archdiocese solicits and vets vendors for projects to ensure the bidding process includes minority-owned businesses.

In the area of clergy formation, a group led by Father Jim Proffitt, director of clergy personnel, and Father Raymond Harris, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Randallstown, will look at recruitment and preparation for priestly and diaconal ministry. The recommendations will include the kinds of classes and curriculum needed, what experience ministers should have to prepare them to serve in parishes that are diverse and how to create communities that are inclusive, Bishop Lewandowski said.

Some other members of the coordinating council include Oblate Sister of Providence Sister Rita Michelle Proctor, Superior General of the Oblate Sisters of Providence; Deacon Curtis Turner, head of St. Frances Academy in Baltimore; and Joseph Smith, director of human resources for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

To see the full list of coordinating council members, click here.

Email Christopher Gunty at editor@CatholicReview.org.

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