Dominican Sisters Renew Commitment to Dismantling Racism

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield and their anti-racism partners want to make clear they stand firm in their commitment to dismantle structural racism within their own institutions and in the communities they serve.

“White supremacy is an evil that will destroy all of us unless we work to dismantle it,” says Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, the congregation’s prioress general. “Today, in light of the tragic events in Charlottesville over the weekend, we Springfield Dominican Sisters publicly recommit ourselves to the work of being the change we wish to see in our world. We remind ourselves of the journey that began for us with a mandate from our highest governing body, that we study racism and expand the circle of our relationships. Personal transformation can only come from allowing ourselves to be changed by the stories of those who live daily with the effects of ‘America’s original sin.’”

The complete statement follows.

In 1993 the sisters’ General Chapter, which governs the way the sisters live out their mission to preach the gospel, mandated a study of racism. Since then they have worked toward this goal within the institutions they sponsor—three high schools in Illinois and a health system in Mississippi—and at their Motherhouse in Springfield, Sacred Heart Convent.

Leroy Jordan, a retired Springfield, Ill., educator who along with Sister Marcelline Koch, OP, co-chairs the sisters’ antiracism team, acknowledges that events like what happened in Virginia over the weekend are disheartening—and call him to hope. “Charlottesville sits in the shadow of Monticello, home of the slave-owning third president of the United States of America, who also happened to author the Declaration of Independence,” he said. “This is proof enough of the complexities of race in America. That we are still in that struggle for equality and human rights after 236 years is disheartening. That we have not yet given up working to do better is cause for hope.”

“When will white America wake up to the harm we do to ourselves with every concession to the myth of racial superiority?” asks Sister Marcelline. “When will we realize that every racist remark or failure to speak up against racial oppression dehumanizes us?”

Here are ways to join the Dominicans and their partners in the effort to break the chains of racism that bind every American in slavery to the deadly myth that any human being is superior to or more worthy of access to resources than any other.

  1. Inform yourself. Visit Colorlines.com for news and analysis on race-related issues.
  2. Dismantle racism in your church, organization, or business. Learn how from Crossroads Antiracism Training.
  3. Find partners. Keep up with local activity in Springfield through the Springfield Coalition on Dismantling Racism or contact Crossroads Antiracism Organizing for more about their work on a national level.

The Dominican Sisters’ sponsored institutions include three high schools in Illinois: Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, Springfield; Rosary High School, Aurora; and Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights; and St. Dominic Health Services, Jackson, Miss. Each institution, and the administration of Sacred Heart Convent, is governed by mission guidelines that include a commitment to the Dominican Sisters values and priorities, including implementing antiracist policies and creating structures that assure racial equity for employees, students, and clients of services provided at the institutions.

The Dominican Sisters were founded in Jacksonville, Ill., in 1873 by Dominican Sisters from Kentucky who had nursed Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.

 

Statement from Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP
Prioress General, Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois
on White Supremacist Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia
August 12, 2017

White supremacy is an evil that will destroy all of us unless we work to dismantle it. Today, in light of the tragic events in Charlottesville over the weekend, we Springfield Dominican Sisters publicly recommit ourselves to the work of being the change we wish to see in our world. We remind ourselves of the journey that began for us with a mandate from our highest governing body that we study racism and expand the circle of our relationships. Personal transformation can only come from allowing ourselves to be changed by the stories of those who live daily with the effects of ‘America’s original sin.’”

These statements from our General Chapters, which govern how we live out our mission to preach the gospel, are a reminder that we’ve promised to God, to one another, and to all those we’ve vowed our lives to serve, that this work is not extraneous to our daily tasks as teachers, administrators, healers, and pastoral leaders but rather is essential to their success.

Statements from General Chapters, 1993-2009
Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois

1993: The Chapter mandates that we provide for a community study of racism and for experiences of direct contact with people of diverse cultures.

2001: The Chapter mandates that we engage in opportunities to understand our racial biases and to embrace cultural diversity in our congregation, our church, and our world.

2005: We commit ourselves to being on the path to becoming an anti-racist congregation and authorizing the anti-racism team to help us get there by leading us through training and analysis.

2009: Recognizing that the use of power has an impact on individuals and relationships, we choose to spend our energies and resources to promote relationships based on the Gospel values of respect and mutuality.