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Bishop's Advisory Council on Racism considers listening sessions

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Two months after Bishop Michael F. Burbidge named 14 Black lay leaders and clergy to a new Advisory Council on Racism, members are considering holding listening sessions, workshops and other public events to hear from parishioners across the diocese.

People need to have opportunities to listen to each other from the heart, and touch peoples’ hearts. We have to aim for the heart, that’s when we’ll be able to change.” Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony

Council members have met twice, in late October and early December, to begin planning the task before them — to come up with “a strategic plan to address racism and prejudice in our diocese, and achievable ways we can address these issues,” said Bridget Wilson, director of the diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries and recording secretary for the advisory council.

She said the strategic plan will be “implemented at the parish level and in our schools and ministries.” Council members were appointed to three-year terms, but a strategic plan is expected to be completed well before then, she said.

Wilson said Bishop Burbidge brought up the suggestion of listening sessions at the advisory council’s Dec. 3 meeting. The idea had been mentioned previously by council members including Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony of St. Timothy Church in Chantilly, who has said he hopes Black Catholics from across the diocese will be included. “People need to have opportunities to listen to each other from the heart, and touch peoples’ hearts,” he told the Catholic Herald in October. “We have to aim for the heart, that’s when we’ll be able to change.”

Since the council’s creation, some members have begun speaking informally in various public forums to begin the conversation about racism and share the perspectives and experiences of Black Catholics across the diocese.

On the Nov. 11 episode of the diocesan “Searching for More” podcast, Deacon Anthony and council member Melissa Rihl discussed racism in America and how Catholics are called to respond. Wilson and council member Jerry Cousin gave a presentation via Zoom to members of the Racial Justice Ministry at St. John Neumann Church in Reston Nov. 20.

At the council’s Dec. 3 meeting, Wilson said the group discussed and set up teams to draft a purpose or mission statement and to outline issues and possible solutions to racism in the diocese. Subcommittees were formed to focus on a range of areas such as media and communications, possible collaboration with other diocesan groups, outreach to youth groups and young adults, and outreach to parishes.

Wilson said that in the new year, the council will meet monthly.

 Find out more

See a video of the Nov. 11 “Searching for More” podcast on how Catholics are called to respond to racism in America.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020