In our weekly video series "Art That Surrounds Us," Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection.
We are starting a sub-series called "Saints That Surround Us." Given that May is the month dedicated to Mary, we will dedicate several editions to Mary, the mother of Jesus. In this episode Johan discusses the scriptural and ancient roots of the devotion to Mary.
As Christians, the season of Easter is a time to celebrate new life. We recognize a call to embrace reconciling, forgiving and healing love—in our own hearts and in our interactions with others. This love transforms our individual lives, as well as our community and society.
This is our call, yet we fall short: as individuals and as a community, we fail.
One of the ways our failure is manifested is racial injustice. The shocking public murder of George Floyd focused a light on Minnesota, exposing the realities of racial inequity so often ignored or hidden. National and international media told the story:
- While Minnesota is often ranked one of the best places to live, it has some of the highest racial disparities in the nation: income inequality, education achievement, poverty rate, home ownership, unemployment and incarceration rates—all tragic gaps between white and black Minnesotans. (NPR, June 2, 2020)
These facts represent systems that are complicaed. But this Easter, we have another story to hear—a story of racial injustice right here at The Basilica. Just as ignored and hidden, it eats away at the dignity of our brothers and sisters.
A few days after Easter I received a call from a Basilica parishioner who is a black woman. She shared a painful experience she had on Easter Sunday. She gave me permission to share it, as it is an important teachable moment—a chance to shine the light on racial realities within our own Basilica community.
- With an opportunity to celebrate Easter Sunday Liturgy in-person, our sister followed pandemic protocols and pre-registered. Sitting in her assigned seat, she was quietly praying before the Liturgy began—excited to be at The Basilica for the first time in over a year. An usher came down the aisle and proceeded to seat a white woman in the same pew—socially distanced. The white woman looked at the black woman, and refused to sit down. She demanded a different seat. This white woman would not sit near the black woman.
The parishioner who shared this experience was hurt, disappointed, and angry. This was not The Basilica she longed for. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated experience. After many conversations with people of color in our Basilica community, I have come to learn that many have personal stories of being called out, kept out, excluded or omitted at The Basilica, at some point. While they all share their love for The Basilica and the Basilica community, this is their reality.
It is important for us—especially those of us who are white Basilica parishioners—to know these experiences happen. They are not just in the past, not just isolated, not just happening “out there.”
When we hear these stories, we get uncomfortable. We are invited to embrace this discomfort, acknowledge the hurt and pain, and work together so we can always respond with compassion and clarity, when faced with racial injustice. We are called to be Easter people; people of reconciling, forgiving and healing love
On Pentecost Sunday, The Basilica will share a parish-wide Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity (EDI) Position Statement. This Statement will guide the work of The Basilica community in the area of equity, diversity and inclusivity over the next few years.
Look for ways to get involved in The Basilica Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity initiative. Together, with guidance and strength from the Holy Spirit, we will work to eliminate racism within the parish and the broader community—choosing not to be neutral in the face of injustice. Contact Janice
for ways to get involved or for more information.
For more information visit mary.org/edi.