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‘Black Lives Matter’

Donal Godfrey SJ is an Irish Jesuit priest now living in America. He is part of the Loyola House Jesuit Community based at the University of San Francisco where he works as a chaplain.

Donal and some of his fellow Jesuits have been peacefully protesting against racism in the wake of the killing by police of George Floyd and other members of the black community.

The Loyola House Community is made of up Jesuits from all around the world and on the weekend of 12 June 2020 they took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement to their local communities of St. Agnes Parish, St. Ignatius Parish, San Quentin Catholic Chaplaincy, and the University of San Francisco.

They did this because they wanted to “share how our hearts have been broken, but also how the Spirit has stirred in us a renewed call to conversion – to uphold the human dignity of all persons in the diversity of God’s creation. We stand in solidarity with those fighting for an end to racism and white supremacy.”

It is a powerful address and it contains a series of commitments to be undertaken by the Loyola Jesuit community in order to fight the racism endemic in American society. You can read the full statement and signatories below.

A WAKE-UP CALL

Like many around the world, we Jesuits of Loyola House in San Francisco are pained and outraged by the murder of George Floyd. The racism that caused his death is systemic, as it is for the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Dominique Clayton, and Ahmaud Arbery. Sadly, the list goes on and on. Racism was present from the founding of the first European colonies in North America. As Jesuits, we are not absolved from this original sin and acknowledge our own sinful history. We are writing to share how our hearts have been broken, but also how the Spirit has stirred in us a renewed call to conversion – to uphold the human dignity of all persons in the diversity of God’s creation. We stand in solidarity with those fighting for an end to racism and white supremacy.

The Loyola House Jesuit Community is a diverse group of individuals who are called to live the Gospel. We stand in a long tradition of inclusiveness that joined together the first Jesuits, among whom were French, Spaniards, and Italians. Loyola House Jesuits come from all corners of the globe. We are from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. We are of various generations and sexual orientations. We believe our diversity is a gift from God. Our diversity is not an abstract calling, but rather a blessing we live daily.

As Catholics, we believe that our faith has something important to say. From the beginning of time, God asks us, “Are we our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers?” As one of our modern martyrs, Archbishop Oscar Romero from El Salvador, reminds us, “There is no dichotomy between human beings and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being, abuses God’s image.” The answer to whether we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Like the Black Lives Matter protests, it is a wake-up call. We must go deeper, asking ourselves how we have failed to be each other’s keepers and abused the image of God.

Like everyone else, we are living into an unknown future. We are hopeful, however, because we believe that listening to those whose dignity has been violated can lead to transformation. To this end, we are committing ourselves to the following actions:

• Self-examination. A hallmark of Jesuit spirituality is a critical examination of self, community, and culture. As a Jesuit community, we will engage in difficult conversations about how we live together and with others, how our communal life and ministries diminish or enhance our relationship to one another and the people of God.

• Transformative listening. Our hope is that by learning from others’ experiences we will be changed for the better. In our work at USF, St. Ignatius and St. Agnes parishes, and at San Quentin prison, we will commit to listening to those whose dignity has been violated while asking how we can change ourselves and our communities for the better.

• Communal discernment. As a Jesuit community, we will dedicate time to prayer and reflection on the topic of racism. We will educate ourselves and look for ways we can advocate and work for the changes necessary to end racism and white supremacy.

• Scholarships. We will continue our commitment to building up the two endowments that the Jesuit community has established, one of which supports students from developing countries who are from religious congregations or dioceses that cannot provide funding for their members to study at USF, and the other supports undocumented students and students who lack adequate funding for their education at USF. We also commit to beginning a dialogue with the Black community at USF to find ways to assist our Black students with scholarships.

These commitments are not ends unto themselves. They are first steps, ones that we hope will inform and inspire other steps. They are informed by our faith, a faith that is lived not just by doing justice, but responding to our brothers and sisters with love and hope.

We welcome a conversation and look forward to sharing with you what we learn along the way.

In solidarity,

Members of the Loyola House Jesuit Community

Timothy S. Godfrey, SJ (USA)
Rector, Loyola House Jesuit Community

Raymond Allender, SJ (USA)
Pastor, St. Agnes Parish

Gregory Bonfiglio, SJ (USA)
Pastor, St. Ignatius Parish

Chia-Yang Kao, SJ (Taiwan/USA)
University of San Francisco

Olivier Kayitare, SJ (Rwanda)
University of San Francisco

Gerdenio Manuel, SJ (Philippines/USA)
University of San Francisco

Vincent Pereppadan, SJ (India)
University of San Francisco

Dennis Recio, SJ (Philippines/USA)
University of San Francisco

Travis Russell, SJ (USA)
St. Ignatius Parish

Paul Fitzgerald, SJ (USA)
President, University of San Francisco

Germain Clerveau, SJ (Haiti)
University of San Francisco

John Coleman, SJ (USA)
St. Ignatius Parish

Paul Devot, SJ (USA)
St. Ignatius Parish

Donal Godfrey, SJ (Ireland/USA)
University of San Francisco

Felix Just, SJ (Germany/USA)
Minister, Loyola House Jesuit Community

Plinio Martins, SJ (East Timor)
University of San Francisco

Lourdu Mummadi, SJ (India)
University of San Francisco

Rodrigue Ntungu, SJ (Republic of Congo)
University of San Francisco

Laurien Nyiribakwe, SJ (Rwanda)
University of San Francisco

Raymond Parcon, SJ (Philippines/USA)
San Quentin

Barwende Sane, SJ (Burkina Faso)
University of San Francisco

Joseph Specht, SJ (USA)
St. Agnes Parish

Joseph Spieler, SJ (USA)
St. Agnes Parish

Samir Toppo, SJ (India)
University of San Francisco

George Williams, SJ (USA)
San Quentin

Leonardus Winandoko, SJ (Indonesia)
University of San Francisco