While we continue to work with the descendants of those enslaved women, children and men who built the foundation of Sacred Heart education in the United States, we are now working to help transform on-going racist attitudes and behaviors within ourselves and within those communities and institutions that bear our name. This commitment to truth, healing and reconciliation for a better future is taking a variety of forms.
Cor Unum Scholarship
In September 2018, the Society of the Sacred Heart announced the creation of the Cor Unum Scholarship to provide tuition assistance to African American students desiring a Sacred Heart education at Schools of the Sacred Heart – Grand Coteau in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and to provide professional development for faculty and staff and/or course curriculum to students on inclusion and diversity.
2018 RSCJ regional meetings
At the regional meetings held in October 2018, the entire membership of the United States – Canada (USC) Province engaged in a process that presented the results of the research done by the Committee for Slavery, Accountability and Reconciliation. In addition, facilitators helped the regional groups to reflect on the effects of systemic racism that continue to disadvantage persons of color. During the discussions, participants examined in what ways each of us contributes to systemic racism and what actions each of us needs to take now to fight racism.
2019 Gathering of Descendants, RSCJ, Associates and Educators of the Sacred Heart
With the mandate of the original committee completed, the task of identifying next steps in the process of addressing systemic racism was given to an interim group who gathered the feedback from the regional meetings and presented several recommendations to the Provincial Team in April 2019. The Provincial Team acted immediately on one of the recommendations that called for contracting with a professional group skilled in racial justice work by reaching out to Sister Patricia Chappell, SND, and Sister Anne-Louise Nadeau, SND. Both have extensive experience working on racism with religious congregations and both held leadership positions at Pax Christi USA for many years. The Provincial Team and Sisters Chappell and Nadeau met by a video call in June 2019.
The professional facilitators joined a small coordinating group made up of three RSCJ to plan for a racially balanced gathering of 40 stakeholders from across the USC Province, which was held in St. Louis, Missouri, in November 2019. There were representatives from among alumnae of Sacred Heart schools, Associates of the Sacred Heart, colleagues and partners in mission, descendants of the enslaved persons owned by the Society, Network of Sacred Heart Schools, RSCJ communities, wise elders, and various positions of formal responsibility within the province, such as communications, vocation outreach, finance and formation to mission.
Immediate next steps
At the end of the November meeting, 20 out of the 40 participants volunteered to form a planning committee to propose concrete steps that the USC Province can take to address racism within ourselves and within the institutions that bear our name. The first meeting of this group, scheduled for March of 2020, had to be postponed due to the pandemic. However, 18 members of the group will gather in a hybrid face-to-face and virtual meeting, facilitated by Sister Chappell and Sister Nadeau, during the weekend of September 12, 2020. The members of this group understand that this is just the beginning of a multi-decade long journey toward creating a more just and inclusive community where all voices are heard, each person is treated with dignity and all of our policies, practices, and procedures reflect this commitment.
In addition, three training sessions have been scheduled during 2020-2021, to be held in Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Missouri, and Atherton, California. Other interested members of the Sacred Heart family will be invited to participate.
There is still much more to do as the Society continues its work towards reconciliation. The Society remains firmly committed to continuing this dialogue and publicly confronting racism.