USC Province Report
Overview of the Process
On the Feast of Philippine in November of 2017, we extended the invitation (by Survey Monkey) to participate in this reflection process to all RSCJ, Associates and members of the Network of Sacred Heart Schools. Those who were interested were asked to pick one of four interest groups (Environment, Immigration, Racism and Poverty) to use as a lens for their conversations.
- One hundred and sixty-seven individuals responded to the survey of whom 33 volunteered to facilitate a group.
- More than half of those who volunteered to facilitate were Associates or colleagues in Network school.
- Racism attracted the largest number of participants (51), while the other three topics each attracted approximately the same number (38-39)
Almost all of the groups used some kind of technology (zoom, conference calls etc.) to incorporate people who lived at a distance into a core group that met face-to-face.
In December, resources (prepared by members of the group who had particular expertise in the topic) were sent out to all participants so that each person could take some time over the Christmas holidays to “embrace silence” while they watched videos, read articles or otherwise explored the materials sent out. During this time, a second invitation was extended to everyone in the extended Sacred Heart Family in the USC Province, inviting them to sign up for a group, which brought the number of participants up to 187.
In January, March and May, each group was encouraged to meet and reflect on the questions for each stage which had been sent out by the International JPIC Office. After each meeting they were asked to send in a summary of their conversation to the Director of the Office of JPIC at the Stuart Center who kept the Provincial Team abreast of the progress. Three of the 27 groups that were formed were unable to meet for reasons including health concerns or difficulty finding time. Of the remaining 24 groups, five met only once, two met twice, 16 met three times and 1 group actually met 4 times!
Only seven groups were able to send in pictures. This was a challenge because so few of the participants were actually meeting in the same physical space. Most of those who did send pictures had to make a collage out of individual head shots.
The reports themselves varied greatly in style and content. Some were detailed google docs with hyperlinks to resources mentioned during the discussion while others were brief emails mentioning who showed up and what they talked about. Some groups had a lively exchange with other members of their group in between meetings, sharing resources back a forth, setting tasks to be accomplished or topics to be researched. Others limited their participation to the hour or so that they were together. All of the group facilitators expressed gratitude for having been invited to participate in this process.
Brief Summary of Stage One Responses
(Sharing stories, ‘Rebecca’ moments, key insights)
Many of the formative moments that were shared came from early childhood (fond memories of time spent in nature, innocent acts of friendship that triggered a racist reaction the adults who witnessed it, puzzled observations of the stark differences between different parts of the city etc.) It points to the importance of early childhood education. The seeds of love or of fear are planted young.
- Insight can come either through a dramatic encounter or through a “slow drip” experience over years.
- Firsthand experience of poverty, racism, environmental degradation or the consequences of unjust immigration policies is the most powerful path to personal conversion.
- We need to listen deeply to the stories of others.
- The issues are overwhelming and it can feel like there is nothing we can do, but taking even small steps gives hope.
- We need to educate ourselves thoroughly before we act, but we need to act.
Many also expressed hope in the next generation, who show such commitment to the building of a more just world.
One key insight from the Environment group:
- Care for the environment is integral to every aspect of building up the Kingdom of God. Our lifestyle is affecting the poor, the voiceless, the economically disadvantaged, animals and all of creation.
One Key insight from the Immigration group:
- We don’t have to create it all, run it all, do it all. We don’t have to be the controllers of everything. There are others with whom we can collaborate.
One Key insight from the Racism group:
- We European immigrant descendants are living on land that belongs to American Indians.
One key insight from the Poverty group:
- There can be unintended consequences to our interventions and it is sometimes better to step back and support someone else who is a more appropriate person to offer help.
An insight that was mentioned in several groups:
- Money plays a key role in decisions that are harmful to the environment. Money also prevents students from diverse backgrounds from attending our schools. And obviously, the unfair distribution of wealth creates poverty.
Brief Summary of Stage Two Responses
(Broader context: social, scientific, environmental, political, cultural and economic spheres)
How did people deepen their understanding since the last meeting?
Some people researched various issues that were raised during the first conversation (the effect of pollution on oceans, the effect of pesticides on farm workers, the principles of permaculture, the global water crisis, the concept of zero waste , the role of Voodoo in certain forms of human trafficking, the plight of immigrants from Korea and China who are now at risk of being deported etc.)
Other people reported activities in which they had participated:
- bagging and collecting oyster shells from restaurants and using them to restore habitats for the breeding of oysters and build up costal reefs.
- collecting all compostable waste generated by the school and arranging for it to be transported to a location where it can be turned into compost.
- working on a conference to be given this summer relating the topics of water and Baptism
Groups came up with the following syntheses:
- Our society promotes a “culture of lies”. People don’t listen or try to understand one another. There is a lack of compassion and little sense of the “common good”.
- Human Trafficking intersects with migration.
- It is the structures that are keeping things off kilter and making it impossible to move out of poverty. But we have to overcome the feeling of helplessness in the face of entrenched structures and do something. Education is key, but it must be education that helps people face the possibility of change.
- Poverty arises from judgements that may entrench perceptions of poverty, creating distance and depersonalizing the other. It is only through building a “culture of encounter” that we strike at the root of poverty.
- There is a lack of a larger vision which recognizes that we are all interconnected and interdependent upon each other and all creation.
- Language carries the inner meaning of a culture. Culture (for indigenous people) is tied to the land. Identity should not depend on outsiders measuring how much “black” or “indigenous” blood one has.
- Racism is not just about black and white but also affects Philippin@s, Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, Mexicans and many other groups.
- All people are created in the image of God, therefore the “other” does not exist. Our privilege gets in the way. Listening and compassion are essential to our conversion to giving over our power and control.
- Pursuing forgiveness and mercy takes time but it is an investment in the future and a belief in hope. Forgiveness and mercy don’t have to come at the expense of Justice.
- Do not demonize those who disagree with you.
Brief Summary of Stage Three Responses: Connecting with or Wisdom and Tradition
Society Documents that inspired or challenged:
- The charism of the Society itself, “to discover and reveal the love of the heart of Christ…”
- Life at the Sacred Heart urged students to take both little steps and big steps to make things right.
- Act of Hope (1992)
- When the Society signed the Earth Charter in 2000
- Chapter of 1967, during which the Society opened itself up to the world
- Chapter of 1970, especially the option for the boor and the option for the third world
- Chapter of 1976 “today we contemplate the pierced Heart of Christ in humanity torn by the injustices of the world.”
- Chapter of 1988
- Chapter of 1992
- JPIC Process 2012 through the present
- International Education Commission Document (IEC Document)
- The Constitutions
Scripture which influenced commitment to JPIC:
- The Psalms (especially those about the natural world)
- Consider the Lilies of the Field-an antidote to our society that is obsessed with consumerism and workaholism.
- Isaiah and Luke 4:18 “bringing the good news to the poor”
- Jeremiah 29.4-5 Build houses and plant gardens. Seek the welfare of the city
- Genesis accounts of creation
- Matthew 25; whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers (and sisters)…
- Prophets on the way to treat widows, orphans and strangers
- Faith without works id dead
How has Laudato Si influenced your commitment to JPIC?
- Reverence for the poor and reverence for the environment are connected. We are our brother’s keeper. Economic decisions and political decisions impact the poor. Laudato Si was mentioned over and over in just about every group.
Symbols or ideas generating energy and action:
- The Butterfly Effect: little actions can have big consequences
- We are women of hope and compassion
- We as educators can do a lot to raise awareness, shape attitudes, foster hope
- Scoby in Kombucha (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is a symbol of something that grows slowly and creates something new within its environment.
- Pierced heart, broken chains
- Think globally, act locally
- Cosmic Christology
- God within; God among, God around.
- Expanding circle with ripple effect
- Understanding of JPIC
- Justice, peace and the integrity of creation are enmeshed, hinging, collaborative and reciprocal.
- Love for creation requires the pursuit of justice and peace.
- If we don’t respect the dignity of everything in God’s creation, we end up destroying our own selves. We really are ONE body.
- We find hope, as well as challenge, in the phrase “optimism is a moral choice.” If we are a community that sees ourselves and others, as God’s beloved, there is an urgency to choose optimism every day.
Suggestions for Action found in the Reports
- Introduce an on-line course about the Doctrine of Discovery
- Institute a Society Commission of Indigenous (like the commission on slavery.)
- Ask for a Declaration of the Renunciation of the Doctrine of Discovery by the Society.
- Request that Indigenous land be acknowledged at each Society school or property
- Invite everyone in the extended Sacred Heart Family to research his or her own ancestors’ part in colonization.
- Increase scholarships in all our schools so we can have more diversity.
- Let’s take the implicit bias test to get a sense of our own unthinking prejudices
- Encourage more RSCJ owned houses to install solar panels
- Encourage practices in our communities that would reduce our waste
- Create a video library (and other resources) at the RSCJ Offices in Rome to facilitate and exchange of ideas and questions around JPIC internationally.
- Encourage the Province to put aside money for training to help us recognize and address our own, unconscious racism and our white privilege.
- Collaborate closely with our Network schools in their efforts to increase their own diversity and encourage this in whatever way we can as RSCJ.
- Share the notes and contact information for those engaged in discussions about Racism (and other topics) so that the conversations can move toward concrete actions.