A Welcoming God by Jeremey Wilson
On February 9, Sr. Francesca Thompson, OSF spoke to FutureChurch members and supporters at the River's Edge Center in Cleveland about the black experience in the Catholic Church.
She preached a message of inclusiveness and diversity to a
rapt crowd, bringing with her a half-century's experience in the Church as a founding member
of the National Black Sisters' Conference and Assistant Dean
and Director of Multicultural Programs at Fordham University.
Sr. Francesca believes too many white Catholics still regard blacks as implicitly inferior. For example covert racism can be seen when whites declare their willingness to let blacks eat at 'our' restaurants, or go to 'our' schools.
But, she counters: 'My God is an accepting God. A welcoming God. My God does not say, 'stay out.' My God does not say, 'come in when you get your sexual life straightened out.' My God does not say, 'you cannot serve me because you are not the right gender.' Why did God select Mary of Nazareth to be the mother of God?'
While the powers of institutional racism in the Church are formidable, they can be overcome, but only with the conscious effort of both blacks and whites. "Black Catholic catechesis can only arise out of a recognition and expression of how we got over. We want a Church with a language filled with a meaning for us as people."
"I want the liberation that God himself has promised me. Until I've got it, until everyone has got it, I will not be satisfied. We want a sense of black ownership. We want a welcome table. We deserve it. It was promised to us, by God."
As to why she stays with the Church, for Sr. Francesca the Church is like a family, and in a family, problems won't disappear just for being ignored: "I want to be an agent for change. I can't do it sitting in a Baptist church, clapping and singing and loving the music."
The most important thing in my life is my vocation. I can't walk away from that. I can't change the Church from a Protestant church."
Inclusiveness according to Sr. Francesca is not merely a goal to which to aspire, it is required of us as Christians. "Love your neighbor. Your neighbor is not the family next door, the people down the street, the people you play bridge with. Those aren't your neighbors. Those are your friends. God says love those who may not love you themselves."