Women Witnesses for Racial Justice Downloads

As historian Shannen Dee Williams, Ph.D., notes:

“The Catholic church was the first and largest corporate slave holders in the Americas, including the land area that became the United States. It was also the largest Christian practitioner of racial segregation through America’s civil rights years and it’s impossible to tell the stories of Black sisters honestly and accurately without grappling with that history.”

As a historian, Williams says she’s come to understand “the greatest weapon of white supremacy has never been simply the violence, but rather the ability to erase the history of its violence and its victim. If we’re talking about the Catholic church, if we want to understand the invisibility of Black sisters than we have to recon with this history of violence and the ways in which it sort of manifested itself in slavery, in segregation, but also in exclusionary policies and the mistreatment of Black people in Catholic spaces including religious life.”

Long before there were black priests in the United States, there were black Catholic sisters. Since 1824, hundreds of black women and girls have professed the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the U.S. Catholic Church. By consecrating themselves to God and dedicating their lives to education and social justice black sisters renounced an outside world that deemed all black people inferior and immoral and provided a powerful refutation to the insidious racial and sexual stereotypes used by white supremacists to justify African-American exclusion from U.S. citizenship rights and the ranks of religious life in the Church.

In oral histories collected by Dr. Shannen Dee Williams, Black sisters said they entered religious life because they wanted to live a “radical” way of life, one that that nurtured Black women’s intellectual genius, their spirituality, and their talents. These women wanted to serve their own communities through education and a host of other social services but outside the traditional confines of marriage and motherhood.  The Black women of God believed wholeheartedly in Catholic social teaching and its embrace of universal humanity. Black nuns pushed the church to be truly Catholic and to do what it said it did for all people.

The historical record reveals that Black sisters and their schools were frequent targets of white supremacists who viewed these women and their institutions as threats to the racial and sexual status quo. Yet, at the root of the extraordinary journey of the nation’s Black Catholic sisters is a fundamental understanding that racism and exclusion have no place within the Catholic church. Black women of God believed wholeheartedly in Catholic social teaching and its embrace of universal humanity. Black nuns pushed the church to be truly Catholic and to do what it said it did for all people. Thus, telling Black sisters’ stories allows us to broaden our definitions of radicalism. The journey of Black Catholic sisters in the United States is an overlooked story of the long Black struggle for freedom, dignity, and bodily integrity. Though practically invisible in annals of American and Catholic history, black sisters also played critical, and oftentimes leading, roles in the fight to dismantle racial barriers in the U.S. Church.  https://www.blackwomenradicals.com/blog-feed/radicals-habits-unearthing-the-history-of-black-catholic-nuns-inthe-black-freedom-strugglenbsp?fbclid=IwAR2dww-YJVMo-_hQ_15EFElbyTOsRFDgSxYOeIoVocUOIP6v5iOasbEw_y8

FutureChurch's new initiative, Women Witnesses for Racial Justice, is aimed at bringing Catholics together in community, to learn, pray, and take action for racial and reparative justice in the Church and in the world.  The initiave focuses on racial justice through the lens of Black Catholic Women who have powerfully shaped Catholic tradition in ways that challenged racist structures and broke down racial barriers.

The initiatve features a) educational resources, b) prayer resources, c) newly commissioned art, d) a speaker series and e) liturgies of the word.  All the elements work together to build communities of Catholics who are inspired to action.

Women Witnesses for Racial Justice Educational Series features fifteen Black Catholic Women who shaped Catholic tradition as they fought for racial and reparative justice in their religious communities, in the Catholic Church, and in their country.  

Each resource is available as a free download.   Complete the form below.  If you want a printed copy, please write to debrose@futureChurch.org

SISTER ANTONA EBO                  DOWNLOAD - Free (fill out form below)    

MOTHER MARY LANGE               DOWNLOAD - Free (fill out form below)         

SISTER THEA BOWMAN              DOWNLOAD - Free (fill out form below)           

ANNA "MADRE" BATES               DOWNLOAD - Free (fill out form below)

Venerable Henriette DeLille, S.S.F.

Sister M. Martin de Porres Grey

Mother Mathilda Beasley, O.S.F.

Sister Mary Aloysius (Anne Marie) Becraft, O.S.P. 

Mother Josephine Charles, S.S.F. 

Mother Mary Theodore (Eliza Barbara) Williams, F.H.M. 

Mother Emma Lewis 

Dr. Lena Edwards 

Mary Louise Smith 

Mary Jane Chisley Tolton (mother of August Tolton)


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