Friday, June 5, 2020

A Letter from the Only African-American Felician Sister

As a woman of color living in the United States, who is woefully underrepresented within my own religious community, there are times when I feel uniquely seen and heard. Sometimes I am invited onto particular committees or into particular groups both inside and outside of my community because of the color of my skin. My opinion is sought on topics that have to do with culture, diversity, and representation, which gives me a valuable opportunity to speak up on matters concerning people of color. However, there are other excruciating times when I feel invisible, like right now.

I don’t blame you. I do feel the need to say something. There are plenty of prayers being invoked for an end to the violence of the riots. That’s good. Riots are scary and harmful. I’m just wondering where the prayers were for Ahmaud Arbery and his family, or Breonna Taylor and her family, or George Floyd and his family? That is why I feel invisible. All those who are praying for an end to the riots did not seem to notice that there was violence before this violence. A riot, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “is the language of the unheard.”

So now we have looting and violent riots, but even still, most of the protests taking place are peaceful. I have seen videos of people standing in front of stores to block others from causing destruction. Other videos show hundreds, even thousands, of peaceful protesters marching together. If black people are rioting, it is out of the wounds caused by centuries – CENTURIES – of injustice, brutality, and murder based on a prejudice which intends to rob us of our dignity. But if you look closely enough, beyond the prejudice perpetuated by the media, you will see plenty of white people causing destruction. Are they angry too? Do they think they’re helping? Or do they simply want to give our cry for justice a bad name? I do not know, but what I do know is that praying for an end to violence needs to go beyond the riots.

Praying for peace needs to include a prayer to end violence by police officers towards black people; the end of violence by those who judge black people negatively based on the color of our skin; and an end to the violent mindsets that dehumanize black people, immigrants, natives, and people from developing countries. This prayer needs to break open the hearts and minds of those who do not view their privilege as a threat or a problem. Complacency and silence concerning matters of injustice toward the marginalized creates a burden of pain that the marginalized can carry for only so long. Complacency and silence have no place in Christianity.

I am not condoning the violence of riots, nor am I saying that all police officers are corrupt. Only one police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, but where were the voices of the other three? Silence is complicity. That is why all four police officers have now been charged in the death of Mr. Floyd. If the privileged had not been silent all these years, we would not need to be praying for an end to riots. Unfortunately, I know there will be a next time. Please, the next time we say, “I can’t breathe,” we need you to hear us, cry out with us and be compelled to act on our behalf.

Yours in faith, hope, & love,
Sr. Desirรฉ Anne-Marie Findlay

60 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for taking the time to read the letter my sister

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    2. Thank you for your courage in writing this.

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  2. Thank you and yes, I hear you. May we not tire of acting on your behalf.

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  3. AMEN. I understand your pain. We know what it means to appear to be invisible. We also know what it means to be ignored. Even oblates of some of the religious communities are ignored. Be that as it may, God is still in control I place my ultimate faith and trust in Him. We love you Sister Desire.๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™

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    1. Amen, thank you so much. Love and prayers from me to you as well!

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  4. Sister thank you for your words, your thoughts and your willingness to remind us. Let us keep up the work that needs to be done. I recently reminded folks that the gift of anger comes from the Holy Spirit. We need not do harm with our anger but we need to use the force, the strenght and the power to our anger to do the work of the reign of God. I offer you support and prayer and you are in very good company as both a woman of color and a Franciscan. I ask Sister Thea, FPA and and Fr. Bede Abrams, OFM Conv. and Bishop Lyke, OFM to be with you, encircle you and be the legacy you stand on. Brother Joe,FCC

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    1. Amen! What powerful legacies you have entrusted me to! Thank you, and God bless you in abundance.

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  5. Regarding the other three officers, keep in mind that two of them were rookies, on the job only a few days. Yes, they should have stepped in to prevent the crime, but they didn't have the experience to know that this veteran cop, their superior, was so far out of line, and further, what they could do to stop him. I sympathize with them.

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    1. If you see something, do something. It is being complicit if you fail to act. I am sure they must have been asleep during police cadet training. If that had of been one of their relatives, I am sure they would have reacted differently. "Am I not my brother's keeper?"

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    2. I don't sympathize with those rookies at all. The cop staring at the camera with his knee on George Floyd's neck was the officer who was supposed to be TRAINING those rookies.

      What did the Hmong cop do? Others were shouting at the cops in concern for Mr. Floyd's safety. That Hmong cop stood there, blocked the spectators, did nothing to help Mr. Floyd, said not a word to that other cop. That is disgustingly unjust.

      And, Sister Findlay is right -- complacency and silence have no place in Christianity (or anywhere, I might add (Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Proverbs 31:8 and 9 for starters...)

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    3. You don't have to be a veteran police officer to know that taking a life is wrong. The other three had 8 minutes and 46 seconds to think about this.

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    4. No sympayhy..NONE WHAT SO EVER. Do you understand a black man was murdered while they simply stood by an watched. YOU are very much part of the problem..and as such a threat to me.

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    5. Actually, if you do a bit of research, you will find that the other White officer and the Black officer also kneeled on Mr. Floyd's body. In fact, they were kneeling on his back, while the one on his neck is usually shown on the television. The internet posted a full view of the side of the police car, thereby giving a fuller view of the murderers. The Asian officer stood and refused to intervene.

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  6. It was worth reading. Thanks

    "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
    �� 1 John 4:7-8

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    1. Mr. Kut, I don't have a problem with loving mankind. Yet the ongoing and historical usage of police brutality against innocent members of minority persuasion must be addressed through our legal system. The peaceful protesters are justified in demonstrating their righteous indignation with this problem. When that officer kneeled on Mr. Floyd's neck and profiled for the camera, he was not showing any love.

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  7. I can relate. I left the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany NY and only saw another sister of color on 3 occasions. Sisters from Jamaica or Africa, never someone who looked like me or shared my experiences. I felt like a ghost. No one could see or understand what I was going through. Be assured of my prayer for you, this day and all days. God bless you.

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    1. Thank you, may we continue to hold each other in prayer as this is only the beginning. God continue to bless and keep you.

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  8. Thank you for allowing us to hear your prophetic voice. We see you!

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    1. Thank you! And thanks so much for taking the time to "listen".

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  9. Love you my dear friend. Thank you for giving us your thoughts from the heart. They mean a lot to me. You are one very very special woman.

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  10. Thank you! It is not easy being the only one and being burdened with being expected to speak for all people of color, and when you do speak your truth, the good white sisters take offense or try to make excuses rather than listening, reflecting and owning the sin of racism. When you feel weary take courage in knowing that you are fighting a righteous battle and that the Lord is on your side. Know that you are not alone...not as a woman of color and not as a black religious woman. Your sisters in the struggle stand with you!

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    1. Thank you! Fortunately there are many sisters in my community who are open and strive to listen as I share my truth even though they may not understand. We help each other grow. But I am certainly grateful that God brought me into the National Black Sisters Conference family!

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  11. Thanks for the courage to speak up to share your personal experience and reflection.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to "hear" what I had to say. God bless.

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  12. Very well spoken Sister The world needs to listen to such a wise smart individual who has seen alot I respect you and your words Jodie Hayes Felician sister employee Buffalo NY

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    1. Thanks so much for your kindness and affirmation, God bless you!

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  13. This is an eye-opening message. I used to beat myself up for being angry at wrongdoings, and tried my best to avoid conflicts.

    Now, I'm aware, that sometimes screaming a loud "no"!, Or "Enough", is okay too.

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    1. It's true, avoiding conflicts can seem like the safest place to be. But I realized that no one will hear me if I never speak up. The crying out may not always lead us to safety, but it will lead us to healing.

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    2. Dear Anonymous, I too have tried to avoid conflict, and I still do to a great extent. Conversely,years ago, I learned that sometime I have to speak up with righteous indignation. I have lost one professional job as a result. Yet, thi is have always worked out for me in the long run. That teaches me God was always guiding and protecting me.

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  14. I'm a Black woman with a couple of theology degrees. Years ago, I went to a lot of "vocation awareness" weekends, had a lot of visits to local religious houses, travelled out of my area to religious houses further away...all in search of wanting to be a nun.

    Then, one day, a Jesuit acquaintance said to me:"Why enter religious life? All you'll be doing is looking after old white women." One of the diocesan priest speakers at the vocation awareness retreats I attended had told me, "You might want to consider how white you can be in a convent." I think Clarence Thomas might have been a fine priest if he had been more supported in his seminary community. Instead, his classmates expressed pleasure that Dr. King had been assassinated. Stop asking the laity to pray for vocations if that's how people will act.

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    1. Hello, Kim. Thank you for sharing your insights. I firmly believe that God does not often call us to comfortable places, but to places in which we may need to disrupt the comfortable. It's too bad your priest friends had other ideas about God's call.

      While my community is almost all white, we learn from each other. Ironically, I became more "black" as a Felician Sister. When I asked to attend gatherings with other black Catholics I met no resistance. They were happy to see me striving to learn more about my identity as a woman of color, and especially one in an almost all-white community. Next time I attend those conferences I will be inviting many of my white sisters to attend with me. And if one day I end up caring for these women, I will do it in a spirit of gratitude for all they have done for me and the world around them.

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  15. Yes! we give permission for evil to exist when GOOD refuses to speak up... May we hear and respect LOUDLY the voices with no choices,

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  16. Thank you ! We do not learn from history. Demagouges exploit and divide; the masses become complacent as it is engrained into us by the dominant culture to not rock the boat.It is only by the courageous few speaking up ( as from My Lai) or
    by the young lady who took video of George Floyds murder that we are forced out of this myopic comfort zone.Let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with Me ! We must become peacemakers as St. Francis was. Pax et Bonum

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    1. a religious brotherJune 8, 2020 at 6:46 PM

      Complacency and silence have no place in Christianity.

      Your words have pierced my conscience. Thank you for your reflection.

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  17. Thank you Sister. I will continue to learn.

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  18. This was an incredible read, Sister. I'm going to be praying for your ministry as well as for more Black men and women to join the religious life. So many were deprived of the chance when our own Catholics denied them access during the Jim Crow era and even before that. So many callings unjustly unanswered. We need them more than ever. Jesus, have mercy.

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    1. Thank you so much, your prayer intentions mean a lot and I have no doubt God will hear them.

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  19. Thank you Sister for your word. The danger of this evil being so pervasive and accepted lulls us into not calling this behavior like this /sinfull/. It is !!! and it is a grevious sin.

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    1. Thank you, my prayer is that we would all courageously and compassionately confront the prejudices we are too afraid to face.

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  20. thank you Sister for your remarks. I will try to do my part to end racism by prayers and speaking out against racism.
    David Schubert

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    1. God bless you and your efforts as you pray and work for an end to racism.

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  21. Thank you Sister. As the graduate of a Felician high school who still holds Felician core values close to his heart we are compelled by our faith to seek justice and peace. While you may be unique, you are never alone!

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    1. Thank you! May God continue to bless our Felician family, that we may lovingly and tirelessly seek justice and peace always.

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  22. I think the injustice goes a little deeper. Look at the handbook for police in that city.
    Loveandprayers, Anna Marie Young

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  23. Sister,
    I was a Felician for eight years, and we were so pleased we had the first woman of color in our group. She did not stay, either, but you have reminded me of her, and what a joyful person she was.

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    1. That's true, others have come before me and I am grateful, even if they did not stay. Praying that I can help make a path for those who come after me.

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  24. Not only by prayer alone will racism end, but by putting it into action, each one making conscious effort to end this ugly thing that cause division if we are truly children of one God; who make his sun to shine on the good & bad alike. Action & words!

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    1. Amen! By using our whole heart in prayer, our whole mind in learning, and our whole bodies in acting and speaking for justice, we give glory to God.

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  25. They will all grow younger!
     

    "But truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." Numbers 14:21

    God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces.

    Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17

    All wars shall cease.

    Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3

    All evil shall be suppressed.

    Psalm 37:10; Revelation 20:2,3

    God's judgments shall teach righteousness to all.

    Isaiah 26:9; 28:17

    Nothing shall ever hurt nor destroy.

    Isaiah 11:9

    Truth shall triumph in the earth.

    Psalm 85:11

    God shall write His Law in the hearts of men.

    Jeremiah 31:33

    All shall know Him from the least to the greatest.

    Jeremiah 31:34

    Earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God.

    Habakuk 2:14

    God shall pour out His spirit upon all flesh.

    Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17

    All iniquity shall be remembered no more.

    Isaiah 55:7

    All shall rejoice as sorrow and sighing flee away.

    Isaiah 35:10

    There shall be no more death, sorrow or pain.

    Revelation 21:4,5

    There shall be no more sickness.

    Isaiah 33:24

    The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

    Isaiah 35:5

    The earth shall yield her increase.

    Psalm 67:6

    The desert shall blossom as the rose.

    Isaiah 35:1

    The ransomed of the Lord shall return from death.

    Isaiah 35:10

    One shall not build and another inhabit, nor plant and another take, nor shall any labor in vain.

    Isaiah 65:22,23

    Every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree.

    Micah 4:4

    God shall multiply the fruitage of the earth.

    Psalm 67:6; 85:12

    There shall be showers of blessing.

    Ezekiel 34:26

    The earth shall become like a Garden of Eden.

    Isaiah 51:3

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