Message from the President and Principal
Reaffirm its commitment to addressing racism in our community
A pre-note from Fr. McGarry, S.J.:
As you know, I have been away from campus for five weeks to receive medical treatment for a heart arrhythmia. I responded well to the treatment and time of rest, and I am happy to be returning to Jesuit High School Sacramento this weekend to resume my ministry as President.
Thank you for your prayers and support during my time of recuperation. The Jesuit High School community remained in my heart and prayers while I was away.
During my time away, I have done a lot of listening and reflecting. It is as a result of my listening and reflecting that on this 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, Principal Michael Wood and I would like to formally recognize the need for Jesuit High School Sacramento to reaffirm its commitment to addressing racism in our community and share our newest actions to counter its existence on our campus.
Reaffirming Our Commitment
In their statement: Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call of Love, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states, when answering “What Is Racism?”:
Racism arises when—either consciously or unconsciously—a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior, and therefore judges persons of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard. When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful. Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love (Matthew 22:39).1
And, in underscoring that racism is far more pervasive than just individual acts of injustice perpetrated by people, the bishops go on to cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1869, which states:
Racism can also be institutional when practices or traditions are upheld that treat certain groups of people unjustly. The cumulative effects of personal sins of racism have led to social structures of injustice and violence that makes us all accomplices in racism.2
Sadly, along with all of you, we have seen yet again in recent weeks the painful reality that the racism that has existed for centuries in our country is still alive today. In this context, it has been heartbreaking to listen to members of the Jesuit High School Sacramento community share experiences of racism in the school that we call a brotherhood among our students and alumni, and a community among our students, families, faculty, staff and friends.
Several members of our community have shared stories of regularly hearing racial slurs and other degrading comments made by their classmates, flagrant disrespect of cultural celebrations such as our MLK Mass during Black History Month, and many other unacceptable acts that have left some students feeling like outcasts.
While observing the various conversations and responses in our Jesuit Sacramento community and the country at large, the truth must be stated, in no uncertain terms: the fact of the matter is that Black lives matter—and that is the central issue at hand in our country right now. We use this as a term of personal and institutional conviction that Jesuit High School Sacramento must be making sure that Black lives do matter through both our actions and our words.
This is not to make a political point, or to support a political organization, or to say that only black lives matter and other lives do not. Rather, saying Black lives matter is a human and religious conviction that racism is a sin and a systemic problem that must be addressed. We, as Christians, and all people of goodwill, are called to respect people of every race, language, and way of life. This is especially true at this time in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and many others.
Much work is in progress to prepare for the opening of school in August under very different circumstances. In addition to preparing accommodations and modifications under COVID-19 guidelines to resume on-campus instruction and campus life, the following actions are being taken to address the sin of racism in our world and in our school.
- Faculty, staff, and administration (FSA) had a very powerful discussion on June 8 centered around the article by Fr. Brian Massingale, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University, “The assumption of white privilege and what we can do about it” in the National Catholic Reporter.
- In addition, FSA discussed reflections on the comments our students and alumni posted on our own Instagram page in response to our letter to the community entitled “Reflections on Violence and Unrest.” This was followed by a separate session on June 9 hosted by several African American employees. It was an open and candid conversation about the experiences Black Jesuit Sacramento students had shared with them as well as their own personal reflections.
- Members of the school leadership team attended an online forum on June 17 with the Black Student Union. Through two listening sessions, we were able to hear the concerns of some of those students, alumni, and parents. We heard, directly from students, their experiences of being teased for being Black, feeling targeted by faculty and administration, feeling ignored or unseen, and finding few trusted adults on campus to turn to. We learned that students do not simply face moments of racist behavior from time to time, they endure the ongoing presence of racism in all areas of school life. Their courage in sharing their experiences was incredible to witness.
- The Arrupe Discerners, a group of educators from all of the Jesuit ministries in Sacramento — which includes Jesuit High School Sacramento, St. Ignatius Parish and School, and Cristo Rey High School Sacramento — have been working for the past six months on addressing issues of justice within our communities. Jesuit Sacramento’s Arrupe Discerners representatives and school administrators will host a series of listening sessions beginning in late June/early July for all current students and alumni. The size of each listening session will be kept small so that each participant has an opportunity to speak and all voices will be heard. This will be a time for them to share how they have experienced racism while a part of our school community which will allow us to identify areas where Jesuit Sacramento has fallen short and create an action plan to address those issues. More detail about these sessions, including registration instructions, will be communicated through each of our cultural affinity clubs on campus and through our weekly Staying Connected update.
- As a result of the discussions and listening sessions that took place in June, the plans for Jesuit Sacramento’s annual Adult Ignatian Formation and Professional Development for faculty and staff have been updated to place a focus on addressing the issues of race.
- The first in a series of programming for faculty and staff regarding anti-racism will be held at our 2020-2021 opening retreat and reflection session on August 10. The day will focus on the reality of racism in our world and our school. We are finalizing plans to have Eric Abrams, Chief Inclusion Officer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, facilitate this discussion.
- We have made the commitment to have a more in-depth examination of the curriculum in each academic department and to develop more tangible ways to educate all students on issues of race. Some departments have already begun these discussions and we will share more details about the work of our faculty and staff in the coming months.
As a Jesuit, Catholic School, we believe that our faith has something important to say in speaking the truth of God’s love that all people are created in the image and likeness of God, and we all share in one common humanity regardless of the color of our skin. Our mission includes a commitment to the greater good and the greater glory of God in pursuing equity and equality for all people. We must, and we will, continue to work to provide a safe and nurturing place on our campus and a culture that values all of our students and encourages them to value and respect one another.
At the heart of our Ignatian spirituality and tradition of Jesuit education is discernment. At the heart of that discernment is listening. Our listening must lead to concrete action to address the stain of racism in our school, our community, our country, and our world so that we are transformed into the kind of community that God calls us and intends for us to be. Our commitment and action steps are informed by our faith- a faith that is lived not just by doing justice, but by responding to our brothers and sisters with love and hope, in a spirit and call to what unites us and not what drives us apart as we seek to stand in solidarity and peace with one another.
The world needs your sons, our students. Thank you for entrusting Jesuit Sacramento with their care, education and formation. In partnership with you, we hope to continue to grow as a community in the spirit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the tradition of St. Ignatius Loyola and the vision of a Jesuit, Catholic education.
Let us remember to pray for one another and always be open to the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives, calling us to be and do our best.
God bless you and your families.
Rev. John P. McGarry, S.J., President, and Dr. Michael Wood Ed.D., Principal
cc: Students, Faculty, Staff and Trustees
________________1USCCB, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call of Love, pg. 3 2USCCB, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call of Love, pg. 5