By Kanika J. Stewart-Jones, MHS St. Martin de Porres Church
The first thought I had post the conference (coupled with tears of joy, gratitude, and humility) was GOD IS GOOD!!! That felt so good writing, I feel the need to write it again GOD IS GOOD!!! To have brought me from such a dark place to being a part of such a blessed experience…and to top it off I was able to experience it with my husband and son. When I tell you GOD IS GOOD…HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH!
The realization of it all started to set in at Philadelphia International Airport. It worked out that there were lots of familiar faces from Philadelphia’s Archdiocese gathering to board the same flight as my family and I were. There was an unspoken, yet defined purpose amongst all of us there. There was an openness that we all shared in addition to the Christ driven determination that said “We” will work to make the required changes in our parishes, families, and communities that is so very desperately needed.
Once there I chose the sessions that focused on racism. I made this choice because I recognized the levels of cluelessness (whether intentional or unintentional) people of non-color have. In my personal and professional lifetime, I have come across people who have no awareness of “OUR” struggles and triumphs, of our battles and defeats, and why “WE” as a people must fight onward to bring about acknowledgement, understanding, and acceptance so that process of equality can began.
While at the sessions I felt like a sponge absorbing all the information that was being given by not only the presenters, but by those in attendance as well. From the sessions, I feel like I have a good foundation to start the process of ending racism in the Catholic Church.
The highlight of the conference for me was seeing and reconnecting with sister Patricia “Patty” Chappell, SNDDEN. Anyone who attended St. Columba Catholic School or parish (now known as St. Martin de Porres) in the 1980’s will absolutely relate to what I am about to say. Seeing Sister Patty brought everything into focus for me. Her presence and message solidified my purpose for being there. See, many many, many, years ago while attending St. Columba Catholic School, in the kingdom of North Philadelphia, we were blessed with Sister Patty. She was the first black nun I had ever seen, and let me tell you, she left a lasting impact on my life. At a young age I was taught what it meant to be black and catholic from her. I was taught my roots as a catholic and my roots as an African descendant. Through her teachings and guidance I was taught how to love Christ and my culture. Through her I was taught to have pride in our walk, talk, music, and dress. She not only promoted Catholicism and “OUR” heritage with us as students but, she promoted them both with our parents and our community members as well. And forty some years later she is still doing it, but on a national level.
I say all this to say that what we came together to illuminate or bring resolve to at the NBCC XII has long been instilled in me way before this conference. This conference was the motivating spark that I needed to aggressively become the change agent I was taught to be. Thank you Sister Patty for planting the seed!
God Bless and Harambee!