Dear Mount St. Mary Academy students and their families:
During today’s morning announcements, we shared with our community these meaningful words from Catholic Charities that unite our hearts in prayer in what is an immensely difficult time as our nation struggles with racial injustice and the ongoing impact of the global pandemic:
God of justice, In your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception. Through your goodness, open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being. Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family. Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviors, and speech which demean others. Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by racial discrimination and their passionate appeals for change. Strengthen our resolve to make amends for past injustices and to right the wrongs of history. And fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven, and establish peace and equality for all in our communities. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
As a Catholic school that educates young women, we believe deeply in the value and dignity of all human life. We hold fast to our belief that we are called to walk with every person and to truly listen to his or her unique story. Jesus showed us by His example that we are called to uplift the lives of all people, and especially accompany those who are suffering the most.
George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. They and other people of color have had their lives taken unjustly and abruptly. They are God’s beloved and we mourn their loss. We heed the mission of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, our founders, who call us to be “passionate supporters of non-violence and promoters of the pursuit of peace.”
There are women of color in our MSM community who have experienced racial prejudice, and we hold these members of the Mount family especially close in this time. We know our students and staff are grieving, and we grieve with them.
The Blessed Mother, our patroness, proclaims in her Magnificat that our God has “exalted the lowly.” She calls us to stand in solidarity with those who have been forgotten and to be voices for the voiceless. Mount St. Mary educates our young women to be agents of justice, to be courageous, and to lift their voices even when it is difficult. This work of justice is not for the faint of heart. Earlier this year when our community was touched by the harmful effects of racism, we struggled to heal. We have much more to do to become a community where all are truly welcome. We must listen. We must learn. We must act.
Our path onward is multi-fold. As an educational institutional, we lean into the power of education to address racial injustices and to learn from each other, no matter how uncomfortable or hard it may be. Our faculty and staff, during June professional development time, will further their learning about diversity, equity and inclusion. They will discuss implicit bias and microaggressions, as well as the ways racism is present in our society today and how we can actively promote an antiracist community. Our summer work will help us develop more skills around engaging young people in conversations that are empathetic, meaningful and spark a desire to work towards racial justice. Our school life leadership team will be trained as facilitators for leading restorative justice circles, which will become part of the fabric of our daily school life as we all embrace our call to truly listen and seek reconciliation in any situation.
Specifically for our students, we will continue to build on the efforts from this past school year to create opportunities for them to gather and share their perspectives. The student clubs facilitated by caring adults — The Voice (formerly Soul Sisters), Students Against Social Injustice, and our Black Affinity group — will provide safe, important spaces for our community to engage in conversation and activism. Our school counselors, accompanied by our social worker, will provide resources and conversations that emphasize the importance of meaningful relationships. Throughout the fall we will be inviting our full community — adults and students alike — to engage in reading circles that will provide further understanding about racism and how we need to confront hatred and injustice in all forms. This will provide a valuable foundation as we look to our second annual full community Service and Justice immersion experience, slated for January 2021.
I am mindful as I compose this letter that I write from the perspective of a white woman who still has so much to learn. I promise to listen closely to the important unique stories being told in our community. I pledge to work collectively to ensure that different perspectives are heard and honored. And I pray that, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, love may guide our actions and bring healing to all who are hurting.
May God be with us as we forge ahead together.
Katherine M. Spillman, Principal
Here is a list of resources for guiding further conversation with your daughters.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olou (MSM faculty book club read this spring)