Expanding minds, changing hearts
BESSIMER, Ala. | There's something to be said about Southern hospitality.
After about 12 hours on the road, we began trickling into St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Bessimer, Ala., and were immediately greeted by parishioners in the parking lot who invited us inside and encouraged us to make ourselves at home. There was a warmth in their welcome that was so genuine, so unique, so special.
Founded in 1940 by Conventual Franciscans, the parish was established to respond to the needs of the city's African American Catholic population. And while the friars left in 2003, the community continues to live out its mission. They've even turned the former Friary into the retreat center where we are staying.
It's no secret that this country has a past, and we still faces struggles in overcoming racist attitudes. But sometimes if you want to bring about a positive change, the first place you have to look is in a mirror, and so we had to do just that.
St. Francis was established to serve the city's African American population - because they weren't welcomed at the long-established "white" parish. Throughout the country, the Church has struggled with racism - and continues to do so. The locals know it, and weren't afraid to tell us. It's a struggle many of us see in our own dioceses and are here to learn a few things we'll need to carry with us, later examining our own behaviors and committing to bring about positive changes that will transform minds and hearts.
There is a gap. We can become bridges. Over the next week, hopefully we can begin assembling a toolbox so that some day soon, we can start building rather than maintaining structures that never really provided the necessary support.
Guide our feet, Lord, while we run this race. Amen.