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Provincial Leaders Speak Out About Charleston Tragedy, Racism

1NEW YORK — As the nation mourns the deaths of the nine people murdered last month at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Holy Name Province’s leaders released a message calling for peace. The friars urged all people to examine their attitudes about race and to promote actions that bring about acceptance and equality.

Below is the statement, written by the Provincial Council and the HNP African Ancestry Committee.

The Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province stand in prayerful solidarity with our sisters and brothers of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. We pray that God will continue to heal this remarkable congregation that inspires us by its spirit of forgiveness toward the perpetrator of a horrendous act of hatred. This tragic event underscores once again the fact that vestiges of racism continue to affect our national life. It silences the claim that racism — our nation’s “original sin” — has been eliminated.

As we decry this latest act of racially motivated violence — on this occasion, in a house of prayer — we Franciscans examine our own consciences with regard to racial discrimination. As followers of St. Francis of Assisi, we have a tradition of respect and love for all human beings, indeed of all creation. We know that God is a God of life, not death, and that all life matters. For that reason, in the face of the tragedy in Charleston and similar acts of inhumanity in our nation, we pledge ourselves and urge our country to acknowledge elements of racism still present in us and to renew our struggle for equality and inclusivity.

Again, we declare our solidarity with the congregation of Mother Emmanuel AME Church and with all who suffer acts of discrimination of any kind. Our greeting to them remains that of our founder, St. Francis: “Pace e Bene” (Peace and All Good).

In South Carolina and other parts of the country, friars and HNP ministries have been showing their support for the people of Charleston.

Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston represented the diocese at an ecumenical prayer service the day after the shooting and distributed prayer petitions, which the friars in South Carolina used at their parishes.

“The bishop sent out an email with the petitions so we could include them in our regular petitions during weekend Masses,” said Henry Fulmer, OFM, of St. Joseph’s Parish in Anderson in the northwest region of the state. “All South Carolina Catholics were to pray a nine-day novena for the victims of the massacre, and for healing the Emanuel AME church community. We friars included the situation in our homily the last two weekends.”

Also in the Piedmont region, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Greenville held a prayer vigil for the victims, their families, Mother Emanuel Church and for the perpetrator. This was followed by a “powerful weekend of preaching” by David Hyman, OFM, said pastor Patrick Tuttle, OFM, who was chaperoning a high school trip to Italy at the time. A novena was begun and ended on June 28.

After Patrick’s return to the U.S., he remarked that the weekend Mass readings for June 27-28 “were as if they were designed for our state. ‘I am not the God of death!’ (WIS 1:13-15) ‘Retain all graciousness’ (2 COR 8:7) and the story of a woman who touches the Lord’s garment in a quest for healing (MK 5: 21-43). These were amplified in the beautiful gift of African-American preaching style and inspiration was God’s order that day.”

In Boston, as a way of showing solidarity with Mother Emanuel Church, St. Anthony Shrine displayed a condolence book. According to the Shrine’s June 29 Facebook post, worshippers were “invited to write a message or prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ” before and after weekday Masses.

 

At many parishes, friars presented words of support and sympathy as part of their homilies. Some ministries, including St. Patrick Friary in Buffalo, N.Y., posted the Province’s statement on their Facebook pages.

Photos of South Carolinians united in prayer were posted on the website of The Catholic Miscellany.

The executive secretary of the English-speaking Conference, Fr. Thomas Washburn, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Province, wrote about “the healing power of forgiveness in Charleston” on his blog A Friar’s Life. “If you’ve ever wondered what that looks like in practice, look no further than Charleston this week. Forgiveness transforms, it heals, it calls us higher, it makes us whole, it shows us and the world who God has truly called us to be.

“Let us all strive to do the same. It just might change the world.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.