A Reflection from Fr. Mark G. Reamer, '83 O.F.M., D.Min., guardian of the Friary
We celebrate Juneteenth today, the day 155 years ago when enslaved people in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation – which had been issued by President Abraham Lincoln more than two years earlier – and were told they were free.
In recognition of Juneteenth’s message of liberation from oppression, and out of respect for the anger, sadness, exhaustion, and courage of our Black students, colleagues, alumni, friends and so many members of marginalized communities, might today, Friday, June 19th, be a day of reflection for us as a Siena Community?
Might we take the time to pause from our regular activity and reflect both on the ongoing history of systemic racial injustice and how it manifests in our neighborhoods, our families, our faith communities, our Siena community?
As a person who was born white, I cannot fully understand the daily fear and pain and oppression that is endemic to the Black experience. But I can learn by listening deeply.
The mission office has been, with help from across campus, checking in with our students because of the pandemic. For me, the death of George Floyd has deepened those conversations. I ask our students of color, “How are you?” and “What impact is this having on you?” These are not easy conversations.
One student said, “It’s hard to see someone who looks like me be treated this way.” Another said, “I see this all the time,” and another “I’m not pointing fingers, but we want to be heard and action to be taken.”
It’s all too easy for those of us not burdened by racism to not see its impact or to explain away these disparities rather than move to correct them. As a society, we all need to take ownership of racism, especially if we're not the target of it.
Here at Siena, we strive to embody the vision and values of St. Francis of Assisi which involves a commitment to building a world that is more just, peaceable, and humane. There is so much more we can do to embrace the vision and values of Francis of Assisi.
This past Monday we tolled bells here on campus in sorrow, sadness and grief at systemic racial inequities and injustices that have been laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic, the death of George Floyd, and too many others.
We also rang bells out as a clarion call to act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly with God; calling ourselves to the work that is ahead.
To act justly requires an honest acknowledgment of our failures and the restoring of right relationships between us – what Francis calls “peace and good.” To love tenderly demands pursuing “what leads to peace and to building up one another.” It needs a determined effort, but even more so, it requires humility; it involves each of us seeking the grace needed to overcome this sin and get rid of this scourge.
Francis of Assisi often encouraged, “Let us begin again, for up until now we have done little or nothing.” He did not consider that he had already attained his goal, but tireless in pursuit of “holy newness,” he constantly began again.
There is something hopeful about Francis’s “tireless pursuit of newness.” We CAN change. We are called to change. For most of us, real change comes in small steps. Could today be one of those steps, a day of reflection, whereby we ask, what change do I need to make in my life? How can I open myself to listen deeply to other perspectives? What steps do I need to take to act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly with God, to bring about change within myself that can lead to a world that is more just, peaceable and humane?
Let us pray
Wake us up O God, so that the evil of racism
finds no home within us.
Remove from us any barriers to your grace,
that may oppress and offend our brothers and sisters.
Enflame our hearts with your love,
instill our minds with your wisdom,
grant us the courage to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with you O God.
A page on the Siena website dedicated to Strengthening the Bonds of Racial Justice promotes upcoming events and links to resources as well as other messages recently shared with the Siena community.