Reflections on Racism and My Faith

by Toni Moore-Duggan

“Be enlightened by wisdom and understanding and guided by the Holy Spirit to effectively work to overcome the diseases of racism, injustice and indifference that disfigure the face of our common family.” – Pope Francis

As a Catholic African American Person of Color (POC), I live the tragedy of how racism has marred the Universe that God intended. As a Contemplative, I have to believe that inward eyes reveal our purpose and God’s presence among us. It has less to do with gender or skin color and more to do with intention and desire. And if we see through the lens of those inward eyes, we will appreciate the effects of racism on the humanity of Christ. We will be continually transformed by love and trust.

I had been going St. Ignatius for a few years when I was telling someone who worked there that I would like to register as a member of St. Ignatius. They told me, “They’re not accepting new members right now.” I was not deterred. I kept coming.

I began attending St. Ignatius’s 12:15 Mass on my lunch hour when I worked at Johns Hopkins. I was drawn in by the short direct homilies that nourished my mind, heart and soul in new ways of proceeding in my everyday life. They spoke through the Gospel in dimensional ways that raised my spirit to new levels and left my inner being hungry for more. So I kept coming. I then went to Sunday Mass and I knew this experience of the Gospel was very different from the homilies I had experienced in the past. So I brought my husband and we’ve been at St. Ignatius ever since.

As I became more involved in the Ministries, I often felt the sting of racism but as so many other POC I accepted it as a standard of my existence and I moved forward. I felt God called me to St. Ignatius for a reason yet to be revealed.

The difference in my skin color rarely matters to me as I kneel before God. Try as I might, I have yet to understand the forces of racism in the human spirit, yet I experience it often as I view and feel the weight of this evil in my community. But, I feel the consolation of God’s presence in the St. Ignatius community so much greater than the hovering forces of the evils of racism. That truth makes me stronger and emboldens my faith in Christians to be transformed.

The death of Freddie Gray called me to a new level of presence at St. Ignatius. It was an awakening and challenge as a POC in a non-POC majority Catholic Community to stand up and speak out. I could see and feel that the pain of the tragedy of the loss of Freddie Gray had less to do with his death and more to do with his life. My POC brothers and sisters were walking through life as though their only reason for being was to explain their existence. It was time to live the Gospel out of the shadows.

Reflection Questions: How has the upsurge of Black lives Matter challenged my personal faith identity in my St. Ignatius and greater community?

Am I willing to risk my comfort zone to explore ways of living my call to discipleship boldly, differently and openly?

Am I faithful to the Gospel in expressing how racism affects me personally and how it affects others?

Toni Moore-Duggan and her husband Michael are parishioners at St. Ignatius for more than 20 years. She is a Spiritual Director, Chair of the Racial Justice Committee and active in many Ministries. Toni has presented the “Ignatius Spirituality Series with Fr. Bob Ham S.J. on the first Saturday morning of every month at St. Ignatius for many years. Toni conducts, “Honest Conversations about Race” throughout the Archdiocese as a leader of the Racial Justice Circle. She is a Nurse Practitioner and Educator who has spent the majority of her professional career working with the underserved.