||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
The Long Shadow
By: Dale Recinella
Snow is piled high on every side of the parking lot.
The stark contrast of frozen black asphalt ringed by mountains of whitish gray in the shadows of cross-topped brick buildings stirs streams of memories.
Late 1950s: The St. Jude’s parish parking lot in Detroit, when four to five priests were standard for every rectory.
Early 1960s: The St. Michael’s of Livonia school playground that doubled as a church car park on weekends. That’s where we were playing pompom when Sister Ursula informed us that America’s only Catholic president had been assassinated in the Deep South.
Late 1960s: The blacktop volleyball court of St. Francis Seminary in Cincinnati where our heated class tourney was terminated by news of the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Early 1970s: The paved ocean surrounding St. Thomas More College in northern Kentucky. That was where many of us cried in dismay at learning the war had been enlarged into Cambodia.
Mid-1970s: The potholed asphalt crumbling around married housing at Notre Dame even as the highest levels of government were also crumbling, amidst scandal, and Nixon would soon resign.
Things have changed. Here in the Deep South of Florida we have a Catholic Governor. Blacks and whites sit side by side at lunch counters and share public beaches. Vietnam is fast becoming a successful trading partner. And almost no parish gets four or five priests anymore.
Yet some things stubbornly refuse to change. That’s why I’m here tonight, walking between snow piles from the rectory to the sanctuary of Holy Cross Catholic Church. This huge Irish Catholic parish in Springfield, Massachusetts has over 6,000 members but only one priest. The new pastor, Father Vic, was assigned here just eighteen days ago but has been immediately recognized as a gentle man of deep spirituality. Sr. Cindy, an Allegheny Franciscan, and Deacon Bill pull yeoman’s oars in assisting with the administration of the large flock and a Catholic school of over 500 students.
Tonight, Holy Cross parish is hosting a Racial Reconciliation Service sponsored by the Springfield Christian Leadership Council. The church is filled with hundreds of Christians and pastors from the Black, Latino and Anglo communities. Also in attendance are members of the state senate, the local school board and the city council. I’ve been asked to give the keynote address.
We’ve come a long way on racism in America. Yet, there’s still far to go. Of the two million people incarcerated in the U.S., almost two-thirds, 63%, are Latino and Black. Those groups only make up 24% of our total population.
The strongest statistical predictor of whether a man will get the death penalty for a murder is the race of the victim. All other things being equal, our society still holds that Anglos are more valuable than Blacks. Studies indicate that from the time of Florida as a territory in 1769 until the present day, the government has never executed a white person for killing a black person in Florida.
African-Americans are only 12% of Florida’s population but constitute 36% of Florida’s death row.
So, where do we start on Racial Reconciliation among Christians in 21st century America?
Facing the crowd from the lectern, I begin at the juncture we learned from the Reverend Billy Graham when he addressed the teens at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville.
“The Lord has shown me that I am a racist,” I confess. “I didn’t know it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t choose it. In fact, despite my desires and intentions, I see, think and interpret everything from the limited experience of my group, my life and my surroundings—all white. Only Jesus and His Spirit can break through these limitations and open my heart and mind to the very different experiences and understandings of my brothers and sisters who are not white. I need my Savior to deliver me from the long shadow of the spirit of racism.”
First published: The Florida Catholic, April 4, 2003
© 2003 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
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Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed