Marianist group at St. Mary’s tackles racial justice topic

The topic of racial justice is one that a group focused on Marian spirituality might have been inclined to skip.

But Mary led them to it, and the result is a Lenten program being held at St. Mary's High School on Wednesday evenings with a theme of "With Mary Toward Racial Justice." The weekly presentations on Marian spirituality and racial justice are open to the public.

With the help of Father Mitch Doyen, who then was president of St. Mary's, a lay Marianist group at St. Mary's formed about four years ago with parents seeking to learn about the Marianist founders and charism. The group of seven women and a member of the school Mission Integration Team, "Growing with Mary," now meets monthly.

After addressing the topic of mercy and social justice during the Lenten program last year, the topic of racial justice bubbled up — an imposing topic for the organizers. In her role, "I'm just the secretary and social coordinator for the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit," said school parent Maureen Hoock. "There's no way I could pull together by myself the speakers who have done such a phenomenal job."

A logo was chosen of five images of Mary, including the one used most often by the Marianist lay group — Mary Undoer of Knots — as well as Native American, African American, Asian and Hispanic images of her.

The program will include several speakers on various aspects of Marian spirituality and racial justice. One of the highlights of the Lenten series gatherings will be a March 29 program with Dominic Duren, re-entry coordinator at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati. He works with people who have served sentences in the criminal justice system and are working to overcome obstacles and barriers they face when returning home from incarceration. He will be accompanied by Marianist Brother Mike Murphy, also of Cincinnati, who also works with the re-entry program.

On racial justice, Hoock said, "Nothing is going to get better until we start talking about it. And then we have to do more than just talk. It's my most fervent prayer that we will move toward some action steps."

After the group's first year of meeting together, Hoock, a member of St. Francis Xavier (College Church) Parish, took part in the Marianist Lay Formation Initiative, a one-year program that assists people in developing an increased understanding of Marianist mission, tradition and history. She then took vows as a lay Marianist, pledging to work with Mary to bring Jesus to the world. Another member of the group, Annette Kovarik, also has completed the formation initiative.

As a way of reaching out to the community, the group planned its first Lenten program on Mary four years ago. One of the speakers, Brian Reavy, focused on Mary and social justice. The next year, "With Mary Toward Social Justice" was the topic. It was the spring after the unrest following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson in a police-involved shooting. Amy Hunter, now manager of diversity and inclusion at St. Louis Children's Hospital, was the speaker. She also was the speaker March 1 in the first of this year's six-week program.

Help on arranging speakers came from faculty members at St. Mary's and others, including Marie Kenyon of the archdiocese's Peace and Justice Commission. And, though organizers didn't know it at the time, the theme is a focus for the school this year.

Lisa Magee, a member of Seven Holy Founders Parish, has two sons who are St. Mary's graduates. She learned about the Marianists from the school and the lay group, and said, "It feels like a family here. It's been very interesting for me to learn more about the Marianist charism."

A leadership class at St. Mary's will assist with the six-week program. The Marianist Retreat and Conference Center will provide homemade bread and St. Mary's parents will make soup for participants. 

>> RACIAL JUSTICE PROGRAM

WHAT: "With Mary Toward Racial Justice"

WHEN: Wednesdays in Lent; 6:45 p.m. soup and bread, 7-8:30 p.m. presentation

WHERE: St. Mary's High School cafeteria, 4701 S. Grand Blvd. in south St. Louis

CONTACT: Please RSVP to Maureen Hoock via text at (314) 420-1650 or email butmomwhy@gmail.com

>> SPEAKERS AND TOPICS

March 8 — "Gathering at the Table" with Bridget McDermott Flood of the Incarnate Word Foundation.

March 15 — "Vessels of God's Will: Mary, Amos and Habakkuk" with Father Art Cavitt, executive director of the St. Charles Lwanga Center and pastor of St. Nicholas Parish Downtown.

March 22 — "From the Face of Empathy to People of Action" with Dan Stout, a Catholic morality and social justice teacher at Chaminade College Preparatory who is involved with the Catholic High Schools Harmony Project. A parallel program for children will be led by Jim Ford and Julie Hickey of the Marianist Retreat and Conference Center.

March 29 — "The Dismas Journey" with Dominic Duren and Marianist Brother Mike Murphy, who work in Cincinnati with men and women who had been incarcerated.

April 5 — "Guadalupe's Encounter with Juan Diego: What Can It Teach Us About Racial Justice?" with Javier Orozco, executive director of Intercultural and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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