Back in the late 1960’s, the pastor and parishioners of our mostly white Catholic church in suburban St. Louis County partnered with a mostly black church nearby for an initiative to become more familiar with each other and be a more cohesive community. I am told that my parents played a major role in this initiative, which became known as the “The Human Justice Council”.
Along with a few more serious items, one of the main activities was going on large group camping trips together.
I was a very young, preschool-aged boy at the time and had not yet spent much time around African Americans. As we all caravanned down to the state park, I was put in the car of one of the black families. There was a boy, perhaps five or ten years older, sitting next to me. I remember asking him questions like “why is the skin on the palm of your hands lighter than the rest of you?” I can’t recall what his answer was, but I do remember him laughing and being good-natured about it. The whole weekend seemed to be a good time.
As time passed, people get busy with their own lives, and the scheduling of these trips faded away, I being on the tail end of it.
I have no particular wisdom on this matter, and I claim no significant impact on the world. The reason that this story comes to my mind, and why I feel is noteworthy is:
There was a feeling of excitement at the time – the world was becoming a bigger and better place, and we were a part of it. It felt like there was a direction to it. That was nice.
You were fortunate to belong to such a progressive parish. Did the initiative eventually fade away?
Here’s a story that will make you cringe. Twenty or so years ago, my parish hosted a madrigal choir from the local high school as part of our Festival of Lessons and Carols to close out the Christmas season. At the time our priest was an Irishman from Ireland who was notable for his tactlessness as well as his sucking up to wealthy people in hopes of donations.
After the choir had sung, Father Larry got up to make his remarks. He thanked everyone for being there, then looked out into the pews and gushed, “I see we have a couple of black visitors. Welcome!” 🙄