By: Sr. Patty Johnson

Sr Melinda engaging the audience with her story.On February 9, Sr. Melinda Pellerin (Springfield) held a workshop at the motherhouse in St. Louis on the origins of black Catholicism in the United States. Through this workshop titled "Sisters and Brothers Among Us, the Diversity of Our Church Woven Throughout the African-American Experience," Sr. Melinda helped the audience understand why African-Americans continue to stay with this faith tradition, despite the systematic racism and prejudice they have experienced — and continue to experience — in the Catholic Church.

Sr. Melinda introduced us to her family and helped us understand the importance of family and roots to the development of an active faith life that maintains hope in times of great tribulation. She also shared art, songs, and dance that helped participants feel the vibes of her rich culture. Part of this experience included an activity where groups made their own quilts and learned the meaning of the patterns which provided subversive and secret messages to slaves during the 1800s.

Participants made their own quilt squares at the workshop.Another portion of this day-long workshop focused on African-Americans who have made significant contributions to the modern Catholic Church and the African-American Catholic experience. Following the retreat, participants remarked that the workshop left them with lots to ponder. This unique workshop left participants with a sense that Sr. Melinda has opened a window to let you peek into her experience as an African-American Catholic sister, and understand how her family and culture have influenced her to become the woman she is today.

This U.S. Federation sponsored this program as a recommitment to addressing racism, as well as offering compelling programming for our members across the U.S. In August 2018, the Federation released a Corporate Voice Statement joining with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) "in committing to the critical work of creating communion, examining the root causes of injustice and our own complicity, and purging ourselves, our communities, and our country of the sin of racism and its destructive effects." The Federation will continue to live out this commitment by turning our words into actions.

The U.S. Federation is also committed to bringing workshops to our members that can be used in your own home, with a local community or group, or in a larger gathering. Our hope is to provide our members with valuable resources that will help people embrace the Gospel Charism of unifying love for the healing and transformation of the world. This exciting workshop will be available online shortly via the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph’s Youtube page.

[Sr. Patty Johnson is executive director of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph]