Boston College’s Office of Campus Ministry will partner with the FACES Council on a new, four-week Lenten retreat next month called “Lift Every Voice,” which will look to integrate conversations about race in America with reflection on faith and prayer.
“I thought, based on current events, maybe it would be a good idea to give a theme to this retreat, this year and going forward,” said Matt Daly, who directs retreats for Campus Ministry. “That whole conversation [about race] seems to have become a big part of American life and American conversation in the past couple years.”
Daly said he was inspired by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, which organizes the annual Ignatian Family Teach-In in Washington, D.C. Last year, the network did an online retreat during Lent that reached out to teachers, professors, and students by asking them to write reflections on race.
The design of the retreat is similar to years past. Students will get paired with a faculty or staff companion to talk about faith and do regular check-ins on how the retreat is progressing. In the past, the retreat would involve a prayer service, which got mixed results. Daly saw the opportunity to make a positive change in the retreat’s structure, so he reached out to FACES, which is built around discussion on race and structures of privilege, and asked if its members might be interested in holding the retreat jointly.
FACES was planning this spring on having a book club to read America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis, which looks at white privilege and race in America from a Christian perspective. Wallis is the president and founder of Sojourners, a monthly Christian social justice magazine. Students on the retreat will participate in discussion on the book. Daly thinks race and racism are topics that do not get addressed often enough from a faith perspective, specifically during Lent, when sin is a big topic. But when people think about sin, they usually think of the Ten Commandments, Daly said, rather than unjust structures like bias.
“We’re going to ask them specifically to start thinking about prejudice, bias, and actually to start naming that stuff as a sin,” he said. “The book identifies [racism] as a structural sin that needs to be addressed.”
Daly said the retreat could follow a similar design in future years, with a basis on some kind of structural sin like sexism or religious issues. Part of the thinking behind the design is to make it as relevant as possible.
“The nice thing about those bigger issues is that they’re always coming up,” he said. “It’s always a big topic, it’s always worthy of being discussed.”
Another race-focused effort Campus Ministry is working on, “Is Being Colorblind Enough?,” is a six-week series that will be run twice out of the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center. The first series starts this week and finishes up at the end of March.
BC is running the initiative with an outside ministry program called the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The project is being led by Zoe Mathieson, BC ’16, and Olivia McGuire, who are focused, Mathieson said, on debunking the idea that colorblindness is enough. The six weeks identify places in people’s lives where there is brokenness and a need for healing, using places in the Bible where Jesus is intentional about race relations, Mathieson said.
“The idea for talking about colorblindedness is the racial tension in our country, but also on our campus as well,” Mathieson said.
She said that in the survey, many students said that colorblindness was enough, because it leads to equality, but others said colorblindness is ignorant, dismantling people’s stories by removing a key part of their identities.
“Ultimately we’re asking people to be radical today, and to fight for social justice not only for themselves but also for those who have hurt them, and to be ethnically and racially aware,” Mathieson said.
McGuire said the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has been partnering with the multifaith component of BC Campus Ministry for years, with someone on the InterVarsity staff acting as an affiliate minister during that time. She’s been the affiliate minister for four years, during which time she’s tried to expand her focus to racial reconciliation and ethnic journey. They said this is the first time they’ve done something this race-specific.
“This is really kind of a critical time to speak out, we believe, and we’ve been trying to do that more openly for the past couple of years,” McGuire said.
Featured Image by Margaux Eckert / Heights Staff