May 28, 2022

Reflection on Systemic Racism by Sister Marilyn Huegerich

The core of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si message is challenging. He argues that praising the God of creation includes being willing to challenge and transform systems, institutions, and our own patterns of comfort that fail to care for the planet and for each other. “Human life is itself a gift,” he says, “which must be defended from various forms of debasement” (5). The cry of the poor is reality.


Systemic racism has been a focus for us at our regional meetings these past five years. Education is essential as we re-learned American history through book discussions, videos, films, and webinars. It has been important to listen to the voices of African Americans and to advocate for the national voting rights and child tax credit legislation. We continue to participate in anti-racist rallies and demonstrations.


The Leadership Team issued a Statement in Response to Racial Injustice on June 4, 2020, that pledged listening to the wisdom of people of color, learning about racism in all its dimensions (systemic, institutional, and cultural), and working in solidarity with people of color to effect systemic, societal, and personal change.


At our 2021 Chapter, we heard the cries of outrage from our sisters and brothers. We acknowledged our complicity in perpetuating the racism endemic in our country from its beginning. Racism diminishes us all. The Chapter affirmed the 2020 Statement.


White supremacy. White privilege. White fragility. Implicit biases operate at our subconscious level. We have much to learn as these are new words for many of us. The Cry of the Poor requires us to address the structural and cultural violences that threaten human life, perpetuating poverty and exclusion. This requires spiritual commitment and political will to bring about change at every level of society.


We must respond to the Cry of the Poor. Our mission of living and promoting active nonviolence and peacemaking is the strategy for changing the world.


Sister Marilyn currently serves as Vice President of the Sisters of St. Francis.  Sister Marilyn previously served as a teacher and an administrator at various schools, including 10 years at St. Mary School in Alexandria, IN, and 14 years at Mount St. Clare Academy in Clinton, IA. She served as President of the Sisters of St. Francis from 1996 to 2004. Sister Marilyn received a B.A. from Marycrest College in 1964, with a major in Social Studies and a minor in Spanish. She received an M.S.T in Economics Education from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1969, an M.S. in American History from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI in 1970, and Secondary Principal Certification from the University of Iowa in 1978, plus other professional certifications.