As the Society of the Sacred Heart, United States – Canada Province prepares to celebrate 200 years of our congregation’s presence in the United States, we commit ourselves to recover the story of slavery in our early days in this country,* to share this historical fact as widely as needed, to assist in the attempt to locate the descendants of enslaved persons who lived on property owned by the Society of the Sacred Heart, and to take appropriate steps to address this painful chapter in our history while also working to help transform ongoing racists attitudes and behaviors. To this end, a committee of persons with the necessary skills has been formed to do the required research and make recommendations for further action as the United States – Canada Province prepares for the bicentennial in 2018.
It is time to listen to other historical perspectives, to engage in deeper research with a view to telling the fuller story, to confront a painful part of our legacy, to act in a spirit of regret for the past, and to commit to truth, healing and reconciliation for a better future.
The Provincial Team has given the Truth and Reconciliation Committee the following mandate:
Term of Mandate: 2016-2018
Number of Committee Members: 5-8
Composition: To be determined by the Provincial Team, assuring that the committee includes at least one RSCJ of color and the perspective of those who are descendants of slaves, at least two historians, a representative of the archives, lay and religious members.
Accountability: To the Provincial and the Provincial Team
1) The committee will draft a statement to share with our publics that outlines the situation of slave-owning by the Society of the Sacred Heart and the intent of the congregation to address this issue in a way that is consistent with our mission as women religious educators in the Church.
2) The committee will research the particular story of the Society of the Sacred Heart’s relationship with slavery, including the extent of the Society’s involvement, the names of the people impacted (both victims of slavery and Religious of the Sacred Heart involved).
3) The committee will work with Sacred Heart institutions that are historically impacted by the institutions of slavery.
4) The committee will recommend appropriate action consistent with the principles and best practices of international truth and reconciliation processes.
5) The committee will work with the Conference on Sacred Heart Education, the Network Program Committee and the Province’s Formation to Mission Committee to develop an effective educational program around issues of slavery, ongoing racism and other forms of inequity.
*The reality of slave-owning has not been hidden from those who know the history. It has been presented in publications as early as 1957 and as recently as 2010. Recent events at Georgetown University, however, have placed more public focus on this shameful aspect of the history of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the United States in its first 50 years.