2017 Spirituality Forum
At the 2017 Spirituality Forum held in St. Louis, Missouri, Cathy Mooney, author of a biography of Philippine Duchesne, was asked to give one of the keynote addresses, exploring the reality of slavery in New Orleans at the time that Philippine arrived and the constraints and blind spots that influenced her decisions.
2018 gathering in Grand Coteau
In September 2018, descendants of enslaved persons who built and maintained the Sacred Heart school at Grand Coteau, Louisiana, gathered at Grand Coteau for a powerful ceremony, created by the descendants themselves, to honor their ancestors. Sheila Hammond, RSCJ, speaking on behalf of the Society of the Sacred Heart in her role as Provincial, apologized to all those present for our complicity in the sin of slavery.
Cor Unum Scholarship
In September 2018, the Society of the Sacred Heart announced the creation of the Cor Unum Scholarship to provide tuition assistance to African American students desiring a Sacred Heart education at Schools of the Sacred Heart – Grand Coteau in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and to provide professional development for faculty and staff and/or course curriculum to students on inclusion and diversity.
This scholarship came to be as the Society works to reconcile their participation in slaveholding during the 1800s. In recognizing their sin, the Society established this scholarship to serve as an ongoing commitment to African American families and students in the Grand Coteau area, where it is known Black people were enslaved by the Society.
In partnership with Schools of the Sacred Heart – Grand Coteau, the Society helps cover 100 percent of tuition costs for a student, each year. The school has chosen to match the scholarship funds with financial assistance in order to allow the scholarship funds to be offered to as many students as possible.
The first Cor Unum Scholarship was awarded in 2019 to a seventh grader at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. The scholarship will remain in effect for her through grade 12 so long as she meets the scholarship criteria.
2018 RSCJ regional meetings
At the regional meetings held in October 2018, the entire membership of the United States – Canada Province engaged in a process that presented the results of the research done by the Committee for Slavery, Accountability and Reconciliation. In addition, facilitators helped the group to reflect on the effects of systemic racism that continue to disadvantage persons of color in this country.
2019 anti-racism gathering
With the mandate of the original committee completed, the task of identifying next steps in the process of addressing systemic racism was given to an interim group who gathered the feedback from the regional meetings and presented several recommendations to the Provincial Team in April 2019.
The Provincial Team acted immediately on one of the recommendations that called for contracting with a professional group skilled in racial justice work, reaching out to Sister Patty Chappell, SND, and Sister Anne-Louise Nadeau, SND, who met with the Provincial Team on a video call in June 2019.
A small coordinating group made up of three RSCJ and the two professional facilitators began immediately to plan for a racially balanced gathering of 40 stakeholders from across the United States – Canada Province, which was held in St. Louis, Missouri, in November 2019. There were representatives from among alumna of Sacred Heart schools, Associates of the Sacred Heart, colleagues and partners in mission, descendants of enslaved persons owned by the Society, Network of Sacred Heart Schools, RSCJ communities, wise elders, and various positions of formal responsibility within the province, such as communications, vocation outreach, finance and formation to mission.
At the end of the gathering, half of the group volunteered to serve on the next steps committee, which is responsible for coming up with practical strategies for change. This group was scheduled to meet at the Stuart Center in Washington, D.C., in March 2020. However, due to COVID-19, the gathering has been postponed until September 2020. In addition, planning has begun for three other large gatherings to be held in December in St. Louis, January in California and February in Washington, D.C.