Dear Families of the Welsh Academy,
Today, I write to you humbly. Today, I write thinking about the boys who make up the Welsh Academy. Today, and for so many yesterdays and for all of my tomorrows I pray for peace, equity, and an end to hate and systems in place that make these United States so challenging for our African-American and Latinx brothers and sisters in Christ.
Over the course of the last month, with each passing week, one after another act of terror was committed against African Americans across the country, culminating in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Since Mr. Floyd’s death, there have been protests across the country, including within our own city. Most of the protests have been peaceful, though some have included violence.
Over the years, Cleveland has not been immune from this kind of violence against individuals of color. It is just over five years ago, that the city reeled from the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy who was shot and killed in a neighborhood park by a then-Cleveland Police Officer.
In a May 2015 audience with children from the “Peace Factory,” Pope Francis said the following:
“We are all equal – all of us – but this truth is not recognized, this equality is not recognized, and for this reason some people are, we can say, happier than others. But this is not a right! We all have the same rights. When we do not see this, society is unjust. It does not follow the rule of justice, and where there is no justice, there cannot be peace. I would like to repeat this with you: Where there is no justice, there is no peace!” - Pope Francis (emphasis added by Principal Vogel)
As a woman who is neither a mother nor a woman of color, I cannot begin to understand the feelings of mothers and fathers who fear for their children based upon the color of their skin. What I do know is that the fear is real, and that I promise to work diligently to keep your children safe while they are in our care. I also promise that our team will continue to work in earnest to continue our own work in the areas of cultural awareness and responsiveness. I believe, in times like these, that the core pillars of our pedagogy (the study of how teachers teach and students learn) of ENCOUNTER and CARE have never been more important.
As I think about our 21 Welsh students, the 26 students who will be joining us later this year, and the many young people of color I have taught or been a principal to in the past, Pope Francis’s quote has been rumbling through my head. As I think about our boys of color who are part of the Welsh Academy, the MAGIS Program, the Arrupe Program, and Saint Ignatius High School, and their families, I want you to know that we are with you in prayer and peace and love. We stand together to build a path to a safer, more equitable, and more peaceful city, nation, and world for our boys and young men. A world in which they might truly be able to live out the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A world in which there is justice and there is peace.
Dr. Deborale Richardson-Phillips, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Saint Ignatius High School community, in an email earlier this week to staff members, sent the following opening prayer and petitions to us for this time of unrest. I thought it right to share them with each of you as well.
Gracious and loving God, your word promises healing and restoration. Today I claim those promises for the world. I believe in the healing power of faith and ask that you begin a mighty work in our nation. Surround us, Lord, with your love and supernatural power and provide peace where there is none. Abundantly increase our faith so that we know with you in our hearts and you directing our tongues that all things are possible. For a variety of reasons our hearts are heavy and we seek you and your word for clarity. Below are just a few of the petitions of our heart. Have your way, Lord, and for all we can't imagine and dare not think about, please Lord, add to this list of petitions.
For all those who have fallen victim to hatred and inhumanity, for those loved ones who are left behind to mourn, for the souls of those whose hearts are cold, Lord, hear our prayer.
For the children who are being born into this world of conflict and violence, for women and mothers who suffer needlessly, Lord, hear our prayer.
For all those who have been forced into unemployment, who long to return to work, for all those who struggle to support their families, Lord, hear our prayer.
For the soldiers who are misguided in thinking that their bullets will bring about peace, for those who feel called to conscientiously object to military orders, Lord, hear our prayer.
For the children who cry in their beds at night and wonder, “What have I done?” For the mothers and fathers who must try to explain the unexplainable, Lord, hear our prayer.
For all the children who have died before their time, for the soldiers and police officers who allow their uniform to strip them of their humanity, for the healers who are denied the opportunity to use their gifts, Lord, hear our prayer.
For the redemption of souls of both victim and perpetrator, for those who commit themselves to the forgiveness of sins, Lord, hear our prayer.
(From Prayers for Justice and Peace)
In these trying times, we are not walking alone, we are walking with God.
Mary Ann Vogel, Ed.D.
The Welsh Academy at Saint Ignatius High School