“Can you come to speak to my youth ministers about racism?”
“Can you come do a workshop on diversity for our faculty and staff?”
“How can we talk to our youth and young adults about racism?”
“Can you put together a list of anti-racism resources that we can share on our website and with the members of our organization?”
“Can you help our diocese develop a diversity training program for our deacons?”
These are just some of the questions I’ve been asked over the past 20-plus years of my full-time ministry work.
These requests have come more often since the murder of George Floyd and the racial reckoning that has been facing the world, and specifically the United States of America, since then.
Catholicism is no stranger to racism. In fact, the USCCB refers to racism as “America’s original sin.” Even though there have been countless documents, prayer services, book clubs, discussions, town halls, and other events concerned with cleansing us of this original sin, it is still prevalent in our society and within our Church.
Thus, in response to the requests I have received, I wanted to create a resource for our Church to have these discussions. It comes in the form of a book, “Leveling the Praying Field: Can the Church We Love, Love Us Back?”.
In it, I share some of my own experiences with our Church while also giving various discussion questions at the end of each chapter so that readers (individuals, groups, or classes) can go deeper into the discussion.
The book is for all ages, but there was a specific focus to create a resource for catechists, theology/religion teachers, and campus ministers to use for their ministry with young people. This book is also a companion to the Emmy-nominated “Black Faith Matters” video series I participated in.
Ultimately, 3 years of work went into writing this material, and I was blessed to include personal reflections from two of my friends and mentors: Fr. Bryan Massingale of Fordham University wrote the foreword, and New Orleans' auxiliary bishop Fernand Cheri III, OFM, wrote the afterword.
I have witnessed the sacrifice that these two men have given to remain authentically Black & Catholic in a world that tries to deny the dignity of both. My hope is that this book continues their work.
Hopefully it will also help us, as a society and Church, move from asking questions about, to taking effective action against America’s Original Sin. Action that will create a better world for future generations as we truly level the praying field.
“Leveling the Praying Field: Can the Church We Love, Love Us Back?” will be released in March 2022 by Orbis Books. Group orders can be placed by calling the publisher at 1-800-258-5938.
Dr. Ansel Augustine is the New Orleans Area Director for Vagabond Missions. He is also on the Faculty of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana and has served on the board of directors for the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA) and the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.