A Call to Action
Ignatian Communal Discernment & Discourse on Injustices Perpetrated Against Black America
As we navigate the stormy waters of a global pandemic and a nation convulsing around questions of racial and economic equity, where the poor and marginalized cry out for justice and mercy, it is urgent that we as Jesuit educational communities fully embrace our mission and the core values of our Catholic Social Teaching. For 480 years, Jesuit schools have sought nothing less than a sincere care and respect for the dignity of every human person from birth to natural death, no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic background, gender or sexual orientation. In fact, it was a distinctive charism of Jesuit missionaries to embrace cultural diversity around the globe as early as the 16th century before even beginning to share the good news of the Gospels.
I am most proud to share the work of Ruben Goodwin the Director of Diversity and Academic Support Services and the School Leadership Team, who at my request, have created a discerning framework and response to the cultural and political tensions that threaten to permanently damage and diminish our civil discourse and community fabric in the United States.
The Fairfield Prep plan for Ignatian Communal Discernment & Discourse on Injustices Perpetrated Against Black America is a call to action for our community. As contemplatives in action, the Fairfield Prep community will naturally begin this important work with shared discernment, reflection and dialogue. I invite you to join us in this process of bringing the gift of shared reflection into our needy world. May the Spirit continue to give us the graces we seek to rid ourselves of all hatred, bias, anger and smallness of mind or heart. We seek to be leaders in an effort to restore dignity, civility and love to a weary world.
In peace and hope,
Mr. Christian J. Cashman P ’15, CP ‘23
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – For the Greater Glory of God
Eradicating inequality requires transformative change. At Fairfield Prep, we strive to achieve equity through access and opportunity for all. Affecting change in our society has, and will continue to be an ongoing process that requires understanding.
The Prep community acknowledges greater efforts are needed to eradicate the systemic and institutional racism, sexism, classism, gender-bias, homophobia, and religious-bias that has plagued our nation since its inception. We must work to eradicate disparities and optimize each individual’s value, regardless of color, race, ethnicity, creed, sex, gender-expression, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.
We reaffirm our commitment to serving and uplifting our fellow Americans. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We will continue to advance the ideal that all are created equal and, by nature, worthy of love and respect. We must work not only to eliminate systemic and institutional racism, but also to examine our own experiences and our personal, unconscious biases. For one to act with compassion, one must be able to open his/her heart and mind to witness the truth.
We are committed to removing barriers in an authentic effort to spark compassionate conversation and action. We hope the Fairfield Prep community will be compelled to action by the flagrant disregard for the lives of black people. Their deaths cannot be in vain and their lives must be celebrated by a continued effort to enact change in our world.
The Fairfield Prep community is simultaneously horrified, outraged, and saddened by the unjustified killing of George Floyd. Before our very eyes, all of America has witnessed yet another senseless act violence against a black person at the hands of law enforcement, adding to the already long list of unpardonable and unwarranted killings: Eric Garner (2014), Michael Brown (2014), Tamir Rice (2014), Walter Scott (2015), Alton Sterling (2015), Philando Castile (2016), Stephon Clark (2018), and Breonna Taylor (2020).
On May 4, 2020, former FP President, Rev. Thomas Simisky, S.J. addressed the faculty about the circumstances surrounding the unjustified and inexcusable murder of George Floyd. He wrote, “We are all overwhelmed with the full range of emotions as our nation convulses through multiple tragedies. I am sure I speak for you when saying I was horrified to watch the murder of George Floyd, knowing that it was not an isolated event but yet another manifestation of the systemic racism and socioeconomic injustice that permeates our beloved country. Inspired by large daily gatherings of peaceful protests, nightly I would be distraught watching the fiery scenes of looting and destruction. I am reminded of Jesus’ teachings about how weeds imbed themselves between the good wheat. There are always evil elements that seek to destroy the good.
At the same time, I firmly profess a faith that God can bring life even out of death. Jesus’ death brought about the promise of eternal life, and Mr. Floyd’s death has the potential to reshape our nation. Wounds need to be brought to light before true healing can take place. The CoVid-19 pandemic has done that, unveiling massive inequalities that extend across every state. While there are many paths to work for social justice, we have chosen the path of education.”
As a Jesuit school, Fairfield Prep has embarked upon several initiatives for more than three decades to educate our students about their responsibility to seek justice as a means to address inequities in our society. Fairfield Prep values and is proud of its diversity. Our student body is more racially diverse than are the local suburban and city schools, and our faculty, staff, and school leadership is also comprised of people from diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. The diversity at FP is not a de facto occurrence, but a celebrated reality which we have intentionally labored to bring to fruition.
As a Jesuit School, Fairfield Prep stands in solidarity with black America and we have worked diligently (and will continue to do so) to not only bring about an awareness and understanding of the socio-economic and socio-political disparities that exist in our country, but to also do something about those inequities; to take action against social injustice. We recognize that such action includes, but also goes beyond school programming for community periods, diversity days, and assemblies. We also recognize that our entire community must be a part of the discourse and that the solution must be grounded in mission and rooted in our way of proceeding as a Jesuit institution.
The process by which the FP community will embark upon addressing social justice which leads to change and opening spaces for compassionate conversation which leads to action, will be Ignatian Communal Discernment (ICD). The ICD is not an expeditious process which will result in superficial, instantaneous “solutions,” so it is important to be aware that addressing these complex issues is an on-going process and may never bring about total resolution. ICD is a way of proceeding that is grounded in mission and which allows for more depth, scope, and breadth in both articulating and understanding the most salient issues surrounding the problem at hand.
Ignatian Communal Discernment provides the space and time for the community to reflect upon and pursue the most appropriate, effective, and empathetic responses to injustices that will enable us to take action, with the ultimate aim of deconstructing and dismantling systemic and institutional racism at FP in specific, and in our society, in general.