By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
CORALVILLE — Last year, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, St. Thomas More Parish began a Racial Equity Initiative to explore the topic of racism and to commit to being an inclusive church and parish.
Following a series of well-received initiatives, St. Thomas More is hosting two book studies this fall via Zoom that are open to anyone interested in participating.
“I feel like people have wanted a place to talk about these issues,” said Kim Novak, a member of the Racial Equity Initiative. “It feels like it’s been embraced with a lot of enthusiasm.”
A study of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) document, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love — A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” began Oct. 18 and remains open to new participants. St. Thomas More previously hosted a study of this document during Lent. “It’s a good intro study, and we want to keep offering that,” Novak said. Interested individuals may call the parish office at (319) 337-2173.
A four-week study of the book “A White Catholic’s Guide to Racism and Privilege” by Father Dan Horan, OFM, will begin Oct. 26. The study will explore how Catholics can become more actively anti-racist and better allies of people of color.
Novak and her husband, Tom, will host the book study. “This book continues the discussion of what we are called to do and who we are called to be in this moment,” Kim Novak said. “It examines some concepts that are challenging for some people. … These discussions are uncomfortable, but to me, that discomfort means we are growing. Most of us have sat in a comfortable place for a long time.” To join the study, contact Kim Novak at (319) 400-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kim Novak said previous studies and initiatives, including prayer vigils last year and during Lent, received good reception. A summer study on the book “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson drew about 30 participants, including some from other states. “People passed the information on,” Tom Novak said. “We had some from Texas and other places that didn’t have similar programs.”
Still, the topic of racism has been hard for some people to address. “These issues are really big and deeply rooted,” Kim Novak said. A core group of people shows a lot of enthusiasm for the cause, but “like every congregation, there are people who are not open to this type of self-examination yet,” her husband added.
Still, they believe that community change begins with individuals who are open to having a transformation of heart. “Awareness has to be the first step, and that’s what we are hoping for with these book studies and other events,” Kim Novak said.