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Social Justice Convocation to focus on racial justice

Attendees take part in group discussion during the archdiocese's 2019 Social Justice Convocation at Boston College High School. This year's convocation, to be held Nov. 7, will take place online and address topic of racial justice. Pilot file photo/Olivia Colombo

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BRAINTREE -- Registration is now open for the archdiocese's 12th annual Social Justice Convocation, which will take place on Nov. 7 with the theme: "Racial Justice: What Can We Do?"

The convocation is an opportunity for individuals and organizations to network, share stories and resources, and learn about Catholic social teaching. This year, for the first time in its history, the convocation will take place in a virtual format in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Patricia Dinneen, chair of the archdiocese's Social Justice Ministry, spoke with The Pilot on Sept. 25 about the upcoming event. Dinneen said she was introduced to the concept of social justice during the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s and made a point to ask about social justice during her orientation for the cardinal's Archdiocesan Pastoral Council 13 years ago. When she learned there was no specific ministry focused on social justice with the archdiocese, she and some other volunteers helped to form one. Father Bryan Hehir, the archdiocese's secretary for social services, suggested that they should host an annual event, where people could share their experiences and information about social justice and Catholic social teaching.

Dinneen said this year's convocation has two objectives: to raise awareness of racial injustice and inequality, and to inspire action to fight them.

"We're really trying to build a grassroots movement to enable the parishes to build communities of faith around the dignity of each human being," she said.

The convocation is a result of collaboration between the archdiocese's social justice ministry, the social justice committee of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Roxbury, and Boston College School of Theology. Dinneen said her ministry now has the "most diverse, inclusive" team in the 12-year history of the convocation.

She said they hope to have about 500 participants for the convocation, though their virtual platform has the capacity to host up to 1,000.

The program will begin with the celebration of Mass by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and Father Oscar Pratt, the pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Father Pratt will deliver his keynote address on the "Historic and Personal Experience of Racism in Boston and How We Can Work in Solidarity Now." Professor Jeannine Hill Fletcher, a theologian from Fordham University, will also speak on "How White Christian Theology can be Oriented Toward Anti-Racist Projects."

The keynote addresses will be followed by a live question-and-answer session. Due to the large numbers expected, participants are encouraged to send their questions beforehand, though there will be an option to submit them during the event.

At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour program, participants will be invited to fill out "commitment cards," stating at least one thing they will do differently to help eradicate racial injustice.

Dinneen said there will be subsequent related events, such as workshops, prayer sessions, and webinars, to continue the discussion.

"Many people have considered the cause for racial justice a marathon, not a sprint," Dinneen said.

She pointed out that November was designated as Black Catholic History Month by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States in 1990. Dinneen said there will be other online events throughout November to mark the special month.

"One of the things that I really believe strongly is that (social justice) is not an option for Catholics. We're baptized into this," Dinneen said.

The Social Justice Convocation will take place on Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Information on the Social Justice Ministry, resources related to social and racial justice, and instructions for registering for the Social Justice Convocation can be found at www.bostoncatholic.org/health-and-social-services/social-justice-ministry.

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