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Using our voices in the name of Christ

Recently, our oldest son participated in a week of summer camp. In a COVID-19 reality, the campers practiced social distancing, masking and regular hand-washing. However, that did not stop the boys from cheering and lifting their voices to win the coveted spirit stick.
At the end of the week, I noticed that he was losing his voice. I have realized that he used his voice for a passion, an enthusiasm, a reason to give his voice to something he sees as bigger than himself.
In light of the ongoing discussions about race in our country, I have been thinking a lot about the value of voice. Commentators debate which voices need to be heard or suppressed. The voice of George Floyd gasping, “I can’t breathe,” has sparked peaceful protests against systemic racism and police brutality.
In some ways, I feel like the prophet Jeremiah when he protested to the Lord, “I do not know how to speak, I am too young!” (Jeremiah 1:6) I am a white male, whose parents are still married, with a steady income and a good education. I am also a millennial who has lived his entire life along the Gulf Coast, in cities and a region with its own place in the civil rights movement. There are times that I feel my voice is not the one to be heard right now.
More than all those identifiers, I am a child of God. By virtue of my baptism, I can participate in the priestly, prophetic and kingly ministries of Christ. A few others have encouraged me to use my voice and assured me that they would want to hear what I have to say. Silence is no longer neutral.
I can do my part to overcoming the sin of racism. I can use my voice to speak for the powerless and the silenced voices. We already use our voices to speak against abortion, to protect the unborn. Yet, I should use my voice in the same way against all injustices. I often fall short in that effort.
Let me state clearly: racism is a sin, and black lives matter.
Ending racism begins in the conversion of my own heart, in my repentance of past judgments and biases. Ending racism begins in conversations at my own home with my wife and sons. Ending racism begins by being against racism in all its forms, starting with my own sinfulness and speaking out against sinful acts.
In “Gaudium Et Spes,” we read, “Whoever in obedience to Christ seeks first the Kingdom of God, takes therefrom a stronger and purer love for helping all his brethren and for perfecting the work of justice under the inspiration of charity.” (GS 72)
I can educate myself on the lives of our black Catholic saints and those on the road to sainthood. While I am most familiar with Venerable Henriette Delille, I can learn from Servant of God Thea Bowman, St. Joesphine Bakhita, St. Katharine Drexel, Pierre Toussaint and Fr. Augustus Tolton.
Finally, I can be inspired by our young people, those in Gen Z who have stepped up to the plate in sparking change. Gen Z young people are organizing marches and voter registration drives. Gen Z young people are having difficult conversations with their families and friends. Gen Z young people are using their social media platforms to speak out against racism.
Pope Francis writes, “The young want to be protagonists of change.” Speaking directly to young people, he continues, “Please, do not leave it to others to be protagonists of change. You are the ones who hold the future! Through you, the future enters into the world. I ask you to be protagonists of this transformation. You are the ones who hold the key to the future!” (Christus Vivit 174)
Let us follow the example of young people in being protagonists of change against racism. To lose our voices speaking so loudly and frequently in the name of Christ for the causes of equality, peace and justice … that’s worth a lot more than a spirit stick.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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