Robert Ellsberg


Dear Friends,

This year Ash Wednesday falls in the middle of Black History Month. It serves as a fitting reminder of how Christ’s passion and crucifixion relate to the negation of oppressed and marginalized people. Artist Janet McKenzie makes that connection clear in her images of Jesus and his mother in The Way of the Cross: The Path to New Life (with reflections by Joan Chittister). It is difficult to consider her concluding image, “Jesus Laid in His Tomb,” without recalling the victims of modern “lynchings,” from Trayvon Martin to George Floyd.

          And yet, for the victims of oppression, as James Cone noted in The Cross and the Lynching Tree, the Cross is also a symbol of a force far more powerful than death. In that spirit, from the litany of recent victims the slogan “Black Lives Matter” has grown in power, affirming the sacred dignity that white supremacy seeks to negate.

          In Birth of a Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church, Olga M. Segura traces the origins of this movement and the events of the last year that brought it to new prominence. She also traces the faltering efforts of the Catholic Church to address systemic racism, and raises a challenge to all Catholics to create a church and a society that embraces the full holiness of every person. 

           Bishop Edward K. Braxton, Bishop Emeritus of Belleville, IL, has for many years