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Prayer to End Racism

Sacred Heart community gathered on September 9 to pray before Black Jesus statue.

by Perrin Atisha

Recently the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established an Ad Hoc committee against racism, a committee charged to explore the impact of racism as well as pathways toward promoting peace and healing during this time of great strain on our society. In light of the establishment of the Ad Hoc committee the seminary community gathered on Saturday, September 9. Priests, seminarians, and other community members gathered around the statue of the Sacred Heart located on the corner of Chicago Boulevard and Linwood Avenue for prayer to end racism.

The statue of the Sacred Heart, also known as the iconic "Black Jesus" statue, holds special significance in the community dating back to the 1967 Detroit civil disturbances. It was then, fifty years ago that Christ's face, hands and feet were painted black, purportedly as an act of vandalism. The act was controversial at first but over time the statue's symbolism has evolved. It is now a nationally-known icon representing Christ's love of all peoples, and is a point-of-pride for Sacred Heart's neighbors. The seminary has pledged to keep the features of the Sacred Heart statue black for all time.

Msgr. Todd Lajiness, Sacred Heart rector, led the gathering in Daytime Prayer and additional prayers recommended by the USCCB. In addressing the community, Msgr. Lajiness states, “The prayer service will be the first in a series of events throughout the year through which Sacred Heart will engage in the national prayer and conversation about the sin of racism. With great humility we place ourselves before the Sacred Heart of Jesus and pray for healing.”

Below you will find the prayer of the USCCB to end racism. An end to racism will only begin if each individual adheres to the words of Jesus Christ to, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

O Lord our God, in your mercy and kindness, no thought of ours is left unnoticed, no desire or concern ignored. You have proven that blessings abound when we fall on our knees in prayer, and so we turn to you in our hour of need.

Surrounded by violence and cries for justice, we hear your voice telling us what is required, “Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mi 6:8). Fill us with your mercy so that we, in turn, may be merciful to others.

Strip away pride, suspicion, and racism so that we may seek peace and justice in our communities. Strengthen our hearts so that they beat only to the rhythm of your holy will. Flood our path with your light as we walk humbly toward a future filled with encounter and unity.

Be with us, O Lord, in our efforts, for only by the prompting of your grace can we progress toward virtue. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.


by Perrin Atisha

Perrin Atisha

Perrin Atisha is a third-year theologian studying for the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle.

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.