By Fr. Adam DeLeon, SJ
Having spent the past year as an associate pastor at Saint Columbanus Catholic Church, a black diocesan parish on Chicago’s South Side, I have seen and heard a lot.
I have seen and heard that more than 300 people were shot and killed in Chicago before we were halfway through the year. I have seen and heard that a person is shot every two hours and murdered every 13 hours in Chicago. I have seen and heard many names, like Tyshawn Lee, Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd, and Sandra Bland.
I have also seen and heard many comments offered as responses to these statistics and the murders of these four Chicagoans. For some, these deaths were fleeting news items that had no direct impact. Others saw disturbing trends in these stories but did not know what could be done. Still others noted the difficulty of policing in certain parts of Chicago, stating that officers need to be supported and applauded for all they do.
||Fr. Adam DeLeon, SJ, with parishioners at Saint Columbanus Catholic Church|
As current as the scourge of gun violence may feel, a Jesuit offered a response similar to #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName nearly 100 years ago. A Mexican priest now blessed in the communion of saints, Fr. Miguel Pro, SJ, was killed in Mexico City in 1927 during the Cristero War, a rebellion against secularist, anti-Catholic, and anticlerical policies of the Mexican government. Before he was executed by a firing squad, he is believed to have raised his arms to imitate Christ on the cross, shouting out the cry of the Cristeros: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”
“¡Viva Cristo Rey!,” like #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName, was a defiant proclamation and protest. As a proclamation, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” professed Catholics’ faith and Jesus’ truth. Similarly, #BlackLivesMatter declares the truth that black lives do matter, while #SayHerName expresses the truth that African-American women with real names and real stories are amongst those who suffer violence and abuse.
As protest, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” announced that Mexico’s laws were unjust. #BlackLivesMatter proclaims that until all corners of our society reflect the truth that black lives matter, we cannot reasonably claim that all lives matter. #SayHerName recalls that African-American women cannot be overlooked in this struggle to affirm the dignity of every black person.
Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ, had his proclamation and protest; we Catholics have ours today. Our invitation is to see and hear how we respond to racial injustice, gender discrimination, and all forms of oppression, as well as to reflect on how Christ would have us respond. Our call as Catholics is to see and hear how our fellow sisters and brothers live and suffer, and to join them in fellowship. Rooted in Catholic and Jesuit tradition, we are missioned to not only see and hear, but also to joyfully and peacefully respond with proclamation and protest: #BlackLivesMatter! #SayHerName! ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Fr. Adam DeLeon, SJ, is a teacher at Loyola High School in Detroit. Following his ordination to the priesthood in 2015, he served as an associate pastor at Saint Columbanus Catholic Church in Chicago. He has a Master of Theology degree from the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana.
Click here for the Summer 2016 Jesuits magazine index.