Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Helping people understand how the sin of racism undermines society's ability to overcome violence and economic injustice is the top priority for Sister Patricia Chappell as the new executive director of Pax Christi USA. "People really have to acknowledge that racism is a deep integral sin in our country and we have to admit it continues to be an institutional sin," Sister Patricia told Catholic News Service October 24, shortly after the organization announced she would succeed David Robinson as head of the nationwide Catholic peace organization. "We have to acknowledge that, but then we have to be able to find ways to move forward, not just get stuck on the emotional piece of it all," said Sister Patricia, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Connecticut province. Her appointment closes Pax Christi's year of transition, which also saw the organization move its national headquarters from Erie, Pa., to Washington in order to work more closely with many Catholic and other faith-based organizations on a variety of justice issues. The role of racism in injustice has been a concern of Pax Christi USA for 20 years and has been the motivating factor for the organization's leader to undertake a years-long initiative to become a multicultural, anti-racist Catholic peace and justice movement. Sister Patricia also said she wants to reach people in the pews to understand that Pax Christi's work is rooted in Catholic social teaching. "We have to try to find some kind of way of having the priorities make sense to the ordinary people in the pew. We've got to move it from an abstract theoretical concept to making it real for the people in the pews and trying to find practical ways where we can invite people to be part of this movement," she explained.