November 17, 2021

Today I am happy to share with you the Sister Thea Bowman Committee Report. It is the fruit of a year-long examination of Catholic University’s culture and practices and their bearing on matters of diversity and inclusion. The recommendations of the report aim to deepen our dedication to racial equality in all aspects of our operations, including admissions, academics, student life and programs, personnel decisions, and governance. They express our commitment to live out more fully Christ’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I am very grateful to the members of the committee for their contributions, and especially to Regina Jefferson, who served as its chair.

Publication of the report is a good occasion to commend to you a particular virtue — or rather, a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the gift of wisdom. Much of what we do at a university calls on our reason. We learn; we teach; we organize; we conduct business. Reason gives us knowledge of these temporal things.

But wisdom also looks beyond temporal things and turns our attention to the eternal. It changes how we see things. Wisdom is “a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty,” says the book of Wisdom, “a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.” Knowledge sees discrete parts of reality — a tree, a stone, a bird. Wisdom sees the whole of creation. It perceives God’s presence in its harmony.

The sin of racism does the opposite. It segregates creation — us, you and me, created in God’s image — into worthy and unworthy, acceptable and unacceptable, dignified and undignified, citizen and slave. It “ignores the fundamental truth that, because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God…”1 It seeks to diminish others through violence and oppression. It tramples on their dignity. It endeavors to exclude. In doing so, it denigrates creation and rejects God. We rightly say that racism is a grave failure of justice. It is also a sin against wisdom. We must repent of both. We must grow as a nation, as a Church, and as a university.

The task begins with the gift of wisdom, the gift of finding God in the diversity of his creation. “God is present in everything. In the universe in creation, in me and all that happens to me, in my brothers and sisters, in the church – everywhere,” Sister Thea Bowman said. The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins makes the same point poetically: “Glory be to God for dappled things…”

God created a diverse world so that we might perceive the many dimensions of his goodness. We find that goodness everywhere in creation, but especially in our human family. Just as every instrument in an orchestra contributes its own sound, every person contributes his or her goodness to the whole. “For the spirit of the Lord fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows whatever is said,” the book of Wisdom says. It is the wise person who seeks the Lord in all things.

Our task today and every day is to grow in wisdom. The work of this committee set us on the right path. Its recommendations help us better understand our weaknesses and the steps we should take toward building a more welcoming, more inclusive, more just campus. If we are to succeed, we need to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. “Kindle our sense from above, and make our hearts o’erflow with love,” the old hymn says. And to wisdom, we must add hope. “For there is always light,” the poet Amanda Gorman writes, “if only we’re brave enough to see it.”

View the Sister Thea Bowman Committee Report

USCCB, Open Wide Our Hearts.