A Call to Prayer and Reflection
June 6, 2020
Dear Members of the Villanova Community,
In my message last Friday, I shared that “all human life is sacred.” As a human being, a Catholic, and an Augustinian friar, this belief has not changed. However, I have come to realize that my message failed to specifically state support for the individuals who need to hear it most right now—our Black students, faculty, staff and alumni. Now, more than ever, I stand with you, beside you, and behind you, against racism, bigotry and intolerance.
Black lives matter. These words draw our attention to the prejudices, injustices and racism endured by Black men and women in this country since its founding. More important, these words recollect a history of physical brutality, senseless death and systemic oppression endured by the Black community. I understand the intention behind that phrase now, and I hope others in our community do as well. Black lives do matter.
In the past, I have called upon our community members to look humbly at themselves—their words, actions and inactions, and try to better understand how these have negatively impacted others. Upon reflection and conversations with others, I have come to realize that we can and must do better as an institution to support our Black students, faculty, staff and alumni. There is much work to do, and difficult and uncomfortable conversations need to be had, but I firmly believe that Villanova can be an example of the change we want to see not only in our community, but also in communities around our country.
While we cannot control the behavior of every individual, as Villanovans, it’s important that we reaffirm that hatred, bigotry and racism run contrary to who we are as a Catholic and Augustinian University and will not be tolerated on our campus. We need to be the change we want to see in others.
With that in mind, University leadership and I pledge:
- To use our Augustinian values of VERITAS, UNITAS and CARITAS to guide our actions and to deliver on that promise—not just for some, but for all who chose to become a member of this community.
- To provide platforms for our Black and minoritized students to share their experiences and have their voices heard.
- To create a safe and inclusive environment where diverse voices, perspectives and experiences are not only heard and recognized, but also celebrated and championed.
- To urge all Villanovans to act for justice, to work toward equality, and to have greater sensitivity and understanding toward diverse perspectives and experiences.
- To support, offer and encourage participation in programs, like Living Race—Transforming Community through the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that provide opportunities for dialogue, workshops and courses.
- To affirm that every member of this community is valued, that their stories are heard and that they matter to Villanova.
- To denounce racism, bigotry and violence in all its forms.
These pledges are just a start of the work to be done, and its dependent upon each one of us to find our own ways to make this community stronger, more inclusive and more united. For me, this includes:
- Meeting regularly with representatives from Black and minoritized communities to hear what progress is being made.
- Meeting regularly with our Diversity and Equity offices to hear about their work and understand potential roadblocks.
- Providing diversity and Intergroup Relations training opportunities to senior leaders.
As we work toward the creation of a more unified community, I am reminded of the Holy Trinity, which we celebrate this Sunday. The Trinity is a symbol of intersection and connection—something the events of the past week have shown. What affects one member of our community, affects all of us. I call on Villanovans to come together in prayer and reflection this Sunday. Let us join our hearts and minds together to create a better and more just world by starting here at Villanova.
Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA