Open Wide Our Hearts: How can we respond to the call to repentance and action?

In November 2018, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted on and released “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” a new pastoral letter against racism. This is the first letter released since 1979’s “Brothers and Sisters Unto Us” and speaks more directly to historical acts of racism and oppression enacted against Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics, while also calling all Catholics to acknowledge their own sinfulness in regards to these sinful actions. The letter states “The cumulative effects of personal sins of racism have led to social structures of injustice and violence that makes us all accomplices in racism.”

The letter calls each of us, not only Catholic churches and diocese, to spend time understanding our role in enabling racism to continue to impact our communities, and prompts us to take action. Many of us are affiliated with volunteer programs connected to the Catholic Church in some way, and therefore we too are called to take up this call to repentance and action.

We encourage members of the Catholic Volunteer Network community to reflect on this pastoral letter together. These questions may help guide your conversations:

  1. What parts of the pastoral letter stir up something in you? What makes you feel ashamed? Angry? Hopeful?
  2. How can the church move from words to action in the struggle to end racism?
  3. Does your volunteer program have historical or social connections to systems of oppression? What can be done to address racism more actively in your program?
  4. If you think this statement doesn’t go far enough, what would you add to it?

Additional Resources on Open Wide Our Hearts:

Catholic Volunteer Network staff is engaging in monthly discussions on diversity and racial justice matters as we journey towards becoming a more inclusive, just, and equitable organization. We encourage CVN members to join us in this process. Click here to view resources shared in past months.

For more information about CVN’s racial justice and diversity efforts, please contact Katie Mulembe at

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