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Saints who fought racism

Pope John Paul II called racism a plague, its manifestation in the United States “one of the most persistent and destructive evils of the nation.”

For the millions who experience racism, it can be encouraging to get to know Saints who were also targets of abuse, disdain, and even murder because of their race; ugly as some of these stories are, they remind you that you are not alone. For those of us who are trying to walk in solidarity with people of color, the stories of the Saints invite us to work harder to fight against racism in the Church and in the world.

Bl. Peter Kibe (1587-1639) was a Japanese Christian who felt called to be a Jesuit priest. He was refused entry to the Jesuit order in Japan and eventually went to Portuguese Macao. There, he was told he couldn’t be ordained because he was Japanese. He went to Goa, where he was told they wouldn’t ordain any Asians at all. Rather than wash his hands of the whole racist affair, Kibe trusted in what he knew of the Catholic Church (and the Jesuit order) and traveled to Rome, a journey that included 3,700 miles on foot. There, he was finally received into the Society of Jesus and ordained, after which he spent eight years traveling back to Japan to serve as an undercover priest before his martyrdom.

Ven. Teresa Chikaba (1676-1748) was, like St. Josephine Bakhita, kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child (though Chikaba was from Ghana). Though relatively well-treated in the home of her noble Spanish mistress, Chikaba remained an enslaved person. She endured the dehumanizing nature of slavery as well as the racist taunts and beatings at the hands of other servants in the household. Freed after the death of her mistress, Chikaba was turned away by one convent after another, despite her enormous dowry and the patronage of her former master the marquis. When she was finally allowed to enter a Dominican convent, she was made to live as a servant rather than a full-fledged nun, even after she became a mystic and a miracle-worker. A poet, Chikaba was the first black woman known to have written literature in a European language.

Read more at Aleteia

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