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Racial justice prayer service asks students to consider their bias

| Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Notre Dame student government hosted a racial justice prayer service Monday evening as a part of Race Relations Week, a series of events taking place this Monday through Friday. The Week, sponsored by student government, seeks to spread racial awareness in Notre Dame’s campus and community. 

Gabby Beechert | The Observer
Students spent a few meditative moments in The Grotto after Monday’s service in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

The service, led by Vice President for Student Affairs Fr. Gerard Olinger, focused primarily on internal reflection and understanding the ways in which each person has contributed to the prevalence of racial inequality, whether this be purposeful or accidental, and the importance of abolishing systemic racism.

The service was originally supposed to take place at The Grotto but was moved into the Basilica of the Sacred Heart due to the rain. Attendees were still invited to pray at The Grotto after the service concluded.

Olinger addressed the racial inequalities that exist in the United States, including recent killings of innocent Black people and the recent surge in violence towards Asian Americans. He emphasized the need to begin conversations about these events.

Olinger complemented these ideas with the story of Bartimaeus, a Biblical blind man whose unwavering faith prompted Jesus to restore his eyesight. Olinger used the story to prompt self-reflection regarding “blindness” towards the suffering of those in the nations minority communities.

“What is it that blinds me?” Olinger asked. “What obstacles do I face to recognizing the suffering of others in my community, and the ways that I might contribute to this?”

Olinger said that once people become aware of this blindness, they can use faith as a means to achieve racial justice, just as Bartimaeus used his faith to overcome his blindness.

Olinger then led prayers which corresponded with his message about using faith to guide the journey to racial justice.

Notre Dame student body president Allan Njomo participated in the service with remarks after the Gospel and a prayer.

Njomo prayed for “the end of economic oppression which permeates our society structures.”

Daryl Naquin, a first year law student, emphasized the goal of the prayer service in his closing prayer.

“Let us not only see, but also be compelled to act against the normal systems and structures that perpetuate racism in America,” Naquin said.

A full list of events for Race Relations Week can be found on the student government events page website.

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