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Two parishes come together to heal wounds of racism

Praying together – holding hands – swaying to Gospel music – and for more than five minutes sharing an emotional embrace or handshake as a sign of peace throughout the congregation.
 
Sacred Heart parishioners in Omaha welcomed their counterparts from nearby St. Benedict the Moor Parish Sept. 9 for a prayer service to acknowledge past sins of racism and seek reconciliation and healing. 
 
About 150 people attended the service along with Archbishop George J. Lucas. An ice cream social was held afterward. 
 
Long before the civil rights movement of the 1960s, black Catholics in Omaha were unwelcome in all-white parishes such as Sacred Heart, prompting them to form their own parish – St. Benedict the Moor – which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. 
 
“Tonight was about awareness, and then, about action going forward,” said Father David Korth, Sacred Heart pastor. “I’m hoping the Holy Spirit will work through this parish to promote healing.” 
 
“I think it’s important for the church to recognize the wrong that was done,” said Elmer Crumbley, St. Benedict parishioner. 
 
“But, more important is to look at how we treat each other, not only because we’re Catholic, but because of how much we have in common,” he said.
 
During the prayer service, Father Korth recounted instances of past racism in the parish and the Omaha community, each followed by the congregation’s response, “Lord have mercy.”
 
“I think it’s important for us to own up to the sinfulness that exists,” he said. “If we’re waiting for others to take the lead, then we’re not doing what Jesus called us to do.”
 
St. Benedict the Moor parishioner Eddie Glass recalled his own experience of segregation in north Omaha, where he and family members were not allowed to patronize white-owned businesses.
 
“Racism exists, even today, but I feel it’s never too late to say ‘I’m, sorry,’” he said. “We just need to show more love toward each other.”