Responding to Racism with Words and Action
Today, Ascension President and CEO Joe Impicciche shared the following message with all Ascension associates.
Last week I shared a message in support of justice and peace and a condemnation of racism and intolerance as our nation struggles with the senseless death of another African-American man, George Floyd, at the hands of those who swore an oath to uphold the law.
I called for a “renewed commitment to justice and peace based in respect and love,” and asked all Americans to “join in this effort and to pray for the healing presence of God to enter our hearts and minds as we deal with the issues that plague our nation.”
I spoke out against the evils of systemic racism and discrimination on behalf of us all – echoing our collective opportunity to speak loudly, with one voice, one resolve, one Mission, on an issue that has gone unchecked, under-discussed and overlooked for much too long.
Many of you expressed thanks and support for Ascension’s response against systemic racism, and you joined me in offering prayers and condolences for those who have suffered from violence and discrimination. Those words of reconciliation and prayerful hope struck a chord with many of you.
I was blessed and fortunate to also hear voices within our ministry offering encouragement, guidance and suggestions about further actions that could give meaning and resolution to the words I wrote. Many of you saw something that I have come to see as well – that speaking against systemic racism is only the beginning; the hard work of eradicating it requires focused listening, prayerful contemplation, and meaningful actions that long outlive the words. Frankly, we haven’t made enough progress – neither within our ministry nor in the communities we serve – and that needs to change beginning today.
There is no roadmap on how to end centuries of systemic racism and discrimination. As a nation I believe we’re finally ready to engage in the serious conversation needed to end this chapter once and for all, and I commit that Ascension will be a part of the solution. As the nation’s leading Catholic health ministry, we have an obligation to do no less than everything we can to foster a more just and compassionate society in both our words and deeds, as we are called to in our Mission. Our Catholic social tradition calls us to “principles of reflection, criteria of judgment and directives for action.”
I have tasked members of my leadership team, and many of you, to help me develop a plan for Ascension to listen, pray, learn and act, thus doing our part to overcome racism and intolerance. This vital work has already begun, and I hope to report back to you over the next several weeks with a specific action plan, inviting your feedback and enlisting your aid in bringing about the change that is long overdue.
As we begin this work, not sure where it will lead, I’m reminded of these words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” I look forward to climbing that staircase with all of you.
Thank you for living our Mission every day. We are Ascension.
Joseph R. Impicciche, JD, MHA
President and Chief Executive Officer, Ascension