New to RC and from a Catholic Heritage (draft 10.7.21)

If you are new to RC and have a Catholic heritage, you have an important story to tell.

It is unique to you as a person of Catholic heritage.


Your story starts with the earliest stories you may have heard, or remember, about being Catholic in any way. It may begin with your mother’s pregnancy or your birth. Were you one of a small or large family? Your Catholic story may begin with being welcomed, or not welcomed, into your family. Whether your story starts at birth or at an age when you decided to convert to being Catholic, it is an important one to tell.

Included here are questions to help you begin to tell your story. Choose the few that resonate with you personally.  

Your story may include the history of your mother and father and their parents. Who were they? What jobs did they have? What was your neighborhood like? Did your home feel like it had a “culture” with a racial identity or ethnicity tied to being Catholic? Has your family held onto, or given up, these ties? Were there hard feelings based on different religious identities in your home? Did one family member dominate? What did dominance look like? Did Catholic matriarchs play any role? Was your Catholic home a haven from outside oppression? Or did your family members argue, demean, or dominate around religion and culture?


Your story may include God. Was your God benign and reassuring, or confusing and harsh? Perhaps you had a God who offered hope, love, and consolation. Or maybe your family was angry with a harsh and punitive God, whom they discarded. Did you have any figures who you turned to for consolation?


Tell us which nation you live in and what this fact means to you as a Catholic. Are church and state merged? How does this situation affect you? Do your family members gather at your home during important occasions? What languages do they speak in your home? What language do family members speak outside your home? Is language important to them? How far back do your Catholic families go? One, two, three generations? Was there a time before they were Catholic? Do you know their story of becoming Catholic? Are there words, or glimpses, of ancient histories? Have you heard traces of belonging to a tribe? Can you tell us fragments of this story? Does your heart break knowing you may have lost the full story of your ancestors?


What was your education like in your generation? Whose history did you learn? Did this history include your story? Did you learn about Catholics’ being legally restricted, or attacked by Protestants or hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan? What did you learn of the history of oppression carried out through church-state mergers in your homeland or beyond?

Perhaps you went to Catholic schools for twelve or sixteen years. Or maybe you never went to Catholic schools. Were you bused? What was the racial make-up in your schools? Did you go to the “best of the best” schools? Did you get the “best of the best” education? Were you trained to follow the rules? Or were you encouraged to think for yourself? Were you part of the generation (after the 1960s) that opened possibilities to new thinking for Catholics? Did you learn Catholic “social justice” doctrine or liberation theology? What did you learn about oppression of women, the sexual abuse of young people, racism, and Native oppression in your home, school, and church?


Telling our story in RC is the way we ground liberation work. As we tell the full version of our story (which includes harsh, hard, oppressive, and inspirational elements) we have new thoughts about who we are, the people we come from, and our complex histories. The more we work on our own stories, and the elements of our families, culture, and religion, the more our curiosity grows about who our people are. We move outside of our comfort levels to listen to Catholics who feel “different” from us. As we do one-on-one sessions and “see” people more easily, we get more comfortable getting to know people who are different from us (as to race, nationality, economic situation, beliefs), and we find out they are as dear and human as we are.


An individualistic, greed-fueled economy threatens all of us. All life on the planet could become extinct. Policies and programs that win people to unified efforts on behalf of everyone are vital to all of us.

We are fortunate in RC as Catholic heritage people to have effective tools to combat divisions amongst us. We can create a unified effort to care for the well-being of all life and our world—the ”whole.” (The word catholic is from ancient Greek and means “whole.”)

  • We can join with RCers and wide-world activists to end climate change. We can internalize the best of RC information (see the RC website for detailed policy on climate justice) and follow the lead of Pope Francis’s document Laudato Si on climate justice. Such efforts to preserve the world for generations to come may mean, in particular, working alongside, and backing, young people, targeted racial groups, and women.
  • Ending white racism is key for white Catholics as well as for Catholics of the global majority (people of color). Anti-Black racism, for example, exploits humans for cheap labor; however, the same racist structure, with its bribes to greed, also damages the humanity of white people. Ending racism within established Catholic institutions, cultures, and individuals will mean dismantling a system that benefits no one as humans. It will mean following global-majority (especially Black) leadership to do so. However, structural racism aimed at every group targeted by racism matters and the impact should not remain invisible or without challenge by all Catholic people and our institutions.
  • Healing our world from the damage done to the planet by greed will mean connecting with, and following, Native peoples, who have preserved the wisdom and awareness of how to care for our world. Non-Indigenous Catholics must learn to follow and back Indigenous leaders, who have much to teach us about our connection to Mother Earth—including all life, land, water, air.
  • Catholic women must take the lead in our relationships with our male partners and with all Catholic institutions—as key to our liberation.

Joanne Bray
International Liberation Reference Person for Catholics



Last modified: 2021-10-07 22:41:50+00