Finding her way through racism

Posted by Dianne Potter
Sunday 04, October 2009 | Category:   Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

Sister Patricia Lucas, D.H.M. with two of her students
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Sister Patricia Lucas, D.H.M. professed her final vows with the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary, an all-African American order, in 1965. It was while searching for a community that she encountered discrimination.
"As a young adult, I was told by many religious communities that the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary was my only option. I was not encouraged to join any other order," she told the Catholic Advocate. Then, while working in Chicago, she joined the Daughters of Heart of Mary, in 1985, because of that community's flexibility. The members move among the people whom they serve, with no external identification. "I chose the Daughters of Heart of Mary because I can work in any milieu I want to. There are doctors and lawyers who are also sisters," she said.

Now the director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, Lucas is also a member of the multicultural and evangelization committees for the archdiocese. In addition she is the regional director of formation for the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and has ministered in Ethiopia and the inner-city prisons of Chicago.

After joining the Daughters she was assigned as director of Nazareth School for Girls in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she was responsible for 1,400 young women. "At that time, the president of Ethiopia had his daughter attend Nazareth School. Everyone there valued their education and viewed attending the school as a stepping stone to England or America. The students prayed so much; they prayed for peace every morning," Lucas said.

Due to the continuing civil war in the area that ended in 1991, she relocated back to the U.S. to become president of a mostly white school. "I sent in my résumé for the job without a photo," she said. "When I was voted in, people were definitely taken aback. I didn't see overt racism, but it was racism that was covered by a smile. People don't respect you as a person with intelligence."

"My faith has made me a stronger person," she confessed. "I could not endure the racism, even within my own church, if it was not for my faith. It made me look beyond the atrocities and realize there is a God."
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