As a young African American Southern girl, I was told education is the key—but now I know it is also the power for change.
In 1997, Dr. Maya Angelou said, “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be (authentic) kind, true, generous, or honest.” My reflection today, I want to encourage all Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leaders in the Jesuit Schools to daily ask Jesus for courage.
I think of my experiences, carrying my own cross with Jesus during Holy Week, particularly as a Catholic school leader—how many times I faced adversity just because of what I thought or the challenges of injustice for my students and staff. Even more painful: feeling invisible when I express or offer a path for change and ask “how can we be better?” The frustration as a Black Catholic woman visionary.
Dr. Brené Brown said, “Once in the arena, at the table, your presence and voice does have value.” But who is listening? Who cares? I often ask Jesus, “Why am I here?”
“Reclining at the table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, ‘Amen, Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’” (John 13:21-33)
I have learned over the years that I am not a quitter, I try to seek pathways—starting with myself—not to give up and to recognize that it is my responsibility. After accepting the invitation to come to the table, I must give value to the call of the ministry and mission.
Jesus said, “‘Come, follow me, let not your heart be troubled,’ Odessa, because you feel betrayed or rejected.”
I come “fully functioning” in the grace that I have been given for the mission. Because of my own experiences with racism, sexism, classism, and education, I hope my potential as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leader in this network is to create a new Emancipation Proclamation to support inclusiveness in Catholic education.
I, and we, are part of a movement, not a march. DEI leaders are here to elevate Catholic Identity and to promote an inclusive community. Jesus was persecuted and not received, but he stayed on the road to Calvary that we might Find God in the Chaos. “We shall overcome” if we keep seeking justice for all.
- What will it take to help our school, Church, and community leaders to participate in this movement with faith and not fear?
Sr. Odessa Stanford, S.F.C.C. is the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School in Houston, Texas. She is a Sister for Christian Community, S.F.C.C. As a trained spiritual director, she is on CRJ’s Campus Ministry spirituality team, allowing her to continue her development as a spiritual leader and speaker for evangelization.