Understanding the impact of racial injustice and changing systems to address inequities is a long overdue and much-needed action in the United States. Saint Francis Ministries is not shying away from the work that must be done to bring about positive change and the understanding needed to move from “good intentions to precise actions”.
Those words from Fr. Michael Battle, who began working with Saint Francis Ministries leadership in the fall of 2019 on issues of diversity and inclusion, encompass the work he will do as a consultant with Saint Francis. Fr. Michael currently teaches at the General Theological Seminary in New York City where he is the Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center. He will continue that work as he takes on the role of Senior Advisor of Reconciliation and Inclusion for Saint Francis.
Fr. Bobby Smith, dean, president, and CEO at Saint Francis, first met Fr. Michael in 2016. As their relationship deepened Fr. Bobby was motivated to seek Fr. Michael’s guidance.
“Over the years, Michael’s commitment to peace and reconciliation has inspired me and the work of Saint Francis has become important to him,” Fr. Bobby said. “In October 2019, I asked Michael if he would provide Saint Francis with a review of internal policies and practices regarding how Saint Francis embraces and strengthens our commitment to diversity. This work is now being studied by our leadership team and will be a major focus of our next board of directors meeting.”
“Fr. Michael’s belief in the Saint Francis mission and the ‘great, necessary reckoning that is occurring in the United States over questions of racial equality and justice,’” Fr. Bobby said, “led to discussions on how Saint Francis can best meet needs of the increasingly diverse communities we serve and people we employ.
“We cannot deny there are injustices heaped upon members of our communities who are in greater danger than other members,” Fr. Bobby said. “To contribute to the ever-improving embrace of diversity at Saint Francis, and to contribute to the national dialogue occurring about racial equality, Michael’s appointment as a senior advisor is a tangible example of our mission commitment to respecting the dignity of every human being.”
While Fr. Michael will continue to teach at General Theological Seminary (and other institutions of higher learning around the globe) and live in New York City, he is committing significant time and energies to support Saint Francis’ work.
In this role, Fr. Michael will, among other things:
- Regularly convene with the Saint Francis Ministries Board of Directors, members of our leadership team, and staff.
- Publish writings throughout the year, on behalf of Saint Francis, on matters of reconciliation and inclusion, emphasizing the core mission of Saint Francis to offer healing and hope to children and families.
- As Senior Advisor of Reconciliation and Inclusion, hold Saint Francis, and Fr. Bobby, as dean, president and CEO, accountable for those items in the report that he wrote regarding diversity at Saint Francis, with recommendations that Saint Francis has committed to carry forward.
- Use Saint Francis’ increasing scope of service to highlight the work of reconciliation to which Fr. Michael has dedicated his life. For example, in communities where Saint Francis has operations and/or where Saint Francis and Michael have relationships that overlap, we intend to host conversations on reconciliation and other topics at the root of our ministry.
As his vocation and ministry are founded upon matters of reconciliation, it is possible that with combined effort, Michael and our Saint Francis advocacy team can create opportunities to highlight how his scholarship and ministry might influence public policy.