Maisie McMahon – 8th grader
William Sloane Coffin Jr. once stated, “Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps maybe the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.” Currently, the St. Thomas Parish is struggling greatly with the topic of diversity. In the next 50 years the parish of St. Thomas should be thriving with various ethnic groups and people in the parish. Our community has a welcoming spirit that is accepting of all, so why isn’t is visibly showing? The answer to that question lies deep into the church’s cumbersome past.
Up until around the 1950s, St. Thomas Aquinas was segregated. It took about until the 1970s for the school to have a large amount of diversity in each class. Currently, the school could be more diverse, with about 75% white students, 20% African American, and 5% Latino students. Compared to other schools, like Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Luke, St. Thomas’s school would be considered to be diverse. While St. Thomas still holds onto some orthodox Catholic values, it has also become a more modernized and developed church and school. St. Thomas’s parish is accepting of people in the LGBTQ+ community, which in turn brings a more diverse group of people to the church. Many churches and Catholic schools are not accepting of certain people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, so compared to those communities St. Thomas is diverse along many fields that are not just based on ethnic backgrounds.
According to St. Thomas’s website, Staindy.org, “The self-description of St. Thomas Aquinas parish … applies across a remarkable range of ethnic backgrounds, income levels, careers, ages, family makeup and political points of view. “ While a large portion of this statement is true and celebrated upon in the St. Thomas parish, there is one line that is not the full truth; it states that St. Thomas provides a large range of ethnic backgrounds. Yes, there is representation from many ethnic backgrounds in St. Thomas, but the majority of our parish is white. While it is distinguished for St. Thomas to have different people from various ethnic backgrounds, we need to create a more welcoming community with a larger percentage of our parish to provide comfort for new parishioners who are of a diverse background.
Many of St. Thomas’s parishioners will testify to the fact that our parish has a welcoming spirit. That spirit is one to draw many new parishioners to the St. Thomas Church. However, our outward appearance is what can, and probably has, turned others away. When people are looking for a parish to worship at, they want to feel comfortable with the people surrounding them. How is an individual supposed to feel comfortable when they are the only African American or Latino in the room? In our society, people of color already have to endure the racism, racial profiling, and indirect segregation. At church people should feel like they belong there and will not be judged for their skin color, but for their character. In the end, we all go to the same heaven where God sees us all the same, so why can’t our church replicate what heaven will demonstrate?
As an altar server, I am able to look out towards the parishioners and see all of the faces in the pews. When I look out towards the gatherers, I want to see people of all different skin colors and ethnicities. I don’t want to continue to see the same white families sitting together, and look at the African American families displaying discomfort because they are the only people representing their racial background in the room. I want to be able to see people feel comfortable with themselves as they are worshipping God, and I want to see people display acceptance to others to make them feel embraced and loved. In 50 years, St. Thomas should be comfortable space for all people, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Stephen R. Covey once said, “Strength lies in differences, not similarities.”