‘The tip of the iceberg’
Sister Dina Bato is of Filipino descent. She was born and raised in Virginia.
Currently, she ministers as a staff accountant at the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
In July 2014 during their annual meeting, the Sisters of Providence conducted a session on racism.
In the fall term, Sister Dina began a course in Christian Ethics at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, during which she read, “Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity,” an article published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The article, which was published 15 years ago, had a profound effect on Sister Dina, especially since the racism session of the annual meeting was relatively recent. This prompted her to email the article to all the Sisters of Providence.
That email affected the more than 300 sisters and as a result, Sister Dina received several responses.
In the email, she wrote, “I am grateful that we started the conversation and I truly hope that it will continue, especially in the light of the growing diversity of the church and society in the United States, as well as our Congregation.
“Even after 14 years since the document’s publication, we still have a long way to go,” Sister Dina added.
Recently, Sister Dina sat down to discuss her reactions after reading the article and attending the session in July 2014.
“I’m glad we talked about race. I’m grateful that the conversation has continued,” Sister Dina said. “Growing up in Virginia Beach and attending Virginia Tech, I was surrounded by diversity. Since I moved to the Midwest, I have been asked numerous times, ‘Where are you from? Where are you really from?’ How do you respond to something like this?”
The Sisters of Providence recognize that racism exists. They recognize it so much so that they established an anti-racism team, which is composed of people of many different races.
The Sisters of Providence recognize that white privilege exists. But the sisters also understand that examining possible racial tension within the Congregation is just as important.
This is why the anti-racism team exists.
For Sister Dina, all of these steps are a wonderful start, but the conversation is far from over.
“It’s a matter of awareness,” she said. “It’s important for me to realize where people are. It’s also important to question where we are as a Congregation.
“For some, (the July 2014 session) was a massive eye-opener,” Sister Dina continued. “We have to really look at ourselves, both individually and corporately. We will need to continue to have these conversations and become more aware of where our many prejudices are. Awareness is just the tip of the iceberg in the transformation to become more like Christ.”