Eddie lives in the Diocese of Green Bay with his wife and four children. He became Catholic as an adult when he was baptized in 2015 along with his two oldest children.
Sometimes people are surprised to learn that I go to the Catholic Church. But the truth is that we all go the church for the same reason, to better ourselves and grow closer to God.
Having said that, I haven’t always felt accepted in my parish, especially when I first started going there. I don’t fit the mold of everyone else that’s sitting around. I have a lot of tattoos, I talk different, and I’m coming in to a church that a lot of people, they know one another. And I understand many people just aren’t comfortable walking up to someone they don’t know.
I’ve experienced racial tension when I’ve been at Mass. I know when people are staring or when someone wants to say hello, but they kind of back up and leave it at that. Sometimes I think this is especially because I’m in a biracial marriage, which for some of the older individuals is still hard to understand.
The racism I’ve experienced in the parish is never direct. But I’ve had people walk past, even when I’m with my wife and my kids, and roll their eyes. I’ve had people say things like, “Oh, these are all yours? And they’re all with her?” It’s always very subtle, almost like a joke, but they really mean what they’re asking.
For me, things really changed when Fr. Bob arrived. He has an incredible ability to relate to people in what they’re going through. He does this by even talking about his own struggles. That allows other people to feel comfortable in their own skin to know that each and every one of us can do better.
Fr. Bob set the tone by talking about social issues, and relating them to our faith, which challenges people to grow. I appreciate that he isn’t afraid to speak about the things that might make people uncomfortable. Like when he brought up the Green Book, educating people on what black people have faced. Most people are not going to do that because it would be too uncomfortable.
I’ve also made some great connections with people. They respect me as a man – not even me being black – but me as a man. They’ve come to understand some of the challenges I’ve faced walking into an all-white, Catholic parish, as well as what I deal with in the community on a daily basis. They know it’s not right for people to stare at me and stereotype me, so when they see it, they challenge it. They really want to educate themselves and it’s very genuine.
So to people in Catholic parishes I would say, “Let your uncomfortable become your comfortable.” When you see people like me walk in, even if it makes you uncomfortable, challenge yourself and let it be something where we grow as women and men. People are going to make mistakes, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out, otherwise we become part of the problem. As long as we’re learning and challenging ourselves, we are making progress.