An order of Catholic priests who vowed to raise $100 million for slavery reparations last year is struggling to come up with funds, reports the New York Times.
The Jesuit priest in charge of leading the fund-raising efforts said he had hoped to receive several multimillion-dollar donations by now, in addition to an initial $15 million investment made by the order. To date, only around $180,000 in small donations have been received into the trust the Jesuits created with a group of descendants whose ancestors were enslaved by the Catholic priests.
The American Jesuits, who relied on slave labor and slave sales, discussed plans last year to sell all of the remaining former plantation lands in Maryland and transfer the proceeds, along with a portion of the proceeds of an earlier $57 million plantation sale, to the trust. Additionally, funds from the trust “will flow into a foundation that will finance programs that benefit descendants, including scholarships and money for emergency needs, and promote racial reconciliation projects.”
As of yet, the remaining land has not been sold and the proceeds from prior land sales have yet to be transferred to the trust, according to Jesuit officials and the descendants.
Joseph M. Stewart president and chair of the Descendants of Truth and Reconciliation Foundation wrote a letter to the Rev. Arturo Sosa, the Jesuit superior general, expressing the group’s concerns about the lag in fund-raising.
“It is becoming obvious to all who look beyond words that Jesuits are not delivering in deed,” wrote Stewart ,whose ancestors were sold by the Jesuits in 1838 to save Georgetown University from financial collapse. “The bottom line is that without your engagement, this partnership seems destined to fail.”
Stewart argued that “hard-liners” within the order are maintaining the position that they “never enslaved anyone and thus do not ‘owe’ anyone anything.”
“We’re challenging them to be more expeditious,” Stewart continued. “How long does it take to do this if you’re committed to it?”
Stewart also called on Father Sosa “to ensure that the American Jesuits complete the land sales and transfer of proceeds by the end of this year and secure the $100 million pledge by next year.” He also asked the order to deposit $1 billion into the trust by 2029.
The Rev. Brian G. Paulson, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, released a statement along with the nation’s senior Jesuit leaders saying they remained “deeply devoted to our historic partnership with the descendant community and to working together for racial reconciliation and healing in this country.”
The Rev. Timothy P. Kesicki, who helped to orchestrate that initial agreement between the Jesuits and the group of descendants, said that understands their frustrations with the process.
“I had hoped to be further along,” said Father Kesicki.
Now serving as chair of the trust, Father Kesicki said that building a major fund-raising campaign takes time.
“But we need to show more growth,” he said, “and that’s a challenge and a pressure that I carry every day."