Organizers and participants explored injustice as an attack on human dignity through a variety of on-campus events

The week of April 12 was “Open Wide Our Hearts Week,” a time dedicated to exploring the theme of racial injustice and praying for its end. Events held throughout the week were sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns, Right to Life club, and Campus Ministry.

Consistent with the desire of the pro-life movement to raise up the dignity of every human life, this week specifically focused on the “attack on human life” caused by injustice and racism.

A different event was held each day, starting with Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Monday. As said by junior Francine Shaft, Right to Life’s Director of Education, “there is no better way to begin a week of activism and prayer than participating in Mass.”

Following the mass, she added, “The congregation was sent forth from the basilica to spread the good news of Jesus and work for racial justice on campus and society.”

On Tuesday, the three campus groups hosted a panel called “Racism is a Life Issue,” which students could attend in DeBartolo 102 or via Zoom. The event featured three panelists who each “offered a unique insight into racial justice on Notre Dame’s campus and beyond,” Shaft said.

Panelist Louis Damani Jones is a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and a fellow at the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at the university. Although only in his late 20s, Jones has already amassed numerous achievements for the Catholic community as a messenger for spreading the Word of God to all communities. Shaft said he focused on “rooting it [the topic of racial justice] in the Catholic social and spiritual traditions, and called students to go out into the world and act against these injustices.”

A second panelist, Dr. Daniels-Sykes, discussed the systems of injustice and provided a biblical context for his ideas. More specifically, he mentioned “a passage from Luke 4, when Jesus began his ministry in Galilee,” according to Shaft.

The third panelist was Dr. Ouyang, whom Shaft said “encouraged students at the event to invite Asian American students into faith activities and to create a welcoming community through gestures as simple as a smile.”

The panel event invited students to reflect on how racism is a life issue not just worldwide, but also here on campus. As members of the campus community, Shaft shared that we should reflect on the words of the panelists and emphasized that “the faithful are called to protect the dignity of each and every person.”

On Wednesday, there was a prayer service at the Grotto that gathered voices from across the campus community to lift up the intention of an end to racial injustice. Kayla August, rector of Lyons Hall, gave a reflection to the group on the widespread issue of racism and prayed with the group to end it. Shaft said that she “really appreciated the opportunity to pause, reflect, and pray during the middle of the week for an end to racism.”

Both events planned for Thursday were cancelled due to low turnout. A workshop with Professor Pfeil was to be held on Thursday at 5 pm, and a discussion of the film 13th was to be held at 8 pm.

Junior Alix Basden, a head organizer for “Open Wide Our Hearts Week,” said, “I was upset that the turnout was so low on this and hope for the opportunity to use this presentation in the future.”

The week concluded on Friday afternoon with a Racial Justice Resource Fair, which was held on Library Lawn. Because it was conveniently located in the midst of many passers-by on a Friday afternoon, Basden said that this event was a great way to “encourage activism and spread resources while also reaching out to students outside of these traditional conversations.”

Basen added that “Students seemed receptive to looking through resources and advocating to their representatives,” which is not only good news for the pro-life movement, but also a step in the right direction for working to end racism.

Sydney Missigman is a junior management consulting and Spanish supplementary major from Goodyear, Arizona. If she is not watching the sunset from her lake-view room in Lewis Hall, you can spot her sitting near the lakes or at the Grotto taking in the (occasionally) beautiful South Bend skies. She can be reached at