The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States has pledged to raise at least $100 million dollars for the descendants of slaves the Order once owned and sold.

The Order announced their newly formed the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation in partnership with JPMorgan Chase:

“In a landmark undertaking in the pursuit of racial healing and justice, descendants of ancestors enslaved and sold by the Jesuits and the Jesuits of the United States have announced a partnership to create the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation.”

The foundation is the product of three years of discussions with a group representing about 5,000 descendants of 272 slaves sold by the Order in 1838 to save Georgetown College, now Georgetown University, the first Catholic institution of higher learning in the United States. Their sale of slaves to a Louisiana plantation netted them $115,000, or about $3.3 million in today’s dollars, with the slaves being used as collateral by Citizens Bank of New Orleans, later acquired by JPMorgan Chase.

The foundation is headed by one of the descendants, Joseph Stewart, its governing board includes representatives from Georgetown University and other institutions with similar roots in slavery. In May of 2017, Stewart wrote to the Jesuit superior general in Rome Father Arturo Sosa over the then-recently resurfaced Georgetown slave sale.

Sosa wrote back, urging dialogue between Stewart’s group and American Jesuits, describing the order’s past as “a sin against God and a betrayal of the human dignity of your ancestors.”

Shortly after in August of 2017, Father Timothy Kesicki, President of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, met with Stewarts to begin laying the groundwork for the new foundation.

“This is an opportunity for Jesuits to begin a very serious process of truth and reconciliation. Our shameful history of Jesuit slaveholding in the United States has been taken off the dusty shelf, and it can never be put back.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, described the plan as the church’s “largest financial commitment” to “heal the wounds” caused by its participation in slavery.

About half of the foundation’s annual budget will go toward grants for organizations engaging in racial reconciliation, a quarter will fund educational grants and scholarships for descendants, and a lesser sum will go directly toward supporting the needs of old and infirm descendants. The Jesuit Order has already contributed about $15million, with plans to raise the other $85 million over the next five years.

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