Elizabeth Moreno and her daughter Zitlali, parishioners of St. Anthony Parish in Tigard, participate in a walk against racial hatred May 26. (Courtesy Elizabeth Moreno)
Elizabeth Moreno and her daughter Zitlali, parishioners of St. Anthony Parish in Tigard, participate in a walk against racial hatred May 26. (Courtesy Elizabeth Moreno)
TIGARD — On May 26, one year and a day after the death of George Floyd, about 50 members of St. Anthony Parish held a vigil that included Mass, a rosary, and a walk of prayer and reflection against racial hatred.

The march began at the church and ended at the Tigard police station.

The murder of Floyd in Minneapolis and other deaths of young African Americans at the hands of the police caused a wave of outrage. Mass protests multiplied in the country and around the world amid the pandemic.

Last June, Archbishop Alexander Sample officiated at a Mass for the preservation of peace and justice. The archbishop prayed for justice for Floyd and his family. “But beyond that terrible, tragic death, we also pray that there is justice for all in our land, for those who still suffer from the scourge of racism or other forms of injustice,” he said.

Danny Rauda, social justice coordinator at St. Anthony, organized the May event.

He called it a “metanoia,” using a Greek word that means repentance and conversion.

“In the month of May we have prayed the rosary for the end of the pandemic, and we are already seeing the result with the lifting of restrictions,” said Rauda at the beginning of the rosary. “Tonight we are praying the rosary for the end of another virus: racism.”

Rauda said the event was “a symbol of healing, unity and justice.”

Father John Henderson, pastor of St. Anthony, said in his homily that “each person is a gift from God.”

“God sees far beyond the color of our skin or the country we come from or the language we speak.” 

Tigard Police Department Cmdr. Jamey McDonald, member of the parish, also participated in day’s events and addressed the community at the end of the walk. “We are all children of God, brothers and sisters,” he said. 

A police officer for more than 20 years, McDonald said his commitment to combat racism did not begin last year in the wake of the protests, but many years ago.

He said that the last year has been a challenge for everyone in society but noted that “we can all make a difference and be part of the solution.”

“Our commitment at Tigard police is to create a safe environment for everyone and we continue to work to make changes,” said McDonald. 

Hate crimes against Hispanics have increased every year since 2015, according to the 2019 FBI Hate Crime Statistics report. Meanwhile biases against Black or African American people overwhelmingly comprise the largest category of reported hate crimes related to race, according to FBI data.

Some Hispanic parishioners who participated in the walk said they’ve experienced racism frequently. “Especially in hospitals and in schools with teachers, people look at us in a derogatory way and get annoyed when we ask for help because we don’t understand the language,” said parishioner Elizabeth Moreno.

Karla Vázquez said she’d also experienced racism in Oregon. “On one occasion I was denied medical attention because I could not communicate in English,” she said.

On March 21, the day the United Nations commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Pope Francis said in a tweet that racism is like “a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.”

“Instances of racism continue to shame us, for they show that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think,” said the pope. 

patriciam@ocp.org