Saint Louis University

Claude Heithaus, S.J. Claude Heithaus, S.J.
Claude Heithaus, S.J. Jonathan Smith, Ph.D.

Saint Louis University commemorated the historic homily delivered by Claude Heithaus, S.J., denouncing racial injustice on SLU's campus during the 9 p.m. Mass at St. Frances Xavier College Church Feb. 9. Heithaus originally delivered the homily at a Mass celebrated on Feb. 11, 1944, and it was published in the University News the same day.

Steve Schoenig, S.J., from the Department of History and the principal celebrant for the Mass, spoke briefly about the significance of the homily for SLU, for the Jesuits and for the broader American culture. He then invited Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., of the African-American Studies Program, to read Heithaus' homily.

"For me, it's terribly important to see how words spoken in the past help to create a new future," Smith said, following the Mass. "To have the opportunity to speak those words in a church full of SLU students, that just awed me. As I stood there reading the homily, I can only imagine how Fr. Heithaus might have felt to see me there. The fact that it was me standing there indicated that his words made a difference."

"What Fr. Claude Heithaus did for us as a community is to create a racially diverse university campus that lives out the mission that it claims to profess," said Ken Parker, Ph.D., from the Department of Theological Studies and organizer of the event. "My hope is that we can commemorate this annually so that this part of SLU's history remains very much a part of our culture. In recent years we have been having problems with some racial insensitivity on campus, and I think we need to remember why what Fr. Heithaus did is something we need to continue to live out. We were the first historically white university in a former slaveholding state to end segregation on our campus."

The homily can be read in its entirety at the University News website.