A Catholic order promised to give millions of dollars worth of reparations to atone for their role in historic slavery. Now, the descendants of those slaves are saying they're lagging behind on raising those funds, according to ABC News.
Joseph Stewart, the leader of the descendants, released a letter addressed to the international leader of the Jesuits, accusing the U.S. branch of not upholding their end of the reparations deal. In 1838, the Jesuit owners of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. had 272 enslaved men, women, and children before selling them to Louisiana plantation owners to pay off the school's debts.
Last March, the Jesuits vowed to raise $100 million in partnership with the GU272 Descendants Association, establishing the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation. Under the initiative, the religious group would accrue that money within five years to fund education opportunities for current and future descendants. Leaders hope those donations would swell to $1 billion in the future.
Now, Stewart is calling out the Jesuits for not depositing $57 million in proceeds from 2009 plantation land sales into the trust. He also claims the Jesuits "are in a state of disillusionment" and are relying too much on fundraising and donations to fund the initiative.
“Fundraising alone has not produced sufficient resources to make the foundation effective and to begin delivering on the promise,” Stewart told The Associated Press. “It has not derailed the initiative, but it’s just going too slow. We need to accelerate it.”
The Jesuit USA East Province says they're figuring out how to use the money from the 2009 land sale to benefit the descendents' trust, and they alone can't make a decision on behalf of the entire order, according to a statement issued Monday (August 15). They also say they used some of that $57 million to build a retirement center and help Black American students attending Jesuit schools. The rest was deposited into a Jesuit trust.
Rev. Timothy Kisecki, the chair of the descendants' trust, admits "the pace of the fundraising has been rough," but they're still in the process of transferring the money into the initiative.
“How this foundation will operate is still in question. There is still a lot of work we’re doing to bring this vision to a broader community," Kesicki told reporters. "I’m not surprised by a slow start. But we are committed to seeing it through to the finish line.”