Category Archives: columns

Speaking truth to the Speaker

My latest Global Sisters Report column has been posted. This time it is an open letter to House Speaker, Representative Paul Ryan, sharing my concerns about the proposed federal budget.

Here’s a snippet:

In your conversation with Sister Erica on CNN, you shared your appreciation for the model of Catholic organizations that help the poor. You expressed that they do a “fantastic job in spite of government doing wraparound benefits for the poor to make sure that they get to where they are — from where they are to where they need to be.”

My religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, sponsors and supports nonprofit services for low-income women in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Seattle with a similar model. Both the York Street Project and Jubilee Women’s Center provide such wraparound services, treat the whole person, and assist the women they serve on their journey to self-sufficiency.

I found it interesting that you referenced the year 1985 in your response to Sister Erica, because that is around the time my sisters started both these innovative programs.

I agree with you that we need to encourage and support such programs, but as partners with government, not replacements for our civic duty to promote the general welfare. Such programs do not do a fantastic job in spite of government, but in tandem with life-giving government programs like the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which are in jeopardy in the budget proposals under consideration. At the York Street Project, for example, CDBG funds support the job readiness program at Kenmare High School, helping women who previously dropped out of the public school system to find jobs that will support their families.

Visit Global Sisters Report to read the entire letter.

Hoping with St Martha

martha1Today is the Feast of St. Martha. My latest Global Sisters Report column, published today, includes my musings on St. Martha as a model of hope.

Martha was indeed real, living in a world where some things just needed to get done, even if her sister Mary was too busy to help. She also lived in a world where the people she loved were suffering. I suspect there may have been times when she too wanted to hide under the covers.

Martha certainly had her own doubts about what was possible in such a world. When Jesus asked her to roll away the stone from her brother’s tomb, she warned him that the smell would be overpowering given that her brother had been dead for four days.

Yet Martha — worried, anxious and doubting as any real woman would be in the face of such stark realities — also listened to the hope and promise of Jesus. She made a home for hope in her heart. She helped to roll away the stone, and her brother Lazarus came out, ready to be unbound and free. We have a lot to learn from Martha, who in the end engaged in hopeful action in the midst of her own anxiety, worry and grief.

Read the whole column here.

Writer’s Block

how_to_beat_writers_block_for_content_marketersI realized this morning that I have not posted anything here on the blog in the new year!  I’ve had many things kicking around my head and heart, but I guess they have not been in publicly consumable form for the most part.

I did manage to break through my writer’s block for a bit earlier this week. The result is my latest column on the Global Sisters Report, in which I ponder indifference and disconnection, justice and injustice, privilege and moral action.

Facing an overwhelming sea of social injustice, I am coming to realize that my privilege moderates which realities I choose to see and which I take to heart. My privilege distances me from the experiences of people living in poverty or those who daily struggle against racialized structures of injustice which limit access to education, housing, and employment. My privilege obscures my own complicity and connection to the root causes. My privilege makes indifference and disconnection possible. (Read entire column here)

Have you ever noticed that you really start to appreciate some things in their absence? Friends, family, and in this case, writing. Writing is a gift that helps me process and relate to the world and the movements of the spirit in my life. Writing helps me connect with my deepest and truest self.  Writing is gift … even as these words come forth from my mind and heart through my fingers to the screen.

Maybe I’ll be writing more soon … maybe not. But whatever comes is surely gift!

Securing Peace: Global Sisters Report

My latest Global Sisters Report column has been posted, in which I try to weave together my Congregation’s founding story, the violence and suffering of today, with some inspiration I received from Pope Francis and our Sisters in the UK, not to mention Gandhi’s 82 year old grandson.

In the 131 years since my congregation was founded, the human family has faced two world wars and the onset of the global war on terror. We have developed the capacity to destroy all of God’s creation countless times over with nuclear weapons. Human communities have suffered through more than250 armed conflicts across the globe since 1945, and civilians now make up the majority of the causalities of war, with some estimates as high as 90 percent. Then, of course, there is the ugly reality of gun violence in our own nation, a reality which only seems to seep into our collective consciousness briefly in the face of tragedies such as the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

Last week I found myself holding all of this in prayer as I sat in St. Barnabas Cathedral in Nottingham, England, where our first sisters professed their vows in 1884. I could not help but reflect anew on Bishop Bagshawe’s words then to our first sisters (“To secure this divine peace for ourselves and procure its blessings for others in the midst of the sin, turmoil and restless anxiety of this modern world is the object of your institute.”) . I wondered: What would he make of the sin, turmoil and restless anxiety of our contemporary world which gives rise to such violence? One thing is certain — there continues to be an urgent need for faithful witnesses to peace, compassion and nonviolence today.

Visit Global Sisters Report to read the whole thing.

Peace vigil at the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland with my CSJP Sisters, some new Catholic worker friends, and Arun Gandhi
Peace vigil at the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland with my CSJP Sisters, some new Catholic worker friends, and Arun Gandhi

Be the Present – latest Global Sisters column

Sisters in leadership attending Giving Voice
Sisters in leadership attending Giving Voice

For a little more than a year now I have had the honor and privilege of sharing a virtual space over at Global Sisters Report with other younger Catholic Sisters. The weekly Horizons columns are published every Friday and feature some great writing and important perspectives on religious life, justice and the world.

My own latest column was just published – “Be the Present.” It is my attempt to put my experience spending four days with 70 Catholic Sisters in their 20s, 30s, and 40s at Giving Voice into conversation with spending the next five days with 800 elected leaders at LCWR.  There was an incredible movement of the Spirit at both gatherings–real synchronicity.

My generation is known for its ability to multi-task, and perhaps that is a good thing. So much is happening in this present moment in religious life. We are tending to what is passing. We are discerning and nurturing what is emerging. We are building a bridge between the two. And all the while, as faithful women of the Gospel we are reading the signs of the times and seeking to meet the thirsts of the world. This is a moment which needs all hands on deck, all perspectives, all capacities, all wisdom. This moment needs us fully present.

The Spirit is certainly moving among us. That was clear both at Giving Voice and at LCWR. “Your task,” Janet Mock told the LCWR Assembly, “is discerning where and how to be in communion with the activity of God in our world now, at this present moment.” I believe this is the task of all who are living religious life today. It is the only way we will navigate this tremendous time of change and build the magic suspension bridge to the future of religious life.

Head on over to Global Sisters to read the whole thing.

On being Matthew Crawley – Reflections on Leadership

GlobalSistersReportMy latest column has been posted on Global Sisters Report, in which I reflect on religious life through the lens of Downton Abbey, specifically comparing being a younger catholic sister in elected leadership to the experience of Matthew Crawley being the heir to the Earl of Grantham.

“There I was, sitting in the chapel with my Sister housemates, when I found myself thinking: ‘It’s almost as if I’m Matthew Crawley.’ … I am grateful for my random Matthew Crawley thought because it has helped me to come to grips with some of the responsibility I feel for the future. If I am honest, at times it is a heavy weight on my shoulders, as I suspect it is heavy on the shoulders of many younger members. How can we possibly follow in the footsteps of the women who answered the call of Vatican II so fearlessly? … “

Click here to read the entire column.

Bakhita: Model of Resistance – Prayer & Action Against Human Trafficking

Children raise their hands in front of a mural of St. Bakhita at  a displacement camp  near Khartoum
Children raise their hands in front of a mural of St. Bakhita at a displacement camp near Khartoum

Today (February 8) is the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita who has beatified by Pope John Paul II. Today has also been declared, under the leadership of Pope Francis, as the first International Day of Prayer and Action against human trafficking.  I wrote about the connection between these two important dates in my latest column on Global Sisters Report.

The column draws upon research I did for my Masters thesis, “Human Trafficking as Social Sin: An Ethic of Resistance.” I see Bakhita as a model of resistance and believe that her story can help evoke in contemporary people of good will the motivation needed to take actions of solidarity and resistance to human trafficking today.

The story of St. Josephine Bakhita invites us to take an honest look at our own connections to the social sin of human trafficking. What are the unjust social and economic structures and distorted social norms which allow human trafficking to thrive? What actions of resistance might we take to heal relationships distorted by human trafficking?

Here are some resources for this first ever International Day of Prayer and Action against human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a social evil perpetrated by human beings. Human trafficking is not inevitable. As St. Josephine Bakhita’s story tells us, it is possible to resist, and it is possible for ordinary persons to resist in solidarity with trafficked persons.  We can start today through our prayer and action against human trafficking.

Resistance to Human Trafficking: Sojourner’s Article

Last month I finished the work on my 122 page thesis for my Masters of Arts of Theology at Catholic Theological Union. The title of my thesis is “Human Trafficking as Social Sin: An Ethic of Resistance.” It was a wonderful opportunity to apply what I had learned in my studies of theological ethics to one of the most important issues of our time. I was also able to draw upon my ministry experiences with survivors of human trafficking and in human trafficking education and advocacy.

sojournerstraffickingseries

This month I was invited to write an article for the Sojourner’s Website for their special series on human trafficking, “Breaking Chains, Raising Voices.”  I took it as an opportunity to condense the main points of my thesis into an 800 word column, “Resistance. Lamentation. Action.”

Resistance might not be the word that comes to mind in response to human trafficking. Most often people speak of “combatting” or “fighting” human trafficking, particularly when it is approached as a crime. But when we consider human trafficking as social sin, one in which ordinary persons are complicit and connected, even if inadvertently, then resistance emerges as an appropriate moral response.

Head over to Sojourner’s to read the whole thing.

The One who calls is Faithful

Over the weekend I was praying with a group of my CSJP Sisters, which is always a heart-stretching and heart-warming experience. As it happens, the prayer sheet we were using had some weird sort of typo where the characters “g=” were accidentally inserted right before the word “faithful.”  During the quiet reflection time, I couldn’t get the resulting formula out of my head or heart:

g=faithful

God equals faithful. God is faithful. So simple yet so very powerful. I almost feel like I should engrave that on something or post it on my wall. When life seems complicated or the path ahead unsure, remember, God is faithful.

Then I prayed with the readings for this Gaudete Sunday, and was stopped in my tracks by the second reading from Thessalonians:

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy
and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it.

The one who calls is faithful. The one who calls will accomplish it. It is not up to me. It is not about me or us. Authentic call is about responding to God’s faithful love.

This weekend, I have several friends who have responded to the one who calls in faith, trust and love in special and powerful ways. My friend Stephanie married her sweetheart Matt. My friend Graham was ordained as a deacon on the path to being ordained as a priest. Another friend was in Peru witnessing the final profession of one of her Sisters. And today, my friend Belinda professes her final yes as a Benedictine Sister.

My prayer for all of my friends who are responding to the one who is faithful with a big “YES,” and this includes myself and the four CSJP Sisters who are stepping into the circle of leadership with me in January as we begin our term of office on the congregation leadership team, is just what this reading says.

May we rejoice always
Praying and giving thanks without ceasing, no matter what
May we embrace God’s will in our lives and in the lives of those with whom we are called to journey.
Spirit of God, soak us with your goodness and surprises.
Open our ears to your prophetic word.
Guide us on the path of creative experimentation.
Lead us to goodness and light and everything which gives life.
God of peace, strengthen our spirit, soul and body so that we may be ready,
Ready to respond joyfully always to your faithful love.
Help us to trust that it is YOU who works through, in, and with us.
You have called, God of peace and love and joy.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Amen