Tag Archives: social justice

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.

Believe in Goodness

I have not posted in this space for quite some time. Life has been busy and the world has been crazy, you know how it goes.

But tonight, with the President choosing climate denial over truth, short term profit for a few over long term sustainability for this little planet we call earth and its inhabitants, isolationism over true leadership … I feel compelled to write.

The past few weeks have been a tough run. Terrorism and hatred in many forms grips the headlines, from Manchester to Portland. Terrorism in other parts of the world, places like Kabul and Bagdahd which have been ravaged by war, we try to ignore.

Then there is the ridiculousness from covfefe to the very probable meddling of a hostile foreign power in our democracy and hints of possible collusion by government officials.

It can all be too much, but in the midst of the swirly nature of life right now, I feel I must proclaim these words.

I believe in goodness.

The goodness of people to stand up to hateful speech in my adopted hometown of Portland, risking all for goodness.

The goodness of folks who stand up for what is right, on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, Earth our common home, healthcare, justice and peace.

Yesterday I had the privelege of being with lay leaders from our csjp sponsored ministries in New Jersey. Day in and day out they provide compassionate care in health care, education and social service to people who are poor and vulnerable. We had the chance to hear stories of how the mission is alive today. In the midst of the challenge and strain of this crazy time, goodness abounds.

There is much we cannot control, but we can believe in goodness and act that way. We can choose to bring goodness into this world, little by little, relationship by relationship.

Pope Francis recently called for a revolution of tenderness.

Let’s be good and tender. Let’s follow that sage advice from Micah. Let’s act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God.

I have to believe it will make a difference.

Nuns on the Bus 2016

2016busgraphic.pngTomorrow I head to Madison, Wisconsin to join the first leg of the 2016 Nuns on the Bus tour.  I will join a group of ten Catholic Sisters from across the country. We will stop and visit with folks in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio, ending in Cleveland at the Republican Convention. Another group of sisters will then take the bus through the Northeast to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.

Why are we going on the bus?  You’d have to have been in a deep sleep these last months to not be aware of the general cynical, polarized, and deeply divided nature of our nation’s political climate. There is such fear and hostility in the air, much of it cultivated and exploited.  And of course events from Orlando to Dallas to Baton Rouge seem to have both grabbed the nation’s attention and left a deeply divided society at an impasse. How do we bridge these divides, bring people together, and respond to the very real needs of individuals and families who are struggling?

The Nuns on the Bus will be driving over 2,400 miles this summer to meet with individuals, families, and communities in 13 states and 23 cities over 19 days. We are responding to the unhealthy political climate and divisive rhetoric of this election cycle by  engaging in dialogue about how we can mend the gaps in our society. The goal is to bring a politics of inclusion to divided places, change the conversation to mending the vast economic and social divides in our country, and counter political incivility with our message of inclusion at the Republican and Democratic Conventions and beyond.

Truth be told, I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone when I step onto the bus tomorrow afternoon. Many moons ago, when I was a low-level government worker in Portland, Oregon and long before I listened to the call to become a Catholic Sister, I was afraid of public speaking, and here I am embarking on a week long adventure that entails multiple speaking engagements each day!  Of course, I’ve gotten over much of that fear since then, learned some skills, and had a decade or so to grow into my nun identity. Moreover, I know that answering the invitation to join the bus is part of my deepening call to serve God and God’s people in need.

Of course, I also find inspiration in the example of Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack), the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace who spoke out for justice whenever she could.

“But it did matter to me a great deal in view of our common humanity and in view of my love for the poor, that I should do all I could for those whom he had loved so well.”

“What misery has been seen–what crime has been committed, even in our time, by unjust pressure on the poor.”

“We read in the holy gospels that ‘Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all manner of sickness, and every infirmity among the people’ (St. Matt. iv. 23). And we also, my pilgrim friends, may go about the Galilee of this world, and preach ‘the gospel of the kingdom.’ It is a gospel of peace, it is a gospel of love, it is a gospel of mercy; it is a gospel for the poor, for the little ones, who live near to the Heart of God.”

I suspect she would have been at home with the Nuns on the Bus!

Please keep everyone involved in the Nuns on the Bus 2016 tour in your prayers this month. I will be writing from the Bus both for the Nuns on the Bus blog on the NETWORK website and for Global Sisters Report.

Life lessons from my mom

MomMeThis weekend is Mother’s Day in the US. My latest Global Sisters Report column is a reflection on racism, white privilege, and lessons I learned from my mother about confronting systemic injustice.

My mother had a particularly informed conscience and made choices that confronted systems of oppression. While I grew up in a mostly-white suburb, my mother would take me shopping at the mall located in a neighboring suburb where most residents were people of color. This was not only to expose her children to diverse groupings of people, but also because she knew that the major department stores intentionally sent lower quality goods and a lesser product selection to stores in communities of color. She was sending a message by choosing to spend her money in those stores, hoping to contribute the strength of her purchasing power to changing what she understood to be an unjust and racist system. …

This Mother’s Day weekend, I choose to remember and honor my mother by lamenting the ways I am connected to and benefit from systems of oppression and exclusion. As my mother’s daughter, I commit myself, once again, to work for justice and the common good.

Read the whole column by following the link

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

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.

Full Circle

Last night I attended an event at the Brother Darst Center in Chicago on supply chains. That in itself would be interesting, especially as it is so connected to my thesis topic, given that there is in fact so much forced labor in our supply chain that we are all connected to human trafficking just by the pervasive act of purchasing goods and services.

What made the evening extra special was that it was a special event co-hosted by the Chicago Justice Cafe.

The reason this is cool is that Justice Cafes are a program for young adults that I had a hand in creating when I was working at the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center in Seattle. Essentially they are a network of young adults committed to a spirituality that does justice who get together monthly to learn and share about important issues. The IPJC office puts together a discussion guide, prayer, etc… so it is ready to go right out of the box.

We started out small about 5 years ago with about 10 Justice Cafes mostly in the Pacific Northwest, although pretty early on through God’s providence we also had groups in California,  on the East Coast,  and even in Kenya and Nigeria.

It has been amazing to see something I helped to start continue to grow and expand. So when I saw that there was an event being co-hosted by the local Justice Cafe, I knew I had to go!

As I get ready to leave Chicago for new adventures, it was a nice way to tap back into earlier adventures and realize you never know what kind of impact you can have.

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