Tag Archives: social justice

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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Lamenting Racial Injustice: Theology Quotes

blogquoteMassingale

I’m reviving a feature from my old blog, at least until I finish my present life as a graduate student in Catholic theological ethics.  From time to time, I’ve been sharing a quote from a theologian which I think people might find interesting, challenging, or otherwise important. This particular quote is from a book which I highly recommend, especially in light of the most recent manifestations of what the U.S. Bishops named in 1979 as “an evil which endures in our society and in our Church” (Brothers & Sisters to Us) … racism.

The book is called Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Orbis Books, 2010) by Bryan N. Massingale.  Fr. Bryan Massingale is a highly respected Catholic moral theologian who has worked extensively both as an academic and as a practitioner on the issue of racial justice. I was lucky enough to take a very challenging course on the ethics of power and racial justice during my studies at Catholic Theological Union. Massingale’s 2010 book was one of our central texts for the course. It’s easy to read and yet nimbly engages the complex reality of racism, the challenge it poses for the church, and the promise of racial justice.

I found his book very challenging and incredibly important. I also found it empowering, especially his work on the need for a theology and practice of lament. Massingale astutely observes that racism engages us viscerally at the gut level. For this reason, we can’t merely rely on reason as we work for racial justice. The emotional responses on all sides to what’s been happening in Ferguson and across the country illustrate this key point.  Our shared history and present reality is just too messy to logically “fix” the enduring and embedded reality of racism.

Because racism and racial injustice hit us in the gut, they tend to be “impervious” to appeals to reason. If we cannot think, reason, or debate our way through this impasse, what do we do?

Massingale believes that we need to “lament the ambiguity and distortions of our history and their tragically deforming effects on ourselves. We need to lament, mourn, and grieve our history. … Lament has the power to challenge the entrenched cultural beliefs that legitimate privilege.  It engages a level of human consciousness deeper than logical reason.  Lamenting can propel us to new levels of truth seeking and risk taking as we grieve our past history and strive to create an ethical discourse that is more reflective of the universality of our Catholic Faith.” (Bryan Massingale, “The Systemic Erasure,” in Catholic Theological Ethics, Past, Present, and Future: the Trento Conference, ed. James F. Keenan, Orbis Books, 2011).

I share his insights because they have been powerful for me, informing both my prayer and my action as a white woman who experiences white privilege every day that distances me from the entrenched reality of racial injustice which my brothers and sisters of color cannot escape.  Massingale believes that not only the victims of racial injustice, but even the beneficiaries of privilege, can and should lament.

“For the beneficiaries of white privilege, lament involves the difficult task of acknowledging their individual and communal complicity in past and present racial injustices. It entails a hard acknowledgement that one has benefited from another’s burden and that one’s social advantages have been purchased at a high cost to others. Here lament takes the form of a forthright confession of human wrongdoing in the light of God’s mercy. It is a form of truth-telling and contrition that acknowledges both the harms that have been done to others and one’s personal and communal culpability for them.” (Racial Justice and the Catholic Church)

Until we recognize, lament, and mourn this unfortunately reality, we can never effectively counter the distorted denial of our God given equality or find our way to the path towards racial justice.  Until we recognize, lament, and mourn this unfortunate reality, we continue to get caught up on rational discussions of bias and prejudice, from which it is easy to distance ourselves, and fail to see the embedded and structural nature of racial injustice from which we cannot escape.