Category Archives: Front Page

Spirituality and Advocacy in El Paso

Spirituality and Advocacy in El Paso

A Reflection on Jornada por la Justicia
Melissa Cedillo
October 23, 2019

Right when I landed in El Paso I immediately felt a sense of home. It was refreshing to be back in a place where I could hear Spanish everywhere.

It had been a while since I was in a space that was majority Latinx. Because Jornada por la Justicia was in El Paso, the teach-in focused a lot on the massacre that took place in August. El Paso is also a border city so the themes of borderlands, immigration, and white supremacy were also present. There were various panels and workshops to attend. Everything from ‘Know Your Rights’ to Latinx spirituality were available. Most importantly, the panelists and the workshops were all lead by Latinx folks, which was empowering because the majority of Catholic conferences I have previously attended were not. I didn’t even have to tell someone the correct way to pronounce my last name.

Saturday night, we crossed into Juarez and prayed with a family getting ready to seek asylum. There were tents and families everywhere. The mother I spoke with held a beautiful nine-month-old baby in her arms. They had traveled three weeks to arrive in Juarez. Another two year old climbed across her tired father smothering him with kisses. Seeing the many families was another reminder that militarizing the border against innocent families is in stark contrast of our Catholic identity.

On Sunday, Bishop Mark Seitz introduced his new pastoral letter ‘Night Will Be No More.’ The letter is about these very topics. He signed it into action after Mass. After the massacre on August 3rd, my heart yearned for a homily that would approach the violence that had happen and extend a message of hope to our familia in El Paso. It was never brought up. But on October 13th, Bishop Seitz’s letter provided my heart with consolation. Bishop Seitz called out White Supremacy for what it is. He used his power and privilege to uplift the same people Jesus did. As the Catholic Latinx population continues to grow in the U.S., I hope Catholic communities across the country look towards Hope Border Institute and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition as leaders.


Melissa Cedillo is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School. She participated in Jornada por la Justicia, a three-day gathering of a powerful network of Catholic Latino organizers, labor leaders, scholars and activists in El Paso, Texas. The Teach-In 2019: Jornada por la Justicia was co-presented by the HOPE Border Institute and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition. Learn more: https://www.hopeborder.org/jornadaporlajusticia.

Gathering to Work for Justice in El Paso

Gathering to Work for Justice in El Paso

Andres R. Lopez
October 22, 2019

This past weekend, I participated in the Teach-In: Jornada por la Justicia, it was a great meeting and learning experience. First, to see great mentors and friends, second, to meet people from different parts of the United States, and finally, the amazing knowledge acquired by the different workshops and plenaries presented. This without forgetting the public witness activity that we had at the international port of entry.

The Teach-in was attended by around 400 people; people from New York, Chicago, California, the Washington D.C. area, and other parts of the United States, as well as from residents of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The Teach-In started off with a beautiful prayer and song interpreted by Ilka Vega from Hope Border Institute, the prayer reminded us that where there is love and kindness, God is present, Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Then, Monsignor Arturo Bañuelas from St. Mark’s Catholic Church in El Paso, and Dr. Dulcinea Lara from New Mexico State University, addressed the issue of white supremacy, and how Latinx and Hispanic communities have been under attack for many years now. Monsignor Arturo reminded us that to undermine racism and white supremacy, we must do so with solidarity. He also said that “solidarity must become more than mere acompañamiento.”

The first day of the Teach-in ended with a dinner full of joy and networking, as the Folklórico de San Marcos danced on the stage, and the Mariachis sang at the lobby of building.

During the Teach-In, I met with some great friends like Wayne Romo from the Center for Life at St. Mary’s University of San Antonio, and Dr. Neomi de Anda an associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton, and current president of the Academy of Hispanic Theologians of the United States.

I also ran into friends and partners that have been part of El Otro Lado – El Paso for the past years, like Monsignor Arturo Bañuelas, Dylan Corbett director of Hope Border Institute, Dr. Nicholas Natividad from NMSU and graduate of Cathedral High School, Alonzo Mendoza organizer for the Texas State Teacher Association and also a graduate of Cathedral High School, Lorena Andrade, Director of La Mujer Obrera in El Paso, Jaclyn Ross, a previous Lasallian Volunteer and El Otro Lado assistant at San Miguel High School in Tucson, and the Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso.

Saturday was an intense day of workshops and presentations. For the breakout sessions, I attended Overcoming Racism: Resources for Faith Communities, and a second talk titled Borderland Theology and Spirituality for Activism Today. The first talk was a reminder of how we all have implicit biases, and how “racism denies salvation.” During this talk, we learned to speak up against certain comments or racist ideologies. During the second talk, we used Visio Divina, sacred seeing, to meditate on the word of God through images.

In the afternoon, the group of 400 people met at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Downtown El Paso, here we divided into two groups. One group stayed in El Paso, and the other group crossed the international bridge in to Ciudad Juarez.

In this group, we all crossed the bridge peacefully and rather quickly, and as soon as we crossed, we were able to see families that are now living along the margins of the international bridge, due to the MPP or the Remain in Mexico Policy. As our presenter at the Juarez side exclaimed, we were able to see asylum under attack. After a quick moment of prayer, we all proceeded to form a line at the bridge, and to make our way back to El Paso. The only difference was that we did it in a slower manner because each one of us used Holy Water to sprinkle and bless the international bridge by saying: “I bless this bridge for those who cannot cross it.” We all also attempted to bring with us a group of three families for a total of 15 people seeking asylum. Ten CBP officers waiting in the middle of the bridge, barbed wire, and only one line of cars opened, but we were successful, and they let them through to continue their process in the U.S.

Blessing the bridge with Holy Water was a very simple action, but with a very powerful meaning.

The Jornada ended on Sunday, with a bilingual celebration of the Eucharist. After the mass, Bishop Mark Seitz formally made the announcement of his new pastoral letter: “Night will be no more” where he addresses the issue of racism and “the false god of white supremacy.” The pastoral letter was written in memory of those who lost their lives in the August 3, 2019 massacre in El Paso.

You can read the pastoral letter here: https://www.hopeborder.org/nightwillbenomore


Andres R. Lopez is the director of El Otro Lado Border Immersion Program at Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas. El Otro Lado is a 5-day border immersion experience in which schools from around the country, come to El Paso to learn about immigration, and life at the border. During this week-long experience, we visit border patrol, the border fence, we hike, we go to the shelters that receive refugees, we visit the unaccompanied minors, we go to Ciudad Juarez, we receive Catholic Social Teaching presentations, and many other activities. Hope Border Institute is a community partner of El Otro Lado.

DACA Heads to the Supreme Court

DACA Heads to the Supreme Court

Giovana Oaxaca
October 16, 2019

The executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has withstood a number of legal challenges over the years. In a few short weeks, however, the delicate future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients will face yet another test. On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the DACA cases that the Supreme Court is considering to review this fall term. Although there exist legislative solutions, such as the Dream and Promise Act which passed the House and the Dream Act and SECURE Act (introduced in the Senate), Congress has so far failed to pass meaningful protections for undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action and temporary protected status. This has deferred the DACA matter to court cases, which have put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA in September 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching effects by deciding the fate of the program for the near future.

The stakes have never been higher. In a recent survey, over fifty percent of DACA recipients reported that they fear being detained or deported from the United States at least once a day. An even greater share of DACA recipients surveyed reported that they feared being separated from their children. The Supreme Court’s decision will alter the reality for the millions of DACA recipients living and working in the U.S. If the Supreme Court rules with the Trump Administration, this would leave thousands stranded with few recourses, in the very place they call home.

Brief Overview

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating DACA, a decision that was been met with instant legal pushback. More than ten cases were filed challenging the administration’s decision. After a number of judges issued preliminary injunctions protecting the program, the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.  Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s petition, agreeing to hear arguments for three cases on November 12th, 2019. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the DACA cases and an array of other high-profile cases are expected in June 2020.

Speculated Outcomes

Legal advocates, allies, and organizations are bracing for the court’s ruling.

  • The court may conclude it may review the administration’s decision. It may then rule that the termination is unlawful or lawful. A ruling stating that the action was unlawful would be good for DACA recipients because it would mean that the administration should not have terminated DACA under its reasoning at the time. The court may rule that the administration’s decision was lawful. This would be bad for DACA recipients because it would mean the administration could begin rolling back the program. It is also possible that the court could find DACA itself unlawful at this time. This would mean that the government could stop accepting renewals of applications.
  • The Supreme Court may decide not to review the administration’s decision to terminate. A ruling along these lines would mean that the administration could commence rolling back the program; it could also mean that a future administration could reinstate it.

High-profile businesses, higher education institutions, former national security officials, and religious organizations have joined a litany of amicus briefs in support of DACA recipients. The plight of Dreamers clearly resonates with the majority of Americans. As it stands, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship. For now, the decision to stay DACA rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Texas v. Azar: One Court Ruling Could Affect the Lives of More Than 20 Million People

Texas v. Azar: One Court Ruling Could Affect the Lives of More Than 20 Million People

Anne Marie Bonds
October 9, 2019

Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was meant to decrease the number of uninsured people in the United States. Too many people simply hoped to stay healthy every day, avoiding hospitals and ambulances because they couldn’t afford thousands of dollars in medical bills. The ACA has made insurance accessible for over 20 million people since 2010 and has helped even more by making preventative care, such as annual physicals, free. It also prohibits all insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, meaning people who are already sick cannot be rejected because of their illness.

For the last seven years, Republicans attempted to repeal the ACA numerous times through the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. In 2017, the repeal of the ACA came down to one vote in the Senate. Senator John McCain’s historic thumbs down vote effectively ended the Republican movement to repeal the ACA through legislation.

Now, the ACA is at risk again. This time, it is back in the courts. In February 2018, twenty Republican-led states filed a lawsuit, Texas v. Azar, to invalidate the ACA. Now, the lawsuit has made its way up to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is only one step down from the Supreme Court. The 5th Circuit is expected to make a ruling sometime this week, a decision that could potentially shake the nation’s entire health system.

If you know me you would probably ask: Anne Marie, why do you care so much about the Affordable Care Act? You’re an upper-middle class, 22-year-old white girl from Alabama. How has the ACA affected your life in any way? Well, the short answer is that it hasn’t. Not directly. I’ve been covered under my parents’ employer health insurance since I was young, and I’ve had the privilege of never needing to worry about how my medical bills were going to be paid. In fact, I never really cared about Obamacare until November of 2013, when I realized how the ACA impacts every single person in our nation.

In November of 2013, my father was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a terminal, degenerative disease that slowly atrophies muscle over time. Those with an ALS diagnosis have 3-5 years left to live, but for many, those years are not pleasant. Before my Dad got sick, he worked in an aluminum plant, and when he was diagnosed, he had to quit his job because he couldn’t lift anything anymore. Because of this, he lost his employer’s health insurance coverage, as many with ALS do.

Without the ACA, my father would not have been able to find private insurance, as insurance companies could have easily denied him due to his pre-existing condition. Thousands of ALS patients are dependent on this non-discrimination clause within the ACA to receive care that can prolong their lives for months. Without the ACA, ALS patients are left without a safety net and no way to pay for their care. Other people with chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and heart disease, depend on the ACA to protect them from private insurance discrimination. Although 20 million people directly depend on the ACA to provide them with quality, affordable health insurance, an innumerable amount of people in the U.S. depend on the ACA indirectly by prohibiting pre-existing condition discrimination and making preventative care services free.

Depending on how the 5th Circuit rules, there’s a good chance we’ll see this case in the Supreme Court next year. Although conservatives would have you believe the ACA only helps the uninsured, in reality, the positive effects of the ACA extend to almost every person in the nation. The ACA has faced a bevy of criticism for nine years, even though it is a vital aspect of our nation’s health care system. It is time to stop our partisan arguing over the ACA. It is time to stop making the health of our people an ideological argument. It is time to support the ACA and work to stop those who continue attempting to repeal and destroy it.

Affirmation in the Workplace

Affirmation in the Workplace

Ness Perry
September 27, 2019

As a young adult working at a YMCA in a Southern California suburb, I never thought that being out in the workplace was safe. I had come out to my friends, my family and most importantly myself. But, I wondered all the time whether my coworkers knew, and if they did, would say anything to my boss? More seriously, would the clientele think differently of me because I worked with children? Conservative parents are notorious for having perverse thoughts about queer-identified people in the childcare industry. Needless to say, I lived in fear of being fired and ousted by my community for being queer and proud at work. So, I vowed never to talk about my identity at work.

As a new staff member at NETWORK, I found that being out at work is not just accepted, it’s celebrated. I don’t know how I lived in the shadows (or in the closet) for so long because of how comfortable I am now. This organization proudly affirms me, my identity, and who I love. As I write, however, I realize how big of a privilege it is to even be able to write this. In little under a month, the Supreme Court will hear a case to decide the constitutionality of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia will be heard on October 8, 2019. This case is not a question of whether the law permits discrimination, it is a question about respecting human dignity. As individuals, we have the right to be ourselves one hundred percent of the time — this includes identifying as LGBTQ+ all the time. I am scared, though. What if our human dignity is not protected under the law? What if my queer siblings and I cannot live in peace without the fear of discrimination? We cannot let the courts, nor any administration revoke the rights that we have been working to gain for so long. I began identifying myself as queer in the workplace because I realized that Marsha P. Johnson did not sacrifice her life for me to be scared.

A verdict will be announced soon, and we cannot and will not be afraid of a negative outcome. Queer is invincible; it is resilient, and we will overcome just as we have many times before. Perry v. Hollingsworth was the first time the Supreme Court overturned a state decision to put a ban on marriage equality. This case proved that we can make progress, but we must unite as a coalition of citizens loving and affirming those affected while being dedicated to social justice efforts.

Honestly, I never thought a faith-based organization would be the place I can present myself in such an authentic way. NETWORK proudly affirms the dignity of all people and the reality that LGBTQ+ people like myself are in need of protection under the law and within the social sphere. When I walk into my workplace, I am queer. When I am working, I am queer. When I am advocating for the rights of others, I am queer. There is no political force nor law that will bar me from being myself, unapologetically.

Advocating for Policy Change on Capitol Hill

Advocating for Policy Change on Capitol Hill

Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP
September 26, 2019

As climate leader Greta Thunberg scolded international leaders at the United Nations and protesters shut down the streets in D.C., NETWORK and our partners hosted a rally and press conference on Capitol Hill. Following the rally, we delivered a letter to several key Senators challenging them to address the injustice in our current immigration system through the ongoing appropriations process. It’s not quite as exciting as shutting down streets or risking arrest (as Catholics and others have previously done in both D.C. and Newark), but distinct policy proposals – actionable requests of our elected officials – are also important.

For my first experience advocating on Capitol Hill, I joined Charlotte Hakikson, a Grassroots Mobilization Associate, and Kathleen and Dan from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to deliver letters to Senators Collins (ME) and Manchin (WV). We called on the Senators to use the appropriations process to shift funding away from detention, deportation, and border militarization to refugees, asylum, and alternatives to detention, and to exert robust oversight over the use of appropriated funds. Shifting the public conversation around immigration lays the groundwork for change, but specific legislative asks will shift the reality of our policies. We do this work of justice-seeking together as we demand more of our nation and our leaders.

As climate change drives refugees and asylum seekers from their homes, we must continue to stand and say, in the words of Greta Thunberg, “We will not let you get away with this!”

Sister Quincy Talks Faithful Democracy on Capitol Hill

Sister Quincy Talks Faithful Democracy on Capitol Hill

Colleen Ross
September 25, 2019

Last Friday, Sister Quincy Howard, OP joined New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and interfaith partners on Capitol Hill to discuss democracy reform efforts. Video of the discussion can be found here.

From Senator Udall’s website:

“There is a direct link between our broken campaign finance system and our voting rights system that puts up barriers to the ballot box, and the issues of concern to the faith community,” Udall said. “Issues like gun violence, food security, economic justice, and climate change. The American people, in overwhelming numbers, want Congress to address these issues. But we are not because the representatives in Congress are not representing the American people…We need to put an end to the idea that money equals free speech.  And that corporations are people.  And reign in an out of control campaign finance system.”

The Faithful Democracy Coalition is an inter-denominational campaign that began in the wake of the Citizens United decision.  The Coalition advocates for ending the dominance of big money out of politics, examining the issue from both a faith-based and legislative perspective, and focuses their campaign on the issues of climate change, gun violence prevention, immigration, and private prisons.

“The faith community recognizes how our democratic processes are corrupted at every level: from gerrymandering to voter suppression to campaign finance to foreign intrusion,” said Sr. Quincy Howard, of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “In a secular democracy, elections are the closest thing we have to a sacrament.  NETWORK Lobby and our faith partners call on our government to restore the people’s faith in our democratic systems by securing our elections, ensuring fair representation of the people, and rooting out the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

Read more:

https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/news/press-releases/_photo-and-video-udall-leads-discussion-with-interfaith-leaders-on-democracy-reform

The Loretto Community Works to Mend the Gaps

The Loretto Community Works to Mend the Gaps

Alice Kitchen, Loretto Co-member
August 29, 2019

Recently, the Loretto Community went through a period of dialogue and discernment about how we can mend the gaps within our sphere of influence. Our considerations were guided by NETWORK’s 21st Century Poverty guide. Sisters and Co-members of the Loretto Community gathered in 19 community groups from California to New York. The groups discussed raising the hourly pay of low-wage workers to a livable wage. Each group’s job was to explore the issues facing low-wage workers in the communities where they live.

We already knew that low-wage workers undergird daily life in our communities. Low-wage workers care for children, staff nursing homes, and keep our airports functioning. Often these women and men have no steady schedule and have little control over their hours. Many work more than one job to get by. Their employers often have no regard for the multiple jobs they are juggling or their childcare needs. In our study, we learned that the cost of housing, transportation, childcare, and utilities far exceed the hourly incomes of most low-wage workers.

The need for these discussion groups emerged from our Loretto Assembly in August 2018. There, the community group in Kansas City put forth a proposal for the whole Loretto Community to hear, consider and vote on. The proposal advocated for Loretto administrators to “review the compensation of all our employees, working toward the goal of providing a living compensation package as nearly as is sustainable with our financial resources.”

Attendees from all over the U.S. and two overseas countries participated in the bi-annual Loretto Assembly. Participants were vowed members, Co-members, and Loretto employees, all of whom had previously affirmed the goal of a pay structure for all Loretto employees based on justice as a mission priority.

Last summer’s proposal was a spur to move forward on this goal. As a follow-up in January 2019, Loretto leadership approved an $1.50 an hour pay increase for Loretto Motherhouse and Infirmary employees and a 2 percent increase for those same employees who had worked 1,000 hours or more in 2018.

The next step in this ongoing process is collecting the thoughts and ideas of all 19 community groups and determining how to take this commitment to the next level. Much of Loretto’s social justice work lies in persuading decision-makers to make needed changes in both our living rooms and in the halls of power. We hope, therefore, that we can find ways to change our own community and beyond.

Some Loretto groups have natural allies in their communities where they can team up to support raising wages at either the local or state level. We are following the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582) in Congress and sending out alerts to call our Representatives in support of the bill.

This is all about living our Loretto mantra: We work for justice and act for peace.

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Alice Kitchen is a Loretto Co-member as well as a NETWORK Board member. She is based in Kansas City, Missouri.

This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

HUD Housing Rule Hurts Families

HUD Housing Rule Hurts Families

Elisa McCartin
August 27, 2019

This blog continues explaining the various rules changes proposed by the Trump administration which would hurt our country and make it harder to mend the gaps. Read blogs about additional proposed rules here:

Redefine the Poverty Line
Joint Employer Rule

President Trump’s Mixed-Status Family Housing Rule

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a proposed rule change that would prohibit families with one or more member who is ineligible from receiving HUD public housing or housing subsidies from accessing both these services—essentially barring mixed-status immigrant families from public housing. The NETWORK community submitted over 600 comments to HUD during the submission period which closed on July 8, 2019, strongly opposing the measure on behalf of our members and the immigrant community.

If implemented, the rule change would impact the 25,000 families with one or more ineligible member residing in HUD public housing. These families would be forced from their homes, displacing 108,000 people even though 70 percent are eligible to receive HUD services. Among the 108,000 to be evicted, 55,000 are children. Since these families already rely on subsidized housing, it is extremely unlikely they will be able to find replacement homes that they can afford. As a result, homelessness across the country will increase, dramatically harming the physical, economic, and psychological wellbeing of immigrant families. Such a policy reflects absolute neglect of the immigrant community. As one of the richest nations around the world, America ought to extend compassion and kindness to our neighbors. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has demonstrated a complete lack of grace and humanity with this proposed change.

Since thousands of families will face acute homelessness, this rule would force families to have to choose between their housing and staying together as a family—a truly inconceivable decision. To force families into this situation is immeasurably evil and cruel.

To defend their position, HUD’s leadership has presented this rule change with the argument that removing mixed-status immigrant families from public housing will open up more housing for U.S. citizens. This position is extremely misguided. Implementing this rule change would cost HUD millions of unnecessary funds, eliminating even existing affordable housing options. Under the current system, HUD pro-rates the housing subsidy per family based on the number of eligible members in each family. Families with more eligible members receive higher subsidies than those with fewer eligible members. With the proposed rule change, HUD would no longer be able to pro-rate any of its subsidies since every resident would be fully eligible to receive HUD benefits. A HUD report itself concluded that this would cost HUD $227 million. The same report noted that in order to cover these added costs, HUD would either have to reduce the quantity and quality of the public housing it offers or turn to taxpayers to foot the bill. The likelier scenario of reducing public housing availability would directly harm all residents of HUD housing and eliminate any chance of expanding public housing. The alternative of forcing taxpayers to pay off HUD’s debt is no better—hardworking individuals and families should not carry the burden of a sloppy, unnecessary, and underhanded HUD rule change.

NETWORK is committed to seeking solutions to the public housing crisis in the United States. There is an undeniable need to expand public housing options and reduce prices in order to substantially mend the gaps in our society. Instead of proposing measures that will limit public housing options and evict immigrant families, NETWORK urges HUD to find solutions that meaningfully address root causes and affirm their commitment to expanding affordable housing to every person in our country who needs it. We will continue to oppose HUD’s brutal proposal and defend immigrant families. Housing is a human right.

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Elisa McCartin is a NETWORK volunteer and student at Georgetown University.