Category Archives: Front Page

Bus Blessing 2018 – Rabbi Sharon Brous

Bus Blessing 2018 – Rabbi Sharon Brous

Rabbi Sharon Brous
October 8, 2018

Dr. King famously said that the Kingdom of God as a universal reality remains “not yet.”

We’re gathered here today because we persist in believing in the Kingdom of God. For me, as a Jew, that looks like a world in which human dignity is real. In which every single person is treated as an image of God, with infinite worth, absolutely unique and precious in the eyes of God and humanity.

And the pain point of this moment in time, of this era we’re living through, is that every day we are reminded of how far we are from the realization of that vision.

We are, to say the least, not there yet.

We are not there yet, when a Supreme Court Justice is confirmed amid multiple credible accusations of sexual assault, messaging to women, trans and nonbinary folks, to men and boys who are victims of sexual violence that they, and their trauma, are a liability, an exaggeration, a hassle and a distraction, and can’t we just quiet down and let them get back to the business of securing partisan advantage?

No, the Kingdom of God is not at hand, when young mother who flees violence in El Salvador arrives at the US border and is given 5 minutes to say goodbye to her two small boys, who are then ripped from her arms in a policy of wanton cruelty. We’re not there yet, when we realize how little those with power in our country care that even those children who are reunited with their parents—the lucky ones—will be traumatized for many years to come.

We’re not there yet when the justice department actively works to roll back civil rights achievements and 23 of 50 states have adopted harsh voter suppression laws in the last eight years alone. When Mexicans and Muslims and all People of Color are monsterized and criminalized, when the President fuels antisemitism and then shrugs when a JCC in Virginia is spray-painted with swastikas.

No, the Kingdom of God is not yet at hand, when Callie Greer from Alabama—whom I marched with in DC at the Poor People’s Campaign—wails in agony as she describes her daughter, Venus, dying in her arms from a cancer that could have been treated had Alabama not refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. We’re not there yet when a quarter of a million Americans to die from poverty related issues in the US each year.

We’re not there yet when kids are afraid they might get shot in school. When the prison population has grown from 200,000 to 2.2 million in the last 40 years, and Puerto Rico is abandoned. When our planet aches under the weight of fossil fuels and even still, our government obsessively and furiously prioritizes deregulation.

We’re not there yet, because today our country is driven by fear, mired in a failed moral narrative, contaminated by corruption, hypocrisy and indecency. Our nation—the richest in the world, boasts 140 million who are poor or live in poverty (with women, children and those with disabilities disproportionately affected).

It’s almost too much to bear. Dr. King was right, the Kingdom of God is “not yet.”

But he didn’t leave it there. Dr. King also quoted the historian Charles Beard in saying, “when it is dark enough you can see the stars.”

We’re out here today to train our eyes to see the stars.

And here’s what they look like: they look like Sister Simone Campbell, and these holy sisters, who are “On the Road to Mar-a-Lago.” Who will engage thousands and thousands of Americans at 54 events in 21 states over the course of the next 27 days, and then will land at Mar-a-Lago, where they will speak truth to power.

These sisters and their supporters of all races and ethnicities and religious traditions, are calling us to seek out the stars in the night sky. Stand up, they’re saying, and fight for the America you know is waiting to be born. A new America, fierce, gorgeous and fair. An America built on justice, fairness, and mercy. An America that lifts up the widow, the orphan and the stranger, that stands not ON, but WITH the most vulnerable.

This message matters more now than ever before, because today it is supremely clear: either we work to dismantle oppressive systems, or our inaction becomes the mortar that sustains them.

The Kingdom of God has not yet arrived. We’re painfully far from our collective vision of a world redeemed. But each of us is called לְתַקֵּן עוֹלָם בְּמַלְכוּת שַׁדַּי – to do whatever we can to heal the world and bring about the Kingdom of God.

That’s why we need this movement; that’s why we bless this moment.

Sisters, we send you off on your journey with blessings.

Go, and help free us from a politics that invisibilizes, marginalizes and steals from those who need most, a politics in which hatred, intolerance and heartlessness poison the water of our nation.

Go, and proclaim liberty throughout the land.

Go, and remind our nation, aching under the weight of oppression and injustice, that it is precisely in the dark of night that we can see the stars.

צֵאתְכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם—Go, go in peace.

Twin Cities Town Hall: Talking About Tax Justice

Twin Cities Town Hall: Talking About Tax Justice

Hanna Potter and Ceara Curry, St. Joseph Workers
October 2, 2018

Editor’s note: before embarking on NETWORK’s 2018 Nuns on the Bus trip, the “Tax Justice Truth Tour,” Sister Simone and Sister Mary Ellen traveled to bring one of the main programs – our Town Hall for Tax Justice – to the Twin Cities. This reflection is from those participants.

We attended a “Town Hall for Tax Justice” with Sister Simone Campbell and Sister Mary Ellen Lacy on Thursday, September 27th in St. Paul, MN at the Carondelet Center, hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJs). The room was filled with religious sisters, consociates of CSJs, and community members.  And, of course, we as Saint Joseph Workers were present as well.

This event gave us a unique opportunity to see – both visually and through personal narrative – how much the 2017 Tax Bill affects people from a variety of economic backgrounds. We volunteered to help with an activity to demonstrate how the disparity between different economic levels has widened from 1979 to the present, and how the current 2017 Tax Law only widens that gap in inequality.

Seven volunteers from the crowd represented a different economic perspective – one for each quintile and one for the top 1%. Each volunteer had a name and a story. We represented the two lowest quintiles, the next quintile was the “middle” middle class, then the higher middle class, followed by the top 1%, and then a corporation. We started in the year 1979, with participants standing together. As “time” passed, participants were asked to walk farther away from each other – showcasing the gap widening between economic levels. Once the 2017 Tax Law was put into effect in the activity, the 1% and the corporation not only widened the gap by walking away from the lower economic quintiles, but the lower quintiles also walked away from the middle and more towards the poorer end of the spectrum. There wasn’t even enough room in the hall to show how far the gap would really be. The rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer is clearly an understatement.

After the demonstration, Sr. Simone and Sr. Mary Ellen had the room break into small groups to discuss the following 3 questions:

  1. What surprises you?
  2. How is your community impacted?
  3. What would the common good look like?

Reactions around the room were unanimous in their disgust of the effects that the 2017 Tax Law has. What surprised many was just how badly it will impact people. Many were not pleased with the fact that 4% of corporations were projected to raise wages for workers, but in reality only 2.2% have actually raised wages. Companies are not raising wages “out of the goodness of their own heart,” as trickle-down economics would suggest. With fewer taxes being collected, this also impacts public assistance programs that the lower quintiles will need to utilize in order to continue their current quality of living. Programs will accept fewer people or will be shut down completely, because money will be floating around in the pockets of the rich and not in public funding. This will impact communities negatively – people will struggle to upkeep their housing, lose housing, or could face not having enough food on the table.

But how would Catholic Social Teaching of the common good address this situation? Sister Simone says, first, there is a need to depoliticize the situation and to spread the message of radical acceptance: “I care for you, even though I disagree with you…” We must create a shared vision of an alternative to the tax bill and stop bipartisanship. We can all be better by helping one another. The unpatriotic lie of individualism needs to stop; it is “WE the people,” not “I’m looking out for my own people only.”

This Town Hall was so important because not only did it shed light on the negative impacts of the 2017 Tax Law, it invited us – in light of the realities of the law – to reflect on what the common good would look like for all.

So, what is a tax policy that honors and respects the common good? What does tax justice really look like?  Many people present at this event offered suggestions, and Sr. Simone and Sr. Mary Ellen also offered suggestions. An answer rooted in Catholic Social Teaching of caring for one another and of the Earth is a good direction, yet how we accomplish this goal through public tax policy is a difficult question to answer. What we do know is that the 2017 Tax Law does not accomplish the common good, and laws do not have to be permanent.  We can work together towards creating a tax policy that takes care of everyone.

An important take-away for us was that this kind of dialogue needs to continue to happen and people need to take action through exercising their political rights.  We are inspired by this experience, knowing that in order to continue moving towards the common good, we must continue to educate ourselves on tax policy and its effects on all economic classes. In order to work towards the common good, we must come to the middle ground.  We must not only consider how taxes affect the lower, middle and upper classes: we must get to know all sides of the story.

 

Hanna Potter and Ceara Curry are current members of the St. Joseph Worker Program, a year-long service opportunity through the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Hanna and Ceara are St. Joseph Workers in the Twin Cities, and recently attended NETWORK’s Town Hall event at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul, MN.

Thousands of Medicaid Recipients in Arkansas Lose Access to Care

Thousands of Medicaid Recipients in Arkansas Lose Access to Care

Siena Ruggeri
October 2, 2018

In September 2018, the state of Arkansas revoked coverage for more than 4,300 Medicaid users. The state recently implemented a stringent work requirement on Medicaid recipients under the Arkansas Works program, stipulating that they must perform 80 hours of work, service, job training, or education a month. The state unceremoniously dropped recipients who did not properly log their hours into an online portal for three months. These dropped Medicaid users have no possibility of reapplying for the entirety of 2018.

This news came as a shock to the many low-income Arkansans who previously qualified for Medicaid. Due to the low profile implementation of the program, many were not aware of the new requirements. Some will not even realize they have lost their healthcare coverage until they go to the doctor or try to fill a prescription.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. Across the country, the Trump administration and its allies are encouraging burdensome work requirements for programs like Medicaid and SNAP (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program). Indiana, New Hampshire, and Kentucky already received federal approval to implement their own Medicaid work requirements, while at least nine other states are considering them.

Even if Medicaid recipients in Arkansas are aware of the recent changes, they might not be able to access the Arkansas Works website to log their hours. According to the Federal Elections Commission, about a fourth of Arkansas’s population lives in areas without Internet service. The online portal has also been fraught with problems, preventing many from logging their work hours. Curiously, the website is down for 10 hours every night for maintenance, leaving it out of commission for 70 hours a week. These barriers make compliance difficult for a population already stretched thin.

It’s not as if Medicaid recipients aren’t working. At best, only 15% of enrollees not exempt from existing work requirements are not employed (Urban Institute); the vast majority are already working. The reason they are utilizing Medicaid is not due a lack of work—it is due to the deep poverty they are experiencing. Recipients do not have access to quality jobs that pay a living wage and provide health benefits.

Let’s not be mistaken—programs like Medicaid already have strict work requirements. These additional work requirements are an attempt to burden vulnerable populations with administrative barriers to affordable, quality healthcare. By dropping more than four thousand people from Medicaid coverage, the state of Arkansas stands to save 30 million a year. States like Arkansas that choose to implement these cumbersome some work requirements are choosing savings over care for their people.

Burdensome work requirements don’t address the realities of the low-income populations Medicaid serves. Work requirements don’t create stable jobs that pay a living wage, nor do they do anything to alleviate the racial income gap. Black Arkansans are twice as likely to live below poverty level than their white counterparts. These work requirements are complex in nature—they are designed to quietly dismantle social safety nets while stigmatizing low-income people as the problem. If Arkansas is serious about getting its residents off Medicaid, it needs to address economic inequality and reinvest in the working class.

The data from Arkansas gives us a look at the true human cost of burdensome work requirements. As other states roll out similar programs, thousands of people will unknowingly lose their coverage. There is no human benefit to burdensome work requirements. They only serve to harm people who utilize programs like Medicaid and SNAP to survive. NETWORK opposes implementing work requirements on our most effective human needs programs, and urges lawmakers to craft these programs to uphold human dignity, not diminish it.

Walking and Praying for an End to Immigrant Detention

Walking and Praying for an End to Immigrant Detention

Vince Herberholt
September 13, 2018

St. Joseph Parish in Seattle embarked on a journey almost a year ago that recently resulted in a prayer pilgrimage and Mass at the GEO run Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma Washington – a destination 30 minutes away by bus and light years away from where we come from as a faith community.

St. Joseph is a wealthy Jesuit parish in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  The houses that surround the parish sell for millions of dollars.  Very few of our members would be considered poor or marginalized and almost no one would be considered “illegal” or more correctly undocumented.  And yet a year ago, our parish, known for its commitment to social justice,  started a journey of education and  solidarity with  the immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker and those detained in Immigration Prison.

After some preliminary research and assessment, we discerned that the greatest need, our interest and gifts as a faith community lie with public witness and advocacy.  So beginning in March 2018 we published a Parish Letter, “A Church of Accompaniment,” that serves as our Mission Statement.  From there we organized 2 community forums on Immigration and detention attended by over 300 people.  In the second forum we were joined by our Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, our representative who is a staunch advocate for immigrant justice.

Now with growing parish support, we began planning with our Jesuit Sister Parish, St. Leo the Great, for a pilgrimage and Mass at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.  On August 25th we gathered at St. Leo’s and began our prayerful 1.6 mile walk to the detention center in a bleak industrial area near the Port of Tacoma.  We were surprised and pleased that over 500 faithful people joined us.

The Mass was co-presided by our two pastors, Frs. John Whitney SJ and Matt Holland SJ, and the homily was delivered by Fr. Scott Santarosa SJ, the provincial of the Jesuit West Province.  His words exhorted us to “bridge all divides, and foster understanding among diverse peoples and cultures, and make people feel in the most real way at home.”

At the conclusion of the Mass we blessed the detainees and their captors.  It was a hopeful day that renewed our energy for the continuing journey and cemented our relationship with immigrants and refugees.

To learn more about St. Joseph Parish, visit their website here

Progress from Congress on Appropriations

Progress from Congress on Appropriations

Tralonne Shorter
September 12, 2018

This summer, Congress made extraordinary progress toward completing the requisite 12 spending measures for upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2019. To date, the Senate has passed nine spending bills, while the House has passed six. Lawmakers have until September 30 to finalize spending bills or extend funding at current levels through a continuing resolution (CR).  Efforts are underway to bundle nine* out of 12 spending measures into three packages by September 30 and put the remaining three** bills into a CR, averting a government shutdown.

One reason for the Senate’s remarkable pace on appropriations is President Trump’s vow to not sign another omnibus spending bill.  To achieve this progress, the Senate uncharacteristically spent part of August in session.  Another reason is a bipartisan agreement between Appropriations committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) not to pack spending bills with controversial provisions that would weaken bipartisan support.

NETWORK continues to lead lobby efforts supporting our Mend the Gap priorities.  These include:  humane border enforcement that promotes family unity and funding increases for affordable housing, workforce development, job training, child welfare and health care.  In addition, NETWORK will continue to oppose efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act.

Immigration

Unsurprisingly, the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy dominated the appropriations debate and faced strong opposition across party lines in both chambers.  NETWORK joined pro-immigration advocates in garnering support for more than 12 amendments to the Homeland Security bill that adds report language that clamps down on family separation with better oversight and accountability standards for ICE detention centers.  Additionally, we successfully lobbied for more funding to support alternatives to detention, family case management services, and mental health screening of unaccompanied minor children crossing the Southern border. However, a major disappointment by House Appropriators includes the reversal of the Flores Settlement, a 1997 agreement drafted by the ACLU which set a 20-day limit for family detention and governs the conditions of detention for children, including that facilities be safe, sanitary, and age appropriate.    If enacted this would allow immigrant families to be indefinitely detained in facilities with harsh conditions not supported by Flores.  Thankfully, the Senate approved LHHSED Appropriations bill leaves the Flores settlement agreement intact and the House language is not likely to be part of the final bill.

As for immigration enforcement spending contained in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee approved $7 billion more than the Senate for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Southwest Border Wall.  Other areas of concern include, a 10 percent increase in detention beds, as well as funding to hire almost 800 more border and customs agents/officers.

NETWORK will continue to push back on efforts to separate families or that would undermine humane border enforcement as negotiations gain momentum post the mid-term elections.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, unless Congress passes the next Farm Bill before then or extends the current reauthorization.  Regardless of when Congress finalizes the next Farm Bill, funding for SNAP will not lapse as the government is statutorily required to continue funding the program subject to participation demands.  Since 2015, SNAP enrollment has declined by more than 4.7 million people resulting in a $73 billion automatic appropriation for FY 2019.  This is $794 million less than FY 2018 and a 10 percent reduction since FY 2015.

Census

House appropriators gave a big boost to the Census Bureau in the FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations (CJS) bill, approving nearly $1 billion more for the agency than the Senate. However, it is unclear how much of the $4.8 billion for the agency will be allocated for the 2020 Decennial.  Conversely, the Senate appropriators (under new leadership) appears to have taken a more conservative approach and adopted the President’s FY 2019 budget request to fund the 2020 Decennial at $3.015 billion.  This is drastically different from NETWORK’s request of $3.928 billion minimum baseline.

Besides census activities, the CJS bill also funds immigration related law enforcement and adjudication efforts within the Department of Justice.  Regrettably, the House Committee bill, fails to fully protect immigrant families and includes increased funding for immigrant-related law enforcement efforts.  Congress is not expected to finalize the CJS bill until sometime after the mid-term elections.  NETWORK will continue to call on our supporters to push for the higher number for the 2020 Census contained in the House bill.

Housing

Funding for housing programs fared better in the Senate.  The Senate approved a $12 billion increase above the President’s FY 2019 budget request−and is $1 billion above the House bill.  Housing programs help nearly 5 million vulnerable families and individuals.  This includes:  $22.8 billion for tenant-based Section 8 vouchers; $7.5 billion for public housing; $11.7 billion for project-based Section 8; $678 million for Housing for the Elderly; and $154 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities.  Both committee bills reject the Administration’s rent reform proposal, and reinstate funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships programs, which were eliminated in the President’s FY 2019 budget request.  However, the House reduces spending for the HOME program by 12 percent.

NETWORK will continue to advocate for increased funding for affordable housing programs.

Children and Human Needs

The LHHSEd Appropriations bill funds popular safety net programs, like Medicare and Medicaid operations, home energy assistance, Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant.  It is the 2nd largest spending bill, after defense and comprises about 63 percent of total discretionary spending.  The House and Senate bills are slightly different—overall the Senate bill is better because it has a higher spending allocation and contains no poison pill riders unlike the House.

Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act continues to be attacked by Republican lawmakers.  Both the House and Senate bills reduce access to affordable health care by cutting funding for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) operating budget by nearly half a billion dollars.  According to the House Committee report, Democrats view defunding CMS as “a misguided attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace.” If enacted this cut would significantly impact Medicare as it subject to mandatory 2 percent sequestration cut pursuant to the Balance Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25).

NETWORK will continue to call on our supporters to push back against efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act.


* Agriculture; Defense; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Interior; Labor-Health and Human Services-Education; Legislative Branch; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

**Commerce, Justice, Science; Foreign Operations; and Homeland Security.

Nuns on the Bus Getting Back on the Road

Nuns on the Bus Getting Back on the Road

August 20, 2018

The Nuns on the Bus are going back on the road – this time driving across the country from California to Mar-a-Lago! We’ll be exposing the lies and telling the truth about the harmful effects of the 2017 tax law at every stop along the way.

We will hold members of Congress accountable for their votes in favor of this disastrous tax law. Those votes, as Sister Simone said, made it “crystal-clear who the Republican Members of Congress serve, and it is not the men, women, and children who Jesus championed.” Join us on the bus!

See our route and RSVP for events in your state: www.nunsonthebus.org/events

Guest Blog: Celebrating Our Dreams, Our Families in the Face of Threats to Family Reunification

Celebrating Our Dreams, Our Families in the Face of Threats to Family Reunification

Sam Yu
August 31, 2018

In February, the Senate voted on four different immigration bills for our undocumented young people. They all included plans to cut family-based immigration and they all failed to pass. Moreover, the Trump administration was doubling down on using harmful rhetoric around “chain migration” in order to further alienate and dehumanize communities whose families benefit from family-based sponsorship.

An overwhelming majority of Asian Americans come to the U.S. through the family-based sponsorship, meaning that any cuts directly impact our community. Forcing immigrant youth to choose between their futures and their families is pure blackmail and intolerable.

In order to spark dialogue and fight back against the harmful “chain migration” rhetoric, NAKASEC and affiliates launched the Our Dreams, Our Families” campaign. During February and March, we shared stories of impacted folks from our community whose families have benefited or will benefit from family-based sponsorship. All of the stories can be found at www.nakasec.org/ourdreamsourfamilies.

In one of our stories, Esther, our DACAmented young leader, explained how “it infuriated [her] that members of Congress, even our so called ‘allies,’ would think that [she] would ever want a pathway to citizenship that would prevent [her] from sponsoring [her] own parents… Our parents made us who we are today, our parents are the original Dreamers, and when you celebrate the achievements of Dreamers like [her], you are celebra

ting the achievements of not just our parents but our friends and our communities.”

Esther’s story and her declaration that her mother deserves to stay too captures the essence of the “Our Dreams, Our Families” campaign. We are asking Congress to value our families, protect family-based sponsorship, and fully understand that we cannot support undocumented young people without also supporting their families. Families are a cornerstone of American values and they deserve to stay together!

Sam Yu is the Communications Coordinator at NAKASEC. NAKASEC organizes Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice. Learn more at www.nakasec.org

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Getting to Know Younger Sisters in Their Own Words

Getting to Know Younger Sisters in Their Own Words

Sister Susan Francois, CSJP and Meg Olson
August, 28 2018

In Our Own Words: Religious Life in a Changing World is a collection of essays written by 13 younger women religious about the issues central to religious life today, ranging from vows and community life to ministries and leadership. The book was written over 4 months, with the authors meeting over video chat, forming a community, and writing on their own. Then, they came together for a week-long retreat where they work-shopped their essays.

I had the opportunity to attend a book reading and panel discussion moderated by one of the editors, Juliet Mousseau, RMCJ, and featuring four of the contributing authors, including a member of our 2016 Nuns on the Bus trip, Susan Rose Francois, CSJP. I was so moved and curious about the writing process that I needed to ask Susan a few more questions!

Meg: Why did you decide to say “yes” to the editors Juliet Mousseau and Sarah Kohles and participate in this writing project?

Susan: For years, I had been saying that it was up to us, the newer generation, to write the next chapter of religious life, literally write it.  So much of recent writing about religious life explores the life in relation to the changes after Vatican II, or as Juliet says, in relation to what it is not.  For those of us born years or even decades after Vatican II, it felt like we needed an updated take on the core issues of our life, such as vows, charism and mission, community, and leadership.  In the end, since I had been encouraging others to write, when Juliet and Sarah invited me to participate, I felt had to say yes.

Meg: Tell us about your chapter, “Religious Life in a Time of Fog.”

Susan: The title was inspired by Sister Nancy Farrell, OSF who spoke at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) assembly a few years ago about our time in history and in religious life.  She talked about this time as one where breakdown and breakthrough tussle with one another and the path forward is hidden in fog.  It certainly feels like that in the civic space these days, but also in religious life.  We keep saying that things will look different in the future, but I want to know how we get there. So, I look at the tremendous needs of the world at this time for things like peace, mercy, charity, and justice.  How are Catholic sisters being called to respond in this time of fog?  I believe that we are being called to de-commission the large-scale structures of religious life, both physical structures, but also how we organize our lives together, and recommission ourselves as critical yeast in a world yearning for our charism, witness, and presence.

Meg: What did you learn about women religious during this project? Did anything surprise you?

Susan: We had a lot of fun together. We shared deeply and found common ground so quickly, even though some of us had never even met.  We love our sisters in community and believe in the future of religious life. If anything surprised me, I guess it was the realization that what we hold in common as women of the Gospel is so much bigger than any differences, whether it be cultural or whether our community members wear a habit. No matter our congregation or leadership conference, we are sisters.

Meg: What is something that the NETWORK community should understand about this new generation of sisters under 50?

Susan: Collaboration and networking come natural to us.  Because there are fewer of us in individual congregations, we have been building peer relationships across congregational lines since the very beginning of our religious lives.  We also build networks outside of religious life, through our ministries, advocacy, and other connections. I think this experience will serve religious life, advocacy work, and the church well into the future.

Order the book at: https://litpress.org/Products/4520/In-Our-Own-Words

Susan Rose Francois is a member of the Congregation Leadership Team for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.  She was a Bernardin scholar at Catholic Theological Union and a Nun on the Bus in 2016.  She has ministered as a justice educator and advocate. Follow her on Twitter at @susanfrancois.

Meg Olson is NETWORK’s Grassroots Mobilization Manager.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Guest Blog: Living out Our Hope That All May Be One

Living out Our Hope That All May Be One

Father Jim F. Callahan
August 24, 2018

Worthington, Minnesota is a community of 13,000 people, located in the Southwest corner of the state. It is a diverse community with 64 nationalities, living, working and worshipping together. The Latino population comprises the largest immigrant community. Seventy-five percent of our public school children speak Spanish as their first language. Most members of our immigrant communities come without documentation.

People often wonder how Worthington has the second largest immigrant community in the state. What draws immigrants here are the meat packing plants in the city and surrounding communities as well as the numerous farms throughout the region.

The challenges facing the immigrant communities in Worthington are racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Lack of affordable housing, medical, and dental care are also challenges that the community faces. As a result of the need for medical care, we established the Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Clinic, and later, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Dental Clinic. Anyone without insurance is welcome. We became a 501(c)(3) four years ago, and have seen over 1200 patients.

The Parish of St. Mary is a church of hospitality. Our primary objective is to make the parish a welcoming and safe haven for all people. After the election of Donald Trump, fear seized our community. We announced to the parish we would do everything possible to help and protect our people. The staff prayed and studied what would be the most Gospel-based response to this crisis. Already we were experiencing families being torn apart by deportation and mothers separated from their children. So we unanimously decided that we had to become a Sanctuary Church. Since our declaration of becoming a Sanctuary Church, we have received support from the diocese and individuals and faith communities around the state.

We believe Sanctuary has biblical roots and we have mandate to proclaim justice for all people, regardless of race, creed, or color.

We work closely with the Immigrant Law Center based in St. Paul. We established a steering committee made up of immigrants and community leaders and the church sponsors programs, workshops, and listening sessions related to topics which affect the community. As a Catholic Faith Community whose foundation is the Eucharist, we have an obligation to live out the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching, living out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

St. Mary’s Parish prays for comprehensive immigration reform and for the end of this reign of terror, where families will no longer hide in the shadows, where families will no longer be separated or children taken from their parents because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or who they call God.

Our prayer is as a Nation, as a Church, as a People, that one day all may be one.


Father Jim F. Callahan is Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Worthington, MN.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Sister Kathy Flynn: Don’t Assume the Poor and Hungry Aren’t Working

Don’t Assume the Poor and Hungry Aren’t Working

Sister Kathy Flynn
August 19, 2018

I’m a native Iowan and a Catholic Dominican Sister. I minister at Opening Doors, a program in Dubuque that welcomes women who experience homelessness and who seek our help as they rebuild their lives.

We work with them to find employment, pursue educational goals, and develop other life skills.

The women I work with can’t become self-sufficient if access to food is taken away from them and their children. That is why I am urging U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst to reject the House version of the Farm Bill, which cuts access to nutritional food.

In September 2018, the Farm Bill, which funds Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), expires and will need to be reauthorized. Both the House and Senate have created new versions of the Farm Bill, and now they have to reconcile them.

While the partisan House bill hurts families by cutting SNAP, the bipartisan Senate bill keeps SNAP safe and ensures that the women I work with will be able to eat and feed their children.

Sen. Ernst was appointed as one of a small number of Senate conferees on the bill, and she has the power and responsibility to make sure the Senate provisions in the nutrition title are upheld.

I see the “on-the-ground” ramifications of our food policies every day. I see women who desperately want to provide nourishing, healthy meals to their children but often can’t, due to limited resources or other barriers.

I see women without transportation or child care walking a mile to a grocery store and back, or taking an hour-long bus trip with children in tow. Being poor and without resources is simply exhausting!

It is a myth that people in poverty do not work. The vast majority of women who move through transitional housing live at or below the federal poverty threshold and are working — sometimes at two jobs while raising children — consistently trying to overcome barriers that are invisible to many of us.

Low unemployment rates mask the reality that most of the jobs available are low-wage and unpredictable. More than two in five Iowa households receiving SNAP include children. Options for child care and transportation are limited at best. Healing from trauma takes a lot of energy.

Sen. Ernst said the Senate Farm Bill lacked harsh work requirements and “missed an opportunity to help able-bodied SNAP recipients rise up out of poverty.”

Senator, you are wrong.

Most SNAP recipients who can work, already do work. In Iowa, 84 percent of SNAP families have at least one working member. If the 2018 Farm Bill makes it harder for people to eat, it certainly isn’t providing opportunities.

Expanding work requirements and adding unnecessary burdens to access nutrition assistance means more discouraging red tape for millions of Americans already struggling to get by. Insecurity and hardship takes a toll.

These are some of the most resilient people I have been blessed to know, but they deserve help to not go hungry.

The Dominicans are a mendicant order, meaning that for over 800 years we’ve begged — particularly when a just cause is at stake. And so I’m begging Sen. Ernst for a Farm Bill that does not make hunger and poverty worse in this country. Please look to the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill as the right path forward.

The author is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wis., who is an education/employment case manager at Opening Doors in Dubuque, which ministers to women experiencing homelessness.


Sister Kathy Flynn’s Op-Ed was originally published in the Telegraph Herald. View the original here.