Category Archives: Sister Spirit

Sisters Urge Cardinal Dolan to Rethink Support for President Trump

Sisters Urge Cardinal Dolan to Rethink Support for President Trump

Colleen Ross
May 15, 2020

The Sisters of the Holy Names, U.S.-Ontario Province added their voices to the many Catholic voices rejecting Cardinal Dolan’s praise of President Trump. The Sisters of the Holy Names, along with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-in-the-Woods and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet all authored letters in recent weeks addressing Cardinal Dolan’s statements of support for President Trump. Read about all of the letters in coverage from Global Sisters Report. We applaud these women religious for their prophetic witness and their faithful witness to the Gospel.

Read the Sisters of the Holy Names, U.S.-Ontario Province letter here, or below:

We, the Leadership Team of the Sisters of the Holy Names (SNJM), U.S.-Ontario Province, would like to add our voices to the thousands of others telling Cardinal Dolan how shocked and saddened we were when we heard him publicly praise President Trump in a speech given April 25, 2020:

“I salute his leadership… and praise his leadership and sensitivity to the feelings of the religious community.”

As a community of women religious who for the past 175 years have been educating people based on the values of justice, respect and the teachings of the social encyclicals of the Church, we find it particularly offensive for Cardinal Dolan to raise up as a model for all of us – especially our students – a person whose actions are so contrary to Gospel values and everything we teach. These include:

  • Bullying and making fun of people.
  • Calling people from other countries degrading names.
  • Promoting policies that favor the rich.
  • Lacking a sensitivity to people suffering and in need.
  • Protecting life in the womb but opposing policies that help families with life after birth.

We, as women religious and educators, are confident that when our students list the values they are being taught in our schools and compare them to statements, policies and actions the President expresses and lives by, they will be very puzzled why Cardinal Dolan could consider President Trump an “inspiring leader.”

Certainly meeting and talking to the president of our country is an important, privileged and significant event. We count on “speaking truth to power” as a guiding principle.

As we go forward and live together into these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we pray for wisdom, compassion and integrity in our church and civic leaders as well as strength and healing for the people of our world.

Peace and many blessings,
The Leadership Team of the Sisters of the Holy Names, U.S.-Ontario Province
Sister Mary Breiling SNJM
Sister Maureen Delaney SNJM
Sister Guadalupe Guajardo, SNJM
Sister Margaret Kennedy, SNJM
Sister Mary Rita Rhode, SNJM

Responding to the Need Laid Bare

Responding to the Need Laid Bare

Working to Mend the Gaps in a Time of Crisis

When I testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform at the beginning of February, our world was a very different place than it is today. However, the issues that I spoke of at that time are more urgent than ever. While you can read the details of the testimony in this issue of Connection, the substance boils down to a simple fact: the Trump administration’s attempt to define people out of poverty is a cruel hoax to prop up conservative economic talking points.

In the COVID-19 crisis, we have quickly learned how tattered our safety net is. Now, even Republicans, are beginning to see that we need to care for all of our people in order to protect the common good. COVID-19 is demonstrating that we are all vulnerable. The virus respects neither economic privilege nor zip codes. Some who were previously hostile to the idea of a safety net now see that we are connected and my concern for another is a concern for my family and friends also.

One example of this is the Community Health Centers whose long term funding has been held up in Congress as a “bargaining chip” in the effort to reduce drug costs. Some of these centers, which serve the most vulnerable uninsured people in our country, have had to close their doors because of a lack of funding. Now, they received emergency funding.

We have heard of people who have lost their jobs and have no income and a rent payment due. They are receiving increased unemployment benefits as quickly as states can do it.

We have heard of a farmer who was going to sell some machinery to pay the loan that they took out last year to get through a “hard patch.” Now the loan is due, but there is no market to sell the machinery. There are provisions for cash-strapped farmers as they begin planting season.

The stories go on and on. I find myself often on the point of tears. These tears led me to realize that the response to this crisis in many ways is up to us. Will we continue to use this moment to reclaim the fact that we are based in community and end the unpatriotic lie of individualism? This is our moment. This is our chance. We have Members of Congress listening who never listened before.

We must minister to our people. We need to lift up the stories of solidarity (even though we are socially distancing). The truth is that we are interconnected, as this invisible virus has demonstrated. There are no national boundaries when it comes to our care. There is no Republican virus or Democratic virus. Our legislation needs to reflect this deep truth: We are one body.

This Easter, We Can Start the Healing

This Easter, We Can Start the Healing

Easter is a celebration of the core mystery of the Christian faith that life follows death. In Jesus’s resurrection, love conquered death and showed the bewildered disciples a way forward. The world was changed and the love of God triumphed.

Today, the brokenness of our world has been exposed by the coronavirus. Millions in our nation go without health care or an income that can sustain them in crisis. Our President and his administration are unprepared and often uninterested in helping the most vulnerable. We are sheltered at home, praying the disease will pass us by. It feels too much like a continuation of Good Friday. Our Easter of 2020 seems to be missing. Unless love conquers our current politics of exclusion, how can we be redeemed? Our healthcare workers show us the path forward.

Every front page across the country is showing the generosity and self-sacrifice of our healthcare professionals. Their willingness to be of service to critically ill patients in the midst of this pandemic is heroic. As a Christian, this self-giving mirrors Jesus command: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). This is the story of Good Friday and Easter.

We who are not healthcare professionals can do our part. We are sheltering at home. We are making cloth masks. We are connecting with friends and neighbors while social distancing. When we learn how connected we are, we discover that we have the courage to respond to the needs around us. We can make a difference. This is the best of the human species.

But then I realize that still not everyone in our wealthy nation has access to health care. States have still refused to expand Medicaid coverage for their most vulnerable citizens. Policy makers have consistently kept immigrants – documented and undocumented – from access to health insurance on the exchanges or to care at all. This was all a political calculus on the part of some politicians to make low income people and immigrants the enemy. This is the most catastrophic public health policy that I can imagine. This novel coronavirus is showing the consequence of their political games. It is a threat to all in our nation.

And then the President and his advisers are starting to talk about “opening up the economy.” The President’s approach once again puts the economy over the needs of the people. This is wrong. Pope Francis makes it abundantly clear that we must say NO to an economy that kills. We must say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality. We must say NO to sacrificing our people so that the wealthy may continue to make a profit.

In this week that we Christians call Holy, we must let our faith shine out in this challenging time. We must ensure that all have access to healthcare regardless of income or immigration status. We need to support all who are valiantly trying to do their part to keep others safe. This is indeed what Jesus did in caring for the sick and confronting politicians who challenged his right to heal.

This Easter, we must let our faith shine in our resistance to putting the economy over the needs of the people. We must resist the political messaging that put the economy before the people. We are called to embrace policies and an economy that works for all.

This crisis has shown that politicians can still enact laws to meet the needs of the people. There is a glimmer of hope in that recognition. Many politicians didn’t believe in the social safety net until they themselves began to fall through the cracks and become vulnerable. This moment of awareness got them to vote for assistance to vulnerable families.

Let us continue to use this historic moment of reckoning to let love conquer all. Our nation is certainly broken, but it can be healed. Together we can cast aside the policies of exclusion that leave out our most vulnerable. This Easter, we can’t come out of physical hiding just yet, but we can start the healing with love for one another and advocating policies that reflect that love. Let us all be more like the healthcare professionals. Let us generously care for our neighbors and ensure that all can survive this moment. Let us put people first. Let us be Jesus in this time. Let us love one another. This will be an Easter gift to our nation.

A Faithful Response to “Catholics for Trump”

A Faithful Response to “Catholics for Trump”

After postponing the “Catholics for Trump” rally previously scheduled for March in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Catholics for Trump coalition is now launching online. Despite the current coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s re-election campaign is continuing to try to engage Catholics remotely.

This campaign was planned and is now being executed with the assumption that a large group of Catholics will support President Trump’s re-election campaign. I am in favor of Catholics participating in politics — as Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby, that much is clear. Even the Pope calls on Catholics to participate in politics to promote the common good, saying “A good Catholic meddles in politics.”

But I cannot understand how Catholics, following Pope Francis’s urging to participate in politics, could support our current President and his policies. In fact, I believe that participating in “Catholics for Trump” activities, online or in person, directly contradicts the most essential Catholic beliefs.

Catholics are called to follow the life and teachings of Jesus, who above all else, instructs us to love our neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable and marginalized in their society. The Trump administration has turned its back on that call at almost every turn.

In March, I was relieved to read Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki’s clear announcement that the “Catholics for Trump” rally was not hosted by the Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee were not endorsing or affiliated with the rally. As President Trump’s re-election campaign continues, I urge any Church leaders who find themselves in a similar situation to do the same.

In addition to making it clear that the Church does not endorse or support these events, Catholic leaders should continue to make it clear what “side” we are called to be on in these turbulent times. Jesus did not say to vote Democrat or Republican. Instead, Jesus taught his followers, by his actions, to heal those who were sick and align themselves with those who had the least power. That is the “side” we should be on as Catholics.

For Catholics engaging in politics during this election season, I encourage you to join us at NETWORK in being “Mend the Gaps” voters. We have an election toolkit that includes a fill-out-your-own side by side to compare candidates, an LTE writing kit, and questions to ask a candidate at a town hall, and we’re still adding more resources.

President Trump is running on policies that directly contradict long-held positions of the Catholic Church. His immoral immigration policies throw children in cages. He works to expand the death penalty, he participates in what Pope Francis calls “covert euthanasia” by stripping health care and nutrition assistance from families, and he rolls back policies that protect the Earth. His is not a campaign that Catholics can support, and our faith should not be used as a political tool to reelect an immoral President.


Get involved: Go to NETWORK’s 2020 Election Toolkit.

Restoring the Right to Unionize

Restoring the Right to Unionize

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
February 12, 2020

For nearly a century, the right of workers to unionize for fair pay and working conditions has been a cornerstone of a fair and functional labor market. Established as a way to protect workers from dehumanizing exploitation during the Industrial Revolution, over the decades unions have represented workers in a variety of industries. Unions can ensure that workers are paid fairly, with benefits, and under reasonable working conditions.  Unions give workers a unified voice through collective bargaining, a process of negotiations between employers and employees. When unions are strong, they are able to set wage standards throughout an entire industry. For decades, unions have contributed to a vibrant middle class and have lessened income inequality and narrowed racial and gender wage gaps.

Union membership, however, has been steadily declining. Some estimates show that union membership has decreased by 3 million workers over the past 30 years.  Unfortunately, the decline of unions is not because they are no longer needed but because the fundamental right to unionize has been eroding year after year.  Employers exploit weaknesses in current labor laws to undermine workers’ rights—and face no real consequences for doing so. The result has been stagnant wages, unsafe workplaces, and rising inequality, especially for women and communities of color.

It is time to fully restore the right of our nation’s workers to unionize. Fortunately, the House of Representatives passed a bill last week that ensures that all private sector workers can bargain for just wages and benefits: The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474 and S. 1306).

The PRO Act encourages workers to unionize and collectively bargain, and it introduces vital protections for workers who choose to do so. Even though it is illegal, there are currently no consequences for employers who retaliate against workers attempting to organize in the workplace. The PRO Act would finally hold those employers financially accountable for illegally retaliating against their employees. The PRO Act also gives workers more freedom to organize and reach an initial agreement with their employers. As the Economic Policy Institute explains, the PRO Act overrides “right to work” state laws by requiring all workers who are covered by—and therefore benefit from—a union to contribute “fair-share fees” to support the cost of collective bargaining efforts.

The PRO Act enables workers to more readily organize by streamlining the process for forming a union, ensuring that new unions are able to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement, and holding employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights.

In order to reverse decades of damage done to our nation’s labor laws, we now call on the Senate to pass strong legislation empowering workers to organize and bargain without fear of retaliation. Passing the PRO Act will help rebuild workplace democracy by ensuring every worker has a voice and will even the power imbalance between employers and workers.

Sister Simone’s Testimony on Child Poverty

Sister Simone’s Testimony on Child Poverty

On February 5, 2020, Sister Simone testified in front of the House Oversight Committee Subcommittee on Government Operations about the Trump administration’s harmful proposal to change the poverty line calculation. Read Sister Simone’s written testimony below, and watch the recorded hearing at


This new rule will in all likelihood lead to a poverty measure that further underestimates the material hardship experienced in the U.S., thus exacerbating what is already a dire situation for our children.  It is expensive to be poor and new studies show that it is costing more every year.  Various factors contribute to the dynamic, but inflation has a lot to do with it.  Rich and poor households experience inflation differently.  Research indicates that low-income households experience higher rates of inflation than those with middle or high-incomes.  Inflation inequality refers to this heavier burden of inflation on low-income families due to their lack of options to “shop around” and substitute lower-priced goods.  Low-income households often lack access to a diverse set of retailers due to neighborhood conditions, barriers to transportation, or lack of access to the internet.  This is exactly what people have told us repeatedly in our travels.

Therefore, the current measure of inflation already tends to under-estimates the cost burdens of being poor.  If the OMB adopts the Chained CPI it will exacerbate this invisible squeeze on people living in poverty—and that exacerbation will be compounded over time.  Moreover, the statistics generated by this adjusted measure would effectively mask the reality of U.S. poverty, thus increasing the threshold for accessing needed supports.

The Administration has glossed over the fact that these proposed changes are predicted to preclude millions of struggling families from receiving crucial social safety net benefits. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines are based on the OPM.  Therefore, changing the measure would affect how HHS determines eligibility and benefits for a broad array of crucial federal social safety net programs.  Moreover, children are more likely than any other age group to participate in these means-tested programs. Below are just a few of those key programs proven to benefit children’s health, education and food security and to lift millions of children out of poverty each year. The change to the applied inflation measure would have very real impacts on how many children can access these programs.

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
    SNAP is the first line of defense against child hunger and food insecurity, a persistent problem for 17 percent of children in the United States. It is estimated that 200,000 participants would lose eligibility for SNAP as a result of this rule change.

WIC is an especially important program for ensuring children’s health and wellbeing by supporting pregnant and postpartum women, infants and young children who are at risk of going hungry. The program serves nearly half of all infants born in the U.S. and targets some of the most vulnerable women and children in the country. More than three quarters of WIC’s 7.6 million recipients are children under the age of 5. An estimate 40,000 children and infants could lose access in 10 years under this rule change.

  • Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    Together, these programs provide crucial healthcare to more than one in three children in the United States.  Adjusting the inflation measure as proposed could reduce access for 300,000 children in a decade.
  • Community Health Centers (CHC’s)
    CHC’s provide accessible, lower-cost primary care to roughly 28 million people across the country, nearly a third of whom are children. Applying the proposed changes could reduce the number of patients eligible for service.
Download the full written testimony here.

A Moral Case for Reining in Drug Companies, Lowering Drug Prices

A Moral Case for Reining in Drug Companies, Lowering Drug Prices

The cost of health care should not be a matter of life or death. But for millions of Americans, the cost of prescription medication forces them to ration their treatment or even go without medication entirely. That fact, which is completely at odds with core principles of fairness and health care as a human right, is why I joined more than 7,000 nuns to speak out against the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it’s why I am now calling for Congress to take action to lower drug costs. 

While the ACA has addressed a number of the ways insurance companies reap record profits on the backs of patients, huge pharmaceutical companies continue to control too much of our healthcare system. This goes against our values as Americans — and against Catholic Social Justice. 

Rather than caring for our neighbors, we are seeing the same kind of corporate greed we’ve come to expect from massive health industry companies who routinely pad their profits by putting patients’ lives at risk. This time it’s the giant drug corporations and manufacturers that are making the rules that allow them to set prices as high as the market can bear.  Last year, roughly 28 million Americans saw the costs of their medications rise, while pharmaceutical companies benefited from huge tax breaks and pulled in record profits. 

The numbers are especially stark for Americans with diabetes. Three Pharma giants control the country’s supply of insulin — Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi — and they are using their power to rake in as much profit as possible, no matter the human cost. Each of them charge at least $270 per-vial for insulin, meaning diabetic patients are often paying $800 or more for their monthly supply of medication. To put this in perspective, that’s three times what patients in countries like Pakistan pay. 

I recently learned the story of Nick, a 68-year-old retiree living with Type 2 Diabetes in Bellingham, Washington, who has started traveling to Canada to buy insulin across the border because his copays kept increasing. He told the Catholic Sisters that I work with that his insulin ultimately cost him $500 out of pocket for a two- or three-month supply. In Canada, he can get the same amount of insulin for $40 out of pocket. 

Over the past 10 years, the cost of insulin has tripled despite no changes to the formula itself. It’s no wonder one in four diabetics report rationing their insulin because they can’t afford the exorbitant cost. Meanwhile Eli Lilly, the nation’s largest insulin producer, continues to reap billions of dollars in revenue. In 2018 alone, Eli Lilly brought in $9 billion in revenue from their diabetes medications but paid $0 in federal taxes thanks to the 2017 GOP tax law.

The greed of these corporations — and of the companies making millions off of essential drugs like those that treat cancer and HIV — is a moral crisis, and we need Congress to pass legislation that puts power back in the hands of the people and patients. 

The Lower Drug Costs Now Act (HR-3) is the first step to stopping drug companies’ from prioritizing their bottom line over our health. The legislation will allow Medicare to directly negotiate hundreds of drug prices, extend those prices to people with private insurance, and hold drug corporations accountable for charging U.S. patients many times more than what people in other countries pay for the same medicine. 

Make no mistake: Big Pharma is fighting tooth and nail against this legislation, lobbying hard to stop lawmakers from supporting it. They are even claiming new drug innovation will be negatively impacted by the bill, when the reality is that most drug research and development is funded directly by taxpayer dollars. In fact of the 210 drugs approved by the FDA for use between 2010 and 2016, all were developed with National Institutes of Health (NIH) publicly funded research. Americans are literally dying because they are unable to afford the drugs that their taxes paid to create.

Industry opposition has nothing to do with concern for patients. Companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are against this legislation because it will cut into their record profits. Rather than helping the patients he promised to protect, President Trump is pandering to the corporations and protecting the status quo. 

Trump talks a big game when it comes to lowering drug prices, but he’s dragging his feet now that there’s viable legislation to do just that. If the president really wants to help seniors and the millions of Americans struggling to afford their prescriptions, he should tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to support HR-3. 

As a Catholic, I believe — I know — we are better off when we take care of each other. We are better off when we recognize that there is more than enough to go around if we share. Everyone deserves access to affordable medicine, and legislation like HR-3 is a big step toward ensuring no one is forced to choose between skipping a prescription and putting food on the table.

Our elected leaders have a moral obligation to take bold action to ensure everyone can access the medicines they need. After all, we are a country founded on principles of ‘We the People,’ not ‘We the Corporations.’ It’s time we started acting like it. 

Sister Simone Campbell is executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. NETWORK is a member of the Lower Drug Prices Now coalition. 

Restoring Trust and Faith in Our Democracy

Restoring Trust and Faith in Our Democracy

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
November 5, 2019

We know how quickly a year passes. Today is the first Tuesday of November; we have exactly one year before Election Day 2020 and so much is at stake. The presidency and control of Congress depend on the outcome next November, but the well-being of our democracy itself also hangs in the balance.

Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” Over 70 years later, his assessment still rings true.

Our democracy has never been perfect, but in 2020 we are at a pivotal moment for the democratic ideals of our nation. It is time to affirm that the people elect their government and that every vote counts.  Creating a fairer, more representative democracy should always be the goal.

While our democracy has always been a work in progress, there are key ways that it’s been undermined, particularly in the past 20 years. We are watching as these broken pieces come together, culminating in very real implications for how our government works — or doesn’t — and who benefits. NETWORK and our partners in the faith community are marking this benchmark occasion with a call to Restore the Voters Covenant. Our statement of purpose highlights the moral concerns about the state of our democracy in 2020 and articulates the principles we hold dear.

We at NETWORK are working with the Faithful Democracy coalition, a multifaith collaborative effort.  We are united around these basic democratic principles and are called to draw attention to the ways that our foundational democratic systems are under threat. Our community of congregations and faith-based advocacy organizations are ready to take a faithful and hard look at the state of our democracy. Together we will commemorate this important year by highlighting some of our biggest democratic hurdles and how we can overcome them as faithful individuals, communities and policy makers. Beginning in late November 2019, Faithful Democracy will roll-out bimonthly toolkits, each focusing on a different threat to our democratic systems.  It is time to faithfully repair the voters’ trust in our elections and ensure that our system aligns with our democratic ideals.

Stay tuned for future information about:

  • Protecting the right to vote and equal access to the ballot
  • Ending the corrosive influence of money on our democracy
  • Securing the integrity of our elections systems from foreign interference
  • Ensuring that redistricting and representation is fair and reflective of voters
  • Getting out the vote!

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: