Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

A good Catholic meddles in politics -- Pope Francishe best of hiself, so that those who

Catholics Speak Out for Democracy and Our Freedoms

Add your name to this important statement from Faith in Public Life, the Sisters of Mercy, the National Black Sisters’ Conference, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Franciscan Action Network, and Catholic scholars and leaders across the country.

Catholics Speak Out for Democracy and Our Freedoms

As Catholic social justice leaders, sisters, clergy, theologians and Catholic university presidents, we are compelled to speak out at a time when democracy and the future of our nation’s freedoms are threatened by powerful interests.

White Christian nationalism —  an ideology heretical to authentic faith — represents a clear and present danger to building a multi-faith, multiracial democracy. Testimony and evidence from Congressional hearings on the violent insurrection against our country last January 6th have only strengthened our urgency to confront attacks against the principle that voters choose our leaders in free and peaceful elections.

We are increasingly alarmed by the signs of the times. Threats of political violence and dehumanizing rhetoric toward elected officials have increased in recent years.The Supreme Court, which in 2013 dismantled key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act, will in its upcoming term hear a case that experts warn could empower gerrymandered partisan legislatures to override the will of the voters in the 2024 elections. Lawmakers in states across the country have passed dozens of laws, many based on completely false political premises, specifically designed to make voting more difficult. These laws disproportionately impact Black and Brown citizens — a shameful echo of our country’s ugly history of racial discrimination.

Catholics must not be silent in the face of growing threats to voters, fair elections and democratic principles.

Our faith tradition teaches that every person deserves equal access to participate fully in our democracy. Pope Francis has said that “democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all.” The Second Vatican Council declared in Gaudium et Spes: “It is in full accord with human nature that juridical political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders.”

Powerful institutions and political leaders are working to rig the system and erect racially discriminatory obstacles to voting and full participation in American life. Voter suppression is a sin and silence is complicity. The struggle to ensure our government represents and serves all regardless of color, class or creed is a defining moral challenge of our time. We urge our elected officials in Congress and in state legislatures, especially our fellow Catholics, to support legislation that protects and strengthens the freedom to vote without barriers or interference.

Democracies are fragile. In recent years, this timeless truth has been shown in stark ways as demagogues and nationalists in the United States and around the world have attacked the very existence of pluralistic societies. It’s now time for a renewed commitment to the common good that makes full, equal participation in political life a moral priority.

To Die to White Supremacy - End Racism

Be Alive In Christ To Die To White Supremacy

White Christians Need To Recognize the Ingrained Racism That Keeps Them From Seeing God in Everyone

Spirited Sisters

September 13, 2022

When confronted with racist or nativist violence or policies, many white Americans respond with the assertion “This is not who we are!” Others claim that calling out white supremacy is an indictment of the very foundation of the United States. And this second group is actually right, though not in the way they intend. White supremacy is indeed the foundation of our nation, and it continues to show up in the attitudes of people as well as the policies and structures on which our society is built.

NETWORK Lobby Hosted a Discussion on White Supremacy and American Christianity with Father Massengale, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Chatelain“White supremacy is the non-rational, instinctual, visceral conviction that this country – its public spaces, its political institutions, its cultural heritage – that these belong to white people in a way that they do not and should not belong to others,” says Father Bryan Massingale of Fordham University. NETWORK’s April 9 conversation with Father Massingale, Dr. Robert P. Jones, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain laid bare that this is precisely who we are – and especially who white American Christians are.

Faced with the stark data from Jones’ research as founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), that just sitting in the pews (in a white congregation) increases your chances of holding racist views, what are Christians – and especially white Christians – to do? According to Jones, “The biggest problem is that white people think they have nothing at stake in this conversation.”

In other words, racism harms all of us. As an organizer, I talk about self-interest regularly, because self-interest can be a fruitful place for people to work together for a shared good. And in this case, that shared good is economic opportunity and a basic standard of living. My grandparents got it as beneficiaries of the GI Bill. Their wealth paid for much of my college (with significant tax benefits that are not granted to those who have to take out student loans).

But as soon as public goods started to open up to people of color, elite white people rebelled and began convincing poor and middle-class white people to choose their racial interests over their class interests – to ensure that Black people didn’t get access to public goods – and in doing so, to prevent themselves from accessing those same public goods. We need a multi-racial coalition to overturn that and build an economy that works for everyone and not just the ultra-wealthy elite. We can’t do that if we continue as we have been.

But this coalition has hurdles to overcome as, in the words of Father Massingale, “The Gospel of white supremacy is the functional religion of many white Christians and many white Catholics.” Which is to say, “white identity is the primary source of their locus, their commitment, their loyalty.”

This kind of truth-telling is critical if we want to move to real racial reconciliation. Conversion requires knowing we are wrong and acting to make amends. As St. Paul tells the Romans, “We’ve been buried with Jesus.” To be buried with Jesus is to be buried with the brown-skinned Jew in occupied Palestine. But we must be buried with Christ if we have any hope of being “alive to Christ.” We must embrace the death of white supremacy and act to bring about the death of white supremacy so that we can be alive to Beloved Community.

Dr. Marcia Chatelain of Georgetown University asked us if we could imagine a church that was seriously willing to give up power “in order to show that another world is possible.” Father Massingale asked us if we could imagine Jesus in Black and Brown bodies.

Imagination is a spiritual practice, especially when we want to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist. But the kin-dom of God doesn’t yet exist in its entirety, so we must imagine it. We must create and use images of Christ in Black and Brown bodies. Because if we only see God as a white man, then our subconscious will continue to tell us that only white men should be able to rule here “on earth as it is in heaven.”

All of this calls us to act. So what will you do this week?

Name it here: _________________________________

Now go do it.

Emily TeKolste, SP, is a Sister of Providence and NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Coordinator. Her article originally appeared in the Third Quarter 2022 issue of Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine – A Time to Build. Read the entire issue here.

Be a Multi-Issue Voter, a Pope Francis Voter and Improve Our Economy, Reduce Racism, and Safeguard Freedoms

Be a Multi-Issue Voter and Be a Pope Francis Voter. Sign Up to Learn How!

Election Workshops Teach You How to Be a Pope Francis Voter and Transform Politics!

Are you a multi-issue voter who is ready to be a Pope Francis Voter and build toward a multi-racial, inclusive democracy? Not sure what that means, but interested in how you can connect your faith, Catholic Social Justice, and voting? Then “Transform Our Politics! Becoming a Pope Francis Voter,” a virtual three-part election workshop series, is for you!

Each week, you will explore one of NETWORK’s Cornerstones to Build Our Country Anew: Dismantling Systemic Racism, Cultivating Inclusive Community, and Rooting Our Economy in Solidarity. The vision and skills you’ll acquire will help you during this election season and beyond. Download the Build Anew Agenda.

Your vote is your voice! Prepare with NETWORK staff to be a multi-issue Pope Francis Voter and transform our politics! We hope to see you at each 90-minute workshop. Session will be recorded.

Workshop I: Dismantle Systemic Racism

Learn how single-issue voting can be a cover for racism, nationalism, and extremism. Key policies that have begun to dismantle systemic racism in the U.S will be highlighted, and we’ll explore more that needs to happen.

Message training will help you take what you’ve learned into conversation with friends and family. Election season can complicate relationships, and so can talk of dismantling racism. NETWORK staff will model how you can use effective messaging to engage in transformative conversations.

Mon., Sept. 12, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 14, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

Workshop II: Cultivate Inclusive Community

Explore your understanding of ‘inclusive community’ and break open the Catholic case for democracy. Some assert that inclusive communities create division and foster animosity toward people outside of the group.

NETWORK staff will show how inclusive communities are not exclusionary and are the polar opposite of White Christian Nationalism. We will envision how we can be part of creating a multi-racial, inclusive democracy this election season.

Mon., Sept. 19, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 21, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

Workshop III: Root Our Economy in Solidarity

Learn about policies that address the racial wealth and income gap so that everyone has the economic stability needed to thrive. NETWORK staff will help you practice promoting these policies with the people in your life.

Engage in a discussion on the power and benefits of cross-cultural relationships and understanding to build racial solidarity. This must happen to bring NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda into existence so we can build an economy of inclusion that values people and planet over profit. Participants will also learn how storytelling plays a role in transformative conversations.

Mon., Sept. 26, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 28, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

The Theology of Voting: Our Vote is Our Voice

The Theology of Voting: Our Vote is Our Voice

Joan Neal
September 9, 2022

On September 1, President Biden delivered a speech in Philadelphia on the critical state of democracy. He said,” I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after. And now, America must choose to move forward or to move backwards, to build a future or obsess about the past, to be a nation of hope and unity and optimism or a nation of fear, division and of darkness.”

At this crucial time in our country’s history, our faith calls us to join together to defeat those who would withhold the full rights of democracy from some citizens based on race, ethnicity, or other arbitrary distinctions.  We, the people, especially people of faith, must fulfill our moral responsibility to get involved in the public square and not only cast our own votes but also safeguard the franchise for all citizens and help as many people as possible to cast their votes as well.  Our democracy is in a critical state and ‘we the people’ are the only ones who can save it!

Most importantly, as Catholics, when we vote, we must use our prudential judgement and our political power to elect people who will safeguard the right to vote for all citizens.

Our vote is our voice and right now, we have to raise our collective voice and overcome these anti-democracy forces once and for all.  If we fail this time, we might wake up one morning and find we no longer live in a pluralistic democratic society, but an autocracy enforced by the political and financial power of a select group of people who fundamentally do not believe in democracy at all.

As Catholics, it matters that we vote and it matters how we vote.  People of faith are called to use their prudential judgement to choose and critique our political leaders and the laws they pass, so that we build a society where everyone is respected and valued, everyone can exercise agency over their own lives, and everyone can contribute to the common good.

We are called to care not just about our own personal preferences but also about how elections will affect those who are poor or economically disadvantaged, those who need access to quality healthcare and decent housing, those who are immigrants in our midst trying to find a safe harbor and a place for their families to thrive, those who need to earn a fair wage and have decent working conditions, those who are disabled and anyone in need of care, all those who are marginalized in any way. Justice and our faith demand it.

Ultimately, we participate in our democracy not just because we are citizens but because of what we believe about God and each other.  We know from the parable of the Last Judgement that God is not just concerned with the hereafter.  God is concerned with the ‘here and now’.  So, here and now, we must honor the Imago Dei in each of us and use our vote to act in solidarity with our sisters and brothers if we want a democracy that brings life for all.

The Theology of Voting: The Right to Vote is A Sacred Right

The Theology of Voting: The Right to Vote is A Sacred Right

Joan Neal
September 6, 2022

In his opening address to Congress in January 2021, Senator Raphael Warnock from Georgia said, “We believe democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea – that we are all children of God and therefore, we ought all to have a voice in the direction of our country and our destiny within it. Democracy honors the sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us a spark of the divine, to participate in the shaping of our own destiny. The right to vote is a sacred right.”

The right to vote is also foundational to and a hallmark of a functioning democracy. And as people of faith, we believe that voting is not only a civil right, it is a covenant we have with one another and a moral responsibility.

Therefore, a truly pluralistic democracy, requires that every person/every citizen has the right to vote and that right be protected under law. And when that right is denied, when that right is abridged in any way for arbitrary reasons, it is a moral failure that people of faith, people of good will are obliged to confront. Voting and political participation in our democracy is one of the most important ways we can honor every person’s human dignity, enable our vision of justice, and contribute positively to the common good as members of society.

Our Church has a long history of speaking out about our moral obligation to be involved in politics. In their 2004 document: “Catholics in Political Life”  The USCCB said, “Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism, but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require the division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.”

They also say in their 2007 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” (#13).

Multiple Popes have talked about the responsibility of Catholics to participate in the public square. Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est reminds Catholics of the connection between Gospel values and political participation when he says, “Charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as social charity,” (#29)

Pope Francis has said in Evangelii Gaudium, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of (themselves) so that others can govern.” He went on to say, “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good.” (#205). Voting is a concrete way for us to ensure justice and charity prevail in our nation and our Catholic Tradition re-enforces it as a moral obligation.

But being a diverse, participatory democracy isn’t easy. Unfortunately, voter suppression efforts are not new to America. We all know the shameful history of the battle for the right to vote in this country — for African-Americans, Indigenous people, women, and other marginalized groups — which emerged out of decades, even centuries of denying their innate human dignity.

It took 251 years for African-American men to be given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment passed in 1870. 95 years later, America finally became a pluralistic democracy with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that guaranteed the right to vote for all African-Americans; provided the legal means to ensure compliance with the 15th Amendment and to challenge restrictive voting laws and practices designed to deny the free and fair access to the ballot.

Despite those challenges, over time the political power of Black and non-white citizens has grown across the country. Once again the backlash has been swift as many politicians try to prevent their fellow citizens from exercising their right to vote. So, the battle for voting rights continues and has escalated since the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision that struck down the enforcement provisions of the VRA and eliminated the pre-clearance requirement for states to change their election laws.

As a result of that decision, today, more than 20 states have passed restrictive voter laws, gerrymandered districts, made it harder to access the voting booth by closing polling places, especially in communities of color, limiting early voting, placing restrictions on vote-by-mail, requiring stricter voter ID, and by putting people in positions who will enforce these restrictions no matter the infringement upon their fellow citizens’ rights.

All of these actions are designed to discourage and suppress the Black and non-white vote, the votes of young people, poor people and people who do not share the political view of one party. Today, we find ourselves as a country facing the very situation the VRA was designed to end. Once again, the foundational principle of a functioning, participatory democracy is being challenged by those who do not see the image of God in their fellow citizens.

In addition to all that politicians are doing to prevent fellow citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote, many other citizens not targeted by these voter restrictions, have failed to fulfill their own civic, sacred duty to vote. According to the Pew Research Center, only 61% of eligible voters participated in the 2020 Presidential election. Now, clearly there are extenuating circumstances for those who, though citizens, are legally or physically unable to cast their votes, but that means 39% of eligible voters failed to vote. 39% of eligible American citizens failed to have their say in the way our country is governed and who is governing it. They failed to safeguard the common good by casting their vote.

Diane Nash, a charismatic veteran leader of the Civil Rights Movement, in an address at the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice in 1961, said:  “The problems lie not so much in our action as in our inaction… I’m wondering now if we in the United States are really remembering that this must be a government ‘of the people’ and ‘by the people’ as well as ‘for the people’. Are we really appreciating the fact that if you and I do not meet these responsibilities then our government cannot survive as a democracy?”

In her address to the National Call to Action Conference in 2012, she said: “We, the citizens, are the only ones who can change this country. We have to get to work, keep on working and force our elected officials to implement our vision of justice and peace.”

And that is the call to all of us. As citizens and people of faith, we are obligated and indeed today it is urgent, that we exercise our right to vote. Unfounded restrictions on lawful access to the ballot, excessive and undue requirements for citizens to exercise their right to vote and the undergirding white supremacist ideology that fuels these actions are a problem for all citizens, especially those of us who see participatory democracy as a way to honor the image of God in our neighbors.

That is why all of us must speak out and act against these unconstitutional attacks on the right to vote. All Americans, need to wake up now! Our democracy is on the verge of collapse under this unrelenting assault against collective rights by people who only seek their own, unrestricted power, people who do not share the vision of the Beloved Community.

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Michigan Team in Action

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing with NETWORK Lobby

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing

Tools for Advocacy

September 6, 2022

NETWORK has worked for justice in our federal policies since 1972, and the Advocates Team model of uniting justice-seekers around the country has been with us since NETWORK’s inception. Today, NETWORK has more than 100,000 members and supporters across the country with a presence in nearly every congressional district.

This content is excerpted from the newly published NETWORK Advocates Handbook. Download the full handbook or order a copy in the NETWORK store.

Every time you make a phone call, send emails, sign petitions, attend town halls, or participate in lobby visits, your action increases NETWORK’s power on Capitol Hill. NETWORK’s work would not be possible without the commitment and persistence of our Spirit-filled advocates for justice.

NETWORK Advocates Teams

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Monroe Michigan Team Democracy Event - August 2021 If you live in a strategic building state, we invite you to join an existing Advocates Team or work with us to start a new team composed of people united by a shared passion for justice, desire to learn, and commitment to advocacy.

Advocates Teams welcome people with all different levels of experience and backgrounds. Some team members have been involved with NETWORK for decades, while others are new to advocacy.

With support from NETWORK staff and one another, team members grow in their understanding of federal policies that support the common good. They participate in strategies that have a national impact—at a level far beyond individual or uncoordinated efforts. Much of this impact can be attributed to the meaningful relationships team members develop with their Members of Congress and their staff.

Living Out Sister-Spirit

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Living Out Sister Spirit at the Supreme Court in Support of DreamersSince 1972, the NETWORK community has grown far beyond only those who are Catholic Sisters. Whether you are a Catholic Sister or not, everyone can live out Sister-Spirit, the radical, joyful, and inclusive energy that motivated NETWORK’s founding and continues to animate NETWORK’s political ministry today.

We live out Sister-Spirit when we…
  1. Listen with curiosity and humility and are open to learning.
  2. Root our understanding in encounter, not ideology.
  3. Approach situations and people with hope and welcome.
  4. Act out of a grounded spirituality rooted in contemplation and reflection.
  5. Pursue Gospel justice with joy and persistence.
  6. Prioritize the well-being of others, especially those at the margins.
  7. Work collaboratively in community, not “presiding over.”
  8. See everyone as people first, not just roles.
  9. Trust our instincts, are bold, and are willing to do the unpopular.

Celebrate together, use humor, and are feisty.

Centering Racial Justice

Because racism is embedded into our society’s systems and structures, we intentionally prioritize dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in our political systems as well as our economic and social structures. To do this work for racial justice effectively, advocates must engage in ongoing development and learning about racial justice and regular self-reflection. NETWORK resources are available to equip you to do the work of racial and economic justice, organize in solidarity with people of color, and educate yourselves and others in your community about racism.

Encounter-Based Advocacy

Pope Francis often speaks of the importance of creating a “culture of encounter” to bridge divides and Catholic Social Justice instructs advocates to be and act in solidarity with those who are most marginalized by our systems and structures. In other words, the best solutions to problems will not come from the outside but from those who are most directly impacted by the injustices.

Lived experiences are the most important component of the meaning-making that informs our advocacy, therefore, we strive to center the voices of those most directly impacted by the injustices we seek to end.

  • Look first to resources, skills, and perspectives held by impacted communities.
  • Reject a deficit-based approach; instead, recognize the assets already existing in communities.
  • Center peoples telling their own stories and sharing their lived experiences in our advocacy.
  • Involve impacted communities in devising solutions to the challenges they face.
  • Recognize that impact is more important than intent and approach each situation with intentionality and a commitment to recognizing and addressing unintended consequences.
The Power of Organizing

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Working in NeighborhoodsThe goal of organizing is to get other people to join us in working for a more just world. When we grow our community of justice-seekers, we strengthen our power. Organizing tactics include conducting one-on-ones, planning effective meetings and conference calls, canvassing, hosting a house party or site visit, holding town halls, planning a demonstration, organizing a group to contact elected officials, speaking to the media, or spreading your message online.

As we work for justice, how do we continue to learn and grow? Through feedback and reflection. NETWORK staff are available to help you debrief any meeting, event, or campaign so you can continue to improve your organizing skills. Whether it is talking through a challenge you have encountered or exploring training needs, we are here to help.

NETWORK also has a number of organizing workshops, and we are always working to add more. We offer both topic-based and skill-building workshops including:

  • About NETWORK
  • Catholic Social Justice
  • Intro to Faith-Based Advocacy
  • How to Lobby/Prep for Lobby Visit
  • Build Anew Policy Briefing
  • Racial Wealth and Income Gap
  • Human Bar Graph on Income Inequality
  • Town Hall for Tax Justice
  • Transformative Conversations to Bridge Divides
  • Tax Justice for All: Unveiling the Racial Inequity of the U.S. Tax Code

We encourage you, our members, to share your passion for justice by learning a new organizing skill or revisiting ones that you have used in the past, especially as we approach the 2022 midterm elections. This is a critical time to mobilize fellow justice-seekers to vote for candidates who will advance racial equity and economic justice.

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Whether you live in a state with a NETWORK Advocates team or not, we would love to brainstorm ways to multiply the effects of your advocacy with you. Contact the NETWORK staff by emailing info@networklobby.orgWe look forward to talking with you!

This article originally appeared in the Third Quarter 2022 issue of Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine – A Time to Build. Read the entire issue here.

This content is excerpted from the newly published NETWORK Advocates Handbook. Download the full handbook or order a copy in the NETWORK store.

The Theology of Voting: Participation in Democracy as a Christian Value

The Theology of Voting: Participation in Democracy as a Christian Value

Joan Neal
Sept. 2, 2022

Many people would not naturally connect theology — the study of God — with voting.  The two concepts might seem to be in different, if not opposite, realms of reality.  But when we think of theology as our organized system of knowledge and understanding about the nature of the Divine and we think of voting as an area that this knowledge and understanding of the Divine helps us interpret, then it is indeed legitimate to speak of a ‘theology of voting’.  For us as Christians, it’s a little like WWJD – what do we believe Jesus would think and do about voting?

As we explore that question together, let’s begin with a foundational belief. Scripture tells us, and we believe, that we are all created in the image and likeness of God – the Imago Dei.  This is the source of the inherent dignity of every human person and this dignity must be upheld in every aspect of our lives, including our lives as citizens and members of society.  We believe, therefore, that society, government, institutions, all must create the environment where every person can not only live but also thrive.  This means that, as Christians, we must ensure that our civic and political systems serve people and not the other way around.

Together, I want to build on and explore the premise that our faith in God and our belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ call us to view voting as a sacred activity that is informed by our identity as Christians, our belief about Who and What God is, our understanding about God’s love for humanity, and our responsibility to each other as citizens of this country who see the image of God in one another.

However it first must be made clear, that I am not conflating our religious beliefs with our identity as citizens.  That is called Christian nationalism and it is the exact opposite of what I mean about connecting our understanding of God and our secular right to vote.  Christian nationalism is the belief that America as a nation is defined by Christianity and only Christianity holds a privileged position in the public square.  It takes the name of Christ and asserts it as the political agenda for the nation, thereby excluding anyone who is not Christian from national identity.  I am not saying God tells us who we can vote for and who we must not vote for.  That ideology is not Christian at all nor does it serve our responsibilities to our nation.

Rather, I am talking about Christian values and how our formation as people who profess a particular understanding of and faith in God and who follow Jesus Christ Whom we believe is God Incarnate, informs our participation in the public square through the exercise of our right and our responsibility to vote as citizens of the United States.  I am talking about our understanding of what it means to be a person of faith and a citizen of this diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, inter-religious, pluralist country.

Jesus told us what is required of us as Christians living in community with one another: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  When St. Paul talked about the early Christian communities as the ‘body’, he was referring to our identity as a ‘family of faith’ that is to be in community or relationship with one another and to live in a community – that is, people with common interests living in a particular city, state or country.  His implication is that we are both Christian and citizen and these dual identities must inform each other in order to build the kind of environment, the Beloved Community, (what Jesus often called the Kingdom or Reign of God), on earth.  That should be our goal.  Clearly, our form of government and our participation in it, matter.

So, when we look at different forms of government around the world, (autocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, etc.), we see that the choices are few of governing styles that provide that environment.  In fact, history shows us that democracy is the system of government that best affords every person the freedom and dignity to flourish.

And that is because democracy is not only a system of government.  It is also an ideal, a vision for how a society can organize itself to recognize and respect the dignity and freedom of each and every person while also enabling the common good to thrive.

Infrastructure Law Coordinator-Landrieu

The President’s Bridge Builder – Mitch Landrieu

The President’s Bridge Builder

Q&A With Mitch Landrieu

August 16, 2022

Mitch Landrieu, a senior adviser to the president and coordinator of implementation of the infrastructure law

Credit: Wikipedia

A major accomplishment of President Biden’s first year was the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion effort to modernize U.S. roads, bridges, transit, broadband, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

Leading this effort is Mitch Landrieu, a Catholic and former mayor of New Orleans (2010-2018). As mayor, Landrieu performed an infrastructure improvement of sorts when he removed the city’s Confederate statues.

He shared with Connection about his work for the Administration and its importance in rebuilding solidarity in society.

Q: What makes an inherently nuts-and-bolts issue like infrastructure come alive for you?

Mitch Landrieu: Infrastructure can seem like a big word – what it is really is about is building a better America and helping people in their daily lives.

With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity – to rebuild our roads and bridges, so you can get where you need to go, quickly and safely; upgrade our ports and waterways, so you can get what you want quickly and cheaply; and expand access to high-speed internet to all Americans, so where you are from has no bearing on how high you go.

And when we do those things right, we can create millions of good-paying jobs. We can reduce costs for middle-class families. We can fight the greatest challenge of our time: climate change.

Most importantly, we can win the economic competition of the 21st century and shape a brighter future for the generations to come. That is what gets me really excited.

Q: What is the most significant aspect of the work you’ve so far overseen for the Administration?

ML: When President Biden asked me to lead infrastructure implementation, he was clear in his charge: Build a better America without unnecessary bureaucracy and delay while doing what is difficult for the sake of what is right.

And that is what we have done in the past seven months.

We have already pushed $110 billion out the door – money that is going towards cleaning up communities, fighting climate change, creating new and better jobs, a and building a bridge to our future economy. And we have got nearly 5000 projects all across the country – in every state, DC, and Puerto Rico – that are identified or are already underway.

I am also really excited about the work we’re doing to close the digital divide, both in terms of laying new broadband and providing affordable high speed internet for those who cannot afford it.

That’s real results where people live and where it really matters. And we are just getting started.

Q: What role does investing in infrastructure play in recovering a sense of solidarity in our society?

ML: President Biden often says that America can be defined in one word: possibilities.

And that’s what we are proving with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We, as Americans, can do big things again.

And we can work together to get things done.

This once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure is an opportunity to build a bridge – both literal and figurative – to the future. A bridge to a 21st century economy where every American has access to good-paying jobs. A bridge to a resilient nation that can withstand the natural disasters that tear our communities apart. A bridge to an America where no American is forgotten or left-behind – and we are more united than divided.

Bridges connect us – they connect people, communities, and the country – and that is exactly what we are doing with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Q: How does your faith inform how you approach this role?

ML: I am a big believer in the common good and lifting people up. It’s why I am so driven to racial equity work. It’s why I think we have to have a moral movement against poverty.

A Jesuit priest, Fr. Harry Tompson, who served as a mentor to so many in New Orleans, told me to “go where you can do the most good for the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time.”  That has always stuck with me.

I take that with me in my work each and every day.

Q: You removed Confederate statues as mayor of New Orleans. What did that experience teach you about community?

ML: A big part of removing the Confederate statues in New Orleans was about reconciling our past and choosing a better future for ourselves – making straight what had been crooked and making right what was wrong.

Sometimes inequity is right in front of us – like the statues were for me – but we do not see it.  Once you do see it, it is hard to look away.

The other thing that was more basic is that our public spaces belong to all of us. The names of buildings, the statues we erect, the way we remember our history do really matter. Making sure everyone is included is critical.

With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking a large step in the right direction. We are ensuring every community has access to safe and clean drinking water. We are ensuring every community has access to high-speed Internet. And we are ensuring every community is protected from the devastating effects of the climate crisis.

The future of our communities requires righting the past and building for the future. And that is what we will do with President Biden’s once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure.

This article originally appeared in the Third Quarter 2022 issue of Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine – A Time to Build. Read the entire issue here.

Rochester Reparations Vigil | NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Register for the Rochester, NY In-Person Prayer Vigil for Repair and Redress

Racism has been a well-preserved traveler across generations in large part because of government behavior, like: blocked access to the wealth-building opportunities of homeownership, racial bias throughout the criminal legal system, and segregation from “good” schools. Our communities suffer because redress has been denied. We’re glad you can join us!

Want to learn more about New York’s NETWORK Advocates Team, who are volunteer justice-seekers rooted in the community, or about future reparations events and actions? Contact Catherine Gillette, Senior NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Organizer.

Affirming the Black Catholic Voice and Presence in Our Church and Our Country

Affirming the Black Catholic Voice and Presence in Our Church and Our Country

Joan F. Neal
Aug 10, 2022

NETWORK applauds the National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC), National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, National Association of Black Catholic Deacons, and the National Association of Black Catholic Seminarians for a successful four-day gathering and congratulates the newly elected NBSC Board, including Sr. Addie Lorraine Walker, SSND, NBSC’s new President, who received the organization’s Harriet Tubman Award, for being the “Moses for her people.” As she accepted, Sr. Addie Lorraine said she would “only accept the award if those in the banquet hall would accept the responsibility of being Black in a white-dominated American Catholic church.“

The National Black Sisters’ Conference, which was founded in 1968 to serve as the unifying voice and forum for religious Black Sisters, held its Board election as part of the general assembly. The new Board for the 2022 -24 term includes:  President:  Sr. Addie Lorraine Walker, SSND, who has served on the NBSC Board since 2019; Vice President: Sr. Melinda Pellerin, SSJ, who has also served on the NBSC Board since 2019; Secretary: Sr. Nicole Trahan, FMI, who will be serving on the Board for the first time; and Treasurer:  Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, who has held previous Board positions.  The other elected members of the Board include:  Sr. LaKesha Church, CPPS, Sr. Roberta Fulton, SSMN, Sr. Gwynette Proctor, SNDdeN, Sr. Patricia Ralph, SSJ, and Sr. Callista Robinson, OSF.

Sandra Coles-Bell, NBSC Executive Director reported from the gathering, “After a two-year hiatus, 150 attendees and members of four national Black Catholic organizations met for four days of reflection, study, conversation, planning, and prayer on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana with the unifying theme of ‘Come Together Children.’ Participants were reminded of the importance of walking together in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and the relevance of the Black Catholic voice and presence in maintaining the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. The South African principles of UBUNTU and SAWUBONA engaged participants in robust conversations on how to move prayerfully forward as Black men and women with the full force of Catholicism informed by the faith and experiences of Black people in this country.”

National Black Catholic Sisters Receive Inaugural Justice-Seeker AwardEarlier this year, NETWORK awarded the National Black Sisters’ Conference with the inaugural Distinguished Justice-Seeker Award to honor the NBSC’s dedicated and persistent witness for racial justice in the Catholic Church and society. NETWORK looks forward to collaborating with NBSC’s newly elected Board and commends the continued prophetic witness of the National Black Sisters’ Conference.