Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

Walking in Grace: A Reminder of the Grace in Mending the Gaps

Walking in Grace: A Reminder of the Grace in Mending the Gaps

Elisa McCartin
July 9, 2019

In the new photo book Walking in Grace, author Alison Fogg Carlson highlights the stories of former gang members who are transforming their lives at Homeboy Industries. Father Greg Boyle S.J. founded Homeboy Industries thirty years ago, and has dedicated his life to serving the Los Angeles community impacted by gang activity. Father Greg and the Homeboy community unconditionally welcome gang members looking to change their life. To facilitate this process, Homeboy Industries provides services such as tattoo removal, education, workforce development, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and legal assistance. Walking in Grace illustrates the impact of these services with powerful photos by Michael Collopy alongside poems and stories of former gang members who have been touched by Homeboy Industries.

In 2018, Nuns on the Bus had the privilege of touring Homeboy Industries and meeting members of the Homeboy community. At Homeboy, the Sisters witnessed the life-changing transformations that go on every day. They learned that every year 10,000 people turn to Homeboy to redirect their life, making Homeboy Industries the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry program in the world. After the visit, Sister Julie Fertsch, SSJ wrote, “They [Boris, Janet, Christina, Selena, George, and Allison] inspired us with their stories of radical transformation, of the many ways they found “home” at Homeboy Industries.”

One of Fr. Greg Boyle’s quotes in Walking in Grace summarizes how Homeboy works to mend the gaps: “Our locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them. The margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers-that-be erase them. The trickle-down theory doesn’t really work here. The powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the ‘other’ will only be moved to kinship when they observe it. Only when we can see a community where the outcast is valued and appreciated will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.”

At NETWORK, we recognize the importance of connecting with communities in need and addressing the harm years of disinvestment and structural oppression cause. Our 2020 Vision to mend the gap articulates the pressing need to identify and advocate for policies in the areas in our society where people are left behind and forgotten. Collectively, we must seek out ways we can be in solidarity with overlooked communities.

The stories told in Walking in Grace remind us of the truly transformational power of community and kinship. In order to truly mend the gaps in our society, we must eliminate judgement, unease, and insecurity. We must fearlessly pursue justice and inclusion.


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

Faces of our Spirit Filled Network: Beth Ford McNamee

Faces of our Spirit Filled Network: Beth Ford McNamee

Beth Ford McNamee
June 26, 2019

Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.

I am a Campus Minister at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU). I coordinate a weekly community service program of about 300 students who commit to serve weekly with local community partners in Philadelphia and Camden. The program involves relationship-based service and peer-led, faith-based social justice reflection and discussion. I also coordinate a Campus Ministry Associate program at SJU. This program gives recent college graduates a one year paid experience working full-time on our staff to discern ministry as a full-time career. I am also currently a student in the Interdisciplinary Doctor of Education Leadership Ed.D. program at SJU. My spouse Jeremy and I have a four year old son Aaron.

How did you first learn about NETWORK and what inspired you to get involved?

I first learned about NETWORK when I was a graduate student at Washington Theological Union in Washington, DC. I was studying theology there and seeking to live out a faith that does justice as I had encountered in my Jesuit education at Saint Joseph’s University and as a Jesuit Volunteer. I was inspired by all those at NETWORK who were challenging us to examine public policies and their impact on people on the margins. I worked with a few folks at NETWORK in a committee to help plan the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference. In addition, quite a few of our Saint Joseph’s University graduates have worked as NETWORK associates. My imagination was captured by the Nuns on the Bus tours. SJU was proud to host the Nuns on the Bus tour this past October 2018.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

This is such a difficult question to answer! Immigration justice, racial justice, and care of God’s creation are often among my top issues. However, because education has been such a gift in my life, I also focus on education equity and access to higher education.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

I help coordinate campus participation in several local, national, and international justice efforts. Our department coordinates the following student groups: Hawks for Just Employment (campus workers’ rights issues), Hawks for Life (focuses on human dignity and a consistent ethic of life), POWER University (local community organizing around various justice issues), a delegation to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, and Catholic Relief Services, SJU’s Refugee and Immigrant Working Group, and others!

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

Advocacy for social justice issues has expanded my awareness of human need and systemic justice issues. I believe that it is a duty as part of my faith.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice? (if applicable)

I’ve been formed in Ignatian spirituality which is grounded in gratitude, finding God in all things, a relationship with Christ, discernment, co-laboring empowered by the Holy Spirit, and a call to live a faith that does justice (and much more!). My faith is grounded in relationships; all people are members of one human family created in the image and likeness of God; when members of the human family suffer, all suffer, and all are called to work for the full realization of God’s reigning in justice, love, and peace.

Who is your role model?

Dorothy Day.

Is there a quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know him in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship. We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” – Dorothy Day

What social movement has inspired you?

Does Nuns on the Bus count? 🙂

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

In all honesty, it has been balancing commitments as a spouse, mother, minister, and doctoral student while making time for prayer, health, and showing up for prayer, protests, and advocacy opportunities when I am able. I’m also proud of my associates and student leaders who deepened our social justice and advocacy efforts in our programs this year.

What are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?

I am looking forward to working with a mentor to develop a course in faith-based community organizing. I’m also looking forward to this summer for much-needed time for justice-related strategic planning and for sabbath rest.

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Leslye Colvin

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Leslye Colvin

Leslye Colvin
May 3, 2019

Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.

Leslye Colvin with Sr. Simone Campbell at Good Shepherd Services during a 2013 Nuns on the Bus stop in Chamblee, GA.

I am a native and resident of Dothan, AL. In addition to serving on the Boards of NETWORK, I work as the communications coordinator for Gathering for Mission, a project of Catholic Committee of the South. Founded in the 1930s, CCS is a regional network of clergy and laity addressing issues of racial and social injustice. Inspired by Pope Francis, Gathering for Mission provides practicums in dialogue for dioceses across the United States.

How did you first learn about NETWORK and what inspired you to get involved?

After years of social justice ministry in my parish, I was aware of NETWORK when I began working in Justice and Peace Ministries for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2011. It was during this period that I had my first opportunity to meet Sr. Simone Campbell and other women religious as part of NETWORK’s Nun on the Bus tour in 2013. More than a decade earlier, I completed JustFaith through which I gained the vocabulary to speak of what I consider to be the transcendent heart of the Gospel – the Church’s social justice tradition. It was apparent to me that NETWORK was upholding this tradition by acknowledging the dignity of those marginalized by society. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues did not share this perspective. The pushback that I received underscored the urgency of the organization’s work and strengthened my resolve to do more to support it.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Our communities and our lives are diminished by the absence of those exiled to the margins; both are enriched by their presence and voices. Understanding that our nation was established on the flawed and exclusionary concept of white privilege, I am very passionate about the resulting systemic denial of dignity and justice. My experiences as an African-American woman lead me to be an ally for and in solidarity with other people of color, the economically disadvantaged, immigrants and refugees, religious minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

When living in Atlanta, some of my friends rented a small house to begin the ministry of El Refugio, a house providing hospitality and lodging for those visiting men detained at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. El Refugio also coordinates visits with the men who are detained because of their immigration status.  After moving home to care for my mother, I realized that Lumpkin is now only an hour and a half drive as opposed to the two hours plus drive from Atlanta. I am sharing information on the ministry and recruiting volunteers while engaging them on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Journeying to a detention center and visiting a detained man are transformative experiences.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

My world view influences my advocacy. Universally, regardless of culture or faith, there is a desire for dignity. My view was enhanced when, as a graduate student, I resided in a dormitory where more than sixty percent of the residents were from other countries, and many were of other great faith traditions.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice? 

Faith and working for justice are deeply and strongly interwoven. As a Christian embracing the Incarnation, I pause in considering that Jesus lived as a marginalized and economically disadvantaged person in an occupied land. This compels me to question the standards of the society in which I live.

Who is your role model?

As a child – African-American and Catholic – in a majority Christian, yet racially segregated society, I knew early that my race and my faith tradition were obstacles for many. Sister Thea Bowman continues to inspire me to live as God’s child in a complex world.

Is there a quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

“You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  – Micah 6:8

What social movement has inspired you?

I am inspired by the long struggle of resistance to the indignities born of the concept of white supremacy. I am mindful of the people of the First Nations, the Africans who resisted kidnapping, and those of various ethnic backgrounds who survived dehumanizing conditions while in a land that espoused “liberty and justice for all.” Although I was born in Alabama in 1958, I know that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was part of a much larger struggle for liberation and citizenship that continues today.

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

I have had a few monumental accomplishments within the past nine months. The first was to collaborate with six other students from the Living School of the Center for Action and Contemplation to respond to our times by writing Barmen Today: A Contemporary Contemplative Declaration. As of this moment, we have 12,000 signatories including the Living School faculty – Rev. Richard Rohr, Dr. James Finley and Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault.

Another accomplishment was traveling to Rome for the book launch of The Catholic Women Speak Network’s Visions and Vocations to which I submitted “Life, Freedom and Dignity: Reflections of A Black American Catholic.” While in Rome, I had a 40-minute interview on the concept of race with Vatican Radio.

What are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?

I look forward to gathering with 40 other Living School students in a few months for an intensive program guided by Father Richard Rohr.

To Repair Democracy

To Repair Democracy

Stacey Abrams
May 28, 2019

Within the corridors of government – from the highest levels of federal and state leadership to county and city municipal bodies – public servants and community advocates, carrying deeply-held motivations like faith, family, and service, fight relentlessly. Their mission: to ensure that decision-makers enact policies to enrich and protect the lives of those they govern. In my home state of Georgia, advocates continue to wage an impassioned battle for Medicaid expansion, which will cover more than 500,000 Georgians who need healthcare access. They demand a world-class public education from cradle to career to empower Georgia’s children regardless of zip code.  Refusing to accept economic insecurity as a given, they push for economic opportunity to reach every corner of our state’s 159 counties.

But dreams of expanded economic and social prosperity, of policy outcomes that truly lift up people, are built on a foundation of hearing every voice from the people, through free and fair elections in a thriving democracy. Yet, as the 2018 midterm elections proved, particularly in Georgia, from voter registration to ballot access to full confidence that votes cast are counted, our elections are in dire need of repair.

Fixing our broken democracy stands as a foundational prerequisite to progress. Our work to achieve healthcare access, education parity, social and economic justice and more, they each depend the fundamental obligation that undergirds them all—eradicating voter suppression and ensuring that our elections are fair fights.

After acknowledging the result of widespread election irregularities following my race for governor last year, I redoubled my commitment to voting rights and founded Fair Fight Action, calling on my fellow Georgians of all stripes to join me in pursuing a fair and equitable elections system that operates effectively, efficiently and equally.

In this pursuit, our strategy recognizes that the path to progress is both political and legal. Therefore, we filed a voting rights lawsuit in federal court that details how the seamless integration of incompetence and malfeasance through arcane or manipulated laws deprive citizens of their constitutional right to vote. Likewise, we have engaged in local efforts to thwart legislation that would deepen disenfranchisement, and we have participated in a national conversation about the restoration of the Voting Right Act. Our motives are simple: we cannot allow an immoral and unacceptable system of voter suppression to tarnish our elections, as we have unfortunately witnessed in full force after the Voting Rights Act was effectively neutered in 2013.

Voter suppression has ravaged voter registration, ballot access, and ballot counting processes alike. Attacks on third-party registration submissions and databases rife with errors and security concerns, the discriminatory ‘exact match’ policy blocking many registrations from voters of color, and wildly reckless voter roll purges (which once circumscribed the right to vote for a woman who had lived in the same house and voted at the same precinct continuously for over thirty years), serve as infamous examples of suppression executed by top elections officials in Georgia.

Ballot access has fared no better, with our most recent cycle producing myriad instances of absentee ballots that never arrived, regular voters forced to cast provisional ballots, unacceptably long lines, precinct closures, vulnerable or inadequate equipment, disparate treatment based on county lines, and ill-equipped elections staff. And ballot counting processes include absentee ballots never found, provisional ballots never accounted for, and insecure voting machines producing inaccurate, unverifiable tallies, all within districts surgically gerrymandered to drown out the voices of marginalized voters.

Make no mistake, while our fight has taken root in Georgia’s tarnished elections, our nation’s democracy is imperiled. While Georgia has uniquely linked together a dizzying array of voter suppression tactics, examples of voices silenced can be found across the country. Luckily, we can also hear the clarion call of faith from organizations like Nuns on the Bus, who have been warriors against discrimination and disenfranchisement for decades. From the movement in the 1960s that produced the Voting Rights Act, led by faith leaders like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the Georgia churches that have directly joined our ongoing lawsuit as co-plaintiffs, voices of faith are indispensable to framing the moral imperative of free and fair elections that affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person and every voice in our democracy.

Faith undergirds my every step in this work. My parents, retired ministers and civil rights workers, instilled in me and my siblings a deep respect for the right to vote. As we continue to demand full, unfettered voting rights for citizens in Georgia, the cradle of the civil rights movement, I call on NETWORK and its members to join us in our call for the end to voter suppression wherever it may be found. Whether through supporting the Voting Rights Advancement Act in Congress, or advocating for ballot security on the local level, or holding every presidential candidate accountable for putting forth a plan to end this abominable practice, together we can finally establish an electoral system that operates under the consent of the governed, where policies of, by, and for the people, truly flourish. And, in the process, repair democracy itself.


After running for governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams joined Fair Fight Action in 2018. Fair Fight’s mission is to advocate for election reform and engage in voter education and turnout to secure the voting rights of Georgians. Fair Fight brings awareness to the public on election reform, lobbies the state legislature for election reform and engages in targeted voter registration and other voter outreach programs and communications.

***

This story originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Rabbi Kimelman-Block: Mourning Children Who Died at U.S. Border

Mourning Children Who Died at U.S. Border

Rabbi Kimelman-Block
May 28, 2019

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, NETWORK joined faith partners in a prayer vigil for children who have died in the custody of Border Patrol. Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block shared the following remarks: 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel recounted a story of when he was a little child in Europe, he was studying the book of Bereshit, Genesis with his teacher.  They began studying the story of Akedat Yitzhak, the binding of Isaac.  They read about God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his child. They read about the three day journey. They read about Abraham and Isaac carrying the wood to Mount Moriah, of Abramac tying Isaac to the altar, and grasping the knife in his hand.  Little Heschel, as a young boy, began to weep. The teacher reassured him – “No, child — please read the rest of the story — don’t you know? Isaac was spared! An angel comes and rescues him at the last moment!

Heschel responded.  “But the angel came at the very last second!”  What if the angel was delayed and had arrived too late?  That would have been the end of Isaac — and the story of the Jewish people would have ended there on that alter?!”

The teacher responded — “Young boy — don’t you know; an angel cannot be late!”

Heschel then instructed all of us “It may not be possible for an angel to be too late, but is all too possible for a human being, of flesh and blood, to be too late.”

We say this morning, with broken hearts and with tears in our eyes that we were too late.

We were too late for Carlos, 

We were too late for Wilmar, 

We were too late for Jakelin, 

We were too late for Felipe, 

We were too late for Juan.

And we were too late for Claudia Patricia Gómez González, who one year ago today was shot was shot in the head by a Border Patrol agent while seeking safety in the United States. 

May all of their memories be blessings — 

And may we be blessed to see this society finally declare “no more”  and act decisively to stop this cruelty.

Let us declare this morning that all of us, this entire society, must take responsibility for these children’s deaths.  In the words of the grown-up Rabbi Heschel “in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” 

Let us confess the fact, that despite our protests, despite our opposition, despite our support for immigrants, for these children — for Carlos, Wilmar, Jakelin, Felipe, Juan, Claudia — we failed and we were too late.

And let us also resolve that we will not be too late for the next children.

By demanding accountability to those in charge of detention facilities; 

By demanding accountability for ICE and CBP — and demanding that Congress rein them in – by demanding Congress defund hate;

By calling for the resignation of the government officials in charge of implementing immoral and cruel immigration policies.

Let us resolve, not in words or in tears, but in action that we will not be too late.


Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block is the Washington Director​of BEND THE ARC: Jewish Action.

NETWORK Strongly Supports the Equality Act

NETWORK Strongly Supports the Equality Act

Siena Ruggeri
April 26, 2019

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges a yes vote on H.R. 5, the Equality Act. NETWORK is open to all who share our passion. We are proud to raise our voices for our LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues to ensure they live free from discrimination. We know that all people have inherent dignity. No one should tolerate hate or discrimination towards any member of our human family. In our efforts to mend the gaps in our society, we will leave no one behind.

Guided by our Catholic Social Justice values and founded by women religious, we welcome and affirm all LGBTQ+ members of our human community. In the spirit of our founders, our work is guided by relationship and encounter. We have seen the pain, alienation, and violence that our society has inflicted upon members of the LGBTQ+ community. We call upon Congress to end these grave injustices.

We cannot mend the gaps of our society without changing how our nation has permitted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community live in fear of being denied a place to live, losing their job, barred from bathrooms, and refused medical care because of who they are and who they love. We must act for the common good and heal our nation. We must end the unique oppression LGBTQ+ people encounter in their daily lives.

Passing the Equality Act would offer legal protections in every aspect of the lives of members of the LGBTQ+ community. It builds upon existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations, and the use of federal funds. While many aspects of LGBTQ+ equality have been affirmed by the courts, it is important to enshrine LGBTQ+ civil rights protections into law to provide certainty for all people.

As people of faith, we are disturbed by how our beliefs have been used to deny the sacredness and dignity of members of our community. Our scripture tells us that we should walk towards everyone—no exceptions. We are called to radical acceptance and see God in all people. Guided by this prophetic vision of justice, we urge Congress to vote yes on H.R. 5 and pass the Equality Act.

“How to Lobby:” Training the Stone Ridge Sophomore Class

“How to Lobby:” Training the Stone Ridge Sophomore Class

Last week, the Grassroots Mobilization team welcomed the last of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart sophomore class to our office for a “How to Lobby” Presentation before taking them up to Capitol Hill to visit their federal legislators.  Beginning in October, we (Erin Sutherland and Alannah Boyle, Grassroots Mobilization Associates) have had the opportunity to train and accompany the entire sophomore class at Stone Ridge on dozens of lobby visits.

In each visit, we taught the sophomores about the importance of Family Friendly Workplace policies, including paid family medical and sick leave. Right now, there are two great bills going through both the House and Senate: The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1784/S. 840) which guarantees workers the right to earn sick days to care for themselves or a family member, and the FAMILY Act (H.R. 1185/S. 463), which provides workers the opportunity to access paid sick leave.  Through Stone Ridge’s Social Action program, a group of approximately ten sophomores visited the NETWORK office every other week for the past seven months. It is only at the end of this program that we see the magnitude of our reach.

Alannah Boyle, Grassroots Mobilization Associate, presenting to Stone Ridge students.

Erin:

“I had not gone on a lobby visit until I started working at NETWORK. For me, when I had heard of lobbying in the past, the word connoted meeting of special interests, of wealthy people in suits, speaking more eloquently on issues than I could.  However, after going to my first lobby visit in coalition (and with coaching from Sr. Quincy Howard, Government Relations Advocate at NETWORK) this past fall, I realized that the only thing needed for a successful lobby visit and sincere conviction in an issue I cared about. Alannah and I tried to pass on these two important skills to our students by staging mock lobby visits with lots of contingencies (what if we need to meet in the hallway, as is common?  Or if the staffer we meet with tries to change the topic of our visit?) to help make the girls prepared and confident for whatever could come their way.  We also talked with the students about how, as women, the right to paid family and medical leave has or will affect us personally at some point in our lives, between becoming a parent, to needing to take care or a relative, or taking time off in the wake of personal trauma.

“Every few weeks, I was humbled to accompany such eloquent and diligent young women to advocate for such important policies. It made me hopeful to see the next generation already engaged in federal advocacy – years before I was!  It also reinforced my belief that lobbying can and should be accessible to all as a way to engage with our legislators on issues that matter to us.”

Alannah:

“Unlike Erin, I had been on a few lobby visits prior to beginning my work here at NETWORK. The first time I went on a lobby visit was as a college student after attending the Ignatian Family Teach-In when I myself was first trained by a NETWORK staff member on how to lobby, almost five years ago. I vividly remember how excited and equipped I felt after completing my first training and attending my first lobby visit. Realizing now that Erin and I have trained almost 100 high school students, and equipped them with these same skills, has been incredibly rewarding. We all have the ability to lobby and advocate our elected officials on issues that matter to us. As constituents, our Members of Congress work for us. NETWORK’s “How to Lobby” training helps to answer the questions that can make lobbying seem scary.”

Barmen Today: An Act of Divine Obedience

Barmen Today: An Act of Divine Obedience

Leslye Colvin
April 8, 2019

Responding to the signs of the times, people of goodwill have historically raised their voices on behalf of the common good. How the voice is raised – whether literally or figuratively, individually or collectively – is determined by a number of variables including the challenge and the desired outcome. Examples of these efforts include Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund, and Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative. NETWORK, founded by women religious to lobby for social justice at the federal level, is a living model of speaking for the common good. In each instance, the action is inspired by the transcendent truth of human dignity and is viewed as an act of conscience, faith, or divine obedience. Depending on the circumstances, speaking truth may be accompanied by the grave risk of physical harm or death. In spite of the risk, people of goodwill are duty-bound to speak.

Many Americans have observed the recent rise in blatantly hateful physical and verbal attacks against people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community. Knowing that racist and xenophobic rhetoric are attributable to America’s historic and continuing original sin, having it affirmed by those sworn to protect the Constitution of the United States is a direct threat to the common good. Seven students from the Living School of the Center for Action and Contemplation were drawn together by their shared concerns. Entering a discernment period, they agreed with the prophetic words of Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

In 1934 Germany, Bonhoeffer, theologian Karl Barth, and other Christians were greatly disturbed by the rise of Nazism, and the large number of churches who remained silent in light of the contrast between Christ’s teachings and Adolf Hitler’s agenda. These church leaders responded by raising a unitive in the Theological Declaration of Barmen that has since been embraced by a number of Christian traditions. Inspired by this historical document, the Living School students wrote and released Barmen Today: A Contemplative Contemporary Declaration with the full-support of their teachers: Rev. Richard Rohr, Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, and Dr. James Finley.

Known as the Barmen Today circle, the small collaborative group echoes Bonhoeffer by stating, “[B]ecause we want to remain faithful to both the Divine which we seek to understand and the Love which we seek to live, we choose to not be silent. We choose to speak and act.” Issued as an invitation to engage in both contemplative practice and nonviolent resistance, the text of the document speaks to common ideals and today’s challenges. Available in English and Spanish, Barmen Today has received more than 11,000 signatories since its release in August 2018.

One of the signatories is songwriter and recording artist Alana Levondoski who was so touched by Barmen Today that she volunteered her talents to write and record “Divine Obedience,” the document’s theme song. According to Levondoski’s lyrics, “There comes a time for Divine Obedience.” Thousands of others join her and the circle in declaring this to be the time for Barmen Today. Will you?

To read, sign, and share, Barmen Today, visit bit.ly/barmentoday. For information on the Living School, see www.cac.org/living-school/. To learn about Alana Levandoski and her work, visit alanalevandoski.com.

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Joe Sanberg

 

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Joe Sanberg

Joe Sanberg
April 2, 2019

Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.

I am a progressive entrepreneur and investor working to end poverty and ensure that everyone can live with financial security and afford life’s basic needs.

I co-founded Aspiration.com, an online financial institution that allows people to bank, invest, and spend in accordance with their values.

In 2015, I helped convinced California lawmakers that our state needed to pass an Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in America. It is a cash back program that rewards work and provides needed support to predominantly single mothers, people of color, and children growing up in poverty. When they agreed but failed to put any outreach money into the program, I created a non-profit organization called CalEITC4Me to ensure every eligible Californian would get the credit they’ve earned. Over the past three years, our innovative ‘surround-sound’ campaign has helped more than 2 million low-income CA families get over $4 billion in tax refunds.

In 2018, I founded Working Hero Pac a people-powered political organization to support elected leaders and candidates who champion policies that support low-income people. This year, I created a national advocacy organization called Working Hero Action.  Its goal is to elevate poverty in the 2020 presidential election while reaching hundreds of thousands of low-income workers who are not yet claiming the EITC that they’ve earned, leaving billions on the table.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Joe Sanberg at the 2018 Nuns on the Bus: Tax Justice Truth Tour kickoff event

I’m most passionate about the solving the crisis of poverty — poverty of housing; poverty of health care; poverty of education and poverty of freedom from discrimination and prejudice — that afflicts a super-majority of Americans and stymies their ability to live the fullest, most human life as I believe God intends for all of us.

My mission is nothing less than an end to poverty. This country has the tools to do it; what’s missing is the political will. That’s why I’ve been working through Working Hero PAC to support political leaders who share my mission, and Working Hero Action to advocate for policies that will help all Americans afford their basic needs.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

I am the founder of a California-based organization called CalEITC4Me that connects working families to the resources they need to claim their government refund from their EITC. Millions of EITC dollars go unclaimed every year, simply because so many of the people who are eligible and simply don’t know about it, don’t know how to claim it, or don’t earn enough to have to file taxes. For working families experiencing poverty, that amount of money — up to $6,000 — can be life-changing. So our job is to make sure that every family that’s get the money they’ve earned. In the past three years, our campaign has connected more than 2 million California families with more than $4 billion of tax credits, and this year we’ve expanded to Iowa and South Carolina as well. The movement is growing.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

My advocacy for social justice and the impact we’ve been able to create has made me more optimistic about the future, even as I see more and more suffering. My experiences have affirmed my belief that our problems are almost always the consequences of bad choices and failed democracy, where our leaders have strayed from the will of the people. I find hope in that, because that means with better choices and a healthier democracy, we can reverse course and start to solve these problems.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My Jewish belief in the directive of “Tikkun olam” is my source of energy and inspiration every day, and especially on the hard days. Tikkun olam means that we each have a responsibility to do everything we can and make the best use our abilities to repair the world and help others.

Who is your role model?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Is there a quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

From Dr King’s “Unfulfilled Dreams” speech of 3/3/68: “One of the great agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable.  We are commanded to do that.”

What social movement has inspired you?

The Poor People’s Campaign

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

While I don’t want to call it a personal accomplishment, one of the things that I’m most proud of is the fact that our advocacy & activism in California has led to a dramatic expansion of the EITC over the last two years. In 2017, CalEITC4Me led a grassroots organizing campaign that won a massive expansion of the program to include self-reported freelance income—work, done disproportionately by women and people of color. And then last year, in response to our calls, texts, and emails, the legislature expanded eligibility once more to include workers age 18-24 and over age 65, meaning this tax season more working families now qualify for the EITC than ever. Now, as one of the signature proposals of his first term, Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing more than doubling the California EITC to $1 billion. This is an incredible validation of how successful the program has been, and a testament to the work of our community partners.

What are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?

Right now, all my focus is on tax day on April 15. For the next two weeks, Working Hero and CalETIC4Me are going to be doing everything we can to ensure that every eligible family in California, Iowa, and South Carolina files their tax return and receives the cash refunds they’ve earned. Once tax season is over, we’ll turn to our broader mission: advocating for policies to end poverty and help all Americans afford their basic needs, including expanding the EITC and passing policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

Attending the White Privilege Conference

Attending the White Privilege Conference

Alannah Boyle
March 28, 2019

This past week, my colleague Laura Peralta-Schulte and I had the opportunity to travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and represent NETWORK at the 20th annual White Privilege Conference. This conference was founded to examine the ideas of privilege and oppression and create space to work towards building strategies for a more equitable world.

For those of you participating in our Lenten reflection guide, you know that this Lent we are Recommitting to Racial Justice. The past two weeks, the reflections in the guide have been produced from our educational workshop on the racial wealth and income gap. We examine 12 federal policies and reflect on the ways in which each policy worked in order to create and perpetuate the racial wealth gap that exists today. Laura and I facilitated this workshop to over 50 other attendees. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. It is always exciting to spread the good work that NETWORK is doing to new audiences.

This was the second year that NETWORK staff have attended this conference. The presentations we attended ranged on topics from compassion as anti-oppression work, to the intersections of patriarchy and white supremacy, to embodied racial justice. Laura and I attended different presentations each session with the goal of gathering as much information in those four days as possible to bring back to the rest of our NETWORK community.

As I work to put my reactions into words for this blog, my thoughts and feelings after attending this conference, I am realizing the ways in which I am very much still processing the experience and all of the wisdom and expertise that was shared with me as a white person. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference, and the ways in which NETWORK intentionally makes space for the ongoing work of racial justice amongst staff members.