Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

Allison Berkowitz
January 20, 2018

To say 2017 has been transformative for the United States — especially for women — would be an understatement.

January 21st, 2017. Maybe it was because Carrie Fisher had recently died, Star Wars was back in the lime light, or because I needed a spark, but the movies’ themes rang true and deep to me. Before leaving for the Women’s March, an image of Ms. Fisher was seared into my mind: Princess Leia, guns drawn, with the text, “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance.” It stuck with me. When I arrived in D.C., the first protest sign I saw was a quote from Rogue One: “Rebellions are Built on Hope.” I marched proudly all day, hand-in-hand with my feminist husband, reflecting on these themes (a call to duty, class war, fearing for the future, to name a few). We vowed 2017 would be a year of action. A promise kept.

I didn’t realize it, but the march was a major turning point for many (I can’t tell you how many incredible activists I met this year whose efforts were born out of the march). For me, the changes were profound. In 2016, I moved to Maryland so I could attend a prestigious PhD program. I had a background in community organizing and intended to get back to the good fight, but I felt learning research skills would allow me to better speak truth to power. I had good intentions, but more and more of my time was being spent in the resistance. In March, I helped lead a group of social work students from all over the country to the Capitol, where we lobbied our legislators to vote for people-centered laws being considered. In April, I did several teach-ins on how to be a legislative advocate. I got very involved in the fight to protect undocumented immigrants by analyzing and defending proposed laws which sought to protect them, both at the state and federal levels. I also wrote countless op-eds.

Much of May through July was spent working with the grassroots, anti-poverty group, “RESULTS.” The Baltimore chapter’s leader was on maternity leave so I co-led in her stead. I helped keep the group organized, met with legislators, and pleaded to protect the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): an evidence-based method of combatting poverty. We also fought to protect other safety nets, such as Medicaid and SNAP (formerly known as “food stamps”). You see, by August, we knew the tax reform fight was coming and we were trying to sound the alarm.

By the time September rolled around, it became clear I needed to quit the program and enter an uncertain future. Making the decision to leave research was scary, but confirmation came quickly that I’d made the right choice. Within a week, I began working on a US Congressional campaign I’d volunteered for in the past for a single mother, Allison Galbraith, in MD-01. Advocating during the day, campaigning at night, it was hectic but electric. I felt energized by this new sense of purpose. In November I was accepted into a doctoral program which allowed me to continue this work, something a purely research focused program could not offer me. I also found a job as an Adjunct Professor, teaching Advocacy & Social Action to master’s level social workers. Dr. King said you don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step in faith. I felt very lucky steps were continuing to appear beneath my feet.

While my colleagues and I had been beating the “tax reform” drum since August, in December, we went to war. We fought passionately and painstakingly. Much of my time was spent calling, emailing and visiting legislators, writing op-eds, attending town hall meetings, and protesting the unjust bill in D.C. I was in excellent company, routinely storming the Capitol alongside fierce fighters like Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, Ady Barkan, and many other wonderful individuals from around the country. We shared our stories, and many of my friends — including clergy, people in wheelchairs, teenagers, and 80 year olds — participated in nonviolent civil disobedience. They chose to be arrested to bring attention to the “abomination of a bill” as one clergy member put it. Despite our best efforts, as you know, the tax bill passed and Trump signed it into law on December 22nd. We cried that day. But as I’d done on Wednesday — November 8th, 2016 – I encouraged my friends to take the time to weep, and then come back to the fight.

Now here we are. We madly mourn our losses and wildly celebrate our successes, like the special election of Doug Jones or our victories in Virginia. And we plot how to get out of this mess. I am comforted everyday by the myriad of Americans stepping up to run for office. I myself learned last month no Democrat was going to run for an open seat in my district for the Maryland House of Delegates, so I’m doing it, and you can too! For those of you contemplating running, someone gave me this gift, so let me pass it on to you: you ARE qualified, and if you’re waiting for someone to ask, I’m asking you: don’t just march – RUN! For those not interested or able to run for public office, please support those around you. We are better together, and we can turn our country around. To get back to those Star Wars’ metaphors, it’s been an incredible year in the resistance and we’re just getting started. To those struggling in these trying times, take heart, things can be different if we work for it. That said, it’s my great hope to see you in the rebellion!

Allison Berkowitz is a social work doctoral student, an instructor of social action to master’s-level social workers, and an active legislative advocate for several groups and causes. Originally from Florida, she spent three years in Alaska and has settled down in Maryland. Allison believes in people and tries to make the world a little better each day. Find her on Twitter@AllisonForAll

Remembering Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ

Remembering NETWORK Lobbyist Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ

The NETWORK Staff
January 3, 2018

“Catherine is a woman of vision—and is led by a vision of what God desires of us—justice, truth, and a dignified life.” (Ann Curtis, RSM)

“We really cannot measure the value of her service to women religious in the United States and in the world.” (Miriam Therese Larkin, CSJ)

“Catherine knows in her bones how Washington works and whom to talk with to get something accomplished…her leadership is a unique blend of friendship and astute analysis.” (Simone Campbell, SSS)

Former Network Director Sr. Kathy Thornton RSM wrote: “It is perhaps on Capitol Hill that [Catherine] has had the strongest impact, commanding attention with her intelligence and unwavering determination as an advocate for those unduly burdened by the injustices of society. …  Catherine has become a formidable presence in the halls of Congress.

Jean Stokan, policy director of Pax Christi USA:  “When Catherine walks the halls of Congress, she parts waters. Heads turn and useless chatter ceases when she enters a room.”

 (Tributes to Catherine Pinkerton when she received the 2006 LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award )

On December 28, 2017, Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ passed away in Cleveland surrounded by the local CSJ community. Catherine Pinkerton was a sister of St. Joseph for 78 years. She served as the president of both her congregation and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), was involved in other organizations of women religious, and received the LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award in 2006.

As a skilled NETWORK lobbyist for more than 25 years, Catherine traveled the halls of Congress time and time again to speak truth to power. Catherine’s personality and her dedication to working for justice inspired the NETWORK community and earned her the esteem and friendship of political greats. In 2008, Sister Catherine Pinkerton was invited to deliver the benediction at the 2008 Democratic National Convention (watch a video of the benediction).

At Catherine’s wake, Sister Simone Campbell reflected on how Catherine’s perseverance and lobbying for comprehensive healthcare reform during the Clinton administration had prepared the way for the Affordable Care Act. Sister Simone shared how happy Catherine was to see it passed just before she retired in 2010.

When efforts to craft comprehensive healthcare legislation faltered in the 1990s, Sister Catherine Pinkerton became a passionate advocate for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance. CHIP was passed in 1997 and has enjoyed bipartisan support since then. Unfortunately, at this moment CHIP lacks any long term federal funding, and states are beginning to prepare for the inevitable end of their CHIP programs if Congress fails to renew funding as quickly as possible. Right now, sixteen states expect to run out of money for CHIP by the end of January.

In her eulogy for Catherine Pinkerton, Christine Schenk, CSJ, admonished all who were gathered to call their members of Congress to ask for full funding for CHIP and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. As Christine said: “I’m serious—Catherine would come back to haunt me if I didn’t lobby for children on her behalf!”

In honor of Sister Catherine Pinkerton’s life and work, advocate for justice today:

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Child Care for Working Families

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Child Care for Working Families

December 23, 2017

During the fourth week of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children and families are welcomed and cared for, including working families seeking child care.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of the families and children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. This week, we explore the current reality for working families who struggle to balance work and home life due to lack of affordable child care.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

Congress Must Prioritize Affordable Child Care for Families:

Read our legislative update on the Child Care for Working Families Act, a bill which seeks to aid low and middle-class working families with access to affordable child care.

“On September 14, two leading Congressional champions for children —Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA)—introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act (S. 1806/H.R. 3773). The bill would make high-quality child care affordable and accessible to lower- and middle-class families under 150 percent of the state median income level by capping costs at 7 percent of a family’s budget. The bill would focus on preparing 3- and 4-year-old children for kindergarten and make new investments in training child care professionals.

NETWORK supports this bill because our faith teaches us that children are a gift and blessing from God. Working families are stretched beyond their means and struggle to meet day-to-day expenses like housing and utility expenses.”

Read the entire legislative update here.

Policy Basics:

Providing affordable child care to working families is an important step in helping them strike a balance between work life and home life. According to the Center for American Progress, the average cost of child care per year is typically over $10,000. In order for families to provide child care for their children, they often have to sacrifice other necessities, or chose lower-quality child care programs. To combat this, the cost of child care must be lowered, while protecting the quality of the programs. Helping with access to affordable child care will ensure families have meaningful time together and allow children to reach their full potential.

Here are some suggestions from the Center for American Progress for reformed child care standards:

  • Lower child care costs for low-income and middle-class families to 7 percent of income through a sliding scale.
  • Provide flexibility to accommodate complex work schedules by increasing availability of care for nontraditional hours and allowing parents to choose the care of their choice in a center or home.
  • Increase options for parents by addressing child care deserts and bolstering licensed care in underserved communities.
  • Invest in high-quality programs by promoting quality standards and fair compensation and giving providers the resources and the supports to improve.
  • Expand opportunities for school-age children by providing access to after-school care, summer programs, and care for children with disabilities.
  • Improve compensation for child care providers by setting a floor of self-sufficiency and creating parity with K-12 teachers.
  • Create more well-paying care jobs in the care industry by expanding the supply of child care providers and increasing pay.

Read more from the Center for American Progress on child care reform here.

A Prayer for Child Care for Working Families

Loving God,

In this Advent season, as we pray for the children of our nation, we are reminded of the gift of yourself to the world as a child in Bethlehem. As you shower them with your care and protection, continue to show us ways that we too can enhance their early years among us.

Give them loving parents to nurture their growth and show us the ways that we can support those parents by providing high quality child care that will allow all children to reach the fullness of their potential in the years ahead.  Give providers of childcare the patience and love they need to assist our children to grow and develop.

Inspire our leaders to recognize that investing in our children is investing not only in their future, but in the future of our nation.  Lead us to commit the resources necessary to see that all children receive the care they need to flourish and succeed in the years ahead.

Amen.

Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children in Our Healthcare Policies

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children in Our Healthcare Policies

December 18, 2017

During the third week of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children are welcomed and cared for, including children who receive healthcare insurance from the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. This week, we explore the current reality for children who are at risk of losing healthcare insurance because funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has not been renewed.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

The Urgent Need to Renew CHIP

By Lucas Allen

We are now just a week away from celebrating the coming of Jesus, who was born into poverty and vulnerability outside an inn which had no room. But for many families, this season of joyful anticipation is overcome by anxiety about the future of their child’s healthcare. Congress’s failure to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program threatens to leave millions of our nation’s children and families “outside the inn” of our healthcare system right around Christmastime.

For 20 years, CHIP has been a popular, bipartisan program that has brought the rate of children without health insurance down to the lowest level in our country’s history. It provides 8.9 million children and pregnant mothers with low-cost, quality healthcare. Yet Congress’s fixation on partisan attempts to repeal the ACA and giving tax cuts to the wealthy caused this program to fall through the cracks; its funding has now been expired for 79 days. Many states are near exhausting all leftover funds, and families have begun receiving notices that their coverage will be terminated if Congress does not act soon.

As families receive these terrifying notices, members of Congress like Senator Orrin Hatch are saying things like, “the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore.” This week Republicans are rushing to give over $1 trillion in deficit-financed tax cuts to the very wealthiest and to corporations, but as soon as a program for children needs a much smaller funding extension, there’s not enough money and kids are left out in the cold.

This Advent, let us call on our Representatives to prioritize those born into poverty, “outside the inn.” Let us celebrate the one who “came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) by making sure our children have the care they need to flourish.

Resources

News on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and how it affects families:

Anxieties Rise as CHIP Funding Expires 

The CHIP Program Is Beloved. Why Is Its Funding in Danger?

These states are running out of CHIP funding

A Prayer for Families

Lover, loved and love. We call you Trinity. We acknowledge you as source and strength and holiness. We pray for mothers, those who bear life: protect, educate, nourish and defend their children. Strengthen them so they may enable their young to grow strong and true. Inspire fathers to be models of justice and peace to their children. Show your face to children as they take their place in the world and find their calling.

We intercede on behalf of those who care for others’ children. May they show a mother’s love as they help children grow in doing what is right and just. Enlighten our policy makers to understand that families need affordable child care while they work to provide their children’s necessities. Inspire us as a human community to support our values with our resources.

We entrust families to you knowing that they are the foundation of community. Send your angels to guard families from threats to their safety and unity. Make their way straight and smooth. Remove what blinds them to see that without you as the hub of their wheel they will waver on life’s journey. We place our trust in you.

Amen.

Written by Sister Carren Herring, HSM

I Can See God and Justice Because of the Open Internet

I Can See God and Justice Because of the Open Internet

Cheryl Leanza
December 11, 2017

 “I can’t stand with you and join you in your struggle if I haven’t heard your story. “
— Rabbi Sharon Brous

Some of the most influential people in my life are people I’ve never met—or met only once.  I’m a white, cis-gendered, middle class, almost-50, married mother of two with a passion for justice and an ever-expanding appreciation of the beauty of God in the world and of the amazing people who have walked before me on a path of faith-inspired justice.  I can do this work, in part, because I’ve listened, over and over again, to narratives and videos that bring tears to my face from folks who I visit on the Internet but whose stories I otherwise would have missed.

I can learn about justice every day because people who would not be given the time of day by a media conglomerate can bear their souls, share their gifts, and invent new and more creative ways to speak to my heart on the Internet.

I remember listening to Cayden Mak, now Executive Director of 18 Million rising, speaking in 2014 about how the Internet literally saved his life. “Have you ever been young and queer and brown in the great American suburb?”  I haven’t.  But I can share, just a little bit, his story and bring it into my understanding of the world.

Evan Dolive, father and pastor in Texas, who wrote a book stemming from his outrage thinking about Victoria’s Secret marketing sexy underwear to middle schoolers.  We spoke once, a few years back, but I get his blogs every week online and while he lives so far away, the perspectives we share are clear to me over the Internet.

Rev. Ashely Harness and Rev. Lawrence Richardson, both who publish at the Salt Collective—maybe we crossed paths once in person in Cleveland at the United Church of Christ headquarters.  But from then on, I’ve been such a fan, following on Twitter and Facebook, taking in everything from tips on how to write an op-ed rooted in justice and faith, to cheering on Lawrence’s efforts to help care for his precious nephews.  A glimpse of the divine in each of them—on the Internet.

And my great Faithful Internet co-founder Valarie Kaur, who, drawing on her journey as a Sikh activist, made the most beautiful speech in New York this New Year’s, alongside Rev. William Barber.

She told me and a few million others—over the Internet—that the darkness of right now is the darkness of the womb, not the darkness of the tomb.  When times seem darkest, replaying that video can get you through.  She’ll tell you that her new Revolutionary Love project would not be possible without the open Internet.

All these stories are part of the work we do to build a more just world.  The Internet is part of the basic building blocks of our work—just like the road outside the front door which takes us to a community meeting, spirit-lifting worship, or to our neighbor’s house to bring chicken soup in the dead of winter.

I’ve been working in media justice for more than 20 years, and critical analysis of media has always come down to this (to mangle Marshall McLuhan):  whoever owns the medium controls the message.  Open Internet policies, protected by net neutrality, mean that whoever owns the medium cannot control the message.  An ISP cannot charge more for video to flow without buffering—if it’s good enough for NBC, it’s good enough for all of us.

This December people all over the country are taking action to speak out for real Net Neutrality. President Trump’s communications regulator has scheduled a vote for December 14 to repeal Net Neutrality. We must #StopTheFCC before then. Over 750,000 people have called Congress. People are protesting at over 600 locations. Organizations with web sites will #BreaktheInternet on December 12. And on December 14, I’ll join a Wake Up Call Rally in Washington DC. We’re all proclaiming the need to protect the fundamental structure of the Internet — which has been with us from the beginning, but is under threat today.

If you can do only 1 thing to help: Join the over 750,000 people who have called Congress.

Congress can slow down the FCC vote or even force it to abandon the vote altogether. Key lawmakers sympathetic to the cause are considering stepping in to do just that — a few have spoken out already.

The faith community understands the power of story. The Faithful Internet campaign is working to bring that voice to the policy-makers at the Federal Communications Commission who are threatening to turn the Internet over to network owners. Visit FaithfulInternet.org where you can learn more and see testimonials from Rev. Otis Moss III, Linda Sarsour, Sister Simone Campbell and Rev. William Barber to name just a few.

The work of healing the world is taking place on the Internet. And that work should not have to bear an additional burden of languishing in an Internet slow lane, waiting until someone pays an additional toll to release it, full force, into the world.

Cheryl A. Leanza serves as policy advisor to the United Church of Christ’s historic media advocacy ministry, UCC OC Inc., www.uccmediajustice.org, advocating for media and communications policies that empower people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and all historically disenfranchised people. She is the co-creator of the UCC’s Faithful Internet net neutrality campaign and has lead successful public policy campaigns on low power community radio and ending predatory prison phone rates. The UCC’s workshops on media literacy and online hate speech have helped youth and adults to see media portrayals with new eyes, recognizing the inherent divinity of all people.
This blog was originally published at The Salt Collective.

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Dreamers in our Immigration Policy

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Dreamers in our Immigration Policy

December 11, 2017

As we enter into the second week of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children are welcomed and cared for, including immigrant children and families.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. This week, we explore the current reality for DACA-recipients who are facing enormous uncertainty during this Advent season.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

Personal Reflection from a Dreamer

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects young immigrants brought to the United States as children, runs out in less than three months. Now, more than ever, the security of Dreamers is at risk and we need a legislative solution from Congress. Dreamers are raising their voices to express their concerns and to vocalize the pain and suffering they have experienced. Heyra Avila, a Dreamer who lives in northern Kentucky, shares her experience as a Dreamer in our latest blog post, Dreamer’s Survival Fight.

“We all essentially live life day to day, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We wake up, exist, and survive. Those are all blessings that get taken for granted too often and too easily. Surviving looks different for each individual. For me, surviving means fighting. My parents and I fought for survival and to break through poverty when we decided to cross the border without the proper documentation. We risked everything we had in search of a better life.

Fast forward to today: survival means justifying my humanity and worth as an “alien”, trying to fit into a foreign land I have called home my whole life. I’m surviving to fight and fighting to survive and not to just simply exist but also to thrive. The uncertainties of my tomorrows are plagued by anxiety, but also by very real possibilities of tragedies.” – Heyra Avila

Read the full reflection in NETWORK’s Emerging Justice Seeker blog

Resources

Discussion Guide for Talking about the Dream Act

Congress still hasn’t passed the Dream Act. It is time to engage in conversation! Check out Emerson Collective’s discussion guide on how to talk about the Dream Act with your family and friends this holiday here.

News

Read news on DACA, the Dream Act and Dreamers here:

The fight for the Dream Act is reaching its peak – but time is running out

‘This is the moment’: Dreamers face make-or-break push on immigration fight with Trump

Mother of three Dreamers holds fast on Hill for passage of DREAM Act

Thousands of immigrants are losing their DACA protections already

A Prayer for Immigrants, Dreamers and DACA

God of light and life,

We pray in great hope during this darkest time of the year that you shine your light on those living in the shadow of darkness, especially those who are undocumented with no path to permanent resident status or citizenship.

To those who say, “Throw them out. Keep them out.” we pray that you drive out their fear and change their hearts to be welcoming and inclusive. Enlighten our minds and hearts to welcome you in the “stranger” who is seeking  posada (shelter)  and knocking at our door.

We pray that members of Congress have the courage to pass a clean Dream Act to allow our immigrant brothers and sisters to reach their full potential. Open the doors of our hearts and minds to bring about compassionate immigration laws that will allow for the fullness of life and belonging.

May we bless all families and help us realize that every family is holy.

In this season of Advent and in the spirit of the prophet Micah 6:9, may we strive to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

Amen.

Written by Sister Bernadine Karge, OP

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children and Families in our Tax Policy

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children and Families in our Tax Policy

December 4, 2017

As we begin the season of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children are welcomed and cared for.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. Throughout the weeks of Advent, NETWORK will explore the current policy situation of: the Dream Act, the Child Tax Credit, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and child care for working families. We will share a combination of reflections, prayers, and current news that will help us gain insight into how these policies impact children and their families. We hope you will join us on this journey during Advent while we prepare for the coming of the child Jesus!

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

Policy Basics: The Child Tax Credit

  1. The Child Tax Credit is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in our nation. In 2016, it lifted approximately 2.7 million people out of poverty, including about 1.5 million children, and lessened poverty for another 12.3 million people, including 6.1 million children.
  2. The Child Tax Credit was created in 1997, and historically has had bipartisan support in Congress and from the White House.
  3. The Child Tax Credit includes a refundable component; if the value of the credit exceeds the amount of federal income tax a family owes, the family may receive part or all of the difference in the form of a refund check.  Therefore, many working families can benefit from the credit even if their incomes are so low that they owe little or no federal income tax in a given year.
  4. Research has found that boosting working families’ incomes, as the Child Tax Credit does, can expand opportunities for children, leading to better health, improved school performance, and eventually higher earnings in adulthood.

Source: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

A Prayer to Support Children and Families

Dear Jesus,

Advent calls us to be alert to signs of a pending encounter with You.  When that glorious encounter occurs, may we be prepared to respond rightly.

Working together, we encountered You in vulnerable parents and children, and we provided for them.  Would that you might always meet us doing right, being mindful of You in our ways. (Isaiah 64:4)

It is not right for our policies to reward the wealthy while failing to extend the same support to struggling families. We cry out to You from the wilderness of disparate opportunity and pray that political leaders encounter You as they allocate hope to mothers and children. And would that You meet them doing right, being mindful of You in their ways. 

Clearly, proposals to prioritize some families over others based on immigration status affronts Your ways and must be opposed.  Encounter us, dear Jesus, as we struggle to hold leaders accountable to justice for all persons in our country. And would that You meet us doing right, being mindful of You in our ways.

Encounter us, oh Lord, encounter us!  And would that You meet us doing right, being mindful of You in our ways!

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

Written by Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy, D.C.

Being a Woman of Color in the Trump Era

Being a Woman of Color in the Trump Era

LaTreviette Matthews
November 8, 2017

Historically our country has viewed women and people of color –especially those on the low end of the socio-economic scale– as second-class citizens.  Never before, however, had I experienced so many emotions for just being me than I did after the 2016 election. The first thing I felt was a tremendous amount of fear. After the election, there seemed to be a rise in hate crimes and attacks on unarmed men and women of color. I did not want to leave my house. Subsequently the fear left me and I turned to anger. I felt angry that after having an African American president for two terms, now in the year 2017, people of color were still being treated like they are less deserving of being in this country than everyone else. I felt the pain of my ancestors and was ready for war against white supremacy and white privilege.

When fighting for the right to self-determination, people of color have endured pain and resistance. I did not want to do things the old fashion way by engaging in non-violent protests, boycotts, demonstrations, and marches. I vacillated between fight and flight, all the while determined to protect myself and my family at all costs. My emotions were beginning to change again. I was in limbo. I was still angry but now angry with a purpose. I wanted to do something. For centuries people of color have tried many forms of fighting back against racism and injustice. I wanted to do something that was going to make a difference. This presidential election was the catalyst for my ferocity. Uncertain of my future and armed with a fierce determination, I sought community support.

Before last year, I did not consider myself a political person. I did vote in the last five presidential elections; I felt it was important for my vote to be counted. However, for presidential elections held before then, I was uninterested in social political activism and did not understand the importance of having my voice heard through voting. Although I was aware that people fought very hard in this country for African Americans to vote, it did not dawn on me that my voice would make a difference today. Growing up as a young woman of color, I did not have someone like Sister Simone at my high school or college to discuss my political views, encourage me to go to a protest, or show me how joining a political group could make a difference. I thought the political stuff was best left up to the adults.

I believe everything happens for a reason. I am convinced that this backlash against Obama’s presidency happened in order to shake things up and to awaken people to the injustices happening in this country; injustices that have gone on for far too long. Aside from racism, sexual harassment and assault, just to name a few, are issues that have impacted me the most following the 2016 election. Over the past five years working at NETWORK, I have become more political in my views, more involved, and more “WOKE.”  As a woman of faith, I know that life and death are in the power of the tongue. As a woman of color, I know the double standard that comes with freedom of speech.

Today, social media and “fake news” seem to have surpassed the reach of traditional media. In spite of its limitations, social media has become a platform for getting voices heard. To that end, I commit to using my platforms to hold people accountable for their actions. I have joined racial justice groups and forums in hopes to educate myself and others about racism and the challenges that people of color face in the United States. Today I am more hopeful and more connected. Women of all races are rising up and raising their voices. This makes me proud to be a woman of color in the fight for racial justice and social justice.

A Budget Is a Moral Document

A Budget Is a Moral Document

Sister Kathleen Kanet
October 26, 2017

When you are frustrated and in pain over the political direction of your country, what do you do? The source of much of my anguish was over our 2018 Federal Budget.

To me a budget is a moral document. What I saw in this proposed budget were more benefits for the rich and fewer for the poor. I kept thinking and praying about how to reverse the situation. Who in the world has the moral authority to speak out on behalf of the poor? Why, of course, the nuns, the sisters in our country who could write letters to the author of that selfish document!

Here is a bit of the story of a project which I have begun: a call for American sisters and nuns to write letters to Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the main author and advocate of this very harsh budget.

Since the beginning of our country, U.S. sisters have been on the side of the poor and have worked toward the common good. We have many stories to tell which could encourage our political leaders to change our present policies. Who better than American sisters to help articulate what a faithful and just budget, inclusive for all, would be?

Many of us in religious life grew up with Vatican II. I am grateful that my congregation helped me to interiorize and to live out the mission of Jesus as he announced it: To bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free! And to do so in joy!

This is the basis of my hope that this fall, many hundreds or even thousands of American sisters will be writing personal letters to a fellow Catholic, Paul Ryan. In our letters we will be sharing our stories about the needs of those we encounter in our ministries, and we will ask him to craft a budget that promotes the human dignity of all peoples.

It is lamentable that care for people who are poor, ill or elderly, for children, single mothers, and our beloved Earth is woefully missing in the proposed 2018 federal budget. Ironically, though, it calls for tax cuts for corporations and the rich and boosts a big military buildup. This letter-writing campaign is a great opportunity to “announce good news to the poor” and to promote the common good for all.

NETWORK , (founded by a group of Catholic women religious in 1971 to do Catholic social justice lobbying) has a proven track record of effective lobbying on economic issues. In the famous Nuns On the Bus effort of 2012, they traveled the country to draw attention to sisters’ work with the poor and to protest aid cuts on that year’s federal budget proposed by Paul Ryan.

This year, NETWORK was to introduce this campaign at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) meeting in August. Soon after, NETWORK should be following up with an invitation to all the sisters in the United States, to participate in a letter-writing campaign. They will coordinate the reception of the letters and will present them to Paul Ryan — with visits to other members of Congress — late in 2017.

Writing personal letters to Paul Ryan about the federal budget, and telling him and other lawmakers how that budget, as designed, will hurt many of the people we have worked with, are sorely needed prophetic actions.

It won’t be as easy as signing a letter or petition, or sending an email or making a phone call. It will take time, thought and commitment.

Currently, I am working with about two dozen of my own sisters of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary to think about the letters we will be writing. We have had two meetings and more are planned for the coming few months. At the first meeting, 17 of us sat in a circle, listened to the invitation to this project, prayed quietly and then went around the circle sharing thoughts and comments. I heard “Great idea!” “Something concrete we can do!” “It is prophetic!” “Positive initiative.” As I listened to those initial comments, I was so encouraged.

In the past few months I have spoken with more than 100 sisters and others regarding this idea. Since I have been working in peace and justice initiatives for almost all my religious life, these conversations have been joyful reunions for me.

One of my first encounters was with a sister at LCWR. As I introduced myself to her, I mentioned that I was part of the Justice Peace Education Council, which in the 1980s presented hundreds of “Infusion Curriculum” workshops in Catholic schools in more than 50 dioceses throughout the country. Immediately she said, “Oh, I attended one and I remember it so well — it was so positive.” (The records of JPEC have been placed in the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, but are not yet available.)

I’m also encouraged to hear about the about the wonderful works of sisters already engaged in trying to promote the common good and change the moral imperative in our country. The founding director of NETWORK is still working for Earth justice at her motherhouse. One younger sister sends regular positive tweets to President Trump, modeling comments of love, healing, peace, goodness and relationship. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the support and participation of all the sisters in the US?

Many of us are now beginning to wonder — in addition to the letters, how can we share this prophetic action with others in our country? Besides writing the letters and encouraging other sisters to get involved, how can we publicize this action to our family, friends and the public? How can we communicate our excitement at the possibility of filling the U.S. media with a new social vision?

There now exists a Facebook page: “A Fair and Moral Budget: Nuns Write Letters to Paul Ryan.” Join it and ask others on Facebook to do the same. Send us something to put on this page. Contact your communications people and ask them to be involved.

Hold a workshop writing meeting with your retired (but active) sisters.

When you write your letter, share it with others.

As do so many other powerful actions, this is beginning as a grassroots initiative — and now it is in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

We ask for your prayers from all over the globe for the success of this venture!

Reposted by permission of Global Sisters Report.

Dear Paul Ryan: An Open Letter

Dear Paul Ryan: An Open Letter

By Sister Susan Francois
October 20, 2017

Dear Rep. Ryan,

By now, you may have noticed that you are the focus of a little project by Catholic sisters in this country who are concerned about the devastating effects of proposed cuts to the federal budget. In particular, many of us are seriously worried about potential cuts to human-needs programs that will harm the most vulnerable members of our society.

I know you already received an in-person, not to mention televised, message from Sinsinawa Dominican Sr. Erica Jordan. I don’t know Sister Erica personally, but I thought she did a pretty good job of framing the critical moral questions we need you and your colleagues in Congress to grapple with around the budget.

Ultimately, if we are to be a government of, for, and by the people, then we need to take into account not just numbers, but the real lives of people. Furthermore, for those of us for whom our Catholic faith provides a moral compass, we know that Jesus challenges us to have a particular concern for those who are living in poverty and struggling to provide for their families in our harsh economic reality.

Sister Erica, of course, spoke to you as one Catholic to another. Over the years, you have been vocal about your faith. I remember clearly being impacted by your response to the address of Pope Francis to Congress. It was so very genuine.

“He’s been calling for a dialogue and talking about very important principles about the dignity of every human person and how we need to attend to this,” you said then. You also cautioned against politicizing the pope’s message. “If a person tries to politicize this speech for some issue or partisan gain, that diminishes from the message itself.”

Everything gets politicized these days, doesn’t it? Politicized and polarized. If you think about it, our entire lifetimes (I’m about two years younger than you, according to your Wikipedia profile) have been a time of hyperpolarization, leading to the current gridlock in Washington and a decided lack of helpful discourse and debate in the public sphere, let alone dialogue!

I am heartened that you value Pope Francis’ call to dialogue. I also hope that if and when you read this letter, it will be received in the spirit with which it is intended — namely, dialogue.

In your conversation with Sister Erica on CNN, you shared your appreciation for the model of Catholic organizations that help the poor. You expressed that they do a “fantastic job in spite of government doing wraparound benefits for the poor to make sure that they get to where they are — from where they are to where they need to be.”

My religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, sponsors and supports nonprofit services for low-income women in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Seattle with a similar model. Both the York Street Project and Jubilee Women’s Center provide such wraparound services, treat the whole person, and assist the women they serve on their journey to self-sufficiency.

I found it interesting that you referenced the year 1985 in your response to Sister Erica, because that is around the time my sisters started both these innovative programs.

I agree with you that we need to encourage and support such programs, but as partners with government, not replacements for our civic duty to promote the general welfare. Such programs do not do a fantastic job in spite of government, but in tandem with life-giving government programs like the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which are in jeopardy in the budget proposals under consideration. At the York Street Project, for example, CDBG funds support the job readiness program at Kenmare High School, helping women who previously dropped out of the public school system to find jobs that will support their families.

You also told Sister Erica that we need to look at how we measure success in anti-poverty programs, shifting focus from dollars spent to outcomes.

“Is it working?” you asked. “Are people getting out of poverty?”

I agree that these are the key questions, but helping people get out of poverty requires an investment, not budget cuts. Program effectiveness is not free.

The women who come to Jubilee Women’s Center and York Street Project are motivated to break the cycle of poverty, as are the dedicated staff who journey with them. Yet the path from homelessness to stable housing is not an easy one. It is also complicated by real-life factors. Fifty-three percent of the women at Jubilee are survivors of domestic violence; 49 percent are coping with mental health challenges; 28 percent have physical health challenges; and 17 percent are in recovery from substance abuse. Knowing all this is one thing, but actually meeting the residents and hearing their stories of resilience is powerful.

At the same time, their resilience and our programs are not enough. Our creative and persistent staff navigate a patchwork of constantly changing government programs to help the women find stable permanent housing, including housing and urban development funds for rental assistance and the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which helps working moms keep the lights on with a minimum-wage job. To be honest, we need more funding, not less, to reach the outcomes you name.

Take the example of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These are not just alphabet soup, but federal programs that add up to real soup for hungry kids and their parents.

When I visited St. Joseph’s Home at York Street, I saw the kitchen where staff help mothers learn how to cook homemade meals for their little ones with ingredients that make these dollars stretch to cover the whole month. This is no easy task on already-limited funds, and the proposed federal budget decreases this life-supporting funding.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift. And in any case, you will be receiving hundreds, if not thousands, more letters from Catholic sisters sharing real-life stories like these.

Please, Speaker Ryan, take these messages to heart. Consider them part of an ongoing dialogue, one that seeks to break through the partisan bickering and polarized debate and find common ground to serve the common good. I implore you to help craft a federal budget that attends both to the general welfare of our nation, but also the particular needs of the most vulnerable families in our country.


Reposted by permission of Global Sisters Report.

[Susan Rose Francois is a member of the Congregation Leadership Team for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. She was a Bernardin scholar at Catholic Theological Union and has ministered as a justice educator and advocate. Read more of her work on her blog, At the Corner of Susan and St. Joseph.]