Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

East Lansing Catholic Network Connects and Learns in Flint

East Lansing Catholic Network Connects and Learns in Flint

Janice Hudson
May 23, 2018

Recently, several members of the East Lansing Catholics Network visited Flint via St. Mary’s Parish for an education & awareness experience. Under the veteran direction of Mary Dowsett (Director of “Faith in Flint” for the Catholic Community of Flint), Patrick Brennan (one of our seminarians), Michael Hasso (campus minister for Flint), our own Deacon Ziggy, and Josh and Sarah Hamilton, we walked the streets and neighborhoods of the parish to meet and share with residents, and pray with/for them if they accepted the offer. This was the outgrowth of one of our Soup & Substance programs this past Lent, when Mary Dowsett, Deacon Ziggy, and Deacon Jim shared about our diocesan initiative in Flint. It was a great faith experience for all of us!

I was one of the members of the East Lansing Catholic Network who went to Flint, Michigan to participate in Faith in Flint, a Diocesan initiative to organize people of faith to walk the streets, knock on doors, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned (many, prisoners in their own home), sit with others at soup kitchens, and reach out and simply connect with people in Flint.

As volunteers, we first gathered in prayer to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, then we broke into small groups before heading out to walk the neighborhood with staff and other experienced volunteers. We walked in groups of 2 or 3, as Jesus did. We wanted to meet the neighbors, to let them know someone cares about them, and begin to establish a positive relationship with them. It was truly an amazing experience, both seeing the neighborhood (many burned out and abandoned houses, as well as perfectly groomed homes) and meeting the people. Those who opened their doors to us also opened their hearts.

Each person’s story was very different; some were very optimistic about their lives and the efforts to improve the neighborhood, while others were very pessimistic and spoke of leaving the area. Some had stable lives, several were dealing with multiple health issues, while others had experienced tragedy, including a son’s murder. Nearly everyone we spoke with blessed us by allowing us to pray with them and sharing smiles. Nearly all invited us back as we left. Because of our leader’s loving attitude and desire to greet anyone and everyone we passed, we also experienced very positive interactions and discussions with those passing by on bikes or on foot!

What an honor it was to follow our spirit-filled leader and be the Lord’s feet, mouth, and hands that day in Flint.

 Janice Hudson is a member of the East Lansing Catholic Network, one of NETWORK’s Advocates Teams.

Living In Two Worlds

Living In Two Worlds

Rev. Jason Carson Wilson
May 21, 2018

Living in two worlds. That’s the reality, which Her Royal Highness, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and this writer share. While the Duchess’ mother is Black and father is White, my mother is White and father is Black. Adapting to our surroundings has been key to our survival.

Some Royal Wedding watchers, during media coverage Saturday, marveled at how the Duchess “embraced” Black culture and could be a “social chameleon.” Being a social chameleon is more commonly known as “code switching” within communities of color.

People of color made it an art form. In a nation–well, world–steeped in White supremacy, navigating their individual journeys in certain ways can make things easier. It becomes particularly tricky, if one code switches, but is fully invested in their identity.

That’s true for this writer and it wouldn’t be surprising, if it’s been true for the Duchess. Watching the Duchess and His Royal Highness Harry, Duke of Sussex marry filled me with joy because Diana, Princess of Wales’ son deserved a day of immense happiness. Seeing the Duchess suspend code switching also filled me with unspeakable joy.

She and her mother were unashamedly Black and beautiful. There was the fabulous Black gospel choir and, then, there was that sermon by the Episcopal Church USA’s first Black leader, Bishop Michael Curry. The Duchess basked in the Blackness as much as she did in her husband’s love.

That’s the power of Blackness and love–they’re life-giving. While Curry focused on the power of love, it’s quite possible he’d agree with the latter. As a Black preacher and theologian myself, sermons earning acclaim and criticism aren’t foreign to me. Curry’s words have earned both.

“When love is the way — unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive, when love is the way. Then no child would go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way. We will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever flowing brook. When love is the way poverty will become history. When love is the way the earth will become a sanctuary. When love is the way we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way there’s plenty good room, plenty good room for all of God’s children,” Curry said.

The struggle to process critics’ logic is real–for a split-second. Had people laid down their swords and shields down by the riverside, there’d be no British Empire that’s now evolved into a Commonwealth. Slavery also helped build and sustain American and British empires. While American and British children go hungry, ruling classes in both nations miss no meals.

Some critics can’t handle the truth. Of course, those critics opted to label the sermon inappropriate, over-the-top and accuse Curry of grandstanding. A clergy sister-friend, the late Rev. Deirdre Jackson Jones, taught this preacher a great lesson about sermon critiques. Never take negative comments about delivery and content to heart.

This writer only knows about the alleged sensibilities and thoughts of the Duke and Duchess through media reports–what’s in their hearts is unknown to me. However, their actions seem to reflect an acknowledgement of privilege and inequality. Curry’s message, it seems to me, reflects my assumption about Their Royal Highness’ worldview.

It’s a world where the descendant of slaves became the member of the British Royal Family. The marriage won’t end White supremacy and the Duchess will endure continuous microaggressions and racism. But, it’s a union based on real love and joint commitment to fighting for justice for all.

That’s why this writer celebrates the union. Peace be with the Duke and Duchess.

Rev. Jason Carson Wilson is a United Church of Christ minister and policy advocate committed to JusticeForAll. Wilson is the founding executive director of the Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative, a domestic and international policy advocacy organization doing its work through LGBTQIA and people of color lenses with an emphasis on interfaith engagement. He graduated from Chicago Theological Seminary in May 2016.

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fran Quigley

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fran Quigley

Fran Quigley
May 17, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

Via the inspiring, exciting bus trips, like so many other folks did!

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

The wonderful leadership by Sister Simone and other Catholic sisters has made such an impact in promoting people over profits. That is an agenda that I see as the core of Catholic Social Teaching and a desperately-needed message in today’s society. It is a privilege to be in support of that remarkable work.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Access to health care, especially access to essential medicines. I am part of a small group of folks who created People of Faith for Access to Medicines to promote medicines for all as a moral imperative and human right. NETWORK is both a big inspiration to us and a wonderful, generous partner in our advocacy.

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

I am blessed to be a part of a robust Indiana team that includes volunteer NETWORK activists from across the state. We have met with our Members of Congress and their staffs, published op-ed columns, circulated petitions, and raised our voices in demonstrations. We have been taking all of these actions in support of NETWORK’s “Mend the Gaps” agenda in life-essential services, justice for our immigrant brothers and sisters, and economic justice for all.

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

I find hope in faith communities’ shared devotion to ensure that we meet all of our brothers and sisters’ basic necessities of food, shelter, healthcare, safety, and an adequate income. That is a core message of the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and every other sacred text. So I believe that people of faith can transcend political parties and socio-economic class and ethnicity to support an agenda that respects the rights of all of our brothers and sisters to live safe, fulfilling lives.

Who is your role model?

Sister Simone, of course! In all seriousness, her tireless dedication to pursuing justice is an example for us all, especially when combined with her wonderful ability to explain the human impact of sometimes complex policy issues.  And it doesn’t hurt that she is a lawyer role model for us lawyers, too!

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

“By crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute . . . We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world.” –Dorothy Day

What social movement has inspired you?

The HIV/AIDS treatment movement of the 1990’s and 2000’s. Some of the world’s poorest and sickest and marginalized persons took on the most powerful industry in the world (the pharmaceutical industry) and the most powerful nation in the world (the U.S.) when even their global health allies thought it an impossible challenge. And they won, securing treatment for millions of HIV-positive persons who would have died otherwise.

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

I actually think that, for all of us, our biggest accomplishment is the simple act of going out there and pushing for justice all year, and then doing so the year after that, and so on. Persistence is the mother of justice. If we don’t let ourselves get distracted by the short-term losses or victories, we will win in the end. That is the lesson of the abolition of slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement.

What are you looking forward to working on in 2018?

Access to health care for all!

How Will We Answer the Summons?

How Will We Answer the Summons?

Rebecca Eastwood
May 9, 2018

Although I have lived in Washington, DC for the past four years and have grown and learned so much in our nation’s capital, I will always be a proud Iowan.

Often confused with places like Ohio or Idaho, Iowa is known for things like corn and caucuses. The events of May 12, 2008, however, permanently marked Iowa on the map for a different reason.

Headlines in the weeks that followed read:

Immigration Raid Jars Small Town

Immigration Raid at Meat Processing Plant in Iowa Largest Ever in US

I was 16 at the time and attended high school in Decorah, IA. When the news reached our classrooms that day of helicopters and federal agents surrounding the meatpacking plant in Postville, the town next door, I was confronted with the reality of our broken immigration system that, because of my privileged background, I never before had to consider.

We would soon learn in the hours and days following that what transpired was the largest worksite immigration raid (at that time) in U.S. history. As I reflect on the events that day ten years ago I recognize it as the moment that truly summoned me to social justice work.

For a town of approximately 2,400, Postville was one of the most diverse communities in Northeast Iowa. In addition to a number of other distinct communities, Postville was home to a large Latino/a population. Drawn by the promise of opportunity, education, and safety, families set down roots in Postville.

The raid tore these roots apart. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested almost 400 people working at the kosher meatpacking plant, AgriProcessors, in the span of a few hours. Agents descended on the plant, chased, shackled, and carted away mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers.

Children came home from school to empty houses. Community members took refuge at St. Bridget’s, the local Catholic church, terrified they would be next or that they would never see their family members again. The raid upended the schools, economy, and families of this small community.

In the chaotic weeks following, the local community stepped up to attempt to repair what our federal government had ripped apart. Centered in St. Bridget’s, volunteers helped people find their family members, the majority of whom were detained in the Cattle Congress buildings, prosecuted en masse, and eventually deported.

Through this response effort, I spent some time volunteering, mostly using my high school Spanish to entertain children while their family members did all they could to pull their lives back together.

This experience would never leave me. I could not forget the child asking when they would see their dad again or the mother trying to keep her family fed while wearing an ankle monitor. I was shaken out of my complacency and forced to answer the question: who am I summoned to be in the face of this injustice? Answering that question led me to Washington, DC to advocate for policies that would keep families together and uphold the dignity of migrants- attempting to prevent other communities from experiencing the same trauma as Postville.

The raid seared into our collective memory the devastating impact of inhumane immigration policies. We no longer need to look back a decade, however, to remember the suffering caused by immigration raids.

Only one month ago, ICE conducted the largest worksite raid of the Trump administration. The circumstances were all too familiar: agents surrounded a meatpacking plant in Tennessee. They arrested nearly 100 people. Terrified families gathered at the local Catholic church for support.

In the past year, the federal government has targeted thousands for detention and deportation, including those who have lived here for decades. They have systematically rescinded legal status for those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). They are separating families seeking safety at our southern border.

Who are we as a nation summoned to be in the face of these injustices? Will we challenge harsh, anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy? Will we demand a system that recognizes migrants as whole persons worthy of dignity? As people around the country observe the ten-year anniversary of the raid we pray that in answering this summons we will never mark another anniversary like this.

Postville is everywhere. How will we respond?

Becca is the Advocacy Coordinator for the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington, DC. The Columban Center is the national advocacy office for the Columban fathers, a Catholic order of priests and lay missionaries living and serving in 15 countries. Her advocacy work focuses on immigration, environmental, and economic policy.

Laura Muñoz Lopez: Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network:
Laura Muñoz Lopez

April 18, 2018

Laura Muñoz Lopez is a former NETWORK Government Relations Associate. She currently works as a special assistant for Immigration Policy at American Progress in Washington, D.C.

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I was visiting D.C. to see Pope Francis and decided to go to the Nuns on the Bus “last stop party” (at Tortilla Coast) in 2015. Sister Mary J. Curcio told me about the Associate Program over chips and margs, and the rest is history!

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

I knew the 2016 Presidential Election was going to be historic, and as I was graduating and finding what was next for me, I wanted to be more involved in immigration policy. Learning about NETWORK, their work, and mission seemed like the next step.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Immigration! All aspects of it, but specifically permanent protections and citizenship for Dreamers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and the millions of undocumented parents who brought their children to the US for a better life. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is also an immigration issue that has not received the proper attention it needs.

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

Recently, I have been invited to participate in town hall and county council meetings to ask Montgomery County, Maryland to fund the deportation defense fund aimed at helping undocumented immigrants who have been detained and/or are in deportation proceedings. I also recently participated on a panel hosted by the Montgomery County League of Women Voters which highlighted the importance of community safety to ensure immigrants feel safe and secure in the presence of local police. I will be speaking with the Montgomery County Young Democrats later in April on the impact of immigration policies in the local community.

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

I grew up keeping my immigration status a secret, so when I was able to obtain DACA and live my life without secrets, I realized that sometimes the most powerful advocacy tool is your voice and your story. Through sharing my story and truly listening to others’ stories of struggle and success, I have realized that we draw our strengths from our moments of weaknesses and when we share our experiences we help others overcome their challenges.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

Growing up as undocumented and living below the poverty line, my church was always a place of safe haven and help. Our church in South Carolina often provided assistance with bills and gifts at Christmas because my parents couldn’t afford them. When it was time to go to college, my church gave me a scholarship to help in my studies. Beyond these gifts, the church and my faith taught me that it is our duty as humans and people of faith to help whenever it’s possible to do so. I try my best to “pay it forward” because that’s what our faith teaches us to do.

Who is your role model?

My role model is my mother – Liliana. She left her entire family — who she is extremely close with — at the age of 26 with her two young daughters in hopes of finding and creating a better future for them in the United States. Such a sacrifice is not decided on lightly and my mother has never regretted her decision. She works as much as she can, gets underpaid and yet never complains because she is thankful to have the opportunity. My mother is my role model because she gave my siblings and me everything she dreamt of, and so much more.

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

“If not you, then who?” This quote has given me the strength and motivation to continue to work in a policy area that not only is very personal to me but is extremely difficult, and at the moment is causing more harm than good to immigrants across the country. If we, as individuals who have a duty to care for one another and help each other succeed, don’t take action to create change, who will? We are the change we are waiting for.

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

On a personal level, I was able to adjust my immigration status from a DACA recipient to receive permanent residency in the U.S. – the country I have called home for almost 22 years. Another accomplishment was seeing the immigration movement expand to communities that were not involved before, but who saw the harm the current administration has and continues to cause our communities. As an activist, I always welcome and am overjoyed by the intersectionality of issues that allows people to come together in the pursuit of justice for all underrepresented people.

What are you looking forward to working on in 2018?

I will continue to work on immigration policy and activism as much as I am able to. My work for 2018 includes trying to ensure Dreamers and DACA recipients are protected from deportation so they are able to stay in the communities they call home as well as working with local organizations to foster conversations with immigrants and nonimmigrants to make sure their communities are safe and welcoming.

Revisiting the History of Irish American Progressives

Revisiting the History of Irish American Progressives

Timothy Meagher
March 16, 2018

On this St. Patrick’s Day, when Republicans in Congress named Ryan and McCarthy mutter darkly about the corruption of the poor by big government, it is important to remember that for most of their history in America, most men and women with such names, Irish Catholics, embraced government and what it could do for them and others.  It was not because Irish American Catholics were unwilling to work hard, they were; or to live frugally, and put money in the bank, they did.  Yet as a people so poor, with no useful skills or capital, and confronting discrimination in the private marketplace (“No Irish need Apply”)  work and frugality alone  were often not enough for them to survive, much less prosper in America.  Private philanthropies, run by hostile elites, offered them little help: only “charity scrimped and iced,” as John Boyle O’Reilly, the editor of the Boston Pilot, wrote, “in the name of a cautious, statistical Christ.” Empowered by their voting numbers, many Irish American Catholics thus looked to government for jobs, and pushed politicians to provide the small services they needed to tide them over crises: coal in the winter; a place to live after a fire.

By the 1890s, however, as the second major depression in twenty years rocked the American economy, immigration escalated into the tens of millions, and festering slums spread throughout cities, politicians’ petty handouts and charities’ cautious penny pinching was no longer enough.  Reformers, bearing the new name “Progressives,” began to insist that the government address the problems of workers and the poor. These Progressives are often described as enlightened middle or upper class, WASP women and men awakening to the crises of the city.  Many of them were, but Irish American Catholic people and politicians became involved in this struggle too.  Newly powerful Irish American Catholic representatives in the New York New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois legislatures fought for causes such as: a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, factory safety, and public housing.  In Oregon, Irish American Catholic settlement worker, Caroline Gleason, teamed with Fr. Vincent O’Hara to pass a minimum wage and maximum hours law for working women, the first in the country.  Meanwhile Irish Catholic women like Mary Shinnick and Elizabeth Moloney were in the forefront of fights for “mothers’ pensions” in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Twenty years later, more than fifty Irish American Catholics served in the House of Representatives at the high point of the New Deal and the vast majority consistently delivered strong support for the Roosevelt administration’s government relief, social security, public housing, and federal minimum wage legislation.  Meanwhile, veterans of Catholic Charities services, Jane Hoey and Mary Irene Atkinson worked in the Roosevelt administration, as Head of the Bureau of Public Assistance and Director of Child Welfare services respectively

This tradition would not end in the 1930s, but has endured among many to our own time.  It has drawn inspiration from Catholic Social Justice, from people like Monsignor John A. Ryan, for example, called “the Father of the Minimum Wage,” and from common good and anti-aristocratic themes in American and Irish republicanism.  For the most part, however, Irish American Catholics eschewed theories of left or right.  They were looking for practical solutions to concrete needs.  They had no fear that government help would somehow sap their commitment to work or self-improvement, but they could remember when a government’s failure had left a million of their relatives dead on the hillsides of a Famine-stricken Ireland.  They saw no reason, then, why a democratic government like the United States, should not help its people when they were in need.

Finding a New Measure of Winning

Finding a New Measure of Winning

Meg Olson
March 8, 2018

There is no doubt about it: 2017 has been a rough year for justice seekers. As I write this, I am sitting with the devastating reality that before leaving on their holiday vacations, Congress passed a bill that will increase taxes for taxpayers in the lowest brackets, cause 13 million people to lose their health insurance, and exacerbate our nation’s already staggering racial wealth gap. And this is just one example of how Congress and the Trump administration are hurting people living in poverty, people of color, immigrants, labor, women, the earth…

Some days I look at my postcard of Dorothy Day’s famous adage and think, “Dorothy, I DO have the right to sit down and feel hopeless! Nothing is working!”

And yet, I know that I need to pursue Gospel justice with joy and persistence and approach situations with hope and welcome. And, as the lead NETWORK organizer, I am called to model this joy, hope, and welcome for you, our members, who reach out on a daily basis, asking what else you can do to pass the Dream Act or save the Affordable Care Act.

If I take a step back from the immediate crisis at hand and look at this past year, I can actually muster up quite a bit of hope. I just have to accept that in these challenging times, I need to adjust my expectations about winning.

In my early days of organizing, I was taught to think of multiple answers to the question, “What does winning look like?” Yes, the ultimate “win” is stopping harmful legislation or passing a bill that supports the common good. However, “winning” also looks like people committing to taking action, strengthening relationships with those who share their values, and building power.

So here’s how I’ve seen NETWORK’s members and activists win in 2017:

  • You’ve committed to taking action by making over 50,000 phone calls to Congress this year; going on more than 40 in-district visits; and attending town halls, rallies, and even protests.
  • You’ve strengthened your relationships with your fellow NETWORK members, with organizations led by Dreamers, and members of other faith based organizations such as Bread for the World and Faith in Indiana.
  • You’re building power in your congressional districts. I know that because our Government Relations team will gleefully tell me when they get back from the Hill, “Congressman Pete King’s Legislative Assistant started our meeting by thanking NETWORK and crediting our members for urging Rep. King to get on Rep. Scott Taylor’s letter to get a solution for Dreamers before the end of the year!” or “Congresswoman Brooks’s staffer said that the Congresswoman told her about the great meeting she had with NETWORK members!”

We’ve got a long road ahead of us to mend the wealth, income, and access gaps in our nation, especially for people living in poverty, women, people of color, and those living in the intersections of those realities. But I have hope that in 2018, NETWORK’s members and activists will commit to taking more action, continuing to deepen their relationships with fellow justice-seekers, and building even more power.

And yes, I believe that we will win!

Black Women and the Making of Catholic History

Black Women and the Making of Catholic History

Mehreen Karim
February 28, 2018

This Black History Month, we looked into our shared history to shed light on notable Black women who have influenced the Catholic Church and community. These Black women and others too often go without their due credit for their teaching and the social change they have inspired. The foundational elements of our faith, especially teachings for justice, can be recognized in the work Black women have done to dismantle racism for centuries. Even through devastating periods of racism and oppression, these women have lived out a deep commitment to justice.

Saint Josephine Bakhita,FdCC (1869-1947)

Impact: Born in rural Sudan, kidnapped and sold into slavery, she converted, gained her freedom, and became a Catholic Sister; canonized in 2000 and named patron saint of Sudan.

The life of Saint Josephine Bakhita reflects the resilience she demonstrated in the face of every trial she experienced. Saint Josephine Bakhita was born in western Sudan, native to the Daju people. As a child, she was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and traded between numerous families. After over a decade of being held in slavery, Bakhita was left in the care of the Canossian Sisters in Venice, Italy. Years after being taken to Italy, Bakhita refused to leave the Canossian Sisters’ convent and was found by a court to have been free since arriving in Italy, since slavery was illegal there.  Josephine Bakhita then became a Canossian Sister and spent five decades as a member of the religious community. After her death, Sister Josephine Bakhita was canonized and became the only patron saint of Sudan. Saint Josephine Bakhita has become an inspiration for many who fight for freedom – both physical determination and spiritual liberty.

Sister Antona Ebo, FSM (1924-2017)

Impact: Civil Rights leader

“I’m here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.”

In response to Bloody Sunday, one of history’s most gruesome assaults against Civil Rights activists, Sister Antona Ebo, a Franciscan Sister of Mary, made her mark as the only Black Catholic sister marching in Selma. Prior to her freedom fighting, Ebo had ambitions to attend nursing school. She was rejected many times until she was the first of three African-American women to enter the St. Mary’s Infirmary School of Nursing in St. Louis, Missouri in 1944. After earning multiple degrees, Sister Antona became a certified chaplain and was a founding member of the National Black Sisters’ Conference in 1968. Her landmark participation in the Civil Rights movement founded the rest of her life’s work in dismantling racism. Sister Antona continued her anti-racism activism for decades after Selma, participating in national movements as recent as the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri before she passed away in 2017.

Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA (1937-1990)

Impact: Nationally-recognized teacher and scholar who promoted education for Black Catholics

“I come to my church fully functioning…I bring my whole history, my tradition, my experience, my culture, my African American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as gift to the church.”

In the heart of protestant Mississippi, a nine year old Thea Bowman converted to Roman Catholicism. As a teen, she joined the Fransiscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Bowman’s parents rightfully feared for their daughter’s ambitions—moving to a white majority city and religious community would prove to be a challenge for any African American, nonetheless a woman religious. Thea would spend years embracing her African American identity, resisting racism, and changing the way African Americans are received in Catholic society. Bowman spent years teaching at schools and universities until she became a consultant for intercultural awareness for the Bishop of Jackson. Here, Bowman spread her wisdom, joy and African American pride through outreach to diverse communities of the Catholic faith. Thea Bowman created and legitimized a way of worship for Black Catholics. Her life’s legacy will live on in the many institutions founded in her name, most relevantly The Sister Thea Bowman Black Catholic Educational Foundation, which has raised money to put over 150 African Americans through college.

Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP (Present)

Impact: founding Director of Augustus Tolton Program for African American Ministers at Catholic Theological Union

“I became a woman religious but that did not preclude my also being an educator, psychiatric social worker, community organizer, liturgist, choir director, spiritual director, and theologian.”

No list, no matter how exhaustive, could cover the depth of Sister Jamie T. Phelps’ impact on Catholic culture, society, and academia. Phelps was a teenager when she unsuccessfully attempted to join a high school run by Adrian Dominican nuns. Phelps explains that they were “concerned how she, as a young black woman, would adjust to living in all-white environment.” Only a few years would pass until Phelps returned to the Adrian Dominicans and became a Dominican sister herself. Sister Jamie Phelps continued to exert her mind and heart as she piled on professional and academic merits. After earning a doctorate from Catholic University of America, Phelps explored the intersection of sexism, racism, and economic disparities in Catholic society. Today, Sister Jamie Phelps studies these topics in her published research and teaching at various universities.

Dr. Diana L. Hayes (Present)

Impact: First Black woman to earn an S.T.D. (Doctorate of Sacred Theology)

“I am because we are—because African Americans, we see ourselves as a family.”

In her life’s work and teachings, Diana L. Hayes deconstructed the nuances of spirituality in African American Catholic culture. Hayes is the first black American woman to earn a Pontifical doctorate, Sacred Theology degree (S.T.D.) from the Catholic University of Louvain in addition to three honorary doctorates. She was a Professor of Systematic Theology in the Theology Department at Georgetown University where she specialized in Womanist Theology, Black Theology, U.S. Liberation Theologies, Contextual Theologies, Religion and Public Life, and African American and Womanist Spirituality.

Sister Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, (Present)

Impact: Current Executive Director of Pax Christi USA

“I never thought I could be a sister because I had never seen a black sister. I had never seen a sister who looked like me.”

As a child, Sister Patricia Chappell could not imagine she would become not only a Catholic sister, but the Executive Director of a large Catholic organization. Though Sister Patricia has only recently entered the national limelight as Pax Christi USA’s Executive Director, she had always been a mover and shaker working for racial justice in the Catholic sphere. In the eighties, Sister Patricia Chappell worked in vulnerable areas of Philadelphia and delivered substance-abuse intervention services to African-American youth and their families. Sister Patricia was president of the National Black Sister’s Conference in Washington and also the co-coordinator of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur’s Anti-Racism Team. On the ground, she worked as a program specialist at the Takoma Park Recreation Center in Maryland, in youth centers in Hyattsville, Maryland, and as director of youth ministry at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church in Washington. D.C. As the Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, Chappell steers the organization and the community to work for justice by organizing and speaking out on racism and other issues. Sister Patricia hopes her work and leadership will connect to everyday Catholics and bring more people into the movement.

During Black History Month and throughout the entire year, we recall the spirit-filled lives and ministries of these Black Catholic women and many others. Let us follow their example and their guidance as we work for racial justice in our communities, including our faith community, and our country.

Representative Crowley on Surprises, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

Representative Crowley on Surprises, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

February 27, 2018

Congressman Joseph Crowley represents New York’s 14 congressional district and is Chair of the House Democratic Conference. This year, Congressman Crowley received a 100% on NETWORK’s voting record for the sixth year in a row. (View the 2017 voting record.) His six-year record is the longest out of anyone currently serving in Congress. NETWORK spoke to Representative Crowley to learn about how his Catholic faith and his lived experiences inform his political decisions.

How does your faith inspire your work in Congress?
I was raised to live by the Golden Rule: ‘Do to others as you would like them to do to you.’ This has guided me in life and inspired my work in Congress. It is simple: we need to treat others with the same compassion and empathy with which we all want to be treated, and put forward just and fair-minded policies that ensure opportunity for all. This means doing the right thing and working hard to ensure that my constituents from Queens, the Bronx, and all Americans can enjoy the brighter future they and their families deserve.

What is the proudest vote you have cast this year?
I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege. That’s why I voted against the so-called “American Health Care Act,” which would have stripped access to quality health care for millions, and punished children, seniors, and those with pre-existing conditions. I am very proud to defend the right of Americans to have access to affordable, quality health care, but also know we must do even more to make sure health care is available to all.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced this year?
A big challenge has been President Trump’s attacks on immigrants and refugees, including his heartless decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has upended the lives of nearly one million talented DREAMers who contribute to their communities and the American economy. These young people have all the qualities our nation was built upon and should be welcomed here.

What about this past year has surprised you the most, politically?
I’ve been appalled by the completely inadequate response to the suffering and pain of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. President Trump and congressional Republicans have treated the victims of these natural disasters like second-class citizens, when they are as American as you and I. I visited Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria and witnessed the extensive devastation there. We need to do more to ensure that everyone living there has the resources needed to rebuild and recover, and I’ve promised our fellow Americans there that the federal government commitment to them will continue for years and decades.

What policy area will you focus most on in 2018?
There are too many important policies to pick just one. But an issue I’m especially passionate about is ensuring that hard-working Americans have access to affordable housing. Housing is one of the most basic human needs and the lack of affordable housing is a crushing burden for many families in Queens and the Bronx and across the U.S. This year, I introduced the Rent Relief Act – legislation to help those struggling to balance the high costs of rent with the needs of their families. It would put money back in the pockets of renters who spend more than 30 percent of their income each month on housing. This is an extraordinary way for us to build the middle class and secure the financial stability of working men and women.

When times seem difficult, what keeps you motivated to continue working for the common good in Congress? 
My constituents in Queens and the Bronx. Meeting with them and hearing directly about their passions, dreams, and hope are always motivating and inspiring. Despite all the challenges we face, I’ll continue to defend our values and provide good solutions for my constituents and all Americans.

How have you seen policies you’ve promoted in the past positively affect your constituents and our nation?
Legislation such as the Affordable Care Act has positively improved the quality of life of my constituents and of millions of people across the nation. The ACA has expanded coverage, reduced costs, and improved our health care system. We need to continue protecting this accomplishment and come together to improve health care so every American has access to affordable and quality care.

You voted with NETWORK 100% of the time for the past six years, which is the longest record for any current members of Congress. How does it feel?
Extremely honored. From protecting and improving our health care system to creating economic opportunity – my positions on our nation’s most pressing issues are always guided by the common good. I’m proud to be an ally of NETWORK in working toward economic and social transformation in our communities.

Do you have any advice for advocates inspired by their faith to engage in politics?
Turn your faith into action and never underestimate the power of your voice. Now more than ever, your engagement is making a difference.

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

My Family’s Immigration Story

My Family’s Immigration Story

Monsieree de Castro
February 21, 2018

Allow me to tell you all a (very common) story about “chain migration,” a portion of the immigration system the current administration and members of Congress are trying to eliminate.

In 1977, my father was petitioned by my aunt, who was living in Seattle, to come join her in the United States using the sibling category of family reunification (what some offensively refer to as “chain migration”). The waiting process for family visas can take decades, and my father waited 17 years to have his papers approved for him to come to the United States. It wasn’t until 1994 that we as a family finally stepped foot on American soil for the first time.

It has been 24 years of struggling in a country that more often than not makes you feel unwanted for your brown skin and foreign customs, but also 24 years filled with triumphs and success. My parents have held multiple jobs since we first came to this country, from caregiver to custodian. Today, our family has grown and my siblings and I lead successful lives and are all contributing taxpayers and members of the community. Of my siblings, we currently have a Director working in social services at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, an IT professional working for Paul Allen’s business/philanthropy, an accountant providing her skills at a hospital, and finally, the youngest and most Americanized sibling, foolishly pursuing her dreams in the most American way possible; living and working in politics in Washington DC hoping to contribute to the country that has given so much to her. Additionally, major props to my awesome parents and each of my siblings who all own their own homes, collectively owning 5 pieces of real estate across the Seattle area (I’m clearly the millennial of the clan, probably eating avocado toast instead of buying a house).

My family’s story is not at all unique. This is the story of millions of Americans who come here seeking the opportunity for a better life. This is the simplified version of the story, leaving out the heartaches of visas that were never approved after years of waiting, and parts of our family that continue to be split apart (no, you can’t “bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” there are countless restrictions). This is also the story of a privileged family that was lucky enough to have a pathway to pursue the American dream and citizenship, and had the economic stability to wait 17 years to have a visa approved.

The current administration claims that the program that allowed my family to come and succeed in the United States needs to be eliminated for the sake of the “economy and the future of America”. But Mr. President, I am CERTAIN that allowing families like mine to be welcomed into this country is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the success of our economy and future of our great nation.

Monsieree de Castro is a former NETWORK associate. She currently works at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.