Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fr. Terry Moran

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fr. Terry Moran

Fr. Terry Moran
July 10, 2018

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

I am a Catholic priest, an associate of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace, and currently minister as the Director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Ecological Integrity for the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, a congregation of women religious, mostly in New Jersey, with some sisters in other states and in Haiti and El Salvador.

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

I remember when NETWORK was founded and the excitement it generated in sisters who were friends of mine.  NETWORK incarnated what we were talking about in theology after Vatican II – that the gospel compelled us to become involved in the political process, to build on our history of direct service by engaging in structural change.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Climate change and learning how to foster a healthier human/Earth relationship is my greatest passion. Any other social issue is contingent on us facing the climate crisis. There can be no just human society on a dying planet.

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

In as many ways as possible: I send out regular action alerts on issues that are important to us; a monthly e-newsletter called JustLove; two ecospirituality groups that meet monthly; regular workshops and talks; a Facebook page; recently I distributed a refrigerator magnet with a graphic of our Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) priority issues so that the sisters think about them as they get their morning orange juice.

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

I come from a family in which political engagement was an important value so there’s a restlessness in my genes for a world that is more just, peaceful, and verdant.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My religious formation was in the early post-Vatican II days when “a faith that does justice” was shaking our sleepy 1950’s Catholicism. I’m very happy that Pope Francis is putting the social agenda of the gospel front and center again. I think his encyclical Laudato Si’ is the most compelling program available today for where the world needs to go.

Who is your role model?

Two people that are daily inspirations for me: Margaret Anna Cusack, the founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace –the community of which I’m an associate. She was a 19th century Irish social justice advocate and prolific writer who drove bishops crazy.  Her book Women’s Work in Modern Society (1875) was among the first to explore the role of women in economic life. I love her quote, “People make a lot of the sufferings of the Desert Fathers but they were nothing compared to the sufferings of the mothers of the 19th century.”

Another is Daniel Berrigan, SJ, who has been a mentor for me since I first met him on his release from prison in my hometown, Danbury, CT in 1972. His contemplative searching of the scriptures that led to a life of resistance to war has been a life-long model for me.

Right now, I am most inspired by my seven friends of the Kings Bay Plowshares action who entered the largest Trident submarine base in the world on April 4, 2018 and enacted the prophecy of Isaiah 2 by hammering and pouring blood on these instruments of mass destruction.  I have their photo on my desk and often turn to it in the course of the day in gratitude and prayer. Their willingness to put their own lives and plans on hold and to risk prison for the sake of the gospel of non-violent resistance is tremendously inspiring to me.

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

“The world is violent and mercurial–it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love–love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”– Tennessee Williams

What social movement has inspired you?

Growing up in the 60’s, I’ve been deeply formed by my involvement in the peace movement and the women’s movement. I remember participating in the first Earth Day in 1970.  Most recently I’m very inspired by Black Lives Matter, the leadership taken by young people against gun violence, and the work of an organization of Dreamers called Cosecha who are risking their own safety for dignity for all the undocumented.

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

That I haven’t lost my mind and have been able to keep going in the vile political climate in which we live.

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

Starting an organic garden on our motherhouse property. There is something healing about getting your hands in the dirt. Also working with a local organization to welcome a third refugee family.

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Rachelle Wenger

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Rachelle Wenger

Rachelle Wenger
June 25, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I first learned about NETWORK through Dignity Health. Dignity Health is one of the largest healthcare systems in the nation. Its mission is to deliver compassionate, high quality, affordable health care service—especially to those who are poor and vulnerable. Advocacy is central to its mission, and NETWORK has been a longtime partner in helping the organization to advance its policy priorities. As the Director of Public Policy & Community Advocacy, I can’t imagine being able to do my work without our collaboration with NETWORK.

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

To sum it up, it’s the Sister-Spirit that inspires me and that continually draws me in. I’ve been so fortunate to grow up (and be raised by) incredible women religious. They’ve shaped my love for people and community since I was a little girl—through my formative years in elementary school and high school. And as I came to Dignity Health as a young mother and someone starting out in a career in Catholic healthcare, it was always the Sister-Spirit that moved me, made most sense to me, and gave me the reason for why and how I’m called to this work.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Other than health and healthcare, I’m most passionate about immigration, equity issues (homelessness and poverty), and the environment. As an immigrant to this country from the Philippines at age of five, I have a deep understanding of what it means to be “the other,” to be displaced and to be indebted (this utang ng loob, literally translated in Tagalog means, “a debt of one’s inner self”). All this while continuing to practice what it means to be authentically one’s self, value this broader sense of being home, and give back to and cherish community. There is so much suffering in our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world today. I believe that our passions direct us to seek justice, build meaningful connections, and experience joy and love.

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

I get to wake up to the best job in the world. I wouldn’t even call it work, except that I actually get paid for doing something I love. At Dignity Health, I get to live out my passions, work on social justice issues at both the legislative/regulatory policy and community levels, mobilize grassroots advocacy efforts, and partner with so many amazing organizations, businesses, and leaders of all sorts of shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.

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

I’m often on a plane these days and I never seem to tire looking out of the window—the view still takes my breath away. The sun sometimes gets too bright or the darkness too mysterious and I have to put the window cover down. And so I close my eyes to reflect and pray. Life is so precious. Every day that we get to have to be in it, to be a part of it, and do our part for it—makes me feel so blessed. Advocacy is more than just seeking social justice; it’s actually experiencing this incredible gift in the world called humanity.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

Faith is all things quite alive in and around me, and is also in those things in between that seem like contradictions—that in the moment can’t get quite pinned down by time. In a word, faith is everything to me. Faith lets me know that the work I do to advance justice matters—that it’s meaningful and that there’s more work still to be done.

Who is your role model?

Wow, to pick one would be impossible for me. Every day, at every turn, there is someone or even something that inspires me and that I want to practice to become. Like my dad, who is recovering from a stroke and who I see fighting his way back from paralysis to walk again; like Sister Regina Ann, who I got to know during a break at a NETWORK Board retreat while we sat under a dogwood tree as if the chaos of time stopped for a moment so we could enjoy the beautiful spring afternoon; like my children, Keana Sky and Tristan Blue, who show me the resilience and unbreakable bond of love.

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

I recently gave a TedTalk style presentation at the closing plenary session of a CleanMed conference, since titled “Finding Your Voice in the Climate Story.” And there was this one quote from Nigerian storyteller Chimanda Ngozi Adichie that I included: “The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…The consequence of the single story is this: … It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult.”

It’s just such a powerful way of recognizing what harm we do to ourselves and each other when we fall for the single story. How truly precious everyone’s voice is and how our own story contributes to the greater story of what is humanity.

What social movement has inspired you?

There are lessons to be gained from all the modern day social movements. The one I’m most interested in right now is how our country will continue to grapple with healthcare so that it is accessible and affordable to all. We’ve been able to make gains, but we’ve also made some steps backwards. What inspires me most are the many women and men that work day in and day out to care for others—despite the political winds, despite the brokenness still of our nation’s healthcare system, despite the long road ahead to one day get to a place where we no longer look at healthcare solely as a human right, but as something everyone can depend on during their time of need.

NETWORK Celebrates Pride

NETWORK Celebrates Pride

NETWORK Communications Team
June 13, 2018

Happy Pride Month! Our faith teaches us that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities have human dignity, and that is surely something to celebrate!

At NETWORK, we acknowledge that too often members of the LGBTQ+ community are not recognized to extent that they should be. This is true in all of society – but it is especially true in Catholic and other religious settings.

Of course, NETWORK has ‘Catholic’ in our name, which means that very often people hear that word and draw conclusions (not entirely unwarranted) about what our positions may be on issues like LGBTQ+ equality. Especially this month, as the LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride, and moving forward, NETWORK wants to make it clear that we welcome and affirm all members of the LGBTQ+ community. We are actively working so that all justice-seekers can find a home in NETWORK, when other religious corners of the country (or of the internet) can feel particularly polarizing. NETWORK was founded by Catholic Sisters, is motivated by Catholic Social Justice, and is open to all who share our passion.

NETWORK and our society (including those of us who are allies) need to do a better job of acknowledging the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in our shared work for justice. We recognize that many members of the LGBTQ+ community can experience injustices when they shop, where they work, and beyond. We also know that many members of the LGBTQ+ community are working alongside us on all justice issues. As we look forward at mending the gaps in our society with an intersectional focus, we promise to do our best to recognize the many identities our justice-seekers have.

To all LGBTQ+ members of the NETWORK community: Happy Pride Month! We see you, we affirm you, and we are grateful for all that you do to make the world a more just place.

 

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Sister Erin Zubal

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Sister Erin Zubal

Sister Erin Zubal
June 4, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I learned about NETWORK from the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Social Justice Office when I first entered the community.  NETWORK has informed and educated me on many social justice issues, which in turn has empowered me to do advocacy work.

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

I was inspired to take action with Nuns on the Bus in 2016.  The goal of the trip was “to bring a politics of inclusion to divided places, change the conversation to mending the vast economic and social divides in our country, and counter political incivility with a message of inclusion.” Our world is in great need of this and I believe it is important to advocate for systemic change that seeks to address the needs of our brothers and sisters who are underserved. What better way to do this than travel the country to listen to the realities and lived experiences of people in our own communities—and then take those stories to our elected officials and encourage them to legislate for the common good.

What issue area(s) are you most passionate about?

Housing, healthcare and advocating for a faithful budget.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My faith has deeply inspired my work for peace and justice.  As an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland, the story and legacy of martyrs Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan have had a tremendous impact on my call to work for systemic change in our world.  Even though I was not yet born when the women were killed, their history and legacy shared with me by my sisters has formed and shaped me as a woman religious. We must continue the work of those who have gone before us—and be faithful to the call as women of faith, committed to contemplation, justice and compassion in all we do.

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

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lilla Watson

What social movement has inspired you?

The youth of our world who are standing up and allowing their voices to be heard on critical issues.  I am so inspired and filled with hope witnessing the good work of the next generation.

Erin Zubal is an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland. She currently serves as Guidance Counselor at Cleveland Central Catholic High School in Cleveland, Ohio.

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.