Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Staff
October 29, 2018

After a would-be assassin mailed pipe bombs to 14 prominent Democratic figures, including the families of 2 former Presidents; after a gunman tried to enter a Black Church in Kentucky intent on doing harm but was unable to gain access so walked to the nearest Kroger grocery store and killed two people instead; after all of that, there was the terrible mass shooting of Jewish worshippers at a Pennsylvania synagogue.  It was a devastating week and we are still reeling from it.

Nevertheless, we join the country in offering our most heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family and friends of those 11 people who were killed in Pennsylvania and the 2 people in Kentucky.  No words can express how profoundly we grieve with you in your time of need.  We stand together as the nation mourns your, and our, loss.

At the same time, we condemn, in the strongest possible language, these senseless murders of 13 ordinary people, worshipping at Tree of Life Synagogue and buying groceries at the local Kroger store.  They were simply going about their day until two white men, fueled by anti-Semitism and racial animus, attacked them.  These innocent people lost their lives to hate and fear in a country founded on freedom, opportunity and religious values.

But our Catholic faith tells us that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.  No exceptions.  And as a result, every human being is imbued with an essential dignity that must be honored, respected and protected.  The hate-filled actions of the gunmen belie that fundamental truth.   Whether or not you are religious or have some faith-based beliefs, there is something profoundly wrong in society when people turn to violence against others simply because they belong to a different religious tradition or have a different skin color.  We condemn every action based on hatred, bigotry and violence.

Sadly, this is not the first time we have witnessed, endured and decried the presence and menace of such evil in our midst.  But this can be the last.  This is a time when the whole country can stand up and speak out against it.  This is a time when we must demand of our leaders and each other the guarantee of civility, respect and safety for everyone.  For our sake.  For our children’s sake.  For the sake of our country’s future.  We must not let this hatred, violence and division defeat us.  The only question is:  will we do it?  Or will we once again pay a terrible price for our silence?  People are fond of saying “we are better than this.”  Now is the time to prove it.

May God grant eternal rest to those who were slain.  May God shower peace and consolation on all those who mourn.  And may God have mercy on all of us if we fail to stand up to this moment in history.

Remarks from Nuns on the Bus in South Bend

Nuns on the Bus in South Bend

Jessica Brock
October 19, 2018

The following remarks were delivered by Jessia Brock, attorney, at the Nuns on the Bus Rally in South Bend.

Good afternoon.   Your presence here is so important.  Thank you for being here.  Your voice needs to be heard.  And your vote is your voice.

My name is Jessica Brock.  I am an attorney here in South Bend, and my law practice has primarily served people living below the federal poverty line.  Most of my clients rely on income from SSI or Social Security Disability.  They rely on Medicare or Medicaid for healthcare coverage.  And they rely on other human needs programs like housing vouchers and food stamps in order to make ends meet, put food on their tables, and keep their families safe. I see on a daily basis how these programs make the difference, quite literally, between life and death.  One unexpected and expensive life event  – like the illness and death of a loved one or flooding like we experienced in February – can put a family barely making ends meet in serious financial trouble, and it is often difficult if not impossible to recover from such a setback.

In South Bend, almost 1/5 of the population lives below the federal poverty line.  That means there’s no wiggle room in the household budget – certainly no money for big, unexpected expenses.  The poverty rate here for whites is about 17%, for people of color as a whole it’s about 33%.  For African Americans in South Bend it’s about 42%.  Not only do we have income inequality.  We have racial inequality.

Republicans passed an immoral tax law in 2017, which prioritizes tax cuts for the highest income brackets and biggest businesses on the dime of basic human needs.  In 2017, the federal deficit went up 17%, and Republicans are blaming this on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The truth is the immoral tax law is to blame for the deficit increase as well as increased government spending approved by the Republican-controlled Congress.  We do not have reasonable revenue for responsible programs.

People here are already struggling to meet basic needs.

  • There are women, survivors of domestic violence, in South Bend who are unable to afford to change the locks on their homes in order to protect themselves and their children from their abusers.
  • There are older adults in South Bend who cannot afford to pay for their burial.  They may have a family burial plot, but they can’t afford to pay for the cremation/burial and transportation to be buried with their loved ones.
  • We lost my father unexpectedly to brain cancer this April.  A simple funeral can easily cost $10,000.  All of the expenses were due upfront.  That’s a financial burden many cannot handle.

The truth is that Social Security and Medicare are paid for through separate payroll taxes.  They do not add to the national debt.  In fact, Social Security has a $2.5 trillion surplus right now.  The sad truth is that we are using the Social Security trust funds to finance our overspending on programming that does not meet basic human needs like being safe in our homes, having food to put on the table, healthcare, and dying with dignity.  We are robbing human needs programs in order to cut taxes for the rich and for big business.

There seems to be little we can agree on these days, as our leaders have played on our fears in an effort to divide us.  But there is much we have in common.  We all want to be safe.  We all need to eat and sleep.  We all want to be healthy, and we will all get sick.  We will all encounter unexpected, traumatic, and expensive life events that can quickly change our financial stability.

At times, it can seem like there is nothing we can do.  But that’s not true.  We can vote.  It’s free.  It doesn’t matter who you are, each vote counts the same.  Your vote is your voice.

Vote!  If you think that the government shouldn’t take from the poor to benefit the rich.  Vote!  If you want reasonable revenue for responsible programs.  Vote!

It’s We The People.  It’s us.  And we have a job to do.  No one can do it for us.   Let’s get out and vote!

View more photos from this event here.

Reflection: YESS Site Visit in Des Moines, IA

Reflection: YESS Site Visit in Des Moines, IA

Sister Jan Cebula, OSF
October 17, 2018

“The kids need us. The community needs us,” said Julie Schneider, interim CEO of the Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS) in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Nuns on the Bus stop there Oct. 16. Julie captured in that one phrase what we all need to be about.

So aptly named, YESS is the largest crisis emergency shelter for children in the state of Iowa. As we toured the brightly painted facility decorated with inviting and energizing art, we learned that more than providing a safe place, as important as that is, healing is what they are about.

“How can we help them heal?” they ask.

Children can visit Chillville, a sensory room specially equipped for those with autism or hyperactivity or who just need a place to relax. Playville, the play therapy room, gives children a space to express themselves when words fail. So does art and music therapy. All steps in healing.

As we listened to the staff talk about their programs and challenges, we were inspired by their dedication and their commitment to an integrative, holistic approach, not only for the children in the shelter but for children throughout the community through their case management and mental health services. Healing individual children, healing a community. A whole-hearted YESS! for children.

And it happens through relationships. Not only child with parent or care worker with child, but also the community with the child or children.

YESS couldn’t happen without both government funding (read: our tax dollars) and the generosity of the Des Moines community of people.

 

 

There are 10 of us currently on the road, talking about tax justice:

  • Comboni Missionary Sr. Ilaria Buonriposi of Baltimore;
  • Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell of Washington, D.C.;
  • Joseph Sr. Mary Ellen Gondeck of Kalamazoo, Michigan;
  • Sister of the Third Order of St. Francis of the Holy Family Gwen Hennessey of Sioux City, Iowa;
  • Dominican Sr. Quincy Howard of Washington, D.C.;
  • Sister of the Precious Blood Mumbi Kigutha of Dayton, Ohio;
  • Daughter of Charity Mary Ellen Lacy of Washington, D.C.;
  • Francis Sr. Robbie Pentecost of Stanford, Kentucky;
  • Mercy Sr. Linda Werthman of Farmington Hills, Michigan; and
  • me, St. Francis Sr. Jan Cebula of Clinton, Iowa.

It becomes clearer every day that to make up for the loss of revenue from the tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, the plan is to slash programs that provide food, housing, quality education and medical support to struggling families. Even chipping away at them with work requirements, increased co-pays and frozen allocations has devastating effects.

So often, when we talk and think about these programs, we focus on the adults. During our visit to YESS, I know I realized I do.

What about the children? To our elected representatives, to the candidates running for office, we ask, “What about the children?” We all need to knock on doors, asking, “What about the children?”

Julie described how touched she has been by a young boy, perhaps about 2 years old, who was not speaking when he arrived. After just two weeks of loving care, he is starting to talk. One day, Julie came into the nursery, and he begged to be picked up and held. All kids want to be loved. All kids need a caring, loving, supportive home.

“Is this a turning point for this child?” she wondered. “Can we provide a turning point, a fork in the road for these children to put them on a different path?”

We’re at a fork in the road right now in this country. Are we going to choose a path toward healing for our communities, our nation? Do we realize that together, we can provide the turning point to put us on a different path?

Vote Nov. 6. Wake up Nov. 7 and continue to work for reasonable revenue for responsible programs.

Our kids need us. Our communities need us.

 

This post originally appeared on the Global Sisters Report website.

Reflection: Paying Our Union Dues, Then Heading South

Reflection: Paying Our Union Dues, Then Heading South

Sister Michele Morek, OSU
October 12, 2018

This post originally appeared on the Global Sisters Report website.

The Nuns on the Bus canvass Las Vegas neighborhoods with members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 on Oct. 10. (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)

 

Si, se puede! U-nion! U-nion! 2-2-6! 2-2-6! We vote, we win!

We got right into the spirit of the vigorous chants of the members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

After a long drive from California, we joined them Tuesday afternoon for a meeting with a large group in the union hall, listening to the issues they have with some of the casino owners. Most of the big casinos have come to an agreement with the workers on living wages and benefits, but there are still a few holdouts. The workers suspect it is not lack of funds that stands in the way — one owner just spent over $20 million on a daughter’s wedding. (One of the workers whispered into my ear that $2 million of it was for the cake!)

There are about 50,000 workers in the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which includes food service industry workers in the big casinos and hotels as well as people in housekeeping and other aspects of the industry. Of these, 54 percent are women and 55 percent are Latino. There are workers from 173 countries who speak 40 languages. That they can organize themselves at all under those circumstances is a minor miracle, and that they have managed to do it so effectively is a major miracle! They have some talented and dedicated leaders.

Members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 rally Oct. 10 in Las Vegas to hear us talk about the tour and about our support of their work before we all left for canvassing. (Provided photo)

I talked to one leader, Rashauna, who had taken a three-month “political leave” to work at turning out the vote for a candidate known to be more friendly to unions; she and many more had sacrificed their $20-per-hour earnings for $12 with the assurance of continued employment at the end of their leave thanks to the union. Their enthusiasm, love and respect and support of each other was inspiring to all of us.

It had been a long and exhausting day, so we were glad to see our rooms at the end of the second day: rooms at one of the less expensive casinos on the old Las Vegas Strip. There are no motherhouses or big convents in Las Vegas, and the casinos like to lure customers in with inexpensive rooms and food!

As tired as we were, there were some who ventured out to see the bright lights, and one sister even found a zip line to try. In spite of a few bleary eyes, we were at the union hall bright and early the next morning for our adventure in canvassing.

Sr. Michele Morek, OSU, left, and Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, show off their red shirts from the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 for canvassing Las Vegas neighborhoods (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)

We helped prepare packets and distributed ourselves among the groups going out to canvass the neighborhoods to push their candidates for the 2018 midterm elections and urge everyone to get out the vote. First, the leaders outfitted us with red shirts and hats and assigned us to teams. That was after a few more rousing choruses of “Si, se puede!” and “U-nion! 2-2-6!” and “We vote, we win!”

After we returned to the union hall and the workers signed the bus, we left Nevada, eating lunch on the bus, not for the first time. What gorgeous desert and mountain scenery! We enjoyed seeing Lake Mead and going across the Hoover Dam into Arizona; when we saw our first saguaro cactus and Joshua trees, we knew we were ready for our next adventure in Phoenix.

We are educating ourselves by site visits and talking with people; that’s part of the listening mission of Nuns on the Bus. But we are also determined to educate people about what the tax policy really means for real people and to encourage them to use tax policy as one of the most important norms of who should get their vote.

Each day, we begin with half an hour of prayer together: once in a motherhouse chapel, once in an unused convent chapel, once in a convent community room, and once in Sr. Simone Campbell’s hotel room at the casino. That and a cup of coffee gets us going.

One of the best tools of the bus is the town hall developed by Network staff as an educational illustration, an effective graphic description of the effects of tax inequity. Without giving away the plot, let me just describe it as a human bar graph that introduces the audience to a real character NETWORK has encountered in the process of listening to people all over the United States.

The exercise dramatically illustrates how much that person benefited (or not!) from past and current tax policies. If you figure in other events likely to result from the tax changes, the lower economic quartiles of people even go backward.

Of course, the talented Nuns on the Bus take the parts of the characters. Doing the actions the exercise called for made me feel in my bones and muscles the desperation and despair of people in the middle and lower quartiles. The take-home lesson is (and you have heard this before): The lower economic groups suffer while the upper ones benefit.

A new insight I gained from the exercise is an understanding of why the richer people often cannot even see the suffering of the less privileged. They just do not move in the same circles — they are so far away from the other’s reality. It may also explain why some feel isolated, lonely, angry, and threatened by any discussion of tax justice.

Members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 sign the bus after an Oct. 10 canvassing session in Las Vegas (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)

When we finish tonight, Thursday, we will have done this in three parishes or churches, each with its own personality and challenges. The discussion after the activity has been lively as the audiences discussed how the tax changes would likely affect their area or city or state and what they could be doing about it. Some great ideas have been suggested! The people have the answers. NETWORK then collects their input and uses it in later educational activities.

In legislative visits, we generally try to meet with a congressperson (usually one we know voted for the tax bill and does not agree with us!) to explain our position. We are meeting with them to hold them accountable for what their votes are doing to their constituents.

The first had to postpone the meeting with us but promised to meet with constituents on this topic later. We are heading for a meeting with office staff of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona as I write this on the road to Tucson.

More later!

Reflection: A Kaleidoscope of Faces for the First Day

Reflection: A Kaleidoscope of Faces for the First Day

Sister Michele Morek, OSU
October 9, 2018

This post originally appeared on the Global Sisters Report website. 

Christine, the pastry chef at Homeboy Industries, helps us bake cookies Oct. 8 (GSR photo / Michele Morek)

 

Jesuit Fr. Greg Boyle’s “awards wall” does not feature his numerous awards, trophies and citations he has won for his work as founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.

It was really an honor to meet Janet, a former client but now newlywed and a certified social worker at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the Nuns on the Bus’s first site visit of the 2018 tour. (Provided photo)

The wall is full of pictures of his success stories: the men and women who have been saved from a return to a life of crime or jail by his programs, which offer jobs, training, counseling and education.

The visit to Homeboy Industries was one of the site visits the Nuns on the Bus are making to listen to people all across the United States — from Los Angeles to West Pam Beach, Florida — to see how U.S. tax policies are affecting them.

As impressive as the work they are doing is, it is the faces we will remember: Christine, the pastry chef who let us “help” on the afternoon batch of cookies (ours did not meet quality control standards because of size variation, so we had to eat them); George, the former homeboy who in his new role as security guard took pride in showing us around; Janet and Boris, who met and married after successful completion of the program.

Other highlights of the day include the happy faces of the waiting crowds, like the lady wearing an “I’m with the nuns” T-shirt and GSR freelancer Heather Adams, who wrote about the opening event.

George shows us around Fr. Greg Boyle’s office at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles on Oct. 8. (GSR photo / Michele Morek)

Now, would you like a tour of the bus before we get too many days down the road? This bus is a Cadillac that came “wrapped” (with its decoration) from Nashville, Tennessee. Our driver came from Nashville, too; he drove the bus to LA to pick us up. Meet Glenn Childress, driver of celebrities, including many country-music stars, actors and politicians. He has driven buses for Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton and spent six months with Barack Obama.

He’s driving the biggest bus I have ever seen, 45 feet and an imposing presence on the road. Inside, it has a back workroom where most of the sisters hang out, working on blogs and tweets. The staff room is in the front, and both sections have Wi-Fi and electrical connections. In the center, there is a fully equipped kitchen and restroom.

Sisters and staff use the back of the bus as workroom and living area. (GSR photo / Michele Morek)

But here’s what you have been wanting to know: the Nuns on the Bus! We are 10: Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell of Washington, D.C.; Social Service Sr. Chris Machado of Encino, California; Dominican Sr. Quincy Howard of Washington, D.C.; Dominican Sr. Bernadine Karge of Chicago; Dominican Sr. Reg McKillip of Madison, Wisconsin; Dominican Sr. Dusty Farnan of Milwaukee; St. Joseph Sr. Phyllis Tierney of Rochester, N.Y.; St. Joseph Sr. Julie Fertsch of Philadelphia; Daughter of Charity Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy of Washington, D.C.; and me, Ursuline Sr. Michele Morek of Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

We are staffed (assisted, bossed, waited on and shamelessly spoiled) by seven Network staff members on board, some permanent staff, some temporary.

Left: It was fun to meet a fan of Nuns on the Bus at the Santa Monica beachfront at our Oct. 8 kickoff event. Right: Glenn Childress of Nashville, Tennessee, has a lot of miles under his belt and will be our driver all the way to the end of the route at Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida. (GSR photos / Michele Morek)

So much to share, so hard to fit in the time to do it! I wrote this at 3:45 a.m. (my body is still in the Central time zone) and am trying to type it on a bouncy bus heading for a 3 p.m. appointment in Las Vegas. This morning, after prayer and breakfast, we also accepted an award from U.S. Rep. Lou Correa from Orange, California, and led a rally outside the local offices of U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters. So keep us in your prayers as we carry you with us in our big bus!

 

 

[Ursuline Sr. Michele Morek is Global Sisters Report’s liaison to sisters in North America. Her email address is mmorek@ncronline.org. Follow her on Twitter: @MicheleMorek.]

Bus Blessing 2018 – Rabbi Sharon Brous

Bus Blessing 2018 – Rabbi Sharon Brous

Rabbi Sharon Brous
October 8, 2018

Dr. King famously said that the Kingdom of God as a universal reality remains “not yet.”

We’re gathered here today because we persist in believing in the Kingdom of God. For me, as a Jew, that looks like a world in which human dignity is real. In which every single person is treated as an image of God, with infinite worth, absolutely unique and precious in the eyes of God and humanity.

And the pain point of this moment in time, of this era we’re living through, is that every day we are reminded of how far we are from the realization of that vision.

We are, to say the least, not there yet.

We are not there yet, when a Supreme Court Justice is confirmed amid multiple credible accusations of sexual assault, messaging to women, trans and nonbinary folks, to men and boys who are victims of sexual violence that they, and their trauma, are a liability, an exaggeration, a hassle and a distraction, and can’t we just quiet down and let them get back to the business of securing partisan advantage?

No, the Kingdom of God is not at hand, when young mother who flees violence in El Salvador arrives at the US border and is given 5 minutes to say goodbye to her two small boys, who are then ripped from her arms in a policy of wanton cruelty. We’re not there yet, when we realize how little those with power in our country care that even those children who are reunited with their parents—the lucky ones—will be traumatized for many years to come.

We’re not there yet when the justice department actively works to roll back civil rights achievements and 23 of 50 states have adopted harsh voter suppression laws in the last eight years alone. When Mexicans and Muslims and all People of Color are monsterized and criminalized, when the President fuels antisemitism and then shrugs when a JCC in Virginia is spray-painted with swastikas.

No, the Kingdom of God is not yet at hand, when Callie Greer from Alabama—whom I marched with in DC at the Poor People’s Campaign—wails in agony as she describes her daughter, Venus, dying in her arms from a cancer that could have been treated had Alabama not refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. We’re not there yet when a quarter of a million Americans to die from poverty related issues in the US each year.

We’re not there yet when kids are afraid they might get shot in school. When the prison population has grown from 200,000 to 2.2 million in the last 40 years, and Puerto Rico is abandoned. When our planet aches under the weight of fossil fuels and even still, our government obsessively and furiously prioritizes deregulation.

We’re not there yet, because today our country is driven by fear, mired in a failed moral narrative, contaminated by corruption, hypocrisy and indecency. Our nation—the richest in the world, boasts 140 million who are poor or live in poverty (with women, children and those with disabilities disproportionately affected).

It’s almost too much to bear. Dr. King was right, the Kingdom of God is “not yet.”

But he didn’t leave it there. Dr. King also quoted the historian Charles Beard in saying, “when it is dark enough you can see the stars.”

We’re out here today to train our eyes to see the stars.

And here’s what they look like: they look like Sister Simone Campbell, and these holy sisters, who are “On the Road to Mar-a-Lago.” Who will engage thousands and thousands of Americans at 54 events in 21 states over the course of the next 27 days, and then will land at Mar-a-Lago, where they will speak truth to power.

These sisters and their supporters of all races and ethnicities and religious traditions, are calling us to seek out the stars in the night sky. Stand up, they’re saying, and fight for the America you know is waiting to be born. A new America, fierce, gorgeous and fair. An America built on justice, fairness, and mercy. An America that lifts up the widow, the orphan and the stranger, that stands not ON, but WITH the most vulnerable.

This message matters more now than ever before, because today it is supremely clear: either we work to dismantle oppressive systems, or our inaction becomes the mortar that sustains them.

The Kingdom of God has not yet arrived. We’re painfully far from our collective vision of a world redeemed. But each of us is called לְתַקֵּן עוֹלָם בְּמַלְכוּת שַׁדַּי – to do whatever we can to heal the world and bring about the Kingdom of God.

That’s why we need this movement; that’s why we bless this moment.

Sisters, we send you off on your journey with blessings.

Go, and help free us from a politics that invisibilizes, marginalizes and steals from those who need most, a politics in which hatred, intolerance and heartlessness poison the water of our nation.

Go, and proclaim liberty throughout the land.

Go, and remind our nation, aching under the weight of oppression and injustice, that it is precisely in the dark of night that we can see the stars.

צֵאתְכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם—Go, go in peace.

Walking and Praying for an End to Immigrant Detention

Walking and Praying for an End to Immigrant Detention

Vince Herberholt
September 13, 2018

St. Joseph Parish in Seattle embarked on a journey almost a year ago that recently resulted in a prayer pilgrimage and Mass at the GEO run Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma Washington – a destination 30 minutes away by bus and light years away from where we come from as a faith community.

St. Joseph is a wealthy Jesuit parish in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  The houses that surround the parish sell for millions of dollars.  Very few of our members would be considered poor or marginalized and almost no one would be considered “illegal” or more correctly undocumented.  And yet a year ago, our parish, known for its commitment to social justice,  started a journey of education and  solidarity with  the immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker and those detained in Immigration Prison.

After some preliminary research and assessment, we discerned that the greatest need, our interest and gifts as a faith community lie with public witness and advocacy.  So beginning in March 2018 we published a Parish Letter, “A Church of Accompaniment,” that serves as our Mission Statement.  From there we organized 2 community forums on Immigration and detention attended by over 300 people.  In the second forum we were joined by our Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, our representative who is a staunch advocate for immigrant justice.

Now with growing parish support, we began planning with our Jesuit Sister Parish, St. Leo the Great, for a pilgrimage and Mass at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.  On August 25th we gathered at St. Leo’s and began our prayerful 1.6 mile walk to the detention center in a bleak industrial area near the Port of Tacoma.  We were surprised and pleased that over 500 faithful people joined us.

The Mass was co-presided by our two pastors, Frs. John Whitney SJ and Matt Holland SJ, and the homily was delivered by Fr. Scott Santarosa SJ, the provincial of the Jesuit West Province.  His words exhorted us to “bridge all divides, and foster understanding among diverse peoples and cultures, and make people feel in the most real way at home.”

At the conclusion of the Mass we blessed the detainees and their captors.  It was a hopeful day that renewed our energy for the continuing journey and cemented our relationship with immigrants and refugees.

To learn more about St. Joseph Parish, visit their website here

Inclusive Pronouns in NETWORK Email Signatures

Inclusive Pronouns in NETWORK Email Signatures

NETWORK Communications Team
September 12, 2018

We at NETWORK believe that all people have inherent dignity and worth. Over the past several months and years, we have had internal and external conversations about how we can more clearly articulate that NETWORK is open to all who share our passion. Founded by Catholic Sisters, NETWORK has grown into an inclusive organization that embraces religious diversity, racial justice efforts, LGBTQ+ equality, and more.

One such way NETWORK chooses to articulate our openness to all people is by encouraging staff to share their pronouns in their email signatures. There are several reasons to include pronouns, but at the core, this is rooted in respect and love for each member of our community.

Examples of pronouns that you may see added to our email signatures:

  • He/him/his
  • She/her/hers
  • They/them/their

We should also mention that NETWORK uses singular ‘they’ for inclusivity and brevity rather than he/she when gender is unknown. Read more about the use of singular ‘they’ in the AP Style Guide.

This is a way to let others know that we will not make judgments about anyone’s identity. We recognize that assigning pronouns to others (thereby choosing an identity for them) is presumptuous and can unintentionally cause harm. Choosing to clarify our own pronouns lets other people know how we want to be addressed, and it also holds us accountable to do our best in not making assumptions about other people.

As the Human Rights Campaign explains, “Because gender identity is internal — an internal sense of one’s own gender — we don’t necessarily know a person’s correct gender pronoun by looking at them. Additionally, a person may identify as genderfluid or genderqueer and may not identify along the binary of either male or female (e.g. “him” or “her”). Some people identify as both masculine and feminine, or neither. A genderqueer or non-binary identified person may prefer a gender-neutral pronoun such as the “they” (e.g. “I know Sam. They work in the Accounting Department”). … It’s important to remember that gender identity is not visible — it’s an internal sense of one’s own gender. While most people align across their birth-assigned sex, their gender identity, their gender expression and how everyone else interprets their gender — some people do not. A culture that readily asks or provides pronouns is one committed to reducing the risk of disrespect or embarrassment for both parties”

We know that gender norms and privileges permeate our society. When you see our pronouns in our email signatures (and other places), know that it is an indication that we recognize and affirm the diversity of gender identities and expressions.

And, sometimes people misidentify pronouns for other people they have never met in person— particularly if there are cross-cultural differences. Cultural and personal variations of gender expression in dress and presentation can also create false assumptions, regardless of identity. Sharing pronouns can also be helpful in these scenarios to ensure we address people correctly.

Proactively declaring pronouns is a small action we can take to convey our belief that all people are created in God’s image. NETWORK views this as another way that we may live out our mission of promoting justice and the dignity of all. We encourage other members of our community to make similar changes.

One of the most fundamental ways we can show respect and love for one another is to consciously use language that affirms each other’s identities. We continue looking for ways that we can be more conscientious and more inclusive in our communication. Thank you for your continued support as we strive to make the world more just, together.

If you are interested in learning more about proactively declaring pronouns, here are some additional resources:

Human Rights Campaign: Talking About Pronouns in the Workplace
GLSEN: Pronouns in Email Signatures