The Pope Francis Voter Tour Comes to Cleveland!

On October 18th, NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour stopped in Cleveland, OH and visited Esperanza Threads and hosted a Town Hall at Blessed Trinity Parish. At both the Site Visit and Town Hall, each speaker lifted up the power of community and connection. For three NETWORK staff members on tour — Eilis, Erin, and Julia — this stop was a homecoming and a chance to lift up the ministry of our community, parish, and hometown.

Founded by Sr. Mary Eileen Boyle, OSU in 1990, Esperanza Threads teaches low-income individuals how to sew industrially and works with local social service agencies and companies to place students in jobs. Many of the students at Esperanza Threads are former refugees who are looking for a job after having been resettled in Cleveland. For Eilis, this site visit was like coming full-circle. Prior to joining the staff at NETWORK, she ministered in refugee resettlement and sent many clients to Esperanza Threads for sewing and job skill training. Listening to the prophetic, community-building vision of Sr. Mary Eileen and Esperanza’s Executive Director Emily Tiell, reminded us about why we are Pope Francis voters who are committed to doing the work to build a multi-racial, inclusive democracy.

Following our inspiring site visit, on the evening of October 18th, NETWORK hosted our Town Hall for Spirit-Filled Voters. The Cleveland Town Hall featured three sisters from three different congregations: Humility of Mary Sister Anne Victory, Sister of St. Joseph Marilyn Nickol, and Incarnate Word Sister Margaret Taylor. Drawing on their life experiences, community charism, and ministry, each sister helped all of us see and understand the importance of multi-issue voting. In addition, our buzz question was asked by Jon Gromek, former NETWORK associate and longtime friend.

We begin each Town Hall with a buzz question. Part of that question and invitation to share with a neighbor is “What brings you hope.” Time and time again, we hear that NETWORK gives folks hope for the midterm elections. As one sister told me after the Town Hall finished, “it’s so easy to see that everything is horrible, but you all gave us hope to keep on fighting the good fight.” Another sister added, “it’s about the people and you all center that.” Each person with whom we spoke echoed this sentiment.

Sr. Margaret added to this idea when she explained her reasoning for being a multi-issue voter. She said, “My parents were faithful voters which inspires me to be one as well. We are people of good will who desire that all people have the opportunity to live a good life that promotes the freedom to vote; a life free from discrimination; a life that responds to the challenges of climate change; a life that does not tolerate racism and exclusion; a life that addresses the issues of poverty; a life that welcomes immigrants.”

The encounters we had in Cleveland can be summed up in one word: Community. It is clear that this is a place where people come together to support and celebrate one another.  The community of Cleveland shows up for each other, and we have no doubt this community will show up at the polls as Pope Francis Voters.