Go for the Light

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

During the Easter season, our Gospels have almost all been taken from the Gospel of John. One of John’s most powerful metaphors conveys the notion that we are children of Light not Darkness. So, be honest, as you see the news every day, no matter what time, no matter on what media, does it seem to be getting way too dark?

OK, so consider these items that hardly ever make the news: A parish in New Orleans that provides 600 Blessings Bags every month to be given out to the “panhandlers” and homeless men and women who stand on our street corners; and this parish takes about 500 more to share with the Muslim congregation down the street for them to pass out also. A group of “Grannies” who stand and wait at the New Orleans train and bus station and distribute toiletries, water, snacks, towels, etc. to refugees traveling to their next place whether they can call it home or not. The groups of men and women who give their weekends to work in community gardens and to teach children how important the gardens are or who go down into the marsh lands and pick up all the trash so many of us just drop on the ground without a care about where it will end up—like maybe into a drainage canal or tiny rill on our property that drains into a stream into a river into, maybe the Gulf or the Atlantic or Pacific, but that might be far away so we won’t see the damage it causes. Or how about the folks who have been telling us over so many years that our environment is dying; the last news was that extinction threatens about one million species of animals and plants, but as we read the articles we see that it won’t be happening real soon, maybe 100 years from now. Why should we care?

We are children of light and caring is in our blood. Sometimes it gets sluggish and maybe clots form because we find the darkness easier and maybe to difficult to dispel, but eventually, we get a wake up call we just can’t ignore. Have you had yours yet? Be careful! It is just waiting for you.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Justice Updates – Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Did you find your orange ribbon? Get it out, dust it off, and plan to wear it on Friday, June 7th. Tell anyone who asks that too many people have been killed by gun violence and you want gun safety legislation that can make a difference.

Stop the rollback of NEPA.  The hallmark of democracy is that all citizens have a right to speak and be heard. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one of the only federal laws that allows people to voice their concerns about the impacts federal projects have on their communities.  Imagine the government trying to put a highway through the property of one of our motherhouses and/or ecology centers, wouldn’t we want an opportunity to speak against it?

Under NEPA, federal agencies must perform an environmental review for each proposed major federal action. The current administration has begun dismantling these requirements including how agencies should address greenhouse gases and waiving NEPA reviews completely.

Because NEPA reviews are centered on the voices from the communities impacted, they give people — especially people of color — the power to fight against these systemic inequities to protect their families and communities. In fact, from harmful pollution to the real impacts of climate change disasters, race is the single biggest indicator of how likely an individual is to experience negative environmental and public health impacts. That is environmental racism. Communities of color face greater environmental and public health hazards because they have less power and access to fight back. And since communities of color are already impacted first and worst by these environmental challenges, rolling back NEPA protections will only exacerbate existing injustices.

Contact your senators and representatives and tell them to stop the administration from gutting NEPA.  The Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program provides more information.

Revoke the Authorization for Use of Military Force.  After the attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that granted the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the September 11 attacks. In 2016, the Office of the President published a brief interpreting the AUMF as providing authorization for the use of force against al-Qaeda and other militant groups.  AUMF has been used to allow military action in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Georgia, Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, and Somalia.  Now the administration has declared there is a threat coming from Iran.

H.R. 1274, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, is a bill to revoke Congress’ two-decade-old authorization of military action. Without Congress’s approval, the administration could extend military action into Iran and even Venezuela.

According to Win Without War, “presidents from both parties have distorted Congress’ 2001 AUMF beyond belief – to justify global war and counterterrorism operation in 80 countries over 18 years.  The never-ending war in Afghanistan. Hidden drone strikes across Africa. Torture in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons. The erosion of civil liberties across the United States.”

Call your representative and tell him/her that any military action should be approved by Congress and to support H.R. 1274.

Good news…more money to study gun violence.   Everytown for Gun Safety reports that the House Appropriations Committee has allocated $50 million in a 2020 federal spending bill to study both the causes of gun violence and the solutions to help prevent it. Gun violence kills 100 people, and injures hundreds more, every day in our country. More than 20 years ago the NRA fought aggressively to persuade Congress to block funding for gun violence research, resulting in the so-called Dickey Amendment. As a result, funding for gun injury prevention fell by over 90 percent over the last two decades.

The money would go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research would look at the causes and effects of gun violence, and different gun safety prevention strategies. Building on what we already know works, it could point the way toward effective new approaches for ending gun violence in America.

Since the Dickey Amendment in 1996, gun violence research has been severely underfunded by the CDC and NIH. In 2018, out of a total budget of more than $8.2 billion, the CDC devoted merely $199,000 to firearm-related research. $50 million of research funding would signal a sea change in the federal commitment to ending gun violence.

Now, this spending bill is moving to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote — and we need their support for this funding. Please call your Representative and encourage him/her to vote for this funding.

Sowing hope for the planet.   At the UISG Plenary, Sr. Sheila Kinsey, FCJM presented this 17-minute video to highlight how Sisters are responding to the cries of the earth and the plights of the poor.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

The Budget is a Moral Document

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Have you ever thought about a budget as a moral document?  According to the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary, the adjective ‘moral’ means conforming to a standard of right behavior or sanctioned by ethical judgement.  So a moral document would be one based on the highest ethical behavior.  And a moral budget would be built on a high moral standard. It would an ethical document.  As Christians, this morality is based on the teachings of Jesus and we know that Jesus had a preferential option for the poor.

You can learn a lot about the priorities of a person, family, city, state, and/or nation by its budget. What is included in the budget and what is left out.  For instance, a family that includes money for a luxury vacation but not enough to pay school tuition, puts pleasure before responsibility.  A company that puts more money in stock dividends and not enough in its pension plan is not concerned about its employees.  A state that budgets enough money for early childhood education recognizes the importance of a child getting started right and that this contributes to a better future for all.   A nation that increases its military budget but cuts funding for housing, food, medical care, and education makes power more important than compassion.

Granted, it is often more complicated than I’ve stated above but still it gives us a good indication about priorities.  As Christians, we would expect that a budget for a state or nation would address the needs of the most marginalized.  This is not a racial issue – in 2017, there were at least 34,596,000 families in the U.S. with two adults and one child who earned lass that $19,730.  42% of them were white, 23% black and 26% Hispanic. It’s not limited to urban areas. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly a quarter of children growing up in rural America were poor in 2016 compared to slightly more than 20 % of children in urban areas.  It’s a human issue. It impacts all of us.

So when the proposed budget for the Federal government slashes Health and Human Services funding by $17.9 B including reductions in maternal and child health and from primary health care programs like free clinics, cuts $214 B out of food assistance over ten years, eliminates $72 B from disability supports and services including those for veterans, we can see a real contempt for the poor.  When we see a $34 B increase for military and $8.6 B for a wall along the southern border, we see an ‘us versus them’ mentality. I see an immoral document. The U.S. is a wealthy country – a great country. But we are only as great as how we treat those who most struggle to survive.

Fact Sheets: President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Harms Nearly Every Community Across the Country


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

God Plants Us Where We are Needed

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Keanon Lowe is being hailed as a hero for tackling and disarming a student with a shotgun inside an Oregon high school.

Lowe, however, said in a television interview that he acted out of instinct and believes that he was “put in that room in that very moment for a reason … I think things in my life prepared me for that moment … I thank God that no one got hurt, and I thank God that I was in that room.”

Those words have stuck with me since I heard them come from the mouth of the former University of Oregon football standout who is now a football and track coach and security guard at the Oregon high school, where the gunman was taken into custody and no one was injured.

All I can say is “Look at God!”

God not only placed Keanon where he was needed, God gave him the tools that he needed to do what he needed to do in that moment.

I think we can all agree that over the course of our lives, we find ourselves in all kinds of places and situations – at school, at work, at home, at church, at the store, in a voting booth, in a restaurant, in our neighborhoods and communities, etc. Could it be that we are in those places for a reason? Could it be that God has prepared us to do a particular thing while we are there?

I don’t know about you but I have been in many situations when I couldn’t begin to understand why I was there or what I could possibly learn from being there.

But I have come to a place where I believe that God wants to use us for a purpose and that God plants us where we are needed at a given time. It may be for a long time or a short time, but God is intently involved in the process of where we should be.

I also believe that God is always preparing us for what’s to come, giving us the tools and skills necessary to deal with the situations that we face – even when we are not aware of the purpose.

God prepares us to weather the troublesome periods of our lives and to take on new roles and responsibilities.

Wherever you are right now, God has called you there to treat the people around you as bearers of God’s image who reflect the beauty of God’s kindness, love, truthfulness, justice, and grace to the world; to resist evil and chaos; and to share agape love.

I know that Keanon believes that God placed him for a purpose.

Where has God place you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

“Whoever Does God’s Will Is My Brother and Sister and Mother”

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Every Mother’s Day, we celebrate and show our gratitude for the love and sacrifices that our moms have made for us and the whole family. This year, on the morning of Mother’s Day, I listened to children from a radio channel reading their letters of gratitude for their moms. It was a touching moment. I wonder if every day when we wake up or before we sleep, if we appreciate the gifts of our moms and every woman who has touched our lives, then the world will be a more loving and nurturing world.

Yet, besides our biological mom, God continuously sends us maternal figures who impact our lives.  One of them is the Blessed Mother Mary.  She is considered our faith mother. As Jesus’ Mother, Mary did not know how the future would unfold. Like other mothers, Mary wanted the best for her child; but sometimes, she got confused and hurt by the way Jesus did His ministry or by His responses. However, by putting her life in God’s providence, Mary was able to accomplish her role as co-redemptorist with Jesus and played a necessary role in the birth of the early Christian church. Even today, Mary plays a role in our lives by inviting us to become bold like her.  Or, when God calls us to do something different, such as being a sister or to respond to the needs around us, Mary is an example to us of strength and courage in following God’s will. How much trust do you have in God’s providence about your future, especially when something happens that does not fulfill your expectations or is out of your control?

A second example of how God sends women into our lives to nurture us is the story told to me by a kind, handyman at our local house. He is so gracious, always does a good job, and bills us at a low cost. If one has a chance to talk to him, one would hear his sharing: “I just want to pay off to the Sisters for all they did for me. When I was a little boy, I was a slow learner and teachers did not want to teach me. School was hard for me, but Sister Sibyllina Mueller took me in and helped me to become who I am. I have never forgotten her.” He becomes a successful man because Sister Sibyllina went against the norm of the school to be a voice for this boy and was patient with him. I believe she did all of it because of her vows of obedience and celibacy to God, listening to the signs of time and responding to the needs around her without fear, but in love and compassion with the dignity of those whom she served. I feel a connection with this deceased sister and this man, helping me understand what Jesus said; “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)

Let’s look at another example of a woman who heard God’s call and seeks to make a difference in the life of her fellow sisters. This sister is in her 70s and has been influencing my life a lot. Every time I express my gratitude to her, she always replies, “You don’t need to do so. I too have had someone to help me. Now, I help you, then, in the future, you will help others, even more than how I have helped you.”  Later, at the wake of a sister in her 90s, this same sister, who has helped me, expressed her gratitude to this deceased sister for helping her become the person she is.  Hearing this sharing, I realized that blessings and life experiences were getting passed from one person to another across generations and cultures. These women besides my biological mother have taught me how to live out the Gospel message with love, confidence, vision and so much more. I thank God for this wonderful connection among women in my community of faith.

A religious call is not a life where you give up your family. This life gives you an opportunity to reach out beyond your biological family to value the gifts God gives to you to love and be loved, to share and to receive, and more. If you feel called to live this life helping those around you or want to explore more about the life of sister in a faith community, contact us.


Posted in God Calling?, News