The Wilderness of the City Streets

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

A small caravan of diverse citizens in the city of Columbus walk together in the middle of the street in the Linden residential neighborhood. Derrick Russell, the group’s leader, barks into a microphone: “What do we want?” “Safe streets!” We shout back. “When do we want it?” “Now!” Every Monday night for the last few months, we have been walking.

Along our route, women from Moms Demand Action pass out materials about their organization; their noticeable presence in bright red tee shirts speaks to their passion to end gun violence. Some young black boys eagerly climb the stairs of neighbors’ houses, handing out postcards inviting people to a block party, or some other resources. This week, Bea Tiboldi, Margie Davis, and Robin Richard pass out snacks to kids hanging out in front of their apartments. Another week, Ellen Coates or other sisters might join us. Gemma Doll is there, as am I. Be Peace tee shirts signal our presence.

We stop the caravan every so often so folks can talk with the neighbors and catch up with one another. It is a slow and steady walk. Different routes in different parts of the Linden neighborhood, always the same message: gun violence has to stop.

Local police walk with us.  One white officer holds the hand of a five-year-old African-American girl, they walk together.  Another officer trails behind the marchers in a cruiser, lights flashing, adding to a sense of safety or at least, confirming the desire of the police to be present in the community. A small boy admires the big arm muscles of the officer and he hangs from his bicep as if on a swing.

Sr. Anne Lythgoe (left) at a recent event.

Sometimes a group shows up and passes out lockboxes, as in, here is a safe place to store your gun in the house. Last week we stopped to pray at a house where a mother was killed, and her boyfriend wounded in a drive-by shooting. There were five children in the house at the time. We could see bullet holes in the door and walls, memorial candles on the sidewalk. In the meantime, children peek out from the blinds of other houses, they seem so vulnerable to me. Other adults stay perched on porches, taking it in, hands waving in response to our greetings.

Derrick calls to us again, “Whose streets?” “Our streets,” we call back to him loudly.  Last week, a dead animal lay festering in the heat in the gutter as we walked by. Linden is a stark place.

There is a wilderness here, traffic zooming by on their way somewhere else, trash in some yards while other houses are neatly ordered with flower beds and porch swings. Some neighbors are curious about this modest little group moving through their streets, others say thanks for coming by. Some turn to another street to avoid our little band of walkers.

Gun violence will not stop because we are there. And when we first started walking the neighborhood, I wondered if we would have any impact at all. Does one small group make a difference?  If we did not believe that there is purpose to our walking, then Jesus’ message of peace and forgiveness would never have made it out of the garden where Mary Magdalen encountered him.  I do not begin to understand why violence reigns in our city, why we cannot as a people learn the ways of peace. I do know that being a presence of peace on Monday nights, helps at least one small part of the city.  I know it helps me feel that there must be a way, we need the courage to find it. In our walking, hope happens.

Dear God, please keep the people in Linden safe. Help our city, like so many cities, reduce the violence. Help us find a way to end gangs, poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of trust, of compassion, of purpose. Protect our children.   Protect our walkers. Light our path to the way of peace.

Amen.

Click here to view a feature on these weekly walks from WTTE Fox 28. 

Posted in Weekly Word

Peace and Justice Updates 8.18.2021

SPEAK UP FOR JUSTICE:
Urge U.S. to Expedite Resettlement for Afghan Allies and Refugees
Please contact the Biden administration, your senators and representatives and urge them to expedite resettlement, including Special Immigrant Visas, for Afghans who have assisted U.S. military and diplomatic personnel since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001.

Regardless of what one may think about the situation in Afghanistan today, the U.S. withdrawal or the original invasion of 2001, the United States has a responsibility to protect these Afghans who put their own lives at risk to further the U.S. mission and now face severe repression and death.

It is not just allies who will need assistance fleeing the returned Taliban regime. Faithful America has asked that we speak out to encourage President Biden’s administration to offer asylum to Afghan refugees. Click here to sign the petition.

Speak Up to Promote Gun Safety
Tomorrow, August 19, is the last day to contribute to public comments on the Biden administration’s proposed rule change on ghost guns, which would require ghost gun parts manufacturers and dealers who are engaged in the business of selling those parts to be federally licensed, parts would need serial numbers, and purchasers must pass a background check before buying ghost gun parts from a licensed dealer.

Please click here to add your comment before Thursday, August 19, 2021

Craft for a Cause
Sr. Judy Morris works with Water With Blessings, a Louisville-based group that equips and empowers and entrusts mothers to become Water Women: compassionate mothers to become agents of change in their communities who filter clean water for their families and neighbors.
You can contribute to this important mission with your crochet hooks and knitting needles, making protective covers for the precious water filters that Water with Blessings provides. Click for crochet instructions and click here for knitting instructions. You can also create knotted hangers for special filters provided to Navajo Nation women; click here for instructions.

EVENTS:
Spiritual Retreat Reflecting on Our Common Home
During the week of August 23, 2021, Sister Dianne Bergant, CSA, will preach a spiritual retreat focused on viewing Laudato Si’ from a Biblical perspective.

The retreat sessions will be available on the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA) YouTube channel at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, beginning at 3 p.m. on Monday, August 23 and concluding at 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 28. For those wishing to participate at a later date, the recordings will remain available on the CSA YouTube channel and website indefinitely.

From Interfaith Power and Light
Our partner Dayenu, a Jewish Call to Climate Action, is hosting a series of public in-person Jewishly-rooted and multifaith actions across the country. The Hear the Call events are happening throughout the month of Elul as Jewish communities prepare for the High Holidays.

You can also join Interfaith Power and Light on August 27 for a day of action to ask our congressional leaders to invest in climate action and creation justice!

Sign up for this virtual event on August 27th at 12pm Eastern to join people of faith in calling your members of Congress, asking them to pass a climate budget that includes important, once-in-a-generation investments in climate change prevention and resilience.

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

The Love of God Impels Us

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

When I was discerning religious life, I would search for all the articles about Sisters in the diocesan newspaper, would send away to congregations to get great piles of vocation literature and had so many books on saints that I could have opened my own lending library.  I was hungry for information about Sisters and various congregations.  I also watched and re-watched such movies as the Bells of St. Mary’s, the Trouble with Angels, and In This House of Brede.  I, like many discerners, needed information in order to learn about religious life and to discern well.  I was also blessed with getting to know the Sisters in person and being part of a discernment group with other men and women discerning a call from God.  Yet, I still hesitated.

Ultimately, what helped me make the decision to ask for an application was attending the renewal of vows of a friend who happened to be a sister.  Sr. Annette was a temporary professed sister at the retreat house in McLean, Virginia, where I volunteered and went on retreat.  The sisters knew I was discerning and so when Annette was going to renew her vows at a simple ceremony during Vespers, I was invited to attend.  At some point during the ceremony, I sensed God saying to me, “This could be you.”  Then, as she professed her vows, I felt a deep longing within myself to give my life completely to God as she had done.  Not long afterwards, I applied and was accepted into the congregation as a candidate.

 

Fast forward 30 years to this past weekend, when I was honored to be with our Sister Ana Gonzalez as she professed her Vows as a Dominican Sister of Peace for LIFE.  The Mass, the perpetual profession ceremony and the preaching were all profound and will be long remembered.  As Ana professed her vows, many of us were quietly speaking the same words as we renewed our commitment once again, for LIFE.

I wonder who may have been in the audience or watching on the live-stream, and asking, “Could this be me?”

If you are wondering if this could be you, then why wait?  Consider attending our next Come & See Retreat, September 10 -12 in Akron, Ohio or reach out to the vocation team to start the conversation.  Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next person to enter our congregation.

Posted in Vocations Blog

That Day in July

Blog by Rev. Ron Kurzawa, OPA

It was a Sunday . . .  the 24th of July, 1967.

And almost as usual, life began to unfold in the parish early on that Sunday morning.

Our schedules in hand, we, the clergy began to enter into our last-minute preparations for the Masses over which we would preside on that Sunday morning.

The early Mass folk were already beginning to arrive at that modest-sized, Westside, mostly Polish parish.

It was beginning as just another Sunday.

Or so most of us thought.

But that morning there was one difference.

There was a police car outside, directly front of the front entrance to the church. And a couple of the occupants were asking to speak to the clergy.

Alone . . .  apart from the gathering crowd . . .  somewhere somewhat isolated so that what was about to be said would be spoken in a degree of secrecy.

At least for the moment.

Clergy gathered (and remember, this was 1967 and many parishes back then had more than a single priest!) and the officers spoke to us.

No need for alarm and certainly there is no need to alarm the congregation. However, there is some “trouble” in the streets somewhat nearby. Because of that, keep things as brief as possible and simply, calmly at the end of the Mass encourage everyone to go directly home. Tell them not to linger, socialize or head out anywhere for breakfast.

Straight home . . .  and immediately.

Some “trouble” in the streets somewhat nearby!

July 24 is the anniversary day of the founding, the establishment of Detroit. 1701 was the day. And here it was – another July 24 only this year, 1967, Detroit was taking a different turn in its identity.

Late night or early morning, depending on your sense of time, something had happened that set tempers flaring and unleashed long pent-up frustrations.

And there was violence in the streets.

Some ‘trouble” somewhat nearby!

Masses went on as usual and as scheduled. Folks were encouraged to not linger but rather head straight home. As the morning progressed, folks arriving were hearing something of the news of that “trouble” somewhat nearby.

And a bit later that Sunday, I had the opportunity of hosting a gathering of a handful of faculty and students from the University of Detroit. At that time I was a student in the graduate program there, taking courses in education and counseling. Our gathering consisted of some like minds, folks who could name trends and issues impacting society and analyze and speculate possible results.

One of the items that came up was the current condition of Detroit’s black population. Several of the faculty spoke about how surprised they were that something had not yet erupted, given the prevalence of racism and its effects.

The discussion continued along those lines on into the evening.

The time came for my guests to depart. The sky was darkening. Night was descending.

And as we emerged from our gathering in that rectory, we could see something more.

Flames were tearing through that darkness.

Somewhere not too distant from where we were, neighborhoods were ablaze.

It was then that I remembered that early morning visit from those law officers. It was then that I realized that the time had, indeed, come.

A people had been dehumanized for far too long.

Now much pent-up anger was emerging, erupting, tearing through the streets.

Langston Hughes captured it so very, very well. What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun?… Or does it explode?”

Every human being has a dream, a God-given dream and that is to be treated as, respected as a human being, made in the image and likeness of God.

And when that dream is deferred . . . it does not dry up like some raisin in the sun.

July 24, 1967 – the results of a dream deferred!

Posted in Associate Blog

Peace and Justice Updates 8.11.2021

Bring Civil Rights Lawyers Back to the Courts
Myrna Pérez, a daughter of Mexican immigrants and an advocate for voting rights, has been nominated for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She would be only the second Latina ever to serve on the Second Circuit, and the first since Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Click here to add your name to a petition to tell Senators to confirm Myrna Pérez’s nomination to the Second Circuit Court.

Speak Up to Promote Gun Safety
On April 7, 2021, President Joe Biden announced his initial set of executive actions to tackle the gun violence crisis in our nation, including a change to regulate ghost guns.

On May 21, 2021, the ATF announced a notice of its proposed rule change on ghost guns and the public has 90 days to submit comments on the proposal. The proposed rule would clarify that partially complete firearm frames and receivers (such as 80% receivers) are firearms if they are designed as a part of a functioning firearm, or could easily be converted into one. The rule change would also require ghost gun parts manufacturers and dealers who are engaged in the business of selling those parts to be federally licensed, parts would need serial numbers, and purchasers must pass a background check before buying ghost gun parts from a licensed dealer.

Over 54,000 comments on this legislation have been submitted and the majority of comments are from gun rights advocates and groups. We must counter the corporate gun lobby objections with strong support for this common-sense rule change that will save many lives.

Please click here to add your comment before Thursday, August 19, 2021

SAMPLE COMMENTS:

  • I support ATF 2021R-05 rule change because gun violence is a public health epidemic and the federal government must regulate do-it-yourself easy to assemble unserialized untraceable ghost guns—including AR-15s—that are becoming weapons of choice for criminals, extremists, gun traffickers and other prohibited gun purchasers.
  • According to the ATF, law enforcement recovered about 10,000 ghost guns in 2019. Serial numbers must be required for ghost gun parts and background checks must be required for anyone purchasing ghost gun parts. Gun deaths and injuries have surged over the past year and federal inaction on ghost guns will result in more tragedies in our communities in all corners of our nation.
  • According to the Center for American Progress, ghost guns are increasingly being used in shootings across the nation. I urge the ATF to support this proposed rule change to keep Americans safe.
  • In November 2019, a 16-year-old shot five of his classmates at Saugus High School in California—two of them fatally—using a homemade handgun, before fatally shooting himself.
  • In August 2019, a shooter used a homemade gun kit to build a .223-caliber firearm that he later used to fire 41 shots in 32 seconds in a bar in Dayton, Ohio, shooting 26 people and killing nine.
  • In 2017, in Northern California, a man prohibited from possessing firearms ordered kits to build AR-15-style rifles. On November 13, he initiated a series of shootings that began with fatally shooting his wife at home, followed by a rampage the next day during which he fired at multiple people in several different locations, including an elementary school, killing five people and injuring dozens more.
  • In 2013, a shooter opened fire in Santa Monica, California, shooting 100 rounds, killing five people, and injuring several others at a community college using a homemade AR-15 rifle. Reporting indicates the shooter had previously tried to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer and failed a background check, potentially indicating why he opted to order parts to build a gun instead.

Virtual Volunteer Opportunities
The Environmental Voter Project has opportunities for phone and email work to help encourage votes for candidates who put the climate first. Click each link to learn more.

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates