A Message from my Brother

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

I’m a twin, in case you did not know. My sister Marge is married with two grown daughters and lives with her husband Mike in New Jersey. So hold that thought for a minute.

Last weekend, I visited my girlfriends for our semi-annual tradition of coming together for friendship and fun and just being together. We went to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, a very small town about an hour west of Madison. It was so small we drove right through it without realizing that we should’ve made a turn in order to find this small arts community we were looking to visit. There were some interesting galleries, one of which was holding an exhibit of quilts from the AIDS Names Project. You might remember it.

I was immediately struck by them. Twelve feet square assemblages of six quilts handmade by the friends and family of those who died of HIV-AIDS. The gallery held some quilts of people from the local area. The whole Names Project holds 48,000 quilts and is the largest community folk arts project in the world.  It was on display on the Washington Mall beginning in 1987. My brother Paul’s quilt is among them and today is the 30th anniversary of his death. So when I saw the exhibit, I felt that he was reaching out to me.

I found a photo of his quilt on the Names Project Foundation’s website.

Now about my sister Marge. Unbeknownst to me, she found Paul’s quilt and ordered a framed photo of it from the Names Project. It arrived on Monday. She remembers going to Washington to see his quilt and signing the back of it. I think Paul was sending a message to her as well. The twins were channeling his spirit. Maybe it took two of us.

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, on exhibition at the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Today, so many memories are with me of Paul, how funny and playful he was.  Of my family, who was so supportive in the face of a society who, at the time, was openly hostile and hateful toward gay people. And even more despicable toward those who suffered from the disease to the point of funeral homes refusing to bury the dead. Really. Refused to bury them. For many, a distant memory now.

Today, I know a kind of breaking through, a connection across the veil, that is as real as a pinprick on my skin. Paul poked through and let us know that he is here. His smile, his inventiveness with electronics, his hopes of having his own business, his place in our family. I think he just wanted to let us know that all is well, he’s fine and happy and feeling loved.

As you might recall those you have lost, those who you remember as precious, know that there is only a thin veil that separates you. I hope you feel the pinprick, the way they sometimes poke through to us, just to say we are loved.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

What Makes a Racist?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

I just spent the weekend learning and reflecting about racism.  It’s a complicated issue especially for those of us who are white and don’t think we are. It’s very difficult to know what’s in another’s heart but as we do know that actions speak louder than words.

Case in point.  There is a lot of discussion about whether the president is racist. People on Facebook are asking it, the news media is commenting on it and several Democratic lawmakers are stating it.  Again, we don’t know what’s in his heart but let’s look at some actions:

  • Children as young as four months have been separated from their parents.
  • Hardworking, tax paying immigrants have been arrested and deported.
  • Families fleeing from violence and climate disasters are refused entry because of their religion.
  • Parents and children are detained in cages in 60 degree rooms.
  • Whole countries, cities, and ethnicities are labeled as criminals, terrorists, or filthy.

All of the above are happening to people of color.

Very few can say that we do not have some racist tendencies in us. We must work hard to identify them and keep them from resulting in actions that hurt others.

St. Paul wrote “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) Calling people names takes up time and energy that would be better spent doing good.  Let’s use our energy to protest these evil and racist actions by letting our representatives know that we do not agree with what is going on and that we will not reelect those who are complicit in these actions.  Catholics are taught to love the sinner and hate the sin. Let us pray for the president and those who are advising him and at the same time continue to condemn those actions that hurt our brothers and sisters.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Justice Updates August 20, 2019

Human Trafficking come in many forms. This story about Fedelina is heartbreaking.   Fedelina was 81 years old when she collapsed of malnourishment and fatigue at the hospital while caring for her employer. For decades, she had been held captive as a domestic servant in Los Angeles. She began her life of servitude as a teenager and later was brought to the US where her passport and other forms of identification were stripped from her. She was kept as a domestic worker for one extended family for 65 years without ever being paid. Fedelina had cared, cooked, and cleaned for four generations of one family. In return, she was kept captive for almost her entire life through carefully honed and extremely effective methods of control that are all too common.

A huge reason is the domestic work workforce’s near total lack of legal options and protections — unfair wage deductions, no requirement for paid time off, no realistic recourse for sexual harassment, and nowhere to turn. Of the 8,000 labor trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, almost 25% involved domestic workers.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance is sponsoring a Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers. Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Senator Kamala Harris have introduced companion bills.   Call your representative and ask her/him to support these bills.

American Magazine editors write “The Trump administration’s immigration policies consistently betray not only a profound misunderstanding of what drives the tired and poor to our shores and borders but what they long for—and have historically achieved—when they arrive.” Read their article The myth of the self-sufficient immigrant that’s fueling the White House’s draconian policy.

Despite the over 250,000 comments including those submitted by our sisters decrying these rules, the administration is planning to implement new rules to deny green cards to immigrants needing public assistance. Any possibility that an immigrant may need public assistance may result in the inability to get more permanent status.  For the details.

Tom Roberts writes that language can enable white nationalism and threaten others. Read his article here.

Justice for Immigrants Campaign is suggesting that Monday be “Migration Monday” and that we use this day for personal prayer, fasting, and almsgiving on behalf of the children detained at the U.S. border and in the various camps around the country. You can see pictures of children who have died and a prayer for them here.

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It examines the legacy of slavery on American and consists of poems, essays, and stories.   To access these resources, click here and then scroll down to see the various items. Click on the page to read an essay or poem.

Tennessee executed Steven Michael West last Thursday, August 15. Margaret Renkl reflects “my own reason for wanting to end the death penalty is simpler than any of these arguments, as compelling as they truly are. As a Christian, I keep coming back to exhortations like “Thou shalt not kill” and “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone” and “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” It seems to me that Jesus was very clear on this question of mercy. At his own execution, he prayed, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Read the rest of her reflections.

Save the Dates.  The annual School of the Americas gathering will be November 15-17 in Ft. Benning, Georgia. In addition to training officers in foreign countries, Fort Benning is being considered as a detention center facility for children.  US trained military are part of the root problems plaguing Central American especially Honduras. Here is more information about what’s happening in Honduras.  If you are interested in the SOA Watch, click here.

 

 

Posted in News

WIELDING PEACE, NOT GUNS

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

The first time that I saw Cameron Boyce, he was about 12 years old.

Little did I know that he – the little freckle-faced youngster portraying Luke Ross in the Disney Channel comedy series Jessie — would grow up to be one of my heroes.

Cameron – who died unexpectedly in his home at age 20 on July 6, after having an epileptic seizure – left behind a legacy of caring for others and of making a positive change in the world. His humanitarian and philanthropic efforts included helping bring clean water to underdeveloped countries; working to end homelessness in the United States; raising awareness and fighting against sexual assault on college campuses; spreading kindness, and fighting to end gun violence.

(Sidebar:  For those “adults” who still believe that young people are not committed to social justice or that young people need “adults” to lead the way, I offer Cameron as an example of the many young people who are leading the way and making a difference in the world. Therefore, I reiterate one of my favorite sayings: DON’T WRITE OFF YOUNG PEOPLE. THEY CARE DEEPLY ABOUT A BETTER WORLD.)

In the wake of Cameron’s death, the Cameron Boyce Foundation (a nonprofit organization founded in Los Angeles to provide young people with artistic and creative outlets as alternatives to violence and negativity) teamed up with Refinery29 to continue Cameron’s final project, Wielding Peace, by launching a social media campaign.

The project includes a collection of images of people from all walks of life (in Cameron’s own words) “wielding anything that might inspire someone creatively as well as make a strong statement with the sentiment that we need to choose a different weapon” (other than a gun).

What do you think would happen, if we could get everyone to yield peace and not guns?

Last year on social media, Cameron wrote: “It’s so important to think selflessly. To acknowledge that problems exist even if they don’t apply to you. To understand how lucky we are to even be here and how nothing in your life will ever be more fulfilling than helping others.”

(You might want to go back, read that quote again and let it penetrate deeply into your heart and mind)

In my opinion, Cameron was wise beyond his years. He will always be one of my heroes because he gave of himself for the greater good of others.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

When the Well Runs Dry

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George

Ever feel like your well has run dry?  Sometimes when it’s my turn to write this week’s blog, I struggle with coming up with meaningful topics to write or share about. This phrase, when the well runs dry, keeps popping up in my mind as a metaphorical awareness of where my life is at the moment and so it deserves some reflection.

I like to do Google searches on phrases to get ideas beyond my own to see what emerges. Quotes, a book, and two films are attributed to this phrase.  Let’s look at each of these findings to see what bubbles up.

Perhaps some of you are aware that Benjamin Franklin is attributed with saying “When the well is dry, we know the value of water.”  Another way of interpreting this saying is that you never know what you have until it is gone.  A twist on this phrase is the expression, “You’ll never miss the water ‘til the well runs dry” by W.C. Handy.  Both expressions are a wake-up call to take time to cherish the people in our lives who mean so much to us and to be mindful of what we do have because it could be gone tomorrow.

When we dig deep into the well of our being, we can see also whether we are a glass-half-empty person or half-full person.  We can ask ourselves whether we hold onto a pessimistic or optimistic worldview and we can try to shift our perspective if we find ourselves needing to move from the negative to the positive.

The Jesuit priest, Thomas H. Green, wrote a book on prayer that holds this phrase and is entitled When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings. It’s sitting on my bookshelf at home and this may be a good time for me to reflect on his words and to quench my thirst on the wellspring of prayer.

A movie and a documentary film also hold this phrase as its title. One is a 2018 movie about two brothers who struggle with their relationship after the loss of their mother. I suspect that one takeaway from the movie is an understanding of the difficulty we all have to appreciate what we have while we still have it. Turning to a pragmatic understanding of what happens when a well runs dry, is a half-hour documentary film, produced in 2015, that portrays “the vital connection that rural Kansans have with water” and “the ongoing threats [ranchers, farmers, and residents] face to the availability of the water they depend on.”  This environmental threat to our water resources adds another layer of meaning not to be forgotten when pondering the literal impact of a well running dry.

In Scripture, there are many references to callings, conversions, and healings that take place at a well or some reservoir of water. The story of the woman at the well illustrates not only her conversion but also the unconditional love Jesus extends to her. On the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calls Peter and other fishermen to follow him.  Both of these scriptural examples highlight the transformative power and healing nature of water and that when our well runs dry, God is there with us.

When discerning what to do in a particular situation or what life choice to make, we may find the well runs dry.  But, I think when we examine what is happening inside ourselves and listen to what thoughts and feelings are surfacing, we are being called to a deeper awareness of God’s workings in our lives and a deeper relationship with God.

Do you hear or feel God’s presence nudging you to dig deeper and to respond to a call to explore life as a religious sister?  If so, contact us and begin the journey to discovering a wellspring of possibilities.

Posted in God Calling??