What you Wear may Contribute to the World’s Warming

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller, OP

Don’t like wrinkled clothes? Don’t like to iron? Then buy materials with polyester? Perhaps we want to think again about what is convenient, practical, or time saving.  All choices have consequences, right?

Sisters and Associates in the Congregation participate in a campaign against the wide use of plastics—straws, containers, bags. Clothing/materials have escaped our attention, yet 60% of our clothing made out of plastic.  Polyester comes from oil—a polymer which is a long chain of repeating molecular units; the synthetic polyester of clothing results from a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum, air, and water (one type: purified terephthalic acid or PTS). (For the non-chemical engineer the names are tongue-twisters.) Polyester has become ubiquitous in clothing because the threads in the spinning process can be spun short or long which enables blending the threads with the natural fabric threads of cotton, wool or silk. And so we can have our warm fleece or non-wrinkle pants or fast-drying shirts. Did you know that China is a leader in producing all plastic clothing?

A major problem exists, however: producing polyester requires great amounts of fuel—oil and coal—which releases significant CO2 into our atmosphere—adding to the CO2 and methane trapping the sun’s heat on our earth and into our oceans. We in the US and peoples around the world in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia experience its consequences of extremes in heat, fires, droughts, and home losses. Do we include all the animals, fish, and birds lost in these events?

Another related consequence is adding to the amount of plastic in our earth’s water. In laundering fleece and other materials-often of 50-50 polyester fabric composition-microfibers are released by heat into the waste water, ending up in our oceans, lakes, rivers for ingestion by aquatic creatures and us.

All of us can and must speak up and resist continued dependence upon fossil fuels.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Freedom from Fear

In  light of what’s been happening on the border, I wanted to share an article from the Southwest Kansas Catholic written by the editor, Dave Myers.  It may be hard for some of us to imagine this happening but this is why so many good people will walk thousands of miles for peace and safety.

Honduran family journeys to Kansas seeking
Freedom from Fear

By David Myer 
Southwest Kansas Register
Editor’s Note: Ana’s name has been changed for this story.

For 10 minutes, Ana felt the cold steel of a gun held to her head.

For 10 minutes, the mother of three children knew she would die at any moment, and when that moment never came, it was nothing short of a milagro (miracle).

When the Register spoke with the diminutive woman from Honduras, she was only six days in the United States and living with family members. The relief she felt was palpable. She and her two sons were safe, and she soon would be reunited with her husband and seven-year-old daughter, from whom they separated before crossing the border. She was at peace. Finally. And she no longer had to face the inevitability of her two sons being forcefully indoctrinated into a gang or cartel.

Having a gun pressed to her head was not the first time Ana felt heart-crushing fear, and it wouldn’t be the last. But it was the moment when the family finally decided it was time to leave.

With the help of Sister Janice Thome, OP, who acted as interpreter, Ana described the day she encountered the gunman. She was at work in a restaurant when a gang of thugs flew through the front doors.

“They wanted to kill a [wealthy man], but he was surrounded by body guards,” Ana explained. “They killed a lot of people. They wanted money, but it was 9 a.m. when we opened, and there was no money yet.”

Because Ana was a witness to the shootings, she surely would be killed, too.

“I ran to the back, but a man caught me and put a gun to my head. For 10 minutes he didn’t say anything. I don’t know why he didn’t kill me. When this kind of thing happens in my country, they shoot you for sure. It was a miracle.”

Why didn’t she go to the police?

“The police and the gangs are linked. I would be dead.”

If it was just about her safety – going to work and getting home without being victimized – they might have stayed. But then there were the children. Ana explained that when children enter, say, the ninth or tenth grades, they are approached by cartel members wanting to “train them to be drug mules or to kidnap people for money. If they don’t want to be a part of it, they are told that their whole family will be killed.

“I didn’t want my sons to grow up and be bad men. I wanted to come here and be safe, where they could grow up to be good men.”

She found the help of a kind “coyote.” (Coyotes are those who help others cross the border, and are notoriously less interested in their “customers’” welfare than they are in money. To find a kind coyote who charged the “very cheap” price of $9,500 for the entire family, was another “milagro.”) Ana, her husband, three children and two other family members boarded a bus and began the long trek across Guatemala, along the vast expanse of Mexico, and finally to the border of Texas.

Like so many immigrants flooding into the southern states, once across the border, Ana and her family allowed themselves to be taken by immigration officials, in hopes that they would be granted asylum. She and her husband – she with their two sons and he with their daughter – separated, hoping that each, having children but being without a spouse, would be granted the asylum they desperately sought.

It was a decision that would haunt each parent like a bad nightmare for several days to come.

“They took all my jewelry,” Ana said. “They went through my hair and gave me a total pat-down. They took my fingerprints, took my picture, and wanted to know the address of family members here so we could prove we had some place to go.”

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because of the overwhelming number of immigrants crossing the border, the conditions of the temporary facilities “are lacking in even the most basic services and conditions.”

For two days, Ana and her two sons slept on a bare, cement floor. It was cold, and they had no blankets. Her oldest son slept sitting up, while the younger son slept with his head on his brother’s leg.

“I didn’t eat or sleep for two days,” Ana said. “I was so scared. I began shaking. They asked why I hadn’t moved to a different place in Honduras. I told them because of the violence. They asked why I didn’t move to Mexico. I said I didn’t have family there. They wanted me to sign a form, but I was so scared. I didn’t speak English and didn’t understand what I was signing. I began to cry.

“One of the [guards/immigration officials] became so angry when I wouldn’t sign that he made a slashing motion across his throat. I was so scared I would be killed.”

Eventually her sister, who resides with Ana’s mother in southwest Kansas, convinced her by phone to sign the paper, and she and her two boys were released.

With no money and no food, the three stood helpless outside the detention center; Ana was crying. With little hope, a kind woman spotted them on the road and offered them her phone, which Ana used to call her sister. The woman took them to McDonalds and told them to order whatever they wanted. Ana was so distraught that she couldn’t eat. Then the woman took them to a Catholic church where Ana offered thanks to God.

A priest brought them to a “place for food and rest” where they slept two nights. “It was wonderful; I helped cook,” she said.

Even better than the food and shelter, is the fact that they offered help in finding her husband and daughter.

Meanwhile, back in Kansas, Ana’s mother and sister obtained the aid of a minister. He enlisted the help of his congregation to raise the gas money so that he personally drive to Texas, pick up Ana’s family, and bring them back to Kansas. It turned out that Ana’s husband and their little girl had been released after only two hours of incarceration, and had been given shelter by her husband’s friend in Dallas.

As the Register spoke to Ana, her husband and daughter were packing their bags to begin the end of their long journey. “They should be here tomorrow,” Ana said with a broad grin. “When we talk on the phone, we want to have each other in our arms so bad that we cry. He’s my support. He’s my shoulder.”

Soon they will have to report to the immigration office in Wichita where they will have the difficult task of proving that “the fear; the absolute fear” of staying in their homeland is real.

If they are unable to do so, the family faces the very real possibility of being deported back to the violence they left behind.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

October 20, 2018 The Day God Smiled and Cried

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Sunday was an especially amazing and yet difficult day –  a day when God smiled and cried at the same time.  Sunday was the dedication of the first Social Justice Park in the United States.  The Washington Gladden Social Justice Park, a brainchild of associate Rev. Tim Aherns, had its grand opening. Although it was a damp, dreary, cold day, hundreds came out including Dominican Sisters of Peace and their Associates.

At one point, the rain began and colorful umbrellas covered the crowd like so many mushrooms.  It occurred to me that God was crying about all the injustice happening in our world– the shootings in Pittsburgh and the Kroger outside Louisville, KY, the pipe bombs, the caravan from Honduras and the fear mongering bent on stopping them at our border, the laws and rules determined to keep refugees and asylum seekers from being welcomed, the bombing in Syria and Yemen, and many, many more actions that don’t seem to represent the values of our country.

Then, in the midst of the rain came the sun.  Just a glimmer at first but later bright, warm, loving sun embraced our cold, damp bodies.  It seemed miraculous to me – almost as if God was smiling down on the park and all the folks supporting it.  There was reason for us to be happy at that moment as we heard from various speakers of the promise of the park.  We need a park full of beauty to keep us thinking about and acting for the cause of justice. 

I was particularly moved by the poem written and read by Sara Abou Rached, a 19 year old raised in Syria whose family came here because of the war, who described America “as one reliant woman who is loud, proud, strong. Whose shoulders shelter continents. Who arms extend and reach beyond oceans.”  Yes…. America who is welcoming and sheltering and peaceful.

She reminded me of the greatness of America in a time when it’s easy to feel the stinginess of our government’s actions and overwhelming amount of injustice.

In his daily email on that same day, Fr. Richard Rohr wrote that that we are each love. “When [we] don’t live according to love, [we] are outside of being. [We] are not real or true to ourselves. When [we] love, [we] are acting according to our deepest being, our deepest truth.  [We] are operating according to our dignity…This kind of love is… outflowing.”  That same day, God cried and smiled on us at the same time, an outflowing of God’s presence to remind us that we must also promote an outflowing of justice.

You can listen to Sara’s entire poem here:  https://www.pbs.org/video/i-am-america-sara-abou-rashed-awtcyo/

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

How Will You Vote?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

One of the freedoms that I am most grateful for is freedom of speech. As citizens, we are able to disagree publically with our elected officials and each other without worrying about the police arresting us when we walk out the door. And most importantly, we can make our voice heard through our vote. 

When we vote, we look for the person who will best represent our values. This can be especially difficult in today’s climate and we might be tempted to vote only for our party, or for women…or Latinos…or liberals… or…..   You get my point.  

Some might vote only for a candidate who professes to be pro-life. Voting for a person who is anti-abortion is not necessarily the same as voting pro-life.  Life does not stop when a child is born.  There are so many other important life issues to be considered.  I would suggest that all the issues that the Dominican Sisters of Peace have included in our voting guide are pro-life including protection from violence in our own communities and welcoming people escaping from it in their countries…ensuring that our creation is protected and its resources are available for all…protecting adults and children from sex or labor trafficking. They address the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

So what do you do when a candidate professes to be pro-life but addresses none of the life issues after birth? That’s where our consciences come into play.

A recent article in America called Catholic Teaching on Conscience is (Again) Topic of Discussion at Synod, states “Catholics believe that following one’s conscience is paramount—and that believers should do their best to form their consciences in the light of reason, experience, Scripture and spiritual formation, always with the help of church teaching.”  The Church’s Social Teaching is one source of formation and includes the rights to life, dignity, work, care for the poor and vulnerable, and care for creation. Perhaps we need to work together to end abortions by helping women to avoid them or supporting mothers when their children are born.

So, in the end, each person must make his or her decision on how to vote. That decision must be done with prayer, information, discussion.  Voting is an important action that cannot be taken lightly. It affects each of us personally and communally.  May you find peace in this important action. 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Justice is Rest

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

The best law in the church’s canon is number 663 which states that religious are “to observe faithfully an annual period of sacred retreat.”  What a blessing that it is a required to take time out to rest the mind, body, and spirit. I just got back from my retreat and it was an amazing experience. Once again, I experienced God in the beauty of the retreat grounds, in the daily liturgy and scripture readings, and in the reflections suggested by my director.  Add to that great food and a comfortable bed and it was just what I needed to refuel for my ministry.

It got me thinking, however, about the idea of rest and relaxation and how so many people do not have that luxury. Even with the job market as robust as it is, low wage earners – around one-third of the work force-  earn less than $12 an hour and would have to work full time over 50 weeks per year to reach the poverty line for a family of three.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a ‘working poor’ person as someone below the poverty line who spent at least half the year either working or looking for work.  There are around 7.6 million working poor primarily adults over 35.  If they cannot get full time work or if their income is not enough to make ends meet, they must work several jobs. The Labor Department also reported that around 7.6 million workers held multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

Many of these working poor are single parents, mostly women, who also have children or elderly parents to care for. Sadly, caregiving is not often thought of as work and not factored into the work equation.  Even if the children are in school, there is not enough time for mothers to work full time and care for their children. If they are earning only the national minimum wage which is $7.25, it is impossible to make enough income to support their families. The stress of living in this environment must be tremendous. And there is likely not much opportunity for rest or relaxation.

Time off for relaxation and vacation like retreats is important to our wellbeing. This has been known for ages. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” Lack of relaxation can cause anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, or chest pain.  The ability to have some time for relaxation improves health and mood.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to have time each year to do a retreat. I’m even more grateful that I have time each week for the Sabbath and do not have the stress of supporting myself and my family. Do I really make the most of these opportunities?

For an interesting perspective on this issue, check out Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty.  They’re Not.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/11/magazine/americans-jobs-poverty-homeless.html

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog