“I Stand with Immigrants”

Dr. James Tinnin, OPA

Associate Dr. Jim Tinnin, Bradenton, FL, ministers through his participation in the Dominican Sisters of Peace Immigration Reform Committee. Here is what he has to say about this work.

I am most grateful to serve on the Dominican Sisters of Peace Immigration Reform Committee, which is chaired by Conni Dubick, OPA, a fellow Dominican Associate and long-time friend, and includes fifteen other DSOP Sisters and Associates. We meet on a conference call every month to update each other on immigration issues and actions in the regions where we live and minister and discuss how we might aid those who are impacted by unjust immigration policies.

In his Prayer for Immigrants, Pope Francis states that “in caring for immigrants, we seek a world where none are forced to leave their homes and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace.  Inspire us, as nations, communities, and as individuals to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters.”

As a Congregation, we are committed to promoting justice through solidarity with the marginalized, and to creating welcoming communities. Dominican Sisters of Peace Immigration Reform Committee helps to give these commitments “legs” through action and advocacy.

We advocate against the separation of immigrant families and the detention of children at the border because like our Savior, we preach love for these children and their families.

In a speech at a 2019 educational event in El Paso, TX, Michael Okinczyc-Cruz, executive director of the Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership in Chicago, said “We have to be bold. The work of the church is to activate.” The Holy Father has told our Bishops that we must step back from partisan politics and discern how to cast our votes based on our values.

As members of the Committee on Immigration Reform, we are actively tuned into the 2020 political debates, carefully monitoring each candidate on this issue that is so vital to our Congregation’s commitments.

We ask that you, too, pay attention to the candidates and how their policy objectives coincide with the values that we hold central to our beliefs. Personally, I stand with these immigrant families and am solidly behind the candidate who can best resolve this important policy issue.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Extreme Risk Laws Save Lives

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

It was a beautiful, sunny Palm Sunday in Louisville.  Billie Jo and Brad Hettinger attended mass with their two children, five-year-old Collin, and four-year-old Courtney.  Collin was always ready to answer questions when the pastor asked for a response, most recently saying he was sad Jesus died, but happy that he loved him.

After greeting the pastor at the end of mass, the Heddingers drove home.  Soon after returning home, Brad pulled out a gun, walked upstairs, shot, and killed his wife.  He then shot and killed his two children.  After setting fire to the home, he put a gun to his head and took his life.  Families, friends, and parishioners were rocked by this unbelievable tragedy.

Billie Jo, Collin (5) and Courtney (4) were shot by their husband and father, Brad Hettinger, who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Brad Hettinger suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  After serving in the military as a decorated officer in the Iraq war he knew that he needed to get psychiatric help, but it was too late.

Every Town for Gun Safety continues to work for the adoption of Extreme Risk laws, sometimes referred to as “Red Flag” laws.  These laws empower loved ones or law enforcement to intervene in order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from purchasing firearms or removing firearms from their possession.  This helps de-escalate emergency situations and is a proven way to intervene before gun violence, such as a murder/suicide or mass shooting.  Current law prohibits the sale of firearms to those convicted of certain crimes, or adjudicated as mentally ill, or involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Currently, there are 17 states and Washington D.C. that have passed Extreme Risk laws.  Every Town for Gun Safety notes that Connecticut has seen a 14% reduction in firearm suicides.  This law is especially important since perpetrators of mass shootings often display warning signs of violence before committing violent acts.

Extreme Violence Risk laws are common-sense efforts to reduce gun violence, mass shootings, and suicides.  Responsible action to curb gun violence has worked in those 17 states that have passed Extreme Violence Risk laws.  Several state legislatures are now considering passing such laws.

Please contact your state representative and call for the passage of this vital Extreme Risk Law.  We can make a difference.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Pro-life?

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

You know it is election season when bumper stickers adorn cars everywhere.  One that appears every election season is, “I’m pro-life and I vote.”  It is always encouraging to observe a person committed to voting, but the first part of the bumper sticker raises the question:  What does it mean to be pro-life?  For many, being pro-life means opposing abortion.  Is that where it ends?

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin created the concept of a “seamless garment.”  He articulated a long list of pro-life issues, widening the perspective to focus on the need to protect all life.  This does not diminish the importance of the abortion issue but emphasizes the urgency of all life issues that threaten human life and all creation.  While I am concerned about protecting the unborn, I also have concerns about the other 90% of life issues.  I am not a one-issue voter.

Can one be pro-life and:

  • Support the execution of prisoners on death row?
  • Support the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons that can kill millions of people?
  • Support policies that cut food stamps, subsidized housing, daycare that support the women who have chosen to have their babies?  How do they care for their babies without that support?
  • Support putting children in cages?
  • Support the manufacture and use of landmines that kill thousands of children and farmers long after a war is over?  (This is once again legal.)

The list of pro-life issues is endless.  An election year is an important time for dialogue, not debate, on life issues with persons with whom we disagree.  Unfortunately, dialogue does not happen often, following the advice to avoid talking about politics.  I believe political issues are moral issues and need shared wisdom from informed and committed citizens.  Together can we look at the entire landscape of life issues?  Neither silence nor heated rhetoric can bridge the deep divisions we face as a country.  The gift we can bring is a commitment to pursue truth, working to deepen understanding of issues of concern, always building mutual respect.  Now is an important time to “be peace, build peace and preach peace.”

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Showing Up

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

It’s often said that “90% of life is showing up.” I have often reflected on the meaning of those words. Most of the time it seems mundane – we show up for work, for special occasions, for family functions …

Like many, I have been impressed by Time’s person of the year, Greta Thunberg. As an eight-year-old, she was inspired to do something for planet Earth. In 2016 she camped out in front of the Swedish Parliament, holding a sign, “School Strike for Climate.” Students around the world followed her example. Since then she has addressed the heads of state at the U.N., met with the Pope and spoken to President Trump. She does not have time for small talk; instead, she says, “Our home is on fire.” Her message is simple: oceans will rise, cities will flood, and people will suffer. She moved from sadness to endless action.  She shows up.

Fr. Jim Flynn, a 90-year-old Louisville priest, can be found six days a week on street corners around the city holding a sign welcoming immigrants to Louisville. Rain, snow, extreme heat, or cold does not deter him. Sometimes he is the only person present to hold a sign. I have stood with him when countless drivers blow their horns. He receives many thumbs up but at times a different finger. His life has been threatened if he continues, and still, he is there. He can be found at the Greyhound bus station bringing bottled water, food, coloring books and crayons to nervous immigrants passing through the city. He shows up.

Showing up is most often not dramatic. Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace have shown up consistently, preaching the just word. We have delivered countless hand-written letters to a Governor asking to end capital punishment, delivered soap and informational materials on human trafficking to hotels before a sporting event, walked in demonstrations for peace, environmental justice, and responsible gun legislation. Whether preaching from the pulpit, teaching English to immigrants, or praying for lasting peace in a fragile world, Dominicans continue to show up. The many expressions of showing up are endless.

I believe showing up is a mission-driven, Gospel-driven response to Matthew 25.  It is not about success, but faithfulness. “Showing up” is holy persistence, believing that one person can make a difference.

What is your definition of “showing up?”

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Remembering Bethany and Julio this Valentine’s Day

Blog by Director of Founded Ministries Mark Butler

My first conversation with Bethany “Sage” Moreno took place during a brief telephone call. She and her husband lived in Whitehall, Ohio and she was interested in becoming Catholic. I explained a little bit about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and invited her to an information meeting we were having at Holy Spirit Parish later that month.

At that meeting, Bethany shared some of her life story with us. She was the daughter of an ordained minister and was raised in a strong Christian family in Chillicothe and Circleville, Ohio. She was passionate about the theatre and dance and taught English Language Arts for the Columbus Torah Academy. Bethany had been attending Mass with her husband Julio and heard the invitation to enter into the full communion of the Catholic faith.

Bethany’s face lit up as she talked about Julio. She clearly loved him deeply and the two of them had the promise of a bright future together. Bethany shared with us that Julio was an undocumented immigrant, but they were working with an attorney to remedy his immigration status. She told us that if necessary, she would immigrate and they two of them would start their family together in any country that would welcome them.

Bethany requested help discerning a sponsor for her journey though the RCIA. That discernment process was an easy one. I knew a woman who had gone through the RCIA years ago; someone who was also a raised by a minister in rural Ohio; someone who was also a passionate teacher, my wife Susan.

Bethany and Julio on the day of their Catholic wedding, October 28, 2011. Photo credit: Facebook

After a few weeks, Bethany shared with us devastating news. Julio had been arrested near Cincinnati and was being held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A judge had declared that Julio should be deported and transferred him to a facility in Morrow County, Ohio pending appeal. Bethany was resolved to visit Julio every week and to mail a substantial letter to him, including stories and poetry to help alleviate the lack of books at the facility, every day they were apart.

The RCIA process continued as expected. Bethany shared updates with us. We prayed with her and for her and offered to provide whatever support and assistance she and Julio needed. After the Rite of Welcoming, she asked Susan to take a photo of her holding a plush “Stitch” toy. Stitch was going to be present at all of the major steps in the RCIA process as a stand-in for Julio, with whom she would share the photos.

A week before the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, Bethany was making her weekly pilgrimage to visit Julio. It was Valentine’s Day 2015 and she wanted to spend part of it with the man she loved. On the way home from her visit, a snowsquall caused a multi-car pileup on I-71. Bethany was critically injured in that accident.

It was providential that our pastor had been asked to come to Grant Hospital to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to an injured woman brought in that winter day. He realized who Bethany was and was able to comfort Julio, who had been allowed to be with Bethany and her family at the hospital.

Bethany died two days after her accident, surrounded by loved ones. Her journey into the RCIA did indeed end with an anointing, just not the one any of us anticipated.

After her funeral, one attended by the great many who knew and cared about her, Bethany’s husband was returned to incarceration. She wanted Julio to have a safe and happy life with her in America. No part of that wish came to fruition. As his chances for winning an appeal dwindled, a brokenhearted Julio Moreno-Ledesma chose voluntary departure, leaving behind family, friends, and the dreams of a good life he shared with an amazing woman.

This is just one of many tragic stories lived by undocumented immigrants and their families. Whenever I see the news or hear the debate about immigration reform, I remember Bethany and Julio and wish this issue was viewed by Americans through the lens of love instead of fear or wrath.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog