Luxurious Diversity

Blog by Associate April Queener

A few months ago I attended the Midwest Mission Group meeting.  A video was shared of Sr. Pat Murray addressing the LCWR in a speech titled “Imagining Leadership in a Global Community.” One of the themes of the speech resonated deeply with me as the ministry leader of Mohun Health Care Center. The  theme was “to celebrate our luxurious diversity.”

As we took time at our table to ponder our “luxurious diversity” I heard sisters question if they were doing enough to encourage and promote diversity. The conversation went on for a few minutes as sisters asked the tough questions of themselves and the congregation. I was surprised to hear such a contrast of how I, as a woman of color, viewed the inclusion of the congregation versus the members who were wondering if they were doing enough.

I shared with the table how lucky I felt to be working at Mohun and what a rich representation of diversity DSOP created in Mohun Health Care Center. Employees of Mohun hail from Ghana, Barbados, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Haiti, Eritrea, Nigeria, Liberia, China, United Kingdom, the United States and many other countries.

Many of our employees join Mohun as their first job in the United States and we view our responsibility as welcoming them into the US and the ministry of the DSOP. We have an opportunity to learn as our staff openly shares their culture with us and one another. This goes beyond the usual “diversity day” sharing of food and clothing customs.

Our staff graciously shares with us and the residents their backgrounds, cultural norms and history of government from their country of origin. They share celebratory customs and alert us to tragedies that we may not even be aware of in our part of the world. In turn, we share cultural norms and expectations and our gratitude in working with us in this ministry. We appreciate the care they provide so selflessly. The giving and sharing of culture is unlike anything that I have ever experienced. This  environment was created by the DSOP since Mohun’s inception and we are the beneficiaries, it is a blessing.

This openness and celebration of our “luxurious diversity” has created a special time and spirit at Mohun. Over the last two years, ten Mohun employees have chosen to become Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. There is truly something unique that happens when people of different backgrounds come together for one common goal in mission.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

A Spotlight on Truth

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller

Simon and Ana tell us that Jesus is a ‘light to show truth.” In Psalm 27 we pray, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Are we Dominicans really committed to truth— the truth grounded in reality and experience? Reality is overwhelming these days, from devastating droughts and fires, hurricanes and earthquakes; the violence of inequities seen in state and civil oppression; refugees, trafficking and intolerances.

Another truth is looming for those of us in the United States as well –  the loss of the concept of the ‘common good’ for all and, as a result, loss of clean water, air and healthy foods.

Do you like fish—perhaps fileted catfish or red snapper? Are you aware that the fish you eat as well as the bottled water you drink for your health from may contain minuscule particles of plastic?

Fumes from diesel trucks in transport may have contaminated your ‘fresh’ beans or broccoli or bananas. Our bees (honey and the noxious ones) are dying because of pesticides (neonicotinoids); without their existence, our farms lose the fertilization of flowers which become seeds and fruits. Our bountiful natural world of biodiversity is being lost to chemical pollution as found in Roundup (glyphosates) or pesticides (chlorpyrifos) which in turn impact negatively our human health—nervous system, breathing, brain development.

Back in 2016 [at the beginning of the Trump presidency], the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility stated:

Environmental regulations are designed to shift the cost of pollution away from individuals, insurance companies and businesses that are affected by climate change, and onto the companies responsible for creating the pollution.

The current administration has taken a contrary stance through its focus on cost/benefit analysis for business and eliminated so far 58 regulations and moving to reverse 37 others. Rules for companies to report and control toxic air emissions such as methane or benzene or remove the requirement for oil rig companies to have the money to remove the unproductive rig are considered burdensome and costly. If you live in Louisiana or Alabama in the vicinity of gas and oil refineries, you now breathe in more of these cancer carcinogens. The oil rigs in the Gulf being resold by Exxon Mobil or Chevron to independent oil drillers are like used cars whose new operators do not have finances to refurbish and maintain their rigs needed for the safety of rig-platform workers or to prevent more Deepwater Horizon-type explosions with its lasting pollution of the Gulf resources. Moreover, the rigs can now be abandoned to rust and leak into the fishing waters of the Gulf. As in the coal mining areas of the Appalachians, when the big seams of coal were mined, mountain top removal came in to get to the remnants. The land no longer supported the residents.

There are many other examples of rules abolished to the detriment of our health and safety:

  • Coal power plants can now resume dumping their coal ash waste into unlined ponds or landfill which leak out into the groundwater their arsenic, mercury, lead, and chromium.
  • Continued use of toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos for dusting food/fruit crops poisons area families, workers, and consumers.
  • Weakened protections for wetlands and watershed areas, which are proven to reduce chemical run-off into lakes and rivers and to help prevent damaging floods.
  • Deregulation of the levels of factory or chemical company releases of hazardous air toxins like benzene, dioxin, and lead cause health problems such as cancer and birth defects.
  • Development projects are now fast-tracked to reduce the study of environmental consequences, so basic facts of water sources and flow, wind strength and directions, ground seepage are ignored. Cultural factors are also discounted.
  • This administration ignores climate change caused by and exacerbated by industrial emissions, forest and land decimation which upset the natural biodiversity of Earth and the seasonality of rain and wind and sun.

These changes challenge all life to adapt to rapid change – a challenge that God’s creation, as wonderful as it is, just cannot meet.

The lights of truth as known through our study, contemplation, prayer must shine through in our communal and individual actions. Recovery of the concept of ‘the common good’ is vital to our well-being on Earth in health, safety, and peace.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Who is the Stranger at the Gate?

Sr. Barb Kane shares this interview with Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities in New York City, to help us better understand the Church’s call to welcome immigrants.

Jesus taught us to see Him in the displaced. Can we find the courage to let Him in? 

It’s impossible to ignore the heated rhetoric currently surrounding the issue of immigration and refugees in America – and the heartbreaking news of human suffering at our borders. We sat down with Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York, to discuss how Catholic values can guide us.


Illustration by Vinny Bove

Archways: The Old Testament tells us to be kind to the displaced. Jesus, in Matthew 35, says that when we treat a stranger kindly or cruelly, we are doing the same to Him. How can we apply these teachings to the current crisis? 

Msgr. Sullivan: The biblical teachings speak to our attitudes as religious people. We should be welcoming and hospitable to those who are different than ourselves, from different places. At the same time, there’s a need to be very careful. You can’t find in either the Old or the New Testament a prescription as to what the immigration laws, rules and regulations should be in every situation and in every nation. That’s not what the Bible is about. However, our Christian values need to be applied in the way we treat those who are coming to our country for refuge, those who are fleeing violence and extortion and even those simply seeking a better life for their families.

AW: What would you say to Americans (including Catholics) who are afraid or angry about the tide of immigrants and asylum seekers – and want to send them back?

Msgr. Sullivan: From a Catholic perspective, we believe in secure borders. We believe in legal immigration. We don’t encourage people to illegally immigrate. At the same time, we recognize the right of people who are fleeing for their lives – persecution, extortion, violence – to seek refuge in another place. I have visited the Northern Triangle – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras – where most of the families are currently coming from, and I can tell you that they really don’t want to come. They feel that they have to come for the sake of their lives and their families. Those who seek refuge in our country should be given a fair hearing to make their case.

It is discouraging, at a time when the world has about 25 million refugees – possibly the largest number since World War II – that the United States is decreasing the number of refugees we accept. We can’t take every single refugee in the world. But the fact that we are decreasing the number says that we are going in the wrong direction.

AW: Why should Americans have to take care of people from countries that are dysfunctional? Shouldn’t those people stay at home and fix their own dysfunctional countries?

Msgr. Sullivan: As Catholics, we probably have a broader perspective on migration than others, because we are a religion that is in every country. Our Christianity is not based on a race or ethnicity, but on faith. Our belief is that people in every country, in every land, are made in God’s image and likeness. We believe that people should not be forced to flee their own country, and that we should try to develop the safety, the economy, the educational systems of other countries so that people there can find decent jobs, can be educated, can feel safe. We believe both in a generous and welcoming immigration policy and in assistance in countries that are problematic, where there is corruption, where there aren’t sufficient jobs. That’s part of our Catholic global belief and solidarity.

AW: Critics charge that charitable organizations are promoting unlawful behavior by helping people who are in the country illegally. Is Catholic Charities helping people to break the law?

Msgr. Sullivan: Catholic Charities is following the mandate of Jesus to make sure that basic necessities of food, of shelter, are available to everybody. We don’t encourage illegal immigration. If a person is in our country without the right documents, we still believe they have basic human rights. We work very hard to see if there is a way that they can get the right documents and remedy their situation so that they can come out of the shadows and live a fuller life here.

  • AW: How can the average Catholic help immigrants and asylum seekers?

    Sullivan: The most important thing that we can do as people of the United States is to speak respectfully of one another and of immigrants and refugees and work toward creating a society in which everybody’s rights are respected. Beyond that, there are many ways that immigrants can be helped. In Catholic Charities we do English-as-a-second-language programs. So people who want to volunteer there can come to our website and learn to be conversation partners with immigrants. We also have immigration rights work-shops, and we do a help desk at immigration court.

    AW: How does it benefit us – spiritually and otherwise – to help immigrants and asylum seekers?

    Msgr. Sullivan: It benefits us in two ways. In an altruistic way, we are following the mandate of Jesus Christ to welcome the stranger. The Old Testament says it in a way that is very eloquent: Remember you were once aliens in a foreign land, so treat the resident alien as you would be treated yourself. Jesus says, if you welcome a stranger, you welcome Me.

    From a more self-serving point of view: This nation is arguably the most economically advanced in the world. Again, arguably, we are the most diverse nation in the world. This is a country that continues to welcome immigrants. I think if you put two and two together, you come to the conclusion that immigrants make our country a better place. It really is in the self-interest of the United States to welcome immigrants and those who seek refuge here, because they make our nation stronger.

    AW: What would it look like if this problem were solved? Can it be solved?

    Msgr. Sullivan: Our current immigration crisis is at the border and beyond the border. We do need to deal with the surge of migrants who are at the border in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. But we also need to deal with the countries that are sending them; we have to enhance our collaboration with those countries – with governments, church organizations, nonprofits – so that the conditions there can be improved. Those conditions are driving the crisis at the border.

    At home, we need to update our immigration system. From our Catholic perspective, the values are really simple, although our politics can’t figure out how to get it done. We need secure borders. We need a policy of legal, generous and fair immigration that respects and fosters the unity of families. It’s got to make a provision for decent employment, on a temporary or permanent basis, in our industries that need those immigrants as workers. And we need to figure out a way for those who are here without the right papers – 10, 12 million – to earn their way out of the shadows and become fully part of the United States.

    The blueprint for comprehensive reform is there. We just don’t have the political will to do it. For starters, as I say, every individual can do their part by speaking more respectfully, more decently, not scapegoating people. That will create a context in which we can work together to implement policies that reflect the best of our American values and our Judeo-Christian values.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

What’s happening to America?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Several weeks ago, I saw a cartoon singing the praises of the current president.  The items consisted mostly of ways that the rich got richer, the climate got dirtier, and businesses got rewarded (ie more rich got richer).  There is no doubt that the economy has continued to improve under this president. But at what price?

American has the reputation for being a land of milk and honey. A place where someone who works hard can ‘pull himself/herself up by their bootstraps’ and become rich/powerful/famous.  But at what price?

The U.S. has prided itself on having a free press, freedom of speech, academic freedom. The internet and services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been invaded by hackers seeking to influence our government and our civility. We have universal, 24-hour communication. But at what price?

The country continues to be governed by rich white men who while some may be concerned about the common good, they still protect their place in society. But at what price?

Many Americans especially young people are aware of their personal and communal impact on our environment while corporations are given a pass to increase pollution. They stand to makes lots of money. But at what price?

When a society becomes a transactional one, that is, one concerned only with buying and selling – making money –  and refuses to recognize the dignity of each person, the price is a loss of our humanity and will be high. Already we see climate disasters around the country…an unraveling working class and their communities … growing homelessness, mental illness, and addiction…even shorter life expectancies. We live in a country where a child is born into poverty every 41 seconds.

The U.S. will only be great again when we become relational and consider the impact of our actions on all our brothers and sisters, especial the least among us.  This includes our Mother Earth.  Only then will we all regain our dignity, reduce our despair, and repair the divide among us.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

How to Make the World a Better Place

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Happy New Year! Many of you read yesterday that I am stepping down as the Justice Promoter in a few weeks.  It has been an honor to educate and engage you on our justice issues.  As I look into the coming year and decade, I reflected on how the world could be a little better and here is my list of things how this could happen.  For more information about what is happening in some of these areas, check out the Justice Updates.

  1. The senate would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Nearly half of women homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by current or former male partners.
  2. The Federal Death Penalty and State Death Penalties in Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana would be abolished.
  3. We would elect more women and persons of color. In a recent interview, President Barack Obama stated, “There would be less war, kids would be better taken care of and there would be a general improvement in living standards and outcomes.” Would that be so!
  4. The government would stop rolling back laws that reduce pollution and improve climate damage and we would all use less energy.
  5. We would improve our listening skills by making an effort to really listen to someone we disagree with.
  6. We would recognize our participation in human trafficking and stop buying items or services provided by slaves.
  7. Our government would use diplomatic and foreign aid to improve the conditions in countries where many asylum seekers come from so they can remain in their countries and raise their children in peace.
  8. More states would enact common sense gun safety legislation.
  9. We would all respect the dignity of life from conception to natural death.
  10. Everyone would be counted!

Richard Rohr urges us to have an incarnational worldview, that is a “profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.”” If each of us can adopt this worldview during this year and beyond, we will see the importance of valuing the immigrant and the citizen, the unborn and the born, the earth and her creatures. Consider taking one of the issues above and educating yourself about it and working for its implantation. Then we all will live in a better world.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog