Just Reflecting

“Just Reflecting” features a variety of blogs and bloggers discussing various social justice topics that we encounter in our daily lives, whether it be within our communities or own families.


Human Trafficking: Ministering in the Streets

Blog by Associate Jackie Paluszak, OPA

As I think about the upcoming World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (July 30th), I can’t help but think of the message that Pope Francis sends us when he tells us that we need to be among the sheep: “Finding the lost sheep is a joy to God, because He has a loving weakness for those who are lost.” These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Mass in Casa Santa Marta.

I am on two commissions on Human Trafficking. It is interesting to do the research, scour the statistics, and brainstorm about the ways we can reach out to help. I often wonder about new programs we can implement, where we can get funding, and how we can find more volunteers interested in the cause.

All of these are concrete issues: things that need to be addressed. But for me, there is a nagging deep inside that tells me I need to go out into the streets.
I’m not comfortable making decisions by talking about what we should be doing just by analyzing statistics or films that show what goes on in the streets.

The Educator in me needs to take it to the streets. I know the reality. I know the rejection. I don’t expect everyone to come running to me with open arms ready to share their story and accept my help. Although I have not worked with these women who have been trafficked, I have worked the streets doing my best to offer assistance to the mentally challenged, to those returning from prison, the homeless living under the bridge, in their own camps, homeless and on the streets, individuals with varying needs.

It is not an easy job.

You need to be gentle. You need to be kind, loving from a distance, and patient, very, very patient. And you need to be street smart or you won’t be able to accomplish what you need in order to be successful.

The Dominican women that I work with are trained and far more experienced than I am. The work that they do really makes a difference. They make a difference. They count. They make strides daily in this ugly world where human life is treated so deplorably.

My only hope is that after some training, I will be able to walk in the footsteps of these Dominican women, and if I can touch one person and make their life better, I will have achieved what Pope Francis challenged me, and all of us, to do.

Pope Francis reminds us, “Each one of us is precious; each one of us is irreplaceable in God’s eyes.” [Tweet 6/25/17] This is what we need to bring to the women we meet on the streets.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

B.R.E.A.D Rises!

Blog by Associate Karen Martens, Columbus, OH.

In Columbus, Ohio, people have been blessed for 21 years with the existence of the B.R.E.A.D. Organization. (Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity). Forty diverse faith communities join together to work for justice in our community. We do this work using a four-step process each year: listening, research, action, and follow-through. We begin each autumn with house meetings where we identify what is personally affecting our lives and those of friends and family. After a meeting of hundreds of people each November, where we vote on what to begin to address that year, research on the issue begins until a solution is found. Each May, we hold a Nehemiah Action Meeting with thousands of people in attendance where public officials make specific commitments to work with B.R.E.A.D. Follow-through continues over the next few years until a solution is achieved. It is not unusual for it to take 3-4 years to achieve a result.

Over these past 20 years, B.R.E.A.D. has accomplished many things using this four-step process. Among our accomplishments are:

  • A County Land Bank with 3.5 million dollars annually which has resulted in demolition of over 2,000 vacant properties;
  • Securing 1.2 million dollars to expand primary care at Columbus Neighborhood Health Centers;
  • An investment of over $200,000 by the ADAMH Board for an accredited Clubhouse International Program to serve the mentally ill;
  • Establishment of six restorative justice circles to prevent children from entering the Juvenile Justice System;
  • Getting new Assertive Community Treatment Teams that help individuals with severe mental illness; and
  • The Affordable Housing Trust Fund which has financed the development of over 8,000 units of affordable houses.

On May 1, 2,500 people gathered to hear commitments from public officials for the current B.R.E.A.D. campaigns:

  • Reducing suspensions in the Columbus City Schools by getting restorative practices into the schools
  • Strengthening the Restorative Justice Circles for juvenile non-violent offenders
  • Securing a municipal identification card for everyone
  • Increasing jobs in neglected neighborhoods
  • Increasing job opportunities for returning citizens
  • Reducing violent crime in our city through the institution of a program aimed at youth groups.

The work of B.R.E.A.D. aligns perfectly with Catholic Social Teaching. In Micah 6:6-8 and in Matthew 23:23-24 we are called to do justice, mercy and worship God. However, people seem to more easily worship God and do acts of mercy than to work for justice. I often wonder why this is so. Perhaps it is because the Consumer Culture is stronger than the Justice Culture. The consumer culture sees “self” isolated from others and individuals seek to accumulate things. The justice culture sees “self” in relation to others (common good) and a fair distribution of God’s bounty is essential. Perhaps it is because we get more self-satisfaction from doing works of mercy (for example, feeding the hungry) than doing the difficult long-term work of changing systems in order to secure justice.

I continue to have a vision of what we could accomplish if all our Catholic parishes joined B.R.E.A.D. and used their power to work for justice in our city. Then, Columbus would be more like the City of God than a Tale of Two Cities.

B.R.E.A.D. Rises!


Posted in Just Reflecting

Dominican Kentucky Experience Extravaganza

Madison Wells, sophomore at Ohio Dominican University & member of the Dominican Young Adult Group

Truthfully, I never thought that April would come. We scheduled the trip for our Dominican Kentucky Experience Extravaganza in the fall and so much life happened in between the planning and the doing. Alas, the day finally came and all seven of us – three Sisters, two students, one Priest, and one Justice Promoter – squeezed into a van and hit the road. We were finally Kentucky-bound. We had our fair share of bathroom breaks and snack stops before we reached our first destination: The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. We toured the guest chapel and bookshop before heading in the main chapel to devote a half an hour of Vesper’s prayer with the monks. What a truly wonderful way to begin our trip by talking with our Lord in His House! I didn’t realize the power of taking 30 minutes to talk with God, especially when it’s difficult to find 10 minutes. It was truly a blessing. Afterwards, with it being a Lenten Friday, we found our way to a church with two great pastimes: bingo and a fish fry. (If you’re ever hankering for some quality bean soup, that church has it.) Finally, we made it to the St. Catharine Motherhouse. Continue reading →

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Changing the Script

Blog by Sr. Judy Morris, OP

Yearning for Change

Kasha Sequoia Slavner was 14 years old when she decided she had enough of a constant barrage of negative news. Terrorism, war, human trafficking and negative political ads filled television screens in her native Canada. Kasha experienced her own time of being surrounded by domestic violence. Her mother was physically abused by her father and divorced him. They were homeless for a period of time before experiencing a stable home life.

At 14 she became involved in a peace and justice committee and began raising money to travel around the world videotaping scenes of people who made a difference in the lives of others. She traveled to Tanzania and interviewed a man who established a school for girls, a desperate need for girls in Africa and the Middle East. She created the documentary, The Sunrise Storyteller, a good news film that provided inspiration for many attending the 61st annual Commission on the Status of Women. I was privileged to represent Dominicans Sisters of North America at this important gathering at the United Nations. Continue reading →

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

The Need for a Genuine Conversation about Race

Just Reflecting by Associate Colette Parker, OPA – Co-Director

It sounds so simple, but is it?

It sounds so simple: “We are all a part of one race – the human race.”

Yet the reality of that statement – declared more than a century ago by pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas and again in 1950 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – is complicated in our nation, where the undercurrent of systematic racism pulls us down. Living daily in an environment where racism abounds makes it difficult to accept that “race” is not a biological reality but a myth.

When we consider racism (a form of oppression in which one racial group dominates others), which can lead to discrimination – the unfair and unequal treatment of a group based on prejudice – a natural progression is to apply the attitudes that lead to the mistreatment of Native-Americans and African-Americans to other “isms” (sex-ism, age-ism, class-ism, weight-ism, etc.) and phobias, like Islamophobia and homophobia.

It is difficult for me to believe that any of the phobias or “isms” can be resolved until we deal with the elephant in the room – racism. Continue reading →

Posted in Just Reflecting, News