Peace & Justice Blog

Stay up to date on peace and justice issues, both locally and internationally, and learn how you can take action.


I’m Glad I Don’t Eat Fish

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Have you checked to see if the fish you eat has been labeled plastic free?  That may be coming soon given the amount of plastics being dumped into the oceans.  In fact, at the rate we’re going, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the water than fish (by weight). Fish don’t know the difference between a tasty worm and a bright plastic lid.  Unfortunately these plastic items can block their digestive systems resulting in starvation.  Plastics can fill up their stomachs leaving little room for real food.  Because plastics don’t break down, they can end up in the fish you want to enjoy for dinner.

One recent study by the University of Ghent in Belgium calculated that humans eat up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year. The biggest culprits are microbeads, the tiny plastic particles found in facial scrubs, toothpaste, body wash, and other cosmetics and microplastics, tiny sometimes microscopic pieces of plastic. Eight trillion, yes, with a TR, enter the waterways in the U.S. every day. Scientists have found that these substances are like tiny magnets for toxins. That’s a lot of toxins being eaten by fish in our oceans. The fish then absorb them into their tissues.  When you eat fish polluted by the toxins, they become part of your body.  Fortunately, microbeads are banned here in the U.S. and increasingly around the world.

Pollution in our oceans and waterways was documented as early as the early 70’s and come from uncaptured (countries with no or poor waste management) waste, sewage systems, road run-off and littering.  The pollution can be found from the coastlines to remote ocean hotspots where plastics, caught up in ocean currents, are gathered into huge garbage patches that collect on the ocean surface and below. Picture 26,600 Boeing 747 sized containers of plastics entering our waterways every year.  It’s not a pretty picture.

Rivers are equally subject to this pollution so river fish can be just as dangerous.  In the Hudson River, millions of fibers from the process of aging clothes (like jeans and other denim clothes) pollute the river and the Atlantic Ocean. These fibers harm fish and human.

So what can we do to ensure our fish is safe?  We have to get plastics under control.

  • Reduce or eliminate single use plastics such as plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-out containers, frozen meal containers and any other plastic items that are used once and then discarded.
  • Avoid beauty products that contain microbeads. Look for these plastics: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or nylon.
  • If you must purchase a single use plastic item, make sure it can be recycled. Check out the recycling requirements in your community. Many communities have cut back on the products they recycle.



Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

End Single-Use Plastic Pollution

Blog by Karen Martens, OPA

Earth Day 2018 envisions a world without plastic pollution. Look around. Plastic pollution surrounds us. On a recent walk in the park, I filled my hands with single-use plastic items discarded by others. What to do? The Earth Day Resources are filled with facts as well as resources about how we can personally end plastic pollution. As I read and thought about this, I wondered…what would it be like to make a change in only one of the components of plastic pollution…having no single use plastic pollution? As I reflected, I remembered from my childhood and young adulthood what it was like prior to the extensive use of plastic. I wrapped sandwiches in waxed paper. Paper bags were used at grocery stores. Toys were made of metal and wood. We ate in-season fruit, purchased from seasonal fruit stands and then canned some for use in winter. Water was drunk in glasses made of glass. People didn’t buy carry-out coffee. Soft drinks came in glass bottles. Eating utensils were made of metal. Straws weren’t used in restaurants. Cloth diapers were used for babies.

We have several established habits in our home that help end single-use plastics. I haven’t used plastic bags from grocery stores for a long time. I have reusable cloth “paper towels”. I use my own water bottle. We rarely use paper napkins. Many foods are purchased at Farmer’s Markets. We often use glass jars to store left-over food. But I still see us contributing to single-use plastic pollution. Just last weekend on our way to Cincinnati for Easter with family, we stopped for a drink and snack. That resulted in plastic throw-aways. Our newspaper is delivered in a paper bag. Many of the food we purchase is packaged in throw-away plastic. What to do? It can feel overwhelming at times. Yet, I see that there are a few more changes to make that hopefully will become habits.

After reviewing the materials from the Earth Day Toolkit, I am committed to making more changes. I will take reusable mesh bags to the grocery for carrying unpackaged vegetables and fruits. I will stop buying carrots in plastic bags. I will use my own cutlery when buying carry-out food. I will no longer use straws in restaurants. Our earth needs all of us to change our ways. What can you do?

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Beyond a Throwaway Culture

Blog by Sr. Terry Wassinger, OP

From the beginning, the idea of a “throwaway culture” has been one of the signature phrases of Francis’s papacy. In 2013 he said “I would therefore like us all to make the serious commitment to respect and care for creation, to pay attention to every person, to combat the culture of waste and of throwing out so as to foster a culture of solidarity and encounter.”

In Laudato Si, paragraph 22 he writes: “Our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products.  These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish.”

Francis generally contrasts the “throwaway” culture with what he calls a “culture of encounter,” or “welcome,” meaning a culture in which people are treated with dignity and the earth with respect.

To move beyond this throwaway culture and join with others in a culture of encounter, we must become aware of our impact on creation.  Our celebration of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22 gives us the opportunity to do that.  Reduction of waste is critical to our survival and the logo Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was created to help us address this issue.  This is a familiar phrase to most, but where did it originate?

There tends to be a bit of debate about the creation of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” slogan, but the practice of working towards reducing our waste output, reusing what we can and then recycling what we can’t has been around for many years. The economic boom in the 1950’s led to an increase in the amount of trash – and litter – being produced by Americans due to the growing popularity of single use plastic items. It was not long until people began to realize the environmental impact humans were having on the Earth’s eco-system.

Inspired by the “teach-ins” held across the country to educate citizens on the Vietnam War, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson spearheaded the first national Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Throughout the 1970’s, many different laws were enacted – both at the federal and state level – to promote conservation efforts and raise awareness of them to the general public. Thus, the Three R’s were born.

How can we live them out?

Reduce the amount of waste created. Americans create tons of trash every year. Reducing the amount of waste produced helps to prevent crowded landfills and the environmental damage.

Reuse items that could have a future purpose.  How many items put into the trash or recycling could be reused? There are the obvious items, such as clothes or the extra canned goods that could be donated to the needy. Some items require a bit of creativity.  Just remember before tossing out that box of “junk” in the attic that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Recycle whatever can be recycled. There is no need to feel guilty about creating waste – not every single thing in the universe can be reduced or reused. Luckily, a lot of items we use can be recycled.

Saint Catharine Motherhouse in KY took on the challenge more than 25 years ago.  In 1992, Sr. Margaret Marie Hoftsetter and Sr. Appoline Simard were collecting and recycling newspapers in an unused chicken coop on the property.  Later a recycling building was constructed (Click here for photos of the Recycling Center in present time).  For more than 25 years, the newspapers continue to be sent to an Insulation Factory in Springfield to be recycled.  Minnie Fay Smith, after working for 17 years in the Motherhouse Kitchen, now works part time with Sr. Appoline to sort, weigh and prepare items to be taken for recycling. Every week stacks of newspapers are taken to the factory.  Cardboard that has been collected is picked up by the New Hope Soup Kitchen. The payment the Soup Kitchen receives help to feed the hungry poor.  Paper, both shredded and recyclable, is taken to the Washington County Recycling Center in Springfield, and aluminum and tin cans and glass are taken to another center that accepts these things. These are steps that we are proud of, but we know we can still do more.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

This is What Democracy Looks Like!

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

“This is what democracy looks like!”  There were many chants on the way from West Bank Park to the Statehouse in Columbus.  Thousands participated in the Columbus March for our Lives event on Saturday… young and old… families and singles… seniors and students… Christian, Muslim, Jew, None.  It was a great day to celebrate the meaning of America – a country that values free speech and participation in government.

It was also inspiring to see young people taking an interest in such an important issue.  Their enthusiasm and energy instills hope in me that perhaps change will happen.  One question is will it happen with the current legislators or new ones?  Another sign read “Students Today… Voters in November… We are change .”  The sentiment is very clear; if congressmen and senators do not act, they will be voted out of office.  To make this happen, the Parkland students will work to ensure that 4 out of young people vote in November’s midterm elections.  Voter-registration groups were very visible at the march registering young people.  It’s an uphill battle since only 39% of voters between 18 and 20 voted in 2016 and only 14% voted in the 2014 midterms but could make a huge impact in the next few elections.  We should also be ready to vote in November.

Many teachers participated in the march.  “Arm Teachers with Resources Not Guns” was a common theme.  So many schools don’t have enough resources to help students with academic and mental health issues so how do legislators justify the expense to train and equip teachers to protect students?   

Perhaps the saddest banner for me was “Thought and prayers  ACTION”.  I could feel the frustration expressed, understand that it was directed to the people in congress, and even agree that we need to take action, but we believe strongly in the power of prayer.  Many of our sisters and associates joined our march through prayer on Saturday.

The march is over but the movement has begun.  Call, write, vote.  Now is the time for action.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Time For Action

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

The hot pink shoe laces caught my eye.  As I looked more closely, I could see the laces belonged to a pair of tennis shoes surrounded by many different pairs of shoes and placed in the lawn in front of the capital building.  What was this, I wondered?  It was one of 7,000 pairs of children’s shoes representing the children killed by gun violence since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The global advocacy group Avaaz organized the displayed called “Monument for our Children” in front of the U.S. Capital to “bring Congress face to face with the heartbreak of gun violence.”  There is no doubt that it tells a powerful story.

The immediate reaction to a horrendous shooting is to offer thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. Comfort fills an immediate need for these families who have lost a child much too young to be gone.  Sadly, prayer and words of sorrow have become hollow especially when said by our congressmen or senators because they have failed to make any substantive changes to gun laws that would prevent these types of shooting from happening again.

The silent shoe demonstration took place in the early hours the day before the student walkout all around the country. This walk out by thousands of students lasted 17 minutes for the 17 students and staff killed in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Students held signs saying #enough is enough,  protect children not guns, and how many more? For them, prayers are no longer enough. Now we need action.

Let us to put continual pressure on our representatives to stand up to the NRA and pass common sense gun safety laws that will make a difference.  Every one of us can take some kind of action. Write a letter, make a call, march in the #Marchforourlives event this Saturday, March 24th.   I fear that we will again be praying for victims and families of gun violence in our schools if we fail to act on this issue while we can.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog