Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

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

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