Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

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

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