Friday, August 16, 2013

Walk with Me - Update from LCWR

This morning the LCWR Assembly walked together with undocumented immigrants who had come to share their story.  We sang Sr. Kathy Sherman, CSJ,'s song, with the words, "Walk with me, will you walk with me, where together and forever we will live in peace." Young activists from the Hope Community Center, most of whom are "Dreamers" shared with us their struggles of integrating into this culture where they are often ridiculed and humiliated.  One shared the pain of seeing her mother handcuffed in front of her and the years of separation that followed.

We were inspired and challenged to take bolder steps and greater risks to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform will pass in the House.  Speaker Boehner has said that he will not bring any bill to the floor unless more than half of the Republicans will support it. That is a high bar to reach.  We, the constitutents of these people who are there representing us, need to make our voices heard so that either enough Republicans will support immigration reform or Speaker Bohner will be willing to bring a bill to the floor for a vote without significant Republican support.  It is believed that there are enough Republican Representatives willing to support this bill that it could pass.

Ellie Garcia, a dreamer who graduated from high school while here in the US, shared the challenges she faced from the struggles of adapting to US culture and being bullied by peers in school because she was an undocumented immigrant.  At Hope Community Center she gained the courage and perspective to not lose hope at the many obstacles she faces and to become an activist dreamer, calling for the basic human rights of all people and especially humane treatment for immigrants. Ellie was quite moving when she shared how much she appreciated the sacrifices her parents made for her by working in backbreaking manual labor that had so prematurely aged them, so that she and her siblings could hope for a better life.  Ellie asked all of us to stand up for immigrants saying, "We cannot ignore what is happening right in front of our faces."

Evelyn Ricker came to the US from Columbia as a three year old.  Her parents brought her here in the height of unrest in her country when car bombs were indiscriminately exploding on the streets.  When she was 13, she learned that she was undocumented.  Rather than lose hope or live in fear, her faith inspired by her family led her to believe, "God had a plan for my life and my future." Like Ellie, Evelyn was prevented from applying for college since she did not have a social security number.  She continued to have faith and pray that her life path would unfold.  In 2007, she faced the greatest challenge of her life when her mother was arrested in a routine traffic stop.  It appears that there was no violation that lead to the stop. Eventually her mother was deported.  This separation caused such pain that Evelyn went through a period when she rejected God. A turning point occured when she joined a youth group at Hope Community Center and joined the United We Dream movement. Through this she feels empowered to advocate for all the dreamers and the undocumented.  Through her tears, she told us that now her relationship with God is restored and strengthened.  Last year she had the opportunity to meet her mother at the border in Arizona and share time with her with a wire fence separating them.  She shared, "I hold on to a feeling of what it meant to touch my mom again."

LCWR urges us to contact our Representatives and urge them to bring to the House floor an immigration reform bill that ensures family unity; protects the rights of immigrant workers; speeds the processing of already approved immigrants; acknowledges that our borders are already secure, with only minor changes needed; enhances the present diversity visa program; and provides a clear, direct path to citizenship.  We are urged to submit leaders to the editor and show up at town hall meetings with our legislators to bring this important message forward.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Day 2 at LCWR

I will wait to share the content of today's input for the lead story on the US Federation website on Friday morning.  However, there were a few fun things I wanted to share tonight.  Marcia Allen of Concordia gave her presentation at the candidate's forum for the position of LCWR President Elect tonight.  She gave a wonderful speech about the hopes for the church that women religious have, how the laity have spoken about our prophetic role during this time of the doctrinal assessment and the apostolic visitation. She spoke about reading letters from laity that had inspired her and how women religious needed to speak about the role of laity, especially women, as vital to the church.  She said that this is the moment when we must speak our truth with Pope Frances- we are in concert with him about moving to the edge to serve the marginalized.  Our lives have given us the "fierce discipline of adaptation" which prepares us for this moment in time.  Marcia was asked a question from the audience about her understanding of evolving consciousness .  She spoke of the times that she had taught it in their Manna House Center and how it has influenced the importance of relationships, how the openness to the message that the laity has shared with us, has helped us to understand who we are becoming as we act out out our integrity in our interactions with the church.  In her calm and clear way, Marcia really shared how she has read the signs of the times and has been open to change.  It was a wonderful response that inspired many. As we gathered as a Federation after the meeting, Nancy Conway welcomed Marcia to the room with a rousing cheer.
We had a wonderful celebration of our togetherness after the speeches at our Federation gathering. As Mary Dacey, Co-Chair of the Leadership Council addressed the group, she noted all the significant contributions we as Sisters of St Joseph had made- Marcia's speech, Carol Zinn as President-Elect, Pat Bergin presenting a resolution of ending violence, and Janet Mock as Executive Director.  We all noted that whenever we are together we really have fun.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The First Standing Ovation at LCWR

Carrie and Kim being congratulated by Mercy Sister Mary Washkoviak
On the first night of the LCWR, the only standing ovation went to Nix Conference and Meeting Management as they announced their exciting and innovative new plans to combat human sex trafficking.  Kimberly Ritter, Senior Account Manager recounted for the group the journey that Nix has been on since they were first made aware of the size of the problem in the US and the world.  Nix worked with the Sisters of St Joseph to encourage the Millennium Hotel to sign the ECPAT code of conduct, then Nix worked with ECPAT to develop a code for meeting planners.

Tonight, Molly Hackett, the owner of Nix  announced the launch of Exchange Initiative, Real Resources to End Sex Trafficking.  This newly formed organization by Nix Conference and Meeting Management will empower real resources to help end sex trafficking. They will promote awareness and global understanding of the trafficking problem, while facilitating cooperation and initiating action at the local level.

Molly Hackett, one of the owners of Nix
 after delivering the announcement of the Exchange Initiative.
Their new brochure states it well. " Given our passion about this critical social issue and experience within the travel and tourism industry, we believe formalizing an organization to address the topic to be a natural fit for Nix.... We stand firm in our commitment to protect all children and join forces with other stakeholders to put an end to sexual exploitation."

One of the first activities will be a major conference in St Louis in the Spring of 2014, entitled "IGNITE, Sparking Action Against Sex Trafficking which will bring together a broad spectrum of people to engage, educate and empower supporters and stakeholders in the common cause of combating sex trafficking.  You will hear more about this in the coming months.

As you can see, the standing ovation was well deserved.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Carondelet Chapter Meeting

I have not attended a General Chapter, (major decision making and election of leadership) of my Congregation.  I was able to take a few days off and attend the final two days of these meetings in Los Angeles. Communion has been a major emphasis over the past 12 years. As we moved it to deeper level and with specific calls to action appropriate to these times.   Final statements about our commitments to communion with earth community,  partnering with new eyes (challenging us to expanding our world views and enabling us to speak as one Congregation on issues of justice), our communion with the church and areas where we will work collaboratively and stand in solidarity with those who are marginalized have been approved and are now being word-smithed.

As I was sitting through a terribly boring section of the meeting, where we were slogging through a committee proposal, I was struck by the quality of deliberation occurring contrasted with that of the US Congress.  Make no mistake, we have very polarized views on different topics. However, we listen to each other and show an openness to new and different solutions when impasse occurs. There is not posturing or coalition building. There are no good guys or bad guys, no winners or losers.  We move forward with the hope that we have prayerfully discerned God's will for us.

For me, the meeting was a chance to catch up with good friends from Peru and Hawaii, to greet sisters from Japan and the 4 provinces that I have not seen for a while.  One of the interesting aspects of my Federation position is the number of sisters in my own congregation that I have met over the last two years as I travel. When we are together, the sense of belonging to a movement bigger than my own local community is powerfully felt and energizes me for the future.