Joint Religioius Legislative Coalition (JRLC) Day on the Hill 2014

Once again the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates are among the four Lead Sponsors for the JRLC Day on the Hill.  JRLC and the Sisters of St. Joseph have long collaborated on a variety of issues that affect the marginalized among us. Once again the Justice Office is hosting the Sisters of St. Joseph display table with information available representing a variety of departments, including a our Justice Commission 2014 Upcoming Events and websites bookmark which remains the number one take-away from our table.

Many also come to hear about how a sister is now doing, ask if we know a sister, and so on.  So here are a few of the JRLC Pearls so far this morning:

~~ I just wanted to stop by and congratulate the sisters on National Catholic Sisters Week

~~ How do you say that any way, is it Carondelet (let) or Carondelet (lay).  Will I ever remember it is Carondelet (let)?

~~ Will Sister Gina be here today?

~~I hope Sister John Christine will be here. ~~ I just had to stop and say that Sister Mary Heinen was from my district.  I can hardly believe she has passed.  She was such a knowledgeable and inspiring woman.  I especially miss her here today!

~~ Do you offer social justice retreats?

~~ Do you happen to now where Anika Walz is now?

~~ I don’t suppose you know Sister Althea? I know her from retreats and workshops we have shared.

~~ Did you ever know Sister Carmella who started the school patrol?  I am her nephew.

~~ Wisdom Ways is fabulous.  I have been attending their offerings for years.  Their retreats, events and offerings are always fabulous.

~~ I feel so hopeful after hearing about what you are doing on so many fronts.  I could go home right now and the day would be a success.

All this by the time I started writing this blog at 9:30!
As the morning continues…
~~ A woman just dashed up … grabbed the bookmark and enthusiastically said, “I JUST LOVE THE SISTERS!!”
~~I mentioned to a Rochester Franciscan how thrilled I am that they are hosting Rev. Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C. Director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame in April. She said she was not signed up and asked if she should be. I suggested it would be very worth her while and important for the passage of immigration reform. She said “I will when I get back today!”
~~ “How is Sister Char Madigan? We traveled the state educating people on the reality of domestic violence. She was the Catholic and I was the Lutheran! Will you please greet her for me?”


Posted by Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

Day 3 ~ Globalization of indifference

The Migrant Journey, The Lenten Journey:  An Ash Wednesday Morning of Reflection guided by: Rev. Virgilio Elizondo, Timothy Matovina, Rev. Daniel G. Groody, C. S. C., Institute of Latino Studies

Pearls from the reflections and participants

  • The migrant is a gift, not a burden, a gift to be accepted and appreciated
  • Imagine that when Rev. Elisondo’s father crossed from Mexico to the United States he came legally after signing his name in a book and paying five cents. His father came over legally, signed the book and paid 5 cents
  • His parents came with dreams and a plan to work hard and a sense of responsibility, knowing nothing is free
  • He suggested that the United States is a melting pot is inadequate. The United States is more like a stew where each ethnicity brings a particular flavor similar to carrots, potatoes, onions, etc.  When the stew is fully cooked it is the rich flavor of the sauce that makes the stew unique.  The carrots, potatoes, onions, etc. remain clearly unique and yet each adds its on particular flavor the stew making it truly delicious.  He sees the United States as stew pot not melting pot.
  • Stories of successful migrants abound!  We need to share them more fully, allowing our discourse to move from the negative fearful rhetoric to the rhetoric of migrants as a gift to be warmly received and generously appreciated
  • A common thread for migrants is that they often experience loneliness.  What we need to do is welcome and then accompany them into their new life among us.  There is no greater joy than to share our joy and offer it to others
  • That which is shared is what lives.  Share fear and fear lives.  Share in the journey and grow.  Share hope and hope blossoms.
  • The migrant gives us the gift of seeing the face of God on our Lenten and life journey, they offer us the opportunity to experience grace, hope and joy.
  • Lent reminds us that this is a passing life, we are all migrants here on earth
  • Migratory state is our natural state for all people…we are here such a short time
  • Migrants remind us of who we are and teach us to love one another is to see the face of God
  • It is not the Church that saved the migrant but the migrant who saves the Church
    During a recent trip to Rwanda where so many have been brutally murdered, Fr. Groody, read the words etched on the altar; if you knew who I was and you knew who you really are you would not have killed me.”

What are our expectations for what is next for all of us?  What if we really knew “who I was and who you are?”

This conference provided the lens in which to look back and see more clearly where the Church and where immigration policy were; where we are today as Church; what needs changing in our immigration policy to provide laws that protect the human rights and dignity of all “persons on the move;”  undocumented migrants themselves said it is time for them to move out of the shadows and be part of creating the change they want and need to fulfill the dream of a better life for themselves and for all people.  As the late Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better!”

One of the last statements spoken in the conferences was a reminder that nothing changes simply or quickly.

“Expect a journey, not a miracle!”

Overarching conference theme: Globalization of indifference – let us continue to make a difference by working together to welcome the migrant as precious and treasured gift on this sacred journey that is life!

On a personal note: my flights on this trip were fraught with a multitude of challenges from frozen potable water lines on the first plane which delayed departure for an hour, to mechanical problems of planes at the gate my flight was trying to get to, to cancelled flight, to multiple gate changes on a single leg of the trip, to being surrounded by a sea of very frustrated, impatient, sometimes angry and exhausted travelers.  As I conveyed some of the reality of traveling to and from this conference I was asked “Are you feeling if like a migrant?”  My immediate response was, “No. People see me, are being kind and listening to me. I have a backup flight scheduled out of Chicago in the event ‘circumstances’ prevent me from making my scheduled flight … ”  Yes, I experienced more mechanical and technical and weather related delays than at any time over the years I have traveled.  Really there are more kind and generous and joyful people than not.  So, I went to sit and be with them or sat off in a corner and thanks to wireless technology immersed myself in a work project!

Posted by: Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

Day 2: The Church and Immigration Conference

“Globalization of indifference” ~ Pope Francis                                                                                                                                                       

1. Persons on the move:  The use of this term continues to permeate the conversation.  There has been no time in the history of the world when people have not moved, primarily in search of water and food to support themselves in families.  The harsh reality in our recent and current history has changed dramatically with people on the move fleeing war, political oppression, lack of water, food and jobs.  

Six pieces of information that were made more clear here: 

  • more people are coming to the United States with an education and professional skills as they flee their homelands due to war and/or political oppression,
  • the majority of those arriving are women who are able to get work and establish support systems to bring the rest of the family,
  • the brutal reality that out of the nearly 38,000 people detained entering the United States last year, more than 21,000 were unaccompanied children sent fleeing by their families (as young as 6 and 7 years old) from Latin American drug lords and gangs.
  • historically undocumented immigrants hid in the shadows and kept their status secret.  In recent years, however, many have seen that those who are visible have a community and support systems that can rise up in support of them if they are arrested without due process resulting in more and more stepping out of the shadows into their communities where they are becoming involved in advocacy efforts to work for immigration reform.
  • more and more there is a backlash against refugees who are now being unjustly lumped into the one-size-fits all catch all lable of immigrants with the connotation that everyone needs to “go back”
  • the roots of human trafficking are located in consumerism and materialism touching the lives of all people directly or indirectly across the world. 

Becoming Dr. Q.:  My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa M.D., Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology at the John Hopkins University graduated cum laude from Harvard University after completing his residence in neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco.  Now known as “Dr. Q.,” he came across our southern border undocumented as a teenage, worked as a farm worker and a welder.  Like so many persons on the move, his parents instilled in him that the road to a successful and sustainable life is rooted in education.  

His story is powerful, he is highly energetic and a natural presenter.  When asked during an interview for one of his advanced degrees, he was asked how he thought he might would be able to be a brain surgeon.  He explained the equipment and processes needed to successfully weld materials together and identified that for brain surgery those skills would serve him well.  He was accepted into the program!  To learn more about his remarkable journey, his expertise in the surgical treatment of primary and metastatic brain tumors, his work with the poor people in Mexico, stories of people who have survived the ravages of brain cancer, his books and so much more, visit

Where is the Catholic Church making a difference for “persons on the move”

The afternoon began with Most Reverend John Charles Wester, Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake and former chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration addressed the need to continue bringing the message of the human rights and dignity of persons on the move into our parishes.  His address titled, Looking Forward:  Migration, Mission and Ministry not only set the tone for the remainder of this conference but prepared us to move with renewed energy and commitment back into our communities, parishes, dioceses and regions with this vital message and join Pope Francis in working to end the “globalization of indifference.”

Next we heard from panel comprised of:

Anastasia Brown, Director, Resettlement Services, USCCB Migration and Refugee Services

Jen Betts, Midwest Office, Catholic Relief Services

Nathalie Lummert, Director, Special Programming, USCCB Migration and Refugee Services

Rev. Larry Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA

I have heard it said numerous times during this and previous conferences that the people in our parishes and communities have little or no knowledge of the tremendous global leadership and impact of these Catholic programs.  It is my hope that you will consider as your 2014 Lenten practice spending five minutes a day for the next forty days stepping into these links/resources to learn more about the potent work for human rights and human dignity that the Catholic Church is providing here in the United States and globally to have positive influence in changing the “globalization of indifference.” 

Posted by:  Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate





Pope Francis: “The Globalization of Indifference”

How to convey the richness and the hope of this conference simply and succinctly is a real conundrum.  I will carefully choose a few pearls each day for this blog.

Then, as is my practice, when I return to the office,  I will write a report that will be presented to 1) Joänne and Meg 2) Immigration Working Group and the Justice Commission 3) Carondelet Justice and Peace Personnel 4) Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph website 5) Catholic Charities of the Twin Cities Office for Social Justice 6) Jill Underdahl for the CSJ Alliance.

Sponsors of this conference include: University of Notre Dame: Center for Ethics and Culture; Department of Theology; Institute for Church Life; Institute for Educational Initiatives; Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts Henkels Lecture Series; Kellogg Institute for International Studies: UND Student Government Immigration Task Force; Office of the President, Catholic Relief Services, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Center for Social Concerns, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Anonymous Foundation.

A few pearls:

#1 Pope Francis, July 8, 2013:  Used the phrase “globalization of indifference” to describe the horrors migrants face, including death for many, as they traverse human, geographical, climate perils seeking a better life for themselves and their families.  At this conference again we hear that immigration policy in the United States has become inordinately complex and innately inhumane.  Examples of the shooting of unarmed migrants on our border with Mexico, deaths in the desert from lack of food and water, senseless and brutal beatings of migrants, vicious rapes, the concerns of home and landowners near the border for whom a quiet and peaceful life is a distant memory, the highest deportation rates in our history, the privatization of detention centers, the failure to provide due process and adequate health care to those detained, etc. are but a few examples of the “globalization of indifference” to the human rights and dignity of the people of God.

#2 Persons on the move:  This phrase is new to me.  Immigrant, migrant, documented and undocumented are still used.  However, in what appears to be an effort to humanize people who migrate, I find this new phrase exciting.  Interestingly, the term “New American” which was used extensively and encouraged in the New Messaging presentations at the 2012 Justice for Immigrants Conference in Atlanta is absent in the conference lexicon this year.

#3 Immigration, Law and Public Policy: The media portrays the opportunity to pass immigration reform in the near future as dismal.  However, from the perspective of Kevin Appleby, Director, Migration Policy USCCB Migration and Refugee Services, passage is closer than ever.  Will it be what everyone wants regarding enforcement, no.  Will it be what everyone wants regarding a clear path to citizenship, no.  It will be somewhere in the middle, it will be incomplete and, it will be a new beginning which is sorely needed since the last immigration law to pass was 1965.  We are close and we must keep it moving forward!

#4 Catholic Schools and Immigration: Yet one more example of how we see life as we are rather than life as it is!  I went believing that this workshop would be one which would support our office in engaging students at St. Catherine University in working for immigration reform and engaging them in active participation in the upcoming election cycle.  Once again, my perception was light years off the mark!

This workshop, led by Rev. Joe Corpora, C. S. C. University of Notre Dame was all about the reality of the continued diminishment of Catholic Schools, the profound loss of women and men religious as teachers, principals and superintendents and the resulting loss of opportunity for children to receive a Catholic education.  Besides getting a high quality education with high graduation rates and acceptance into college, he said, “no child in Catholic School ever belongs to a gang, that alone is incentive to send them.  Tell this to their grandmothers and she will get them there!”

In addition, he cited that Catholic Schools have historically been immigrant schools who had their roots in the ethnicity of the parish and neighborhood.  The Polish Catholic Church and school; the Italian Catholic Church and school; the Irish Catholic Church and school, each one guided by a superintendent, principal and teachers of that ethnicity.  In addition, the school and classrooms mirrored the homes from which the children came.  The Polish kids as sauerkraut, the Irish kids ate Irish Stew, the German kids enjoyed soup with spatzel. In addition portraits of patron saints hung on the walls and holy cards honored in the home were the same patron saints and holy cards the kids saw and learned about in the Catholic School.

The challenge today is the growing number of Hispanic children whose parents only know private schools from their experience in Latin America where ONLY the richest of the rich send their children.  Therefore, Hispanic parents do not consider Catholic schools as an option.  Even if they did the schools need to be representative of the Catholic home and community from which the children come.

I did not get what I expected from this workshop and I learned a great deal about the challenges Hispanic parents face as well as the recognition that priests need to do a better job of providing information on the option of Catholic Schools for their children and dispel the myth that only the children of the richest of the rich can attend!

During the Q & A, I addressed Fr. Corpora (an Italian) describing my perception of what the workshop would be vs what it was, expressing gratitude for what I learned and my continued need to find resources to engage SCU students and offer materials to our sponsored high school campus ministry departments.  He then told us that there is a summer seminar scheduled in July to do just that!  And guess what, it is full, enrollment is closed and people are still calling in wanting to attend.  No surprise to me.  When I return to St. Paul, I will contact the new SCU Campus Ministry Justice Coordinator to see if he is attending – I also learned yesterday that he is a UND alum!

#5 A woman in the crowd went to the microphone during the Q & A following the opening session yesterday, “Immigrants in America: Past and Present,” to ask about the voices of migrant women in the stories of immigrants past and present particularly since in the present more women migrate to the US to pave the way than men.

Later in the day I approached her to thank her for her question.  I soon learned that she describes herself as an “exited woman.”  She was trafficked as a teenager from Canada to the United States, subjected to violence and drugs for over 10 years; broke free; and because she had no documents, no high school diploma, she supported herself as a “dancer” for another 10 years.  Since then she has climbed over obstacle after obstacle to earn her BS, HS-BCP and serves a social justice coordinator at Victory Noll Center in Huntington, IN.  I told her that the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in 1650 in LePuy, France and their first ministry was to teach prostituted women lace making so they could provide for themselves and their children.  She wept.  She has questions about the work the Sisters of St. Joseph are doing today regarding trafficking and will contact our office soon for more information.

#6 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” – Ephesians 2:19

Posted by Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

The Church and Immigration Conference

University of Notre Dame (UNd0, March 2-5, 2014

Last night opened with a welcome by Fr. Daniel G. Groody, CSC

Rev. John Jenkins CSC, President of the University of Notre Dame continued the welcome and spoke profoundly of the immigrant roots of UND that continue to flourish and his hope that this conference will lead real and meaningful immigration reform.

Next we heard from Most Rev. Eusebio Elizondo, M. Sp. S, Archdiocese of Seatte and Most Reverent Alvaro Ramazzini, Dioeces of Huehuetenango, Guatemala who laid the ground work for the rich history of the Catholic Church in working for the human dignity of all those “persons on the move” who come to the United States seeking a sustainable life for themselves and their families.

We heard about the “globalization of indifference” which Pope Francis referred to, the importance of the Catholic voice of the forefront today in the moral arguments for immigration reform as well as the profound crisis created by materialism that has forced so many people globally into poverty.

And now our work today begins.  Monday, March 3, 9:00 a.m.

Posted by:  Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate