On Thursday, September 25th the Justice Office mailed a letter to the Vatican. Along with the letter (embedded below), we sent a DVD of the September 11th Day Prayer for Peace on Praying for a Church for All Families. We hope our prayers for a more welcoming church for a myriad of modern families will be heard.
I am staring the blank space in front of me, drinking tea, thinking about internet cats, reviewing my instruction portfolio, thinking about non-internet cats, checking how much time I have to write before I have to go to lunch, and generally procrastinating writing these first words. Where should I begin? Do I really have anything important enough to say? How can I possibly follow in the footsteps of those amazing women before me?
Despite my self-doubts and new-work jitters, I am excited to be the newest St. Joseph Worker in the Justice Office! Over the next few days/weeks/months, I will be learning exactly what it means to work for justice here in the Twin Cities, and hopefully I’ll be able to share some of these insights here on Justice Matters. Since my education is just beginning, today I’ll just share a little bit of about myself (which is something I know pretty well) and how I came to be here (which I’m still trying to figure out).
My name is Elea (uh-lee-uh) a name my parents created from my grandmother’s name, Eleanor. I moved to Minnesota ten years ago, and four years ago I started school at St. Catherine University. Last spring, I graduated from St. Kate’s with degrees in English and theology, which was my first surprise. Before coming to St. Kate’s, I had intended to get a degree in English and then go on to get my master’s in creative writing. I knew I liked theology, but at most I thought I might minor in it. Maybe.
By the end of my first semester, I was a theology major. By the time I graduated, my intention to study creative writing had given way to the desire to go to graduate school for theology, specifying in the Hebrew Bible/Christian Old Testament.
Whenever people ask why I chose to study theology, I have to admit that I don’t really know. It was less of a decision than a resignation; I attended my first theology course and realized that I was going to be a theology major. Then, as my college years progressed, I realized that I was going to continue to study theology; realized that I was in love with the Old Testament; realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing and teaching about Scripture and its relevance today. I was encouraged by other theologians who related similar experiences. Like the prophets of old, we commiserated about being ‘called’—after all, this had totally ruined my plans—while we simultaneously celebrated in the joy of our work.
Becoming a St. Joseph Worker was a similar process. I had interacted with representatives of the program while working in Campus Ministry at St. Kate’s, but had not seriously considered it until my senior year. That January I had taken the St. Kate’s required capstone course, the “Global Search for Justice”, with a focus on the experience of homelessness in the Twin Cities. After years of concentrating on school and work I realized that injustice was not something in books and ‘other’ places, it was sitting on my doorstep. I needed to live out the call to social justice, rather than simply theorizing about what could be done.
My love for the Twin Cities, for Catholic Social Teaching, for the vocation of justice, and for the ever-spunky sisters and consociates of St. Joseph of Carondelet all convinced me to join the SJW program. I am increasingly convinced that the Sister’s charism, to move “always and intentionally towards the profound love of God and neighbor without distinction,” is the only way to live in a world of constant despair and hope. Only two weeks in, I already feel at home with the people and mission of the program. I could not be more enthusiastic about this coming year, and I am looking forward to walking the ways of justice together!
Justice Office Program Assistant , SJW
On a sticky August morning at the great Minnesota get together, the Justice Office ventured to a small space nestled between the salsa booth and the hanging hammock station to engage fair-goers in conversations around human rights. Surrounded by vendors we were initially uncertain of people’s interest in entering a discussion. Volunteering with The Advocates for Human Rights has always been a very positive experience in the past (so we heard—this was the first time for the two of us!).
The Advocates for Human Rights, “investigate and expose human rights violations, represent immigrants and refugees seeking asylum, train and assist groups that protect human rights, engage the public, policy-makers, and children; and push for legal reform and advocates for sound policy”.
In the Justice Office, we believe that meeting the dear neighbor without distinction means to receive them respectfully while standing rooted in the human rights of all people. Our mission and connection to the work of The Advocates is strengthened by our call to meet the needs of the time.
For us, the greatest nuggets of wisdom came from the young children. When posed with a random question on the conversation wheel, the participants shared their beliefs. For adults, it took the form of multiple choice questions, and for children it was an open-ended question.
With the particularly dehumanizing rhetoric on immigration, it was refreshing to hear a young girl speak clearly to the human experience of migration, unsullied by politics.
When asked how she felt when she had to move to a different home, she said she was sad, but so happy when her classmates asked her to play. As she thought more about how people arrive to this country upon our discussion, she said she wanted to especially include children who arrive without protection. Without hesitation she said her mommy and daddy always keep her safe.
Sometimes, we as adults are inclined to respond to a historically complex issue with an equally complex solution. Sometimes we need to remember the wisdom of children is so much less about scholarship and more of an unlearning. At the heart of human rights are people and our responsibility to justice.
Civil society through the wisdom of a child tasted even better on a stick.
Megan Bender, Justice Associate
and Elea Ingman, Program Assistant