Thanks Be To (Trans) Families

“Few people carry around as much baggage as trans folks with wives and kids.”

In the play Trans Families three families recount what it is like to no longer fit the description of one father and one mother with children. Creator Christy Marie Kent adapted personal interviews she had with transgender parents and their spouses to craft the performance. One week ago we witnessed the play at the Carondelet Center Dining Room. Today, on Thanksgiving, I wanted to reflect on how I am experiencing the holiday differently because of the performance.

“This is not what I signed up for.”

The words above are taken directly from one woman who told her struggle of her husband’s transition from male to female. The two other actors shared their experience as trans women. The raw honesty of these words above brings to mind the many occasions I felt I didn’t sign up for the realities of familial changes, and subsequently the impact of feeling that reluctance.

When my mom became chronically ill, I immediately rejected that it was happening. Similar to the fear the actors expressed in the play, I feared losing someone I’ve known for 22 years. For some trans families it was expressed as the death of that person. Although my family fits the traditional paradigm (if I can call it traditional) of cisgender heterosexual parents with two daughters, I surely relate to that struggle of understanding and even accepting our ever-evolving family.

In Kent’s performance, the common rebirth of the families were embedded in the transformative power of love. The children seemed to understand this best. Yet the experience of transitioning was laced with the bitterness of unjust, systemic trauma that nearly leads to suicide for two of the trans women. I would find myself on the end of my seat, so wanting to just give the actors a hug and tell them they’re loved. There I sat, in what felt like a mess I couldn’t resolve for them. But the harmful emotions circulating in the narratives did eventually pass.

Whether we are looking at this as our church family or our immediate family, reconciliation plays a role in all our relationships. I pray for the courage to confront my shortcomings daily as the daughter of some complex beings. And I pray that as a member of the greater Catholic community, I will work to do to make it a church for all our diverse families. But above all, I pray for the families who have lost loved ones due to senseless violence against trans people. I want to end this post with who we are remembering this year.

But, I struggle to re-tell, dear reader, what I know you must already understand to be true as well. We are never meant to carry our baggage load alone, and that’s the beauty of family. I experience this holiday with a paradox of joy and also sorrow for the things I wish I mend for our global and local family in the wake of violent acts. On Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I have been transformed by Trans Families and their courage to share their stories. And today, I want to reiterate what one actor in the play wished, “may you be happy, healthy and loved.”

Keisha Blige, 33, Aurora, Illinois

Tamara Dominguez, 36, Kansas City, Missouri

Kandis Capri, 35, Phoenix, Arizona

Amber Monroe, 20, Detroit, Michigan

Ashton O’Hara, 25, Detroit, Michigan

Shade Schuler, 22, Dallas, Texas

Bruna Quércia, 15, Espírito Santo, Brazil

K.C. Haggard, 66, Fresno, California

India Clarke, 22, Tampa, Florida

Mercedes Williams, 17, Rocky Creek, Alabama

Penny Proud, 21, New Orleans, Louisiana

Michael Lewis de Almeida Reginald, 13, São Paulo, Brazil

Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, 36, San Francisco, California

Bri Golec, 22, Akron, Ohio

Nephi Luthers, 20, Georgetown, Guyana

Lamia Beard, 30, Norfolk, Virginia

Papi Edwards, 20, Louisville, Kentucky


This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate



Thanksgiving: The Most American of Holidays

There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.
– O. Henry

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. –from “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus


Happy Wednesday, everyone!  As we head off to our Thanksgiving weekend, the Justice Office would like to shine a spotlight (torchlight?) onto the newest Americans arriving on our shores.  As we all know, we are a nation of immigrants. The history of the settlement of the U.S.A. is not without its problems, from the thievery of land from the indigenous Americans to discrimination against various immigrant groups over the years.

We should never forget that Thanksgiving is, ultimately, a day of celebrating the freedom, safety, and community possible in a new land. Except for those with Native American roots, we are all the descendants of refugees, if not refugees ourselves.  Therefore, I encourage you to consider how you can welcome the refugees of today to a new Thanksgiving feast. Like the pilgrims, today’s refugees have traveled long and far, with little or no possessions but the clothes they wear and the hope for a better life.

When you’re standing outside Target at 6am on Black Friday, consider picking up some donation items for the International Institute of Minnesota, a center for New Americans. They are currently looking for new or lightly used winter items, as well as new socks, disposable diapers, and bus/gift cards. Please see the poster and the link below for more information, and thank you for joining us to welcome new friends!

Happy Thanksgiving!

elea and megan outside iimn
Megan and Elea outside the International Institute of MN

International Institute of Minnesota website

poster for iimn

Dear Lord; we beg but one boon more:
Peace in the hearts of all men living,
peace in the whole world this Thanksgiving.  –Joseph Auslander

Justice for Immigrants Convening 2015, Offering Our Best Efforts

“If we are unable to meet the humanitarian challenge in our own backyard, we will lose our stature as a humanitarian leader globally”

(From back, left to right): Steve Kraemer, Estela Villagran Manancerto, Sr. Pegge Boehm and Megan Bender

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago opened the 2015 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Justice for Immigrants Convening with a call to action. His words above exemplify the eagerness of over 300 steadfast immigration reform activists to address the current climate of immigration in this country and worldwide. Historically, many Catholics have been recognized as a catalyst for welcoming the dear neighbor in the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching—this mandate is something we take great pride in upholding. Echoing the sentiments of Pope Francis to Congress it is significant that, “we must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best.”

The three day convening offered a myriad of panel topics on organizing, confronting the detention system, the importance of integration, and legislative advocacy seminars. To highlight the local outcomes of the event, I wanted to briefly list the collaborative commitments I made with local leaders, Steve Kraemer, Conversations with Friends, Estela Villagran Manancero, Director for the Office of Latino Ministry at the Chancery and Sr. Pegge Boehm, Presentation Sisters’ Hispanic Ministry in South Dakota. Below are some efforts toward confronting the challenges of our broken immigration system in our own backyard.

  1.    Urge constituents to call the White House to end family detention
    • Additionally, we commit to keep in close contact with local legislature to be alerted to upcoming topics around immigration, such as sanctuary cities and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
  2. Community Ask
  • Encourage participation with the program Conversations with Friends, for immigrant visitation and accompaniment. To become a volunteer visitor in Minnesota, contact Rev. John Guttermann, program lead for Conversations with Friends at
  1. Awareness Strategy
  • During the month of February 2016 Wisdom Ways and the Justice Office of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates will co-sponsor the Green Card Voices self-standing exhibition. Green Card Voices utilizes digital storytelling to share personal narratives of America’s immigrants, fostering a better understanding between the immigrant and non-immigrant populations. Save the date for the panel event on Thursday, February 4th at 7 pm at Carondelet Center.
  • The Immigration Task Group of the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates will be meeting at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis on 11:30 am on Thursday, December 3rd. They regularly meet on the first Thursday of every month.
  • In our churches and communities, we will continue to urge for homilies on immigration and Pope Francis’ message to relay to all priests of the diocese.

Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation: Reports from New York

At the end of October, I was fortunate enough to accompany Megan and Ginger to two different meetings in New York State. The first was the Carondelet Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) meeting in Albany, and the second the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation JPIC meeting in Brentwood. Over the course of ten days I learned an incredible amount, the very least of which includes the difference between “Justice Commission” “Congregation” “Federation” and “Region,” what JPIC actually stands for and why it matters, and how the Sisters of St. Joseph all over the world are making an impact through our NGO at the United Nations.

pic with justine fed con 15
(Left to Right) Ginger Hedstrom, Elea Ingman, Justine Senepati, and Megan Bender

As the two youngest people in the room at both meetings, Megan and I were often tasked with representing the Millennial voice in the ongoing work of the CSJ community. When the Federation meeting challenged us to be and act more as one, Megan and I offered the Justice Matters blog as a platform for our Heathland Region to stay in touch about the work that we are doing, and to challenge us to see that work in the light of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030. We discovered that on both Congregation and Federation levels, all the congregations have more or less the same three concentrations: immigration, anti human trafficking, and care of Earth.

riot of leaves

It was surprising and gratifying to learn that the Sisters of St. Joseph across the U.S. are working for similar goals, despite our distance from each other and how we actually go about solving the “unmet needs of our time.” Similarly, it was humbling to realize how much the St. Paul province is looked up to as leaders in justice work. We are by far the largest and most well established Justice Office, with two full time staff and an intern, and we are the only province to have a Justice Commission. With such a strong base, we are able to accomplish much together. That, perhaps, was the strongest lesson I learned, and it is the one I will carry with me as we continue our work to love without distinction.

new york saratoga jo

Elea Ingman, SJW

Justicia y Paz: Marching with CTUL to #ReclaimOurCity for the Rights of Workers

This morning I woke up at 4:30am, dressed (for the first time this year) in flannel jeans and long underwear, grabbed a mason jar of tea, and headed out into the chill morning air in the company of two of my housemates. Despite the cold and the early hour, we were bright-eyed and excited. Though we all work for non-profit organizations, it is sometimes hard to see what impact we are making. This morning, we were going to work for more palpable change; marching in solidarity with workers fighting for their rights.

Four St. Joseph Workers marched to Macy's in Downtown Minneapolis, joining students and workers.
Four St. Joseph Workers marched to Macy’s in Downtown Minneapolis, joining students and workers.

We were invited to the #ReclaimOurCity: March for Working Families through local organization CTUL. CTUL stands for Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, “The Center of Workers United in Struggle.” Today, they joined in a movement spanning 270 cities across the country, in which fast food employees, retail workers, and retail cleaners are going on strike to protest their lack of a livable wage.

The march this morning was a diverse mix of students, workers, allies, and CTUL staff. Included also were representatives from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, raising the cry that “Black Workers matter”. At the start of the march, under the neon of McDonalds and SuperAmerica, we were blessed by the performance of three Aztec dancers. Call and response chants were shouted in English and Spanish. I’m surprised I have any voice left—I was so busy giving it in service to the protest, I didn’t care whether I got it back. The music that blasted from the back of the truck leading the protest was interspersed between stories from people who lived, daily, with the injustices we were fighting against.

Police lights turn the protesters blue as they pause to listen to the stories of fellow workers.
Police lights turn the protesters blue as they gather to listen to the stories of fellow workers.

Why is this important? Because today’s march was not—and is not—  about a group of people whining over low pay. This is about hundreds of people who work long and hard to provide us with little luxuries, fast food and clean stores, while they struggle with decisions of paying rent or feeding their families. This is about hundreds of people who sacrifice their health rather than miss a day of work— and the necessary paycheck that it brings. This is about the dignity of the human person, as described in Catholic Social Teaching and in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (check out number 8). Quite simply, it is about wrong…and rights.

God bless all those who were brave enough to stand up for those rights today; may your work truly bring justice.


Read more:

Local Fast Food Workers Join Nat’l Strike For Better Wages, Paid Sick Days