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An American House

On Wednesday, April 13th from 6:30-8pm we are blessed to be hosting a collaboration with St. Catherine University (SCU)’s Multicultural and International Programs and Services Office and Campus Ministry to bring the film An American House to Minnesota. The event will be held in Jeanne D’Arc Auditorium in Whitby Hall at SCU. Filmmaker, Chris Trani will also be journeying from Chicago to offer a unique commentary as one of the originators of the project, alongside our very own Immigration Task Group member, Amanda Steepleton. Amanda is featured in the film and eloquently speaks to her work at Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas. Their wisdom is not to be missed.

The film documents the work of Annunciation House and its guests. In the life-giving spirit of solidarity, Annunciation House  accompanies the migrant, homeless, and economically vulnerable peoples of the border region through hospitality, advocacy and education. In the trailer, the Director of Annunciation House, Ruben Garcia urges that:

“How we resolve the immigration issue is going to define us as a people and as a country.”

Through the raw materials of the lives we live, we are reminded that the metaphorical and even quite physical shelters we build to welcome the dear neighbor are an act of compassion that transcends borders. Please join us in community to learn more about the work of Annunciation House, and from justice-makers on how we can continue to work for just and human immigration reform.

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This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate

“We can make something good out of this:” A call to Resurrection

Tragedy provokes us. It lifts us from the places where we no longer can sit within complacency; it forces us to reassess our direction in life. We have heard, a million times, that tragedy brings people together. From my writing research, trying to resolve conflicts between characters, I have learned this togetherness often comes with the recognition of a common enemy, one which is greater than previous divisions. Now, in the light of the violence this past Holy week, I would like to ask: who is the ‘common enemy,’ and how should we respond to them?

Christians are called to live out these instructions in Heb. 13:1-3:

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body.

There are no stipulations on this reading. Paul does not say “remember those who are imprisoned unjustly,” or “only show hospitality to those strangers who look and act like you and cause you no discomfort.” This is a difficult reading in theory, and it is even more difficult in practice. How can we truly love our enemies? On a global scale, is it possible to despise the systems that encourage radicalization without despising radical groups and individuals? More simply put, can we hate terrorism without hating terrorists? How can we love God and the dear neighbor without distinction when others seem determined to do the distinguishing for us?

I have to admit that I raise these questions without having a single answer to them – except, maybe, to have faith. By this I do not mean to prescribe inaction, or the assumption that God will take care of things so that we do not have to. On the contrary, it is only through us that God can work. One of the beautiful things about God is that God is the ultimate spin doctor. I think we can pretty well agree that not everything that happens in this world is good. And it is pretty well established in theological studies that God does not simply cause bad things to happen as a part of some ineffable plan to punish the wicked and save the righteous (Job, anyone?)  Not everything happens for a reason. But we can trust that God will create reason for everything that happens.

A small scale example: A few years ago I lost my job. Now, I absolutely do not believe that God caused me to lose my job, or that losing my job was part of some divine plan to put me on a different track. Similarly, I do not believe that God causes death and destruction in order to bring about some greater glory. But after the fact, God can be found in the midst of the mess, tools in hand, saying “we can make something good out of this.” God’s agency is known when we move from the point of tragedy, no matter how large or small, to trust that something good can be made from the ashes of what was.

We are an Easter people, a people of resurrection.  By the reality of our rising, all divisions between us cease. A common enemy brings us together only long enough to define who is “us” and who is “them.” God brings us together when our common factor is love, not hate. Together, we can make all things new.

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Written by Elea Ingman, SJW
Program Assistant in the Justice Office

Breaking the Impasse: Meeting SDG #16

SDG #16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were established to achieve a wide variety of targets by 2030 by providing access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

As Megan Bender, Justice Associate wrote in her December 4, 2015 blogpost, “The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals highlight the unmet needs of our time, and the steps to take in achieving them.”

The charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph calls us to be “moving always toward profound love of God and neighbor without distinction” while SDG #16 Target 7 calls us to “Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.”

Since 1999, the Legislative Advocacy Partners Working Group of the Justice Commission, the Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity at St. Catherine University and NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby have partnered to offer BREAKING THE IMPASSE with Sister Simone Campbell.

February 23, 7:00 -9:00 p.m. we will present BREAKING THE IMPASSE VII: Call to Bridge the Divide featuring Sister Simone and Dr. Fatma Reda, a member of the executive board of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC). Dr. Reda speaks widely on Islam and is a third level Mureedah (female seeker) in the Naqshabandi Sufi order.

I have long held the belief that in order for us to succeed locally, nationally and globally we need to be able to deeply and respectfully listen to each other, then, recognizing that it takes all of us to find the best possible solution, work together for a more just world today.

From my perspective SDG#16 is a “call to bridge the divides.

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Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Coordinator

Were the Magi the kings of returned Christmas presents?

A couple of days before Christmas, I was listening to a local Christian radio station near my hometown when a modern rendition of “We Three Kings” came on. After the song, one host announced that she had always been irked by the impractical kings.

I mean, you’ve got this little baby laying in a stable in the cold, and these guys are coming in and bringing him gold…it would have been better to at least give him a blanket!

That host’s indignation over this ancient story got me thinking. It’s the sort of common sense response that children use to stump their elders, leading frazzled parents and faith formation teachers alike to respond with the faith-killing “because that’s the way it is.” I fell in love with theology for the precise reason that it encourages everyone and anyone to ask hard questions. Rather than dismissing the hosts’ comment, I have set out to provide a few possible answers stemming from different ways of reading the story.

Why did the Magi bring Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh? Couldn’t they have come up with something more practical?

  • Literary Lens. (This is probably the most common answer to why the Wise Men/Three Kings/Magi bring Jesus gold, myrrh and frankincense.) The gifts are little more than representations of Jesus’ kinghood and status as self-sacrificing Messiah—all the more necessary for his being born in a stable. The gold is for his status as King, the frankincense for his role as High Priest, and the myrrh to preserve his body after death. The gifts are foreshadowing for the life of Christ.
  • Historical Lens. The Magi, a class/tribe of Persian scholar-priests, are bringing gifts for a King just as modern diplomats bring gifts to the leaders of other states. If you have ever been to the UN building in New York, you may have seen many beautiful and varied objects from around the world, gifted to the UN in a sign of peace and support. The Magi, as demonstrated in Matthew 2:1-12 are bringing a royal dignitary a gesture of goodwill. Especially since they, too, were waiting for a savior- one they called a saoshyant,  who could “defeat the forces of evil, resurrect the dead, banish old age and decay from the world, and would usher in a new age for humanity“.
  • Scientific Lens. According to some researchers at Cardiff University, frankincense holds medicinal use as an anti-inflammatory, and is still used in some countries today to help arthritis. As learned men, it is likely the magi would have known of the many uses of frankincense.
  • Theological Lens. This answer is coming from the opposite direction; namely, Jesus’ own teachings. This hits on the modern frustration of giving money vs. giving objects which makes so many people uncomfortable (or irate) about panhandling or social services.

An example:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  (Matt 26:6-12)

Now, for many people this verse is problematic in and of itself. What I’m concerned with here is the fact that the disciples are using an argument that is still used today. Here, a woman has “wasted” an expensive oil that could have been sold, and the money donated. Why doesn’t Jesus tell her off?

Though the disciples are well-meaning, what they miss is that the woman is providing Jesus with exactly what he needs right then and there. Similarly, the Magi are providing Jesus with what he needs, as strange as it seems to us. Symbolically, they are paving the path down which the adult Jesus will trod, and bringing a reminder of divinity to a young couple who just brought a child into the world in a stable behind an overfilled inn. Practically, Mary and Joseph have to buy food and shelter for themselves, not to mention that they are about to flee their country soon after the Magi visit.

Perhaps the Magi were God’s way of bringing some stability to the life of Their Son. Symbolically and practically, the magi’s gifts are gifts of possibility. A blanket might have kept Jesus warm (presuming he was cold to begin with) but it would not have provided him or his family with lasting shelter, or his parents with food. Maybe the gifts were sold, and the money used by the Holy Family. Maybe they were donated to the Temple in thanksgiving and glorification of God. Maybe they were kept safe, and that same gift of myrrh included in the oils and spices prepared by the women for Jesus’ embalming.

Whatever the true answer may be, it is clear that God led the Magi (and later, the woman with expensive oil) to give exactly what was needed, despite all our confusion and our outrage. How often are we proud of our helpfulness, like the disciples, only to discover that the person who we are ‘serving’ has needs completely opposite of those we were trying to fill? It is easy to give from our places of logic and self-righteousness, rather than asking what it is that the presence of God truly requires. And often, as in so many things, what God requires seems contradictory to what we think is reasonable.

As we enter into this New Year, let us all be unreasonable and humble in our service to the God who is present in the midst of our spiritual poverty.

This week is National Migration Week. Consider asking what is needed by those who are migrating, immigrating, or seeking asylum in the Twin Cities area. We will celebrate 11th Day Prayer for Peace: A Stranger and You Welcomed Me from 6:30-7 :30 at the Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, co-sponsored by the Anti Human Trafficking, Dismantling Racism, and Immigration Working/Task Groups.

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Written by Elea Ingman, Program Assistant

 

SDG #10: Reducing Inequality, Dismantling Racial Injustice

By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. –SDG Goal #10

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals highlight the unmet needs of our time, and the steps to take in achieving them. In Minnesota and in the United States as a whole, I am greatly motivated to reduce inequality (Goal #10).

Over the course of 19 days Black Lives Matter has peacefully occupied the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis in response to the November 19th shooting of Jamar Clark (whom witnesses say was handcuffed when fatally shot). The encampment ended yesterday morning when the police cleared protestors from the site. Nearly twelve hours later, a march to City Hall later further asserted the protestors’ request for the release of the police tapes without a grand jury.

On their Facebook page Black Lives Matter posted the following:

Over 300 of us took over City Hall 12 hours after a military style raid by over 100 police bulldozed the ‪#‎4thPrecinctShutDown, destroying the physical community we built together and arresting 8. Thank you to the thousands who have stood with us through an armed white supremacist terror attack, mace, batons, less lethal bullets, and freezing temperatures in the past 19 days since Jamar Clark was murdered by Minneapolis Police. Our work is not over, it has just begun.

The Minneapolis protests, vigils and occupations amongst many currently happening in our country are a blaring example of the social exclusion of black people in America. The lack of unfettered access to social power and resources are a product of an inherently racist design of systemic injustice, and is largely being acted out in our criminal justice system.

Michelle Alexander, author of the riveting book The New Jim Crow, wrote:

In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.

To support the Black Lives Matter community the Justice Office offered direct action items such as firewood, 20151204_103940_resizedfood, and hand warmers for the protesters during the encampment. The Justice Office and Ritual and Liturgy Services offered a Prayer Vigil in Our Lady of The Presentation Chapel on Thursday and Friday December 3rd and 4th.  Elea Ingman, SJW, Justice Program Assistant made cards especially for the vigil, which will now be available in the ad center. We invite everyone to stop by to write a message of encouragement, a prayer, and/or a statement of support.

Please join us as we stand in solidarity with our Black Lives Matter family.

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This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate

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.

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Read more:

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

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