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.


This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate

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.


Written by Elea Ingman, Program Assistant


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

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

Lead Sponsors: JRLC Day on the Hill

“Change Begins With Us!”

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates are again “Lead Sponsors” of the JRLC (Joint Religious Legislative Coalition) Day on the Hill.  It is a powerful and potent day of  “interfaith advocacy for social justice” that again includes over 800 representatives of all 67 Minnesota Legislative Districts.

Dr. Sayyid Syeed, National Director, Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America is presenting the keynote speech after which we will hear from Patrice Critchley-Menor, Diocese of Duluth regarding “Building our Coalitions.”

The issue briefings this year are: 

Family Economic Security Act          Human Trafficking

Budget Priorities and Taxes              Homes for All       Impartial Judiciary

At 11:45 the 2013 Lawrence D. Gibson Interfaith Social Justice Award will be presented to Governor Albert H. Quie and the 2013 Interfaith Social Justice Organization Award will be presented to Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, Minneapolis

This afternoon affords participants the opportunity to meet with their legislators to bring the 2013 issues of the JRLC to their attention, encourage their support and leadership.

Part of being at the JRLC Day on the Hill is the opportunity to network with others, to connect with colleagues, hear from powerful leaders and get energized to continue to work of “collecting the power for mission (CSJ Acts of Chapter 2001).”

Our CSJ Table provided people with a bookmark highlighting our March events, including Breaking the Impasse IV with Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby and Nan Madden, Director, Minnesota Budget Project; 11th Day Prayer for Peace, March 11 “International Women’s Day” which is being planned with St. Catherine University Multi-Cultural and International Programs, Campus Ministry and the Women’s Center; and a list of CSJ ministries with websites.  In addition, CSJ offered gifts of “Hooked by the Spirit,” the life story of Rita Steinhagen, CSJ and “In Search of the Divine: Immigration” (ISD) to visitors our table.

Having immigration as the topic of the newest ISD providing voice to three people who migrated to the United States and are now citizens, is powerful with Immigration Reform having more support than anytime since 1986.  The DVDs are now in the hands of high school students, high school teachers, parish leaders, the Minnesota Council of Churches and United Theological Seminary to name but a few. 

JRLC Day on the Hill is another example of the great non-partisan work that is critical to a healthy democracy.

Posted by:  Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

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Immigration is Abuzz in the Headlines

The United States Supreme Court is set to review the legality of Arizona SB1070, the contentious immigration law that was passed a few years ago. According to BBC, the Supreme Court will review four provisions that were blocked by a lower appeals court:

· requiring officials to check the immigration status of anyone arrested and allowing police to stop anyone suspected of bein an undocumented immigrant
· making it a state crime to reside in Arizona without legal documentation
· banning all undocumented immigrants from working in the state or applying for a job
· allowing police to arrest a person believed to have committed a crime that could lead to deportation, even if the crime occurred in another state

See this BBC article for further details on the Supreme Court case.

While the Supreme Court prepares to hear this case, the Catholic Church in the United States has been doing some prep work of their own.

NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, along with approximately 50 other civil rights, faith and community organizations filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging the court to affirm the blockage of the four provisions. The fifty page report argues that SB1070 will harm U.S. Citizens, misapprehends the federal immigration scheme and cannot be implemented constituionally. For further information click here.

The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) released news that they, along with other faith leaders, called upon the President and Congress to reassert authority on immigration law. As the Supreme Court is working to review state authority of immigration, the USCCB called upon the President and Congress to enact immigration reform legislation “as soon as possible” in order to secure federal power over immigration policy. For further information click here.

Great examples of putting feet to the Gospel message and a glimpse of the Kindom.

-Elizabeth Fairbairn, St. Joseph Worker & Justice Office Intern