Winding Down the Year- Gratitude from a St. Joseph Worker

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I can hardly believe that I am sitting down to write my farewells. This year has been an incredible experience, and I have learned more than I ever thought possible. Each season brought its own opportunities and challenges; and now, as we head back into summer, I would like to take a little space to reflect on all this year has meant and to thank all of you for part in making this community such a welcoming and inspiring place.

Working in the Justice Office has brought me deeper understanding of the lessons I began learning as an undergrad at St. Kate’s: to value women’s leadership, to explore and grow in my spirituality and love of God, to seek solidarity in community, and to live in a way that is both simple and sustainable. It’s no coincidence that these are also the pillars of the St. Joseph Worker program!

Over the year, I learned what I can do to help break the impasse in our politics through the wise words of Sr. Simone Campbell and Dr. Fatma Reda. Workshops taught me about the “CSJ Way” of Community, Spirituality, and Justice. I met Sisters of St. Joseph, Consociates/Associates, and Partners in Mission from all across the U.S. and beyond at the Congregation and Federation meetings in New York. Perhaps most striking of all, I found an amazing friend and mentor in Megan Bender, who continuously amazed me with her dedication, hard work, and creativity in/for the work of justice.

In August, I’ll be heading to Berkeley to start my masters in Biblical studies at the Graduate Theological Union. It will be a big change, and I’m going to miss all of the friends I’ve made this year. I am comforted to know that throughout all the newness of this transition, I will have the strength, courage, love, and brilliance of the CSJ community to guide and support me.

It has been a joy and a privilege to work within the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet & Consociates. Thank you all, and God bless!

 

Elea Ingman, SJW

 

 

 

The more I know … the more I know I don’t know!

I grew up in rural southeastern Minnesota immersed in the rich “country” colloquialisms that permeated our conversations in the 1950s and 1960s.  It seemed to me as a child that one stood out and was used far too often!  It incessantly showed up when someone spoke in absolute certainties or thought they were “so smart,” the colloquialism was often directed towards a teenager!  In that moment, I knew I was going to hear AGAIN, “Mama always said if you don’t learn something new today, you might as well stay in bed!”

Early in the New Millennium, I was introduced to Kay Mill’s book, This Little Light of Mine: the Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, which examines the life of MS Hamer, a powerful African American woman from Mississippi, who was a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in 1964 she helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which strongly influenced the 1968 Democratic Convention, was active in civil disobedience (and as a result savagely raped beaten for her commitment) and registered countless people to vote.  “This Little Light of Mine” opened my eyes to the powerful ways strong, powerful African American women leaders were central figures in the Civil Rights Movement and made me want to know more!

In 2011, Joänne Tromiczak-Neid, Justice Coordinator and I went to Alabama to participate in the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Southern Poverty Law Center and to take a self-guided Civil Rights tour while we were there.  All along the way, in Birmingham and in Selma, I kept looking for more about the history of women in the Civil Rights Movement.  I was really simply looking to find more about Fannie Lou Hamer. Each time I came away disappointed. Nothing on Fannie Lou Hamer, though there was some information about Rosa Parks.

As I drove over the Edmund Pettus Bridge to return to Montgomery for the opening of the 40th Anniversary celebration on that quiet sunny mid-April morning, I found I could not drive the speed limit, “we both felt the power of the march and the marchers” as we left Selma.  We pulled over several times to reflect on the experience.  Halfway back to Montgomery we found the Lowndes Interpretive Center which opened earlier that year to tell the story of the March on Montgomery and the Loundes County Tent City which for two years became home to many Black Americans and sharecroppers who were evicted because they had exercised their constitutional right as citizens to register and to vote.

There on the counter I discovered Hands on the Freedom Plow, an unprecedented women’s history of the Civil Rights Movement, from sit-ins to Black Power prominently displayed.  It is now in the Justice Resource Room Library and powerfully tells the stories of women who worked, more often than not, behind the scenes keeping the wheels Civil Rights Movement moving forward!  Though Fannie Lou Hamer died March 17, 1977, her story is included and told by the powerful women leaders who worked alongside of her.

Well, here I am on August 27, 2013, reading the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  My eye was drawn to the William P. Jones opinion piece titled “Content, coverage, effect:  5 Myths about the March on Washington.”  The intriguing title drew me in immediately.

Jones, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the author of The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights, this morning opened my eyes and changed my perceptions on several fronts.

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington tomorrow, Jones writes “The National Council of Negro Women also supported the march,” but the male leaders “refused to include its president, Dorothy Height, in the official leadership.  Despite vigorous protest from black women, they insisted that women could be represented by men.”

As we commemorate the March on Washington, federal laws protecting the right of all citizens to vote, I encourage you to take the time to read Jones column, and the other resources I have linked to in this blog post.

Once again, “mama” was right! There are lots of great reasons to get out of bed, including but not limited to, learning more about the world, changing my perceptions and being reminded again and again that “the more I know, the more I know I don’t know!”

Posted by: Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, Saint Paul Province

Safe Harbors Law

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The Minnesota Legislature Safe Harbor legislation on July 20, 2011.  This public safety bill includes protections for children who are commercially sexually exploited and clarifies that sexually exploited children are crime victims, not criminals.

Six changes were made to how the state protects sexually exploited children. The law:
  • Includes the definition of sexually exploited youth in Minnesota’s child protection code;
  • Excludes sexually exploited children under 16 from the definition of delinquent child;
  • Creates a mandatory first-time diversion from arrest for any 16 or 17 year old who has been exploited in prostitution (where the child meets the criteria);
  • Allows prosecutors to continue diversion or to proceed with Children in Need of Protection (CHIPS) petitions for 16 and 17 year olds coming through the system an additional time;
  • Increases penalties against buyers of sex with adults from $250 to a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $750. The revenue these fees generate will be distributed to law enforcement, prosecutors, and service providers to serve sexually exploited children; and
  • Directs the commissioner of public safety to work with stakeholders to create a victim-centered response for sexually exploited youth. (The Advocates for Human Rights)

On February 15, 2013 – The Advocates released a report analyzing Safe Harbor 2011, including the Safe Harbor Working Group process and the comprehensive approach to Safe Harbor which it developed, entitled Safe Harbor: Fulfilling Minnesota’s Promise to Protect Sexually Exploited Youth.  Read the Report

Thursday, February 21, the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC) Day on the Hill was held at the Xcel Energy Center and at the Minnesota State Capitol.  Participants from all 67 Legislative Districts were briefed on four issues including Human Trafficking.  The JRLC Human Trafficking reads in part:   Support the “Safe Harbor—No Wrong Door” bill, SF 384 (Pappas); HF 485 (Allen), appropriating about $13 million over two years to form a network of specialized victim services. The bill also provides that 16 and 17 year old minors who are trafficked be treated as victims, not offenders. (JRLC)

A Member of the Anti-Human Trafficking Working Group of the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, Ann Redmond, CSJ has been involved in the Minnesota State Task Force, mandated by the Legislature  that includes, advocates, service providers, attorneys, law enforcement and legislators. Sister Ann said, “the Safe Harbors Law is important because people at all levels have been involved in spelling out what is needed to achieve the goal of providing services to trafficked youth.”

Michele Garnett-McKenzie, Director of Advocacy, The Advocates for Human Rights stated that the Minnesota Safe Harbors Law is “at the forefront nationally in protecting exploited youth using a victim centered model.”

Posted by Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

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Women’s History Month Reflection

As we move into the first week of April, I am called to reflect on March – Women’s History Month.
A single experience of March that comes to mind is the 11th Day Prayer for Peace – Celebrating Women—hosted by the St. Joseph Worker Program. The time spent with friends and in front of the computer for the planning of this event is memorable, and yet what that time provided is what resonates: to learn more about women who have laid the path for me, especially those from the CSJ community.
During the service, we recalled the lineage of women leadership that has come before all of us. Women who fought for the rights we enjoy today, who infuse society with love and passion that we carry in our hearts, and who opened the societal perceptions of women. In the narrative of this lineage, our hope was to name the unnamed sheroes that make up so much of this lineage, especially members of the CSJ Community who have gone uncelebrated and unnamed despite the large contributions provided.
With the help of Jill Underdahl, Mary Kaye Medinger and Mary Kraft, we were able to name and more fully understand three Sisters of St. Joseph from our lineage. Sister Jackie Slater (1934-1984) who integrated her values and relationships within her community as she served three terms on City Council representing the diverse Sixth Ward of Minneapolis. Sister St. Mark Wirtz (1904-1962) who had a deep passion for all of creation and carried this passion into her many positions at the College of St. Catherine as an Ornithologist. Finally, Sister Rita Steinhagen (1928-2006) who’s actions are often recognized within the great lineage of social justice leadership, but we chose to highlight the motivation for her work which was steeped in her experiences and relationships with people.
Several weeks after that beautiful service in the Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, I still have a burning curiosity for the fullness and depth of the lineage of women which leads to my heart, mind and feet. I encourage everyone to learn a bit more about one woman who has inspired you as a leader– with the caution that once you learn a little you will be captivated.
–Elizabeth Fairbairn, St. Joseph Worker & Justice Office Intern

Bread & Roses

Last Thursday marked the 100th anniversary of the Bread & Roses Strike (also known at the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike) in Lawrence, MA. The story is a reminder of both the power of the collective and women leadership.
On January 12, 1912, Polish women weavers at Everett Cotton Mills realized their pay had been cut after the state decreased the work week for women. 10,000 women left the mill and went on strike. The number of protesters involved grew to 25,000 within a week — involving almost every mill in the area.
The two-month long strike was ground-breaking as it was comprised of immigrant, largely female and ethnically divided workers — defying American Federation of Labor’s assumption that such a group could not be organized. The diverse group proved their strength and innovation in the creation of the first moving picket line to circumvent loitering laws.
After two months of persistence, the strike was settled on terms generally favorable to the workers. They won pay increases, time-and-a-quarter for overtime, and a promise of no discrimination against strikers.
Since the early 1970s, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates have had a justice concerned group “Bread & Roses” inspired by the women of this protest. As with many protests of this time period, think suffrage movement, the persistence and courage of those fighting for justice is humbling and inspiring. Workers’ rights and fair wage issues are still prevalent in our world 100 years later. May this anniversary re-light our passion for such justice.
The below poem was later connected to the 1912 protest, giving it the title “Bread & Roses”
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses”
As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men–
For they are women’s children and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes–
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew–
Yes, bread we fight for–but we fight for Roses, too.
As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days–
The rising of the women means the rising of the race–
No more the drudge and idler–ten that toil where one reposes–
But sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!
-James Oppenheim, 1911 American Magazine
-Elizabeth Fairbairn, St. Joseph Worker & Justice Office Intern

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

As the title suggest, November 23rd is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, sponsored by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

This is an annual celebration to shed light on the problems of violence against women around the globe, and to take action to eliminate such violence. The focus this year is youth leadership in preventing and ending violence against women and girls, in line with efforts to engage youth in the Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, and with the recent International Youth Year.

This day is a kick-off to 16 days of activism against gender violence, and the UN Women has created a 16 Step Policy Agenda aimed at ending gender violence. This, along with the UNiTE to End Violence campaign demonstrates a collaborative, cross-field approach to ending violence around the globe. I challenge each of us to read the 16 Step agenda and find at least one step that we can take action on.

For more information check out the Virtual Knowledge Center, provided by UN Women. I would also suggest the book Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as a source of global experiences of women.

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