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March 2017 NewsNotes

Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace

March 2017

Greetings Friend!

The madness that is the Trump presidency adds to the world's upset of which BREXIT is also part. So much of the "civilized world" appears to have lost its rootedness in our common humanity. Trump's targeting of the environment to increase oil production puts profits over people-particularly the native Americans who stood against the militarized polices units at Standing Rock. He targets Muslims (who are already the targets of Islamic extremists) in the travel ban, a new version of which is expected to be released today. Recent immigrant families now live in fear in the U.S. as ICE terrorizes families with undocumented members.

But this is not just a matter of differing politics. His policies, even now, create real human suffering among innocent people.

I see that in the tears of the two asylum seekers from West Africa whom I visit in the local detention center. They came to the U.S. because their lives were threatened at home and friends were killed. They came to the authorities at the border and asked for asylum. Now, they are held in a jail, one for over 18 months, in part because he cannot find a lawyer.

Today's news can be depressing if taken without an antidote. One such solution for me is diving into scripture. I am in the midst of a ten session journey through Isaiah with five immigrant women. The women all note how the words of the prophet, calling for justice, acknowledging the universality of God, condemning the vast gaps between rich and poor all appear to have been written for today. The words do not promise any easy solutions other than to trust in the justice of God but they remind us that God is faithful and we have work to do.

I also find great encouragement in those few church voices who are speaking out for justice, for our common humanity and for the poor. Pope Francis is certainly a strong voice. In early February Cardinal Nichols spoke of his disappointment at the UK government reneging on its commitment to take in 3,000 refugee children. Cardinal Tobin, the new Archbishop of Newark is also a refreshing change as is Bishop McElroy who is noted in a story below. Their words offer guidance and encouragement as we struggle to find justice in this dark time.


Frank McCann

Peace through Justice Facilitator



  1. Bishop McElroy Emerges as Powerful Voice of Catholic Social Teaching
  2. Standing Rock Water Protector Camp Disbanded
  3. USCCB Seeks Support for the BRIDGE Act
  4. Does Trident Make US Safer or More at Risk?
  5. A Changing Catholic Voice at the UN
  6. Lenten Practices for Justice and Peace
  7. Refugee Children Victimized
  8. Mark Your Calendars


Bishop McElroy Emerges as Powerful Voice of Catholic Social Teaching



Bishop McElroy of San Diego recently addressed the World Meeting of Popular Movements meeting in Modesto and is rapidly emerging as the lead soloist among Catholic Bishops bringing a full range of Catholic social teachings to the signs of the times. He was the most powerful speaker of the Meeting as used the "See Judge, Act" method of applying Catholic Social teaching to the signs of our times. Recently appointed by Pope Francis as bishop, he is described as the "brains" among the Catholic Bishops. He also exhibited an ability to motivate a large crowd. An excerpt from his remarks follow.

President Trump was the candidate of “disruption.” He was “the disruptor,” he said. Well now, we must all become disruptors. We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men, women and children as forces of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.

But we, as people of faith, as disciples of Jesus Christ, as children of Abraham, as followers of the Prophet Muhammad, of people of all faiths and no faith, we cannot merely be disruptors, we also have to be rebuilders. We have to rebuild this nation so that we place at its heart the service to the dignity of the human person and assert what that flag behinds us asserts is our heritage: Every man, woman and child is equal in this nation and called to be equal. We must rebuild a nation in solidarity, what Catholic teaching calls the sense that all of us are the children of the one God, there are no children of a lesser god in our midst.

His words were greeted by a full three minute standing ovation from the Catholics and non-Catholics alike and many tears were being wiped away as he finished.

You can read his entire address here.


Standing Rock Water Protector Camp Disbanded



The months-long camp out by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, its water protectors and its allies ended on February 22 by order of the North Dakota authorities on the grounds that their campsite was in a spring flood plain. Their removal was "encouraged" by a large force of militarized police armed to the teeth against the prayer camp residents.

The camp was abandoned peacefully, but included the burning by tribe members of a few of the structures they had built. A few protestors remained behind choosing to be arrested for symbolic reasons.

Trump's executive order to complete the pipelines caused the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore the findings of an environmental report that indicated there were several legitimate reasons for the Corps to reject the plan to complete the pipeline. Among those reasons were the lack of consultation with the tribes. Reports suggest that oil could be flowing trough the pipeline by March 6th.

The fight is not over. Seventeen tribes have filed lawsuit to undo the construction of the "black snake."


USCCB Seeks Support for the BRIDGE Act


The Justice for Immigrants program of the USCCB is urging members of congress to support the bi-partisan BRIDGE Act which would protect students now protected from deportation by DACA from being deported if the Trump administration dismantles DACA.

Please call or write your representatives asking for their support. A Sample script/letter follows:

My name is ______________________. I’m a Catholic and a constituent. I’m calling to express my strong support for the "Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act," S.128/H.R. 496. The BRIDGE Act protects the dignity of DACA-eligible youth by ensuring individuals who were brought to the United States as children and are contributing so much to our nation can continue to live their lives free of the anxiety that they could be deported at any time to a country they do not know and separated from their families.

I urge you to:
·         Support and co-sponsor the BRIDGE Act (S.128/H.R. 496); and
·         Continue to work towards larger legislative reform of our immigration laws.

Can I count on your boss to support the BRIDGE Act? Thank you!


Does Trident Make Us Safer or More at Risk?



Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has an article in the Huffington Post explaining her view that the nation is less safe with the Trident program than without it. It is not just a matter of misfired missiles but of the sub-based missile system being based on an older, more combative way of nations dealing with each other. Use of the missiles is also dependent upon the United States who owns the missiles and technology.  "It will always be a government’s priority to keep its citizens safe. But what is true security in the 21st century? As the world becomes more inter-linked than ever before, it is becoming the norm to cooperate with other states on the challenges facing us, rather than battle against each other." Read more of the Huffington Post article .

In  other news, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, is urging the government to scrap Trident and save the £206 billion which can then be used for the National Health Service. There will be a major  "NHS not TRIDENT" demonstration in London at the Gandhi Memorial in Tavistock Square at noon on 4 March 2017.

Monthly protests at the Faslane Trident base hosted by the Glasgow Catholic Worker continue every first Saturday of the month. This Saturday, March 4th is the next one. A four minute out take from their service is posted on YouTube. You can find the February-4 minute video here .

At the end of March, the UN will take up a call to ban all nuclear weapons. Tell Boris Johnson to join the effort by signing onto a letter here.


A Changing Catholic Voice at the UN

RUN (Religious at the UN) of which the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace are a part, has been an informal association of NGO members of various Catholic religious congregations and federations from across the globe. Present members of RUN number 60 individuals representing over 200 congregations with 100,000 members serving in 177 nations.

A recent year-long study and research funded by the Conrad Hilton Foundation has led the informal group to consider becoming a more formal, unified, coalition that would be a global Catholic voice at the UN. 

The proposed Vision Statement for the group reads as follows:

A strengthened advocacy capacity of RUN members in New York and of their congregation's members at the grassroots level to pursue a collaborative, strategic, highly impactful global justice agenda, including implementation of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)



Lenten Practices for Justice and Peace


CAFOD is offering a Lenten Calendar for 2017 of reflections by its staff to help us remember those served by CAFOD around the world.

The Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast with an environmental focus will be a re-run of the 2016 ELCF.  Use this link to sign up. On the right hand side of the page you can sign by email, text or through Facebook.

NETWORK , the Catholic Sisters social justice lobby is offering a Lenten Series: A time to Pray, a Time to Act.   From March 1 - April 17, we will reflect on the principles of Catholic Social Justice and act by calling Catholic Members of Congress to remind them that healthcare is a core part of our faith belief.

Pax Christi USA offers a single-use e-version of a Lenten program for your smart phone called Reconciliation with Justice: Reflections for Lent 2017. The cost is $3.50.


Refugee Children Victimized



Teresa May refuses to fulfill promises to accept the 3,000 child refugees qualified to enter the UK. Donald Trump wants to ban all refugees. The Maria Skobtsova House in Calais is full to overflowing with children who still come to Calais seeking a way to England or a place to stay safe. 

The European Union is attempting to cut off the flow of refugees by training the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy to intercept the refugees before they leave Libyan waters for Italy. Nevertheless, migrants continue to flow through what the UN calls the Central Mediterranean migration routes to Libya, a nation without a central government where large portions are ruled by criminal gangs and militias. 

In February 2017, UNICEF issued a devastating child alert entitled “A Deadly Journey for Children.” The report estimates there are 256,000 migrants in Libya of whom 11% are women and 9% are children. The actual numbers are suggested to be 3 times higher than that. Of the 181,436 who entered Italy from the Med in 2016, 16% were children; 90% of them were unaccompanied. 

If migrants survive the travel across the desert, many without food or water, they encounter conditions in Libya are horrendous. UNICEF has identified 34 detention centers where migrants are held. Twenty-four are  run by the government, the others by various militias. Many migrants are put into forced labor. Children are subject to continual violence. Half of the women report frequent sexual abuse. And those are the ones who have not yet been sold to traffickers. UNICEF does not have access to militia run centers due to “security reasons.” UNICEF reports widespread human rights abuses in the camps as well as poor nutrition, inadequate sanitation, significant overcrowding and a lack of access to health care and legal assistance. (p.4) 

“The Central Mediterranean Sea Route is now a thoroughly criminalized enterprise with children and women bearing the cost. The smugglers and traffickers are winning. It is time the international community comprehensively addresses this issue in particular protecting children on their journey.”  Justin Forsyth, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director


Mark Your Calendars


March 1- Lent Begins

March 8 - International Women's Day

March 13 - Anniversary of the election of Pope Francis (2013)

March 20 - Spring Equinox

March 24 - Feastday of Oscar Romero

March 31- Birthday of Cesar Chavez (1927)

April 16 - Easter Sunday

April 29- People's Climate March on Washington (other locations as well)  

"The Spirit sounds herself in so many voices: sometimes Her whisper is persuasive and easy to follow; sometimes Her cry is fiery and threatening. But She must be listened to."

Dorothy Vidulich, CSJP