Page 1

S p r i n g 2 0 0 9 A dvo c a c y Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55105

5VU7YVÄ[6YN <:7VZ[HNL PAID St. Paul, MN Permit No.1990

O Birther! Breath and Light of All, Focus your light within us— make it useful: Create your reign of unity now. Your one desire then acts with ours, as in all light, so in all forms.

,+//1)1/

Grant what we need each day in bread and insight. Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt. Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back.

We Can

From you is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do, the song that beautifies all. From age to age it renews. Truly--power to these statements-may they be the ground from which all our actions grow.

OUR WORK IS THE

Amen.

Neil Douglas-Klotz, from Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus; Harper San Francisco 1990

PRESENTATION OF OUR CAPABILITIES. –GOETHE

WE’LL TAKE CARE OF IT.

Please tear off and use this bookmark as a companion in your reading and prayers.

creative | print | mailing | distribution 6845 Winnetka Circle | Brooklyn Park, MN 55428-1537 phone: 763.535.7277 888.646.7277 | www.glsmn.com

A Publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation


PURPOSE

A

WE CAN:

dvocacy 101.

I helped distribute the food to the people who had worked: beans, chili, potatoes, and onions. As the people were leaving, a man and woman knelt on the ground to pick up individual beans that had fallen in the dirt. Another woman and I knelt to help them gather the beans.

You don’t need to be a professional advocate to make a difference in the world. Beginner advocates who latch onto an issue or cause like dogs to a bone are some of the most persuasive voices for change. There’s a multitude of ways for you to put yourself out there for a cause you believe in. One or more of these Advocacy 101 suggestions may work for you. •

From the hill where I was gathering those individual beans, I could see the tall buildings of El Paso, a city built in the land of plenty, a land that wastes enough food daily to feed all the people of Juarez and all the people in the surrounding hills and far beyond. Again I pondered the injustices of life.

Rita J. Steinhagen, CSJ from Hooked by the Spirit: Journey of a peaceful activist

Which social issues make you sit up and take notice? Study them. Know what you’re talking about, and then talk about it. Share your knowledge with others -- with elected officials, church groups, neighborhood groups, as well as your friends and family.

Find a cause you passionately believe in and support an organization that works for that cause. If you can’t support them with money, give them a gift of your time. Or consider making a legacy gift to their endowment fund, so that the dollars you contribute give again and again to support the organization’s work far into the future.

Move toward a world of hope, reconciliation, and justice for all people. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Achieve universal primary education. Promote gender equality and empower women. Reduce child mortality.

Connect with an online community. For example, you’re invited to participate with the CSJs at www.csjministriesfoundation.org. Join the Possumus Facebook page. Give us feedback. Let us know what needs you see in your neighborhood.

Reach out to an outsider in your neighborhood. Take the time to get to know that person. Pay extra attention to the single parent or immigrant family in your neighborhood. Could they use a friendly greeting or a helping hand? How are their children doing? What might you do to help? Stay connected to people with whom you disagree and respect their right to their opinions. Try to understand how they think. Engage in healthy debate and be open to learning something new.

Improve maternal health. Combat HIV/AIDS malaria and other diseases. Ensure environmental sustainability. Develop a global partnership for development. From the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

© 2005, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province

May we suggest some reading material? The Great Turning—From Empire to Earth Community by David C. Korten

Possumus is Latin for we can. It sums up the drive and willpower that identifies the Sisters of St. Joseph as one of the most influential non-profit organizations working in Minnesota in the past 150 years.

Korten tells us that changing our future begins when we change our stories to include our capacities for compassion, cooperation, responsible self-direction, and self-organizing partnership. The Great Turning is a blueprint for a spiritual and social revolution aimed at saving

the planet and ourselves from our own self-destruction. Further information about this book can be found at www.thegreatturning.net.

Check out our extended bibliography at www.csjministriesfoundation.org/possadvocacy.aspx.

17

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation www.csjministriesfoundation.org


S p r i n g 2 0 0 9 A dvo c a c y Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55105

5VU7YVÄ[6YN <:7VZ[HNL PAID St. Paul, MN Permit No.1990

O Birther! Breath and Light of All, Focus your light within us— make it useful: Create your reign of unity now. Your one desire then acts with ours, as in all light, so in all forms.

,+//1)1/

Grant what we need each day in bread and insight. Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt. Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back.

We Can

From you is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do, the song that beautifies all. From age to age it renews. Truly--power to these statements-may they be the ground from which all our actions grow.

OUR WORK IS THE

Amen.

Neil Douglas-Klotz, from Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus; Harper San Francisco 1990

PRESENTATION OF OUR CAPABILITIES. –GOETHE

WE’LL TAKE CARE OF IT.

Please tear off and use this bookmark as a companion in your reading and prayers.

creative | print | mailing | distribution 6845 Winnetka Circle | Brooklyn Park, MN 55428-1537 phone: 763.535.7277 888.646.7277 | www.glsmn.com

A Publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation


PURPOSE

A

WE CAN:

dvocacy 101.

I helped distribute the food to the people who had worked: beans, chili, potatoes, and onions. As the people were leaving, a man and woman knelt on the ground to pick up individual beans that had fallen in the dirt. Another woman and I knelt to help them gather the beans.

You don’t need to be a professional advocate to make a difference in the world. Beginner advocates who latch onto an issue or cause like dogs to a bone are some of the most persuasive voices for change. There’s a multitude of ways for you to put yourself out there for a cause you believe in. One or more of these Advocacy 101 suggestions may work for you. •

From the hill where I was gathering those individual beans, I could see the tall buildings of El Paso, a city built in the land of plenty, a land that wastes enough food daily to feed all the people of Juarez and all the people in the surrounding hills and far beyond. Again I pondered the injustices of life.

Rita J. Steinhagen, CSJ from Hooked by the Spirit: Journey of a peaceful activist

Which social issues make you sit up and take notice? Study them. Know what you’re talking about, and then talk about it. Share your knowledge with others -- with elected officials, church groups, neighborhood groups, as well as your friends and family.

Find a cause you passionately believe in and support an organization that works for that cause. If you can’t support them with money, give them a gift of your time. Or consider making a legacy gift to their endowment fund, so that the dollars you contribute give again and again to support the organization’s work far into the future.

Move toward a world of hope, reconciliation, and justice for all people. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Achieve universal primary education. Promote gender equality and empower women. Reduce child mortality.

Connect with an online community. For example, you’re invited to participate with the CSJs at www.csjministriesfoundation.org. Join the Possumus Facebook page. Give us feedback. Let us know what needs you see in your neighborhood.

Reach out to an outsider in your neighborhood. Take the time to get to know that person. Pay extra attention to the single parent or immigrant family in your neighborhood. Could they use a friendly greeting or a helping hand? How are their children doing? What might you do to help? Stay connected to people with whom you disagree and respect their right to their opinions. Try to understand how they think. Engage in healthy debate and be open to learning something new.

Improve maternal health. Combat HIV/AIDS malaria and other diseases. Ensure environmental sustainability. Develop a global partnership for development. From the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

© 2005, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province

May we suggest some reading material? The Great Turning—From Empire to Earth Community by David C. Korten

Possumus is Latin for we can. It sums up the drive and willpower that identifies the Sisters of St. Joseph as one of the most influential non-profit organizations working in Minnesota in the past 150 years.

Korten tells us that changing our future begins when we change our stories to include our capacities for compassion, cooperation, responsible self-direction, and self-organizing partnership. The Great Turning is a blueprint for a spiritual and social revolution aimed at saving

the planet and ourselves from our own self-destruction. Further information about this book can be found at www.thegreatturning.net.

Check out our extended bibliography at www.csjministriesfoundation.org/possadvocacy.aspx.

17

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation www.csjministriesfoundation.org


POSSUMUS

A

dvocacy.

Sister Florence Steichen writes in this issue’s Illumination article that we Sisters of St. Joseph and our Consociates walk with two feet of justice: we provide direct service to people in need, and we advocate for changing the structures in society that cause people to be in need. We know we can’t work on one and ignore the other. But how did our community get like this? As Sister Rita Steinhagen’s excerpt on the inside cover illustrates, when Sisters of St. Joseph see injustice it ignites their passion to act. We like to say it’s in our DNA. We trace it to our founding in France in 1650, when our first Sisters divided the city, going in every direction to respond to needs and work to prevent injustice. The current St. Paul Province of Sisters of St. Joseph regards Sister Miriam Joseph as one of our original advocacy mentors. She had a leadership role in our community during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when our sisters were leaving traditional roles and occupations and returning to what our original Sisters did: divide the city, look for unmet needs, and work to fix them. Sister Miriam had no idea what some of these Sisters would dive into. For her, it didn’t seem to matter. She gave the CSJs the permission and encouragement to do what needed to be done. She was clearly the right leader at the right time, as she inspired a new generation of Sisters of St. Joseph, and later, our Consociates, to become agents of compassion and change in our neighborhoods. You’ll read about some of them in this Possumus. But these stories only scratch the surface. As we write on page 17, you don’t have to be a CSJ or a Consociate to be an advocate. It’s the work of all of us. Visit www.csjministriesfoundation.org and discover how you can join us in the mission of serving those disenfranchised by poverty, racism, unemployment, inability to speak English, or lack of healthcare. You can also find Possumus on Facebook. Possumus. We can! Sister Irene O’Neill, CSJ Executive Director Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation

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Brigid Jane Kate Rita

Jane

Brigid Kate

Rita


ADVO CACY

PEACE IS ESCALATING. To tell the story of advocacy among the Sisters of St. Joseph, we begin with the McDonald sisters. Rita, Brigid, Kate and Jane McDonald are four sisters with a small ‘s’ who long ago became Sisters with a capital ‘S’. Their transition from prayerful, obedient nuns in crisp, black and white habits to justice advocates in peace-sign teeshirts mirrors the transformation of the organization itself. It’s the story of the sea change that took the CSJs from the quiet of the convent out into the clamor of the streets. One by one, the four McDonald sisters left the family farm in Watertown, Minnesota to join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Rita went first, then Brigid, Kate and Jane -- following the birth order-- in spite of the fact that their father and mother were not especially religious people. “The Sisters sounded so joyful, so fulfilled,” says Sister Kate. “It was appealing. Besides, being raised in a large family in a small farm community, you understand cooperative, organized living.” Their early years as CSJs were spent in the traditional roles assigned to nuns at that time: mostly school teaching and nursing. “We did what we were told,” they all say. Sister Brigid describes that life this way: “You taught school all day long, came home, said your prayers, planned the next day’s lessons.” And then came Vatican II.

No longer bound to follow the path selected by their Mother Superiors, the Sisters were free to look within themselves to determine their true callings. A multitude of questions arose within the CSJ community about the new direction their mission should take. Under the guidance and mentorship of their province leader, Sister Miriam Joseph, the Sisters of the 1960s looked to the very beginnings of their Order for the answer. There they rediscovered their original purpose, and a new-old way of thinking began. Habits were shed in more ways than one. Sister Brigid puts it this way: “Before Vatican II, my relationship with God was very vertical. I prayed straight up. Over the years it’s become horizontal. It’s more about community and justice now.” According to Sister Rita, “It felt right; it was the human race.” It was the beginning of their socially conscious ministry. Not all the CSJs took to this new path so enthusiastically. During the years immediately following Vatican II, hundreds of sisters left the community. But those who stayed were inspired by Sister Miriam. “She really lifted people up to go where the spirit moved us,” says Sister Rita. The McDonald sisters, like many of the CSJs in

Shedding old habits In 1962, the Cardinals of the Catholic Church elected a pope who took the name John XXIII. Considering his advanced age, they expected his to be an interim papacy of little consequence. Instead, he convened the council known as Vatican II and boldly rewrote the way the Catholic Church would relate to the world. By the late 1960s, this “opening of the windows” had had a profound effect on the way the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet lived their lives. It gave each of them a freedom of choice she had never had before.

3


ADVO CACY

calling as witnesses and advocates for justice and peace. Sister Brigid defines advocacy as “helping someone else to seek their truth.” Sister Rita calls it, “supporting other voices with our voices.” Sister Kate sees it as “speaking up for a value.” “To intervene or intercept in the face of injustice,” is Sister Jane’s definition. But however they define advocacy, they’ve been at it for almost 50 years now. As long as some people have been waging war, that’s how long they’ve been waging peace. And they won’t give up. They say peace is escalating.

Wednesday, 7:00 a.m. Minnesota, began going out into the streets and neighborhoods, working with the poor and the disadvantaged wherever the need was greatest. They were once again “dividing the city” and going among the people “without distinction”-as their founding Sisters had intended.

Every Wednesday morning at seven o’clock, a group of peace advocates gathers in front of Alliant Techsystems in Eden Prairie, Minnesota to protest that local company’s involvement in the military-industrial complex. Although advancing age has deterred them somewhat on frigid winter mornings, at least one McDonald sister is present there nearly every week. They and their fellow peace advocates are putting their bodies and voices on the line because of specific weapons -called depleted uranium bombs -- that Alliant makes here in Minnesota and sells to the U.S. military, as well as to many other countries around the world. Sister Brigid explains: “These bombs are weapons of mass destruction. And the destruction doesn’t end after the war. We’re just now seeing the effects the First Gulf War had on fetuses and newborns in Iraq. The radioactive material that comes out of the bombs is put into the water and the soil and the air for generations.”

The call to advocacy In the 1960s, something else was happening that changed the focus of the McDonald sisters once again. It was the Vietnam War. “I kind of shifted gears,” Sister Jane explains. “The Vietnam War came to roost, and we had a nephew up for grabs.” She and her three sisters began talking about the war more and more, and educating themselves about it. Some other CSJs, such as Char Madigan, were already out protesting. “We began to hear the term draft dodger,” says Sister Kate, “And it started to sound like a noble idea. What mother wants her son to go off to get killed?” They had entered the CSJ community one at a time, but suddenly, all at once, the four sister Sisters were bravely advocating peace. When the Vietnam War ended, most of those who protested in the 1960s and 1970s went on with their regularly scheduled lives. But not the Sisters McDonald. They had found their true

4


ADVO CACY

Alliant used to make land mines, too, and though the mines have now been outlawed, there are still acres and acres of land around the world that can’t be used because of mines that are still active. Cambodian children are still losing limbs to them. “No country or company has ever taken responsibility for that,” adds Sister Brigid. Alliant protests are an important part, but not the only part, of the Sisters’ advocacy efforts. They also regularly attend the Iraq War protests on the Lake Street bridge that spans Minneapolis and St. Paul. “They don’t like us being out there, even though it was originally called The Peace Bridge. Ironic, isn’t it?” says Sister Rita. Lately those present have begun protesting Israel’s involvement in Gaza. The Sisters have also traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia to advocate the closing of the School of the Americas (SOA), a facility that trains Latin American soldiers to combat “insurgents” in their home countries. “They say we’re training them to ‘neutralize the insurgents’ in El Salvador,” says Sister Brigid. “What they really mean is kill the peasants, whoever disagrees with the people in power.” Two years ago, when Sister Brigid attended the annual protest at SOA, 22,000 people showed up. “There were such good speakers and such great people there. It energized me to keep working for peace,” she says.

court, it somehow never happens. “Alliant doesn’t want the truth to get out. So they just fine us and let us go. Some pay; some don’t.” By now you must be wondering, how do they do it? How do these four Sisters, age 76 to 86, keep putting themselves on the line for peace when many of us assume real, lasting peace will never come? First and foremost, the McDonald sisters believe that they’re making progress -that their advocacy efforts are making a difference in the world. “Peace is escalating,” says Sister Jane. “And we hope against hope that, with our voices, we’re calling attention to something that urgently needs changing.” “What keeps me going is that at least I can say to my own soul that I wasn’t silent. Because silence means consent,” says Sister Rita. “I feel good that I’ve given part of my life to saying no to war, and no to the idea that the weapons we have now that destroy the land and innocent people cannot be justified.” Sister Kate agrees: “It is frustrating at times, but ignoring what I believe in would be like not practicing my religion.” Sister Brigid, as usual, has a more off-the-cuff take on her commitment to peace and justice for all. “When we’re walking with our signs, we chant ‘no justice, no peace’ because justice is the foundation of peace. Now some may say that’s silly. Well, if that’s a silly way to live, to call for peace and justice, then okay. I’m not above being silly.” Speaking out when others hold their tongues. It’s the McDonald way and, perhaps, it’s the true meaning of advocacy. ✝

Putting themselves out there Of course, the McDonald sisters are now and then called upon to pay a small price for their activism. “We’ve had our share of arrests,” Sister Rita admits. She says the security guards at Alliant are generally polite with the older folks and, though they’d like to have their day in

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I L L U M I N AT I O N

T

he two feet of justice.

My Latin teacher taught me to look for the Latin roots of English words. Advocate and vocation are derived from the Latin word vocare -- to call. To advocate means to plead another’s cause, to speak in support of another. And a vocation is a call to a way of life or profession or career. A vocation to advocacy is an interplay between the inner and outer, a push and pull. Many sources provide the push and impel us to do something. Passages from the Gospel, such as “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “Whatever you do to anyone else, you do to me” provide a good start. I can turn to our Sisters of St. Joseph Constitution, which states, “As we grow in fidelity to the Spirit, we become more sensitive and responsive to the needs of others, especially the poor. We desire the redemption of the whole world and work toward it in the best way possible with a spirit of gentleness and peace, simplicity and joy.” Justice in the World, the 1971 pastoral Letter of the United States Bishops, was a landmark in thinking for many of us: “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel....” Until that time, we Sisters focused more on direct service to people’s needs, and were uncertain about the place of political activism in our life. Teachings aside, just seeing our sisters and brothers who lack basic necessities and suffer from numerous injustices exerts a powerful pull. We know we need to do something --but what and how? Sisters of St. Joseph can turn to their 2007 Acts of Chapter, which we write every six years to focus our thinking and action: “We choose to act for justice and to walk with suffering people,

especially in time of conflict.” This evokes the image of the two feet of justice, a helpful way to think about our ministry to the world. The two feet are charity (responding to needs by direct service) and advocacy (working for structural and social change). Education, a major part of our ministry over the years, combines the two. We meet students’ need for education and prepare them for their place in society, which might very well include working for social change. Currently numerous CSJs are engaged in a variety of direct service and advocacy endeavors through the Working Groups of our Justice Commission, which provide structure and support for addressing the need for systemic social change. One example: some Sisters who once served homeless people by volunteering in a shelter have redirected their energies into advocating for affordable housing. One of my favorite Gospel scenes is the familiar passage in Matthew 25, in which Jesus describes the Son of Man separating the sheep from the goats, and says, “I was hungry, and you gave me food...” If Jesus were speaking to us today, I am confident he would include additional ways to qualify as sheep and be welcomed into his kin-dom: “For I was hungry, and you lobbied for living wages and were active in Bread for the World. I was thirsty, and you participated in the Kenya water project. When I was in prison, in addition to visiting me, you were active in restorative justice. I was sick, and you worked mightily for health care reform. You have been faithful walking on the two feet of justice and helped others to walk with you.” ✝ Florence Steichen, CSJ

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TURNING POINT

W

ith so much hope.

Last November, I was one of more than 25,000 people who protested at the School of the Americas. It was the nineteenth annual protest of the United States funded school that trains Latin American soldiers in military techniques. Graduates of the school have been responsible for some of the worst human rights violations and massacres in history. The experience was so unique and powerful for me because of the company with whom I traveled. I shared the 25-hour bus ride from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Columbus, Georgia with a Veterans for Peace group, Sisters of Saint Joseph and Consociates, and Saint Joseph Workers. We shared every aspect of the journey together, from stories of where we came from and why we were protesting, to our reactions to the trip, and what we thought of the protest. The bus was equipped with a microphone and numerous times we passed it around sharing stories and singing. The next day we gathered with the rest of the Veterans for Peace and marched about a mile to the stage near the school. It was such an honor to be associated with the Veterans For Peace and to march in step with them. Many of the cars passing by honked approval, and by the time we neared the stage we heard applause for these true heroes. We then took a place in line and picked up crosses bearing names of the thousands of innocent victims that died at the hands of graduates of the SOA. After some singing and preparations, the procession began, led by protesters draped in black, faces painted white, bearing coffins. We

read off names of people from places all across Central America, and after each we responded, “Presente.” Each person –– some nameless, ageless, and unknown ––was recognized and remembered. It was silent except for the beat of the drums and the sounds of our voices and our feet. I was near the end and was one of the last people to reach the fence. It was beautiful and grotesque at the same time. All across the fence were thousands of crosses with thousands of names, as well as colorful peace cranes and pictures of smiling innocent children who were victims of violence so undeserved. As I put my cross in the fence, I felt like I was delivering Miguel Marquez from El Salvador to the recognition he deserved. After the last protesters reached the fence, the colorful and vivid puppetistas began their parade. We chanted for peace as they beat their drums, walked high on stilts and waved symbols of promise: women’s rights, caring for the environment, equality, and justice. I left the protest with so much hope—for change, for ending the protest and closing the school, for peace. My trip to the SOA was an experience that allowed me to learn from many wise voices. It led me to become more aware of my every day actions. I have also been more in tune to what’s happening all over Central America. The protest of the School of the Americas has influenced me to be peaceful and nonviolent and to keep my voice loud, remembering each innocent brother or sister from Central America. ✝ Marie Tierney, Student Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul

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SOUL

S

trong voice for the people.

What do you think of when you hear the term community organizer? The 2008 presidential campaign may have left the impression that this is a job title only a rabble-rouser or dilettante would claim. What then to make of Rosita Aranita, one Sister of St. Joseph who has made community organizing her life work? As a people’s advocate with a calling, this cheerful nun has much to teach us about the strength of methodology and the power of persuasion. In fact, one might say that Sister Rosita and others like her are all about the audacity of help.

Reserve a few hours of Sister Rosita’s time, give her a little encouragement, and she will tell you a remarkable life story. She begins by declaring that community organizing is in her DNA. Born on Oahu, Hawai’i in 1939, Sister Rosita spent her early years living in a sugar plantation camp at Waipahu with her large family. She was the eleventh of twelve children, the one assigned to light the single kerosene burner and fill the gallon container to heat the bathwater. Of Filipino descent, her family was housed in Spanish Camp with other Filipino, Portuguese and Puerto Rican workers. Hawai’i has always been a melting pot of cultures, and life in the camps only facilitated “the mixing of the human cocktail,” as Sister Rosita puts it. International Longshoremen Workers Union (ILWU) strikes were common there, and Sister Rosita’s self-educated father, a staunch union man, would read her news of the negotiations aloud after the older children went off to school. Sister Rosita remembers admiring an ILWU organizer named Jack Hall, who built the first multi-ethnic union in Hawai’i by sneaking from ethnic camp to ethnic camp. At age eighteen, Sister Rosita entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, impressed by

the nuns from California who came to minister to the workers in her camp. “That these white women acknowledged and interacted with all of us equally as people astounded me,” says Sister Rosita. A few years later, she was teaching school in California. “But it became plain that teaching was not my calling,“ she says. “I went looking for another kind of ministry. I volunteered with an organization that was working with elderly people living in low income housing.” This work was more to Sister Rosita’s liking, and her soul thrived in the human services ministry, working with the disadvantaged. It turned out to be a small step from there to what she calls her “sworn life’s calling”-- community organizing. After six years in St. Louis, Missouri in social support services, Sister Rosita returned to Hawai’i. There an ex-Jesuit named Rollie Smith, executive director of a United Way Planning agency in Honolulu, became her mentor and gave Sister Rosita her first real community organizing experience. “Rollie had been trained at the Industrial Areas Foundation (IFA), in Chicago. That’s the training institute founded by Saul Alinsky,” Sister Rosita explains. Alinsky is considered to be the grandfather of modern community organizing in

8


America, a title that stems from his organizing work in the Chicago stockyards in the 1930s. At the IAF, Rollie learned the clear and concise set of rules for community organizing [ see page 11] first codified by Alinsky. These tried-and-true precepts have influenced such people as Fred Ross of the Community Service Organization, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers and President Barack Obama. And they were again passed on-- this time from Rollie Smith to Sister Rosita Aranita, as she began a new phase of her ministry, home again on Oahu.

three categories was Louie. His apartment was so dilapidated that his refrigerator was plainly visible through a gap in the wall from outside the building. “He was my secret weapon, my poster boy,” laughs Sister Rosita. The sixty tenants in Louie’s building met with Sister Rosita to decide their group goal. The community was determined to get their absentee landlord (also Chinese) to allow the city to condemn his building. “The landlord was nasty,” says Sister Rosita. “He refused to deal with us. So we began picketing.” First they picketed the landlord’s workplace, hoping to pressure him through his business associates. That didn’t work, so they took their grievances to the mayor. Of course, Sister Rosita had done her research. “I knew the mayor had a soft spot in his heart about this issue. As child he had been moved from place to place when his parents couldn’t pay their rent.” Still the landlord resisted. “We had to do something big,” says Sister Rosita, “So we decided to picket him at his home church. And we alerted the media.” On the chosen Sunday, all the tenants lined the entrance to the church holding signs. “I put Louie in the most prominent spot -- Louie on his worst day, looking like death warmed over,” says Sister Rosita. “It was a very persuasive image. The Chinese church members and the media sympathized with the tenants and got on the landlord’s case. He finally gave in and let the city condemn his building.” The whole advocacy process took three months, but eventually all the tenants -- Louie included-- ended up happily relocated.

Don’t focus on how righteous your cause is or how immoral your opposition. Simply think about how to change things. In the late 1980s, Sister Rosita began a major organizing project for the Office for Social Ministry of the Honolulu Diocese. Assigned to pursue the number one issue identified by the Diocese’s state delegates -- the development of affordable housing and reduction of homelessness -- she put together a broad-based coalition called the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance (AHHA). A strong legislative lobbying movement grew from AHHA. And it soon came to Sister Rosita’s attention that many residents of Honolulu’s Chinatown lived in deteriorating housing that was being condemned, re-developed or sold without regard for the welfare or the wishes of the tenants themselves. The tenants were mostly poor, addicted, or elderly. One man who fit all

9


SOUL

state agricultural hearing on Oahu. This meant selecting a team of farmers, helping them with negotiation strategies, going over their testimony, and then dispatching them on inter-island airplanes. Many people who attended that hearing had never been off Big Island. The lobbying action was the first of many successful appeals, and ended in legislative approval for state and federal appropriations to repair Hamakua’s irrigation system. Greatly encouraged, Tony went on to assist in the repair of irrigation pipe stands and the clearing of ditches. He began to study sustainable farming methods and arrange schedules for the use of the two tractors the organization was able to purchase. His newfound confidence as an organizer led him to expand his yard service business. Not to be outdone, his wife Veronica helped form a small aloha wear manufacturing company. By joining their voices to others, the couple had learned the power and purpose of advocacy. Not to mention a new way of life.

There are very few natural leaders. Leaders are both discovered and developed through organizing. On November 4, 1994, Hamakua Sugar Plantation on the Big Island of Hawai’i closed down, leaving hundreds of workers unemployed. A year later, the Vicar of Hawai’i asked Sister Rosita if she would advocate for those older displaced workers who could not compete with younger applicants for jobs at the Kona Coast hotels. By the time she arrived at Hamakua, the agrarian ex-employees -- who knew nothing except sugar cane--felt they had no choice but to try to start their own small truck farms. Among them were Tony and Veronica. “The plantation had generously given each of the families, including theirs, five acres of sloping land at the end of the old 26-mile irrigation line,“ Sister Rosita says. But she hastens to add, “Of course the ditch was useless. It had fallen into disrepair. The first issue we took up was to obtain monies to fix that ditch.” Tony was a meek, quiet Filipino man, but he soon came out of his shell. He became one of Sister Rosita’s organizer trainees tasked to assist the group of 30 dislocated families. Their first action was to raise their collective voices at a

If you can organize 10% of the base population of a political area, that’s sufficient to exercise influence. Sister Rosita was in Milwaukee participating in an event with CSJs from all over the country when a note from Sister Irene O’Neill of St. Paul appeared at her table. Sister Irene was in the process of building a relationship with the Rotary Club, which was working to deliver clean, safe water to poor communities abroad. The Rotary needed to put together a network of native Kenyans to support their African project. Soon Sister Rosita was headed there.

10


SOUL

Organizing a community in just 15 steps. 9. Do research and adapt if necessary. It’s time to learn all you can about your issue, and the systems and people you will be trying to influence. What you learn may alter your stated goal a bit. Take that in stride.

1. Listen to concerns. Before you begin to organize, listen to what the people have to say. Never assume you know what’s bothering them. Do a thorough analysis. 2. Pick out the leaders. Every community, village or group has people with followings. Sometimes they’ve been formally appointed; sometimes they just evolved. Identify them and talk to them. Get their help and cooperation.

10. Determine your winning strategy. Call another meeting to present all the findings from all the committees. Based on that intelligence, help the group work out a plan to achieve their first goal. Be specific.

3. Separate the unsolvable from the accessible. Some problems are too broad to solve; some goals impossible to reach. Don’t waste time on those goals. There is plenty of work to be done on those that are achieve-able.

11. Start training teams who can make things change. Know people well. Match their personal strengths and weaknesses to the task. Everyone will need to learn the fine art of negotiating. Some will be better at it than others. Use them wisely.

4. Identify priorities. List your issues in order of importance to the community. You’re going to tackle them methodically, and you don’t want to be sidetracked by those further down on the list.

12. Execute your plan on all fronts. Talk to bell cows and legislators, conduct protests and demonstrations, put your best spokespeople in the public eye. Use pins, signs, strikes, boycotts, demonstrations and street theater. Be bold and surprising. Even humorous. By keeping people and systems off balance, you open them up to change.

5. Get a firm commitment from your community leaders. Those people you identified in step 2 can make you or break you. Present the priorities and get agreement to work on solutions --together.

13. Evaluate action that’s taken place. Set a timetable for ongoing evaluation and reflection. Meet as a group often. Decide if specific tactics are working. Change your approach if necessary.

6. Start with something do-able. First select something you really believe you can achieve. Leave the impossible for later. You want an early win.

14. Summarize what’s been done in a letter. Mail it to the whole group so everyone feels informed and no one feels left out.

7. Convene a meeting of all interested people. Now the real work begins. Make phone calls; knock on doors. Inform the neighborhood. Get as many people as you can at your first meeting.

15. Celebrate your wins. When a goal is reached, don’t let it go unnoticed. Feel good about it together. There’s nothing like a party to keep people focused on achieving the changes they want.

8. Ask people what they are willing to do to achieve their goal. Some will be willing to do a lot; some not so much. Remember all levels of effort are welcome and rewarded. Start a fundraising committee and get at that job right away.

Saul Alinsky

11


SOUL

Every year 5 million people die from water-related illnesses in Africa. Most of them are children under the age of five. Sixty to seventy percent of Kenya’s rural population, outside Nairobi, has little or no access to clean water. The idyllic beauty of the land shrouds the agony of dying malaria, typhoid, cholera and diarrhea victims. During the dry season, African women have to walk so far to get fresh water they have no time for education or generating income. “You may think these African women are lazy, but they’re the furthest thing from it,” asserts Sister Rosita. Working with two St. Joseph Workers from St. Paul and one Kenyan grandmother, she divided the area of West Karachuoyo and organized the village communities there. “We worked within the existing leadership structure of chiefs, subchiefs and clan elders to convene the villages and prioritize the needs. We ended up with ten geographic projects and twenty institutional projects. The plan was to collect rainwater from the rooftops in the villages and store it in sealed tanks.” (This is one of the most cost-effective water collection technologies there is, but practically unknown in Kenya.) Before they could get to work, post-election violence broke out in the

country, and soon Sister Rosita was evacuated from Kenya. Stateside in 2008, waiting to return to Africa, Sister Rosita and the St. Paul CSJs advocated hard for the Kenyans she had left behind. She continued to raise money for the project through civic and church groups. St. Joseph Workers prepared flyers and presentations. In early 2009, Sister Rosita returned to West Karachuoyo for a month to repeat her mission of advocacy. One that has taken her far from her roots in the sugarcane growing soil of Oahu, but never too far from her chosen calling. “There are always those who want to benefit from wealth and power,” says Sister Rosita. “That’s why you need to be a strong voice for the people.” ✝

Community organizing isn’t about power; it’s about service.


PERSPECTIVES

E

xamining the costs.

When Beryl McHale attended an orientation at the United Nations, she saw with new eyes the many problems our global community faces. Returning to Minnesota, she decided to act--focusing her attention on the issue of human trafficking. She learned that victims are typically lured to this country by false offers, then forced with physical abuse to engage in commercial sex exploitation. I work as a chaplain at Methodist Park Nicollet Hospital. Often a trafficking victim’s only contact with the outside world may be when she is brought to a hospital or clinic. I talk about the scope of trafficking with our emergency room staff, chaplain staff and social service groups. Most importantly, we discuss how to recognize that the patient in front of them may very well be a victim. If a patient is accompanied by someone who is overly controlling and insists on speaking for the patient, that’s a red flag. Often the victim displays signs of untreated medical conditions, malnourishment, dental problems, and infectious or sexually transmitted disease. I discuss how to interview a patient in private using an interpreter if necessary. At the hospital, we work closely with Civil Society, an organization that helps victims of crime, particularly underserved populations, get the legal services they need. In my presentations, I stress that one number can help the victim break free: 1-888-7-SAFE-24. Trafficking is a problem that grows, and we are ready to lend our energy and passion to do everything that we can on behalf of the victims. Beryl McHale Methodist Park Nicollet Hospital

Karen Olson knows too much about how we are damaging the environment to ignore it. A scientist and science educator at all levels, preschool through graduate school, she now writes and speaks publicly about ecology and what people must do to save the planet. For the past three years she has been a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph Justice Commission and Earth Partners Working Group, which educates the Sisters, Consociates, and wider community about environmental issues.

My background is pure science. I love studying the interconnectedness of everything. I believe that how everything works in this miraculous symphony we call creation is to see the hand of God. My education and experience in science leads me to understand what we have done and are currently doing to the environment. It is not just a social justice issue for me; it is a matter of science, of life, of existence at its very core. There is this miracle of everything around and within us and we have spent the past few generations disrespecting this fundamental core of all that is. We don’t even know how harmful we’ve been to the environment. We must change how we treat the environment and creation. That begins with learning more about the issues, really understanding them, examining the costs of what we are doing and figuring out what we can do to correct ourselves. Hopefully, we will then change our behaviors and our actions -for as we are with Earth, we are with God. Karen Olson Ecology Advocate

13


VOIC ES

W

hat economic justice really means.

Sister Mary Ellen

Kate

we’re seeing now is the uneven distribution of income. The difference between the highest to lowest incomes is getting bigger, and that’s just not sustainable.

While some of us glaze over the economic news, Sister Mary Ellen Foster and CSJ Consociate Kate O’Connell absorb it. As passionate advocates for economic justice, they promote better ways to think about the distribution of our resources for the common good. Sister Mary Ellen earned her masters in economics from the New School in New York City, and she devotes her time to speaking and teaching about economics as a socially constructed system. Kate advocates for reasonable utility rates where she works and speaks about economic justice in her community.

SISTER MARY ELLEN: We’ve experienced economics from the perspective of the individual. Now we have an opportunity to see the economy in the larger framework of the community as a whole. It gives us the chance to look closely at this human institution, to evaluate what works and what doesn’t, and to make changes. We should be talking about how we allocate resources. What are they for –– the good of the community? For the good of the planet? Or are we just chasing money? Adam Smith, in “The Wealth of Nations,” assumed that community was the fundamental foundation of our economy and that wealth was created by people who made goods and provided services. Look at our economy now. More than one-third of our Gross Domestic Product isn’t a product at all.

Q The economy is the top news story these days. As economists and advocates for a just economy, how do you make sense of what we’re experiencing?

Q What happens when our economy

A SISTER MARY ELLEN: Our current economic

is not built on a fundamental sense of community?

crisis didn’t just happen. Our economy has been out of balance for many years. We’ve been operating under the belief that the stock market is this magic thing that would solve all of our problems. But right now the market has created a monster.

A KATE: I recently read a news story about a 93-year-old man with dementia. He got behind on his electric bill, his power was cut off, and he froze to death. No one came in to check on him. He had no connections with anyone. This is what happens when a caring community is absent. We get a more realistic view of the way the world works when we look outside of ourselves and realize that we are part of a community and that it is in our interest for the community to thrive.

KATE: The classic definition of economics –– the study of how our choices effect the way we allocate scarce resources throughout the world in order to maximize our wants and needs—tells us that we’re constantly making decisions and our choices have consequences. One consequence

14


VOIC ES

SISTER MARY ELLEN: When caring community is absent, we see increases in greed, crime, and violence. Social capital breaks down.

plus a timely infusion of money to increase effective demand. We must tackle unemployment and create jobs.

Q Some people think it’s all about greed.

KATE: Shareholders in companies need to say, “This is how we want you to operate.” Taxpayers need to hold decision-makers accountable.

Is that true?

A SISTER MARY ELLEN: Greed isn’t the big

Q

What more can we do to achieve economic justice?

problem. Greed didn’t kill us, because there’s always been greed. Greed can and does motivate people to produce, to invent, and to compete economically, but we can buttress greed with strong values. People want to invent and produce products that improve our world and society. But years of unchecked policies, no responsibility and limited oversight have helped kill our economy.

A SISTER MARY ELLEN: We need to broaden the base of the discussion and to change how we look at things. I would recommend people read the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and the Earth Charter. KATE: Writing to legislators is important, but there’s so much more. Start conversation groups in your neighborhood or churches. Become more informed about what economic justice really means. ✝

Q So how do we address the economy in terms of caring communities?

A SISTER MARY ELLEN: When we discuss the economy, we either talk about the role of the individual business or the role of countries, but we need to talk about the role of the community. We benefit when we look out for and care for each other. A communal society works best on a small scale, so we start there. We build social capital by paying attention to and helping each other. KATE: Then we teach our children the value and dignity of work within this community.

Q Is this enough to change our current economic situation?

A SISTER MARY ELLEN: No, what we have to do is to save capitalists from themselves. We need structural intervention from the government,

15


WHEN MARY CAME TO US, SHE COULD SAY ONLY A FEW WORDS OF ENGLISH. FOUR AND A HALF YEARS LATER, SHE SAYS SHE’S READY FOR NURSING SCHOOL.

Mary

important than that. They

Remember, you don’t have

Follyvi came to Minneapolis from

gave her the courage she

to be a saint or a hero—or be

Togo, West Africa to join her

needed to look people right

rich and powerful—to do

husband, who was already here.

in the eye and have a real

enormous good. All you

She spoke almost no English.

conversation

have to be is willing.

Two weeks after arriving, she

”Now I’m not shy to speak,

enrolled at Learning In Style, the

because of this school,” she says.

TO MAKE A DONATION

English Language School run by

Because of our facility and our

the Sisters of St. Joseph. Mary

faculty, the future looks promising

says, without the warm jacket and

for Mary and her family. She’s

to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, please visit www.csjministriesfoundation.org

hat the Sisters at

brave enough, and fluent enough,

LIS

to consider nursing school.

In

September

2004,

gave

her,

with

them.

she would have

Thanks to all the generous

frozen her first

people just like you who donate to

winter. But they

our ministries, thousands of recent

gave her some-

immigrants like Mary are able to

thing even more

live more productive, joyful lives.

Or send your check in the envelope we’ve provided to: Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Avenue St. Paul, MN 55105

WE THANK YOU. AND SO DOES MARY FOLLYVI. Visit us on the web at www.csjministriesfoundation.org for updates on previous articles you read in Possumus.


PURPOSE

A

WE CAN:

dvocacy 101.

I helped distribute the food to the people who had worked: beans, chili, potatoes, and onions. As the people were leaving, a man and woman knelt on the ground to pick up individual beans that had fallen in the dirt. Another woman and I knelt to help them gather the beans.

You don’t need to be a professional advocate to make a difference in the world. Beginner advocates who latch onto an issue or cause like dogs to a bone are some of the most persuasive voices for change. There’s a multitude of ways for you to put yourself out there for a cause you believe in. One or more of these Advocacy 101 suggestions may work for you. •

From the hill where I was gathering those individual beans, I could see the tall buildings of El Paso, a city built in the land of plenty, a land that wastes enough food daily to feed all the people of Juarez and all the people in the surrounding hills and far beyond. Again I pondered the injustices of life.

Rita J. Steinhagen, CSJ from Hooked by the Spirit: Journey of a peaceful activist

Which social issues make you sit up and take notice? Study them. Know what you’re talking about, and then talk about it. Share your knowledge with others -- with elected officials, church groups, neighborhood groups, as well as your friends and family.

Find a cause you passionately believe in and support an organization that works for that cause. If you can’t support them with money, give them a gift of your time. Or consider making a legacy gift to their endowment fund, so that the dollars you contribute give again and again to support the organization’s work far into the future.

Move toward a world of hope, reconciliation, and justice for all people. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Achieve universal primary education. Promote gender equality and empower women. Reduce child mortality.

Connect with an online community. For example, you’re invited to participate with the CSJs at www.csjministriesfoundation.org. Join the Possumus Facebook page. Give us feedback. Let us know what needs you see in your neighborhood.

Reach out to an outsider in your neighborhood. Take the time to get to know that person. Pay extra attention to the single parent or immigrant family in your neighborhood. Could they use a friendly greeting or a helping hand? How are their children doing? What might you do to help? Stay connected to people with whom you disagree and respect their right to their opinions. Try to understand how they think. Engage in healthy debate and be open to learning something new.

Improve maternal health. Combat HIV/AIDS malaria and other diseases. Ensure environmental sustainability. Develop a global partnership for development. From the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

© 2005, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province

May we suggest some reading material? The Great Turning—From Empire to Earth Community by David C. Korten

Possumus is Latin for we can. It sums up the drive and willpower that identifies the Sisters of St. Joseph as one of the most influential non-profit organizations working in Minnesota in the past 150 years.

Korten tells us that changing our future begins when we change our stories to include our capacities for compassion, cooperation, responsible self-direction, and self-organizing partnership. The Great Turning is a blueprint for a spiritual and social revolution aimed at saving

the planet and ourselves from our own self-destruction. Further information about this book can be found at www.thegreatturning.net.

Check out our extended bibliography at www.csjministriesfoundation.org/possadvocacy.aspx.

17

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation www.csjministriesfoundation.org


S p r i n g 2 0 0 9 A dvo c a c y Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55105

5VU7YVÄ[6YN <:7VZ[HNL PAID St. Paul, MN Permit No.1990

O Birther! Breath and Light of All, Focus your light within us— make it useful: Create your reign of unity now. Your one desire then acts with ours, as in all light, so in all forms.

,+//1)1/

Grant what we need each day in bread and insight. Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt. Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back.

We Can

From you is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do, the song that beautifies all. From age to age it renews. Truly--power to these statements-may they be the ground from which all our actions grow.

OUR WORK IS THE

Amen.

Neil Douglas-Klotz, from Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus; Harper San Francisco 1990

PRESENTATION OF OUR CAPABILITIES. –GOETHE

WE’LL TAKE CARE OF IT.

Please tear off and use this bookmark as a companion in your reading and prayers.

creative | print | mailing | distribution 6845 Winnetka Circle | Brooklyn Park, MN 55428-1537 phone: 763.535.7277 888.646.7277 | www.glsmn.com

A Publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation

Possumus - Spring 2009  

Spring 2009 Advocacy

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