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May-June 2012 Mercy justice highlights published every other month

EARTH Follow-up Initiative to Awakening the Dreamer Planned In response to the Sisters of Mercy call to further efforts to create a sustainable future for Earth, the Extended Justice Team is planning a new initiative called Mercy Taking Action: Deepening the Awakening the Dreamer Experience. This initiative, supported by leadership throughout the Institute, will delve more deeply into themes introduced in Awakening the Dreamer and will engage participants in considering new understandings and applying these to changes to individual behaviors, community practices and institutional policies. Initiative offerings will include a retreat format for various audiences in various settings; short educational modules for Mercy institutions; and a small-group process. Eight people have agreed to design the initial resources: Sisters Ann McGovern, Kathleen Erickson, Marie Michele Donnelly, Martha Milner, Mary Pendergast, Maryann Clifford, Rosemarie Tresp and Associate Catherine Regan. We welcome suggestions from individuals and groups who would make use of these materials; contact Marianne Comfort of the Institute Justice Team, who is coordinating the initiative, at mcomfort@sistersofmercy.org or 301-587-0423 ext. 2243.

Retreat Focuses on Awakening the Dreamer Themes The weekend of April 30, Associates and 8 Sisters of Mercy participated in a weekend retreat in Clarks Summit, PA, focused on the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium. Those in attendance appreciated the extended format that enabled them to share more deeply on the topic of Earth and to explore together possible action steps. The retreat closed on Sunday with the commissioning of 6 new Mercy Associates. The brunch following the ceremony was a perfect end to the weekend.

Retired Sisters to Participate in Modified Symposium Awakening the Dreamer facilitators will present the symposium May 8-9 to retired sisters at Marian Woods in Hartsdale, NY. This center is an assisted living facility for five communities of Sisters, including Sisters of Mercy, from the Archdiocese of New York. It is exciting to see how the Sisters of Mercy have responded to this Critical Concern by requesting the workshop at their site and encouraging the other Sisters to attend. Offering the presentation over two days provides opportunity for greater flexibility. The sessions are divided into segments lasting approximately 45 minutes followed by breaks to allow for snacks and lunch. In this way we hope to be able to present the entire symposium without tiring the sisters too greatly.


Cincinnati Ministry Devotes Year to Dreamer Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, Inc. in Cincinnati designated 2012 as the “Year of Awakening the Dreamer,” in response to the staff participating in the symposium with the faculty of Purcell/Marian, a neighboring Catholic High School. The staff focused its concern for all creation on recycling and conservation of resources, with regular communication through emails and monthly staff meetings. You can read more here.

Assembly Marks Earth Day

The NyPPaW Assembly both elected new leadership and celebrated Earth Day on April 22. Above, Sister Pat Gilbert holds a plaque that the Justice Team presented that represents the future planting of a tree at Mercy Center in Buffalo. Sisters wore Mercy justice t-shirts or Earththemed shirts. Cards on the Assembly tables displayed quotes from the Earth Charter and Pope Benedict's 2010 World Peace Day letter on the environment.

Peru Associates Promote Clean Water The Associates of Chimbote, Peru, are dedicated to the educational work of the Care and Good Use of Water and the Environment. They have carried out mass campaigns of Prevention of Diarrhea and Cholera, Clean-up Campaigns and Educational Campaigns in the Markets. They also have supported the National March for the Human Right to Water, soliciting and preparing food for the thousands of participants. As promoters of the School of Clean Water and the Environment, they have no facility but make themselves present in the educational centers, human settlements and rural communities.

Mercy Prepares for Rio+20 Conference Mercy Global Action at the United Nations has been preparing for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held June 20-22 by engaging Mercy leaders around the world in contacting delegates to call for an ethical framework for the discussions. Mercy International Association has issued a statement to governments about Rio+20. The Institute Leadership Team sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton to express the importance of the rights to water. Sister Mary Bilderback will attend the Rio+20 Conference as a representative for Mercy International Association. You can help promote one of Mercy’s goals of the Conference


by sending a Rio-20-Delegates-letter to President Obama and Secretary Clinton to urge that an outcome of the Conference be a new tool that measures the quality of human life and ecological sustainability, rather than just relying on the Gross Domestic Product(GDP) that encourages extraction, pollution and pillage in the name of economic growth. You can print out the letters and send them to President Barack Obama, The White House, Washington, DC 20500 OR Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520.

Protesting Mountaintop Removal Financing Sisters of Mercy and Associates are joining with the Quaker Earth Action Committee in the Philadelphia area to protest PNC Bank’s financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. This practice is not only destroying God’s creation but causing significant health issues for those residing in the area. The event begins in Philadelphia with a walk to several PNC branch offices. A small contingent of walkers will continue the walk to Harrisburg, PA arriving on May 7th and continuing on to PNC Headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA on May 16th. You can pledge to help PNC live up to its motto of being a “green bank” by visiting http://www.greenpnc.org/

Misericordia University Students Visit Farm

Students from Misericordia University in Dallas, PA, visited Mercy Farm at Lumen Christi in Vermont over their Spring Break.

Mercy Investment Services Addresses Mining Concerns Mercy Investment Services participated in meetings with bishops from Peru, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Chad recently at the World Bank for a review of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a set of standards for extractive industries. Participants discussed a draft paper on responsible mining, which includes eight principles that form the core of future activities and discussions: social and environmental assessment; transparency; acceptance by stakeholders; food production trumps questionable mining; compliance with international standards; corporate prequalification before permitting; insurance and performance bond; and royalties, taxes and fees. If the mining industry cannot meet these principles, the zone would become a no-go zone in which mining would be prohibited. The draft is available online.

Religious on Water Share Concerns about Fracking Sisters of Mercy have been active for more than 20 years in a group called ROW-Religious on Water. This group is comprised of religious congregations who own property along the New


Jersey Coast and along the waterways in New York State. The group has been active in many areas of legislation, including hydrofracking. Members of the group recently had published in the National Catholic Reporter a viewpoint article on concerns about the support of hydrofracking by the presidential candidates. Sister Mary Bilderback signed the article for the Sisters of Mercy’s Mid-Atlantic Community.

Georgian Court Students Get in Touch with Earth Students from Georgian Court University participated in an all-day event entitled Earth Beat. This day, planned by members of ROW (Religious on Water), was held at Maris Stella Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ. Water Spirit, a program of the retreat center and members of ROW, provided students an opportunity to get in touch with the beat and rhythm of Earth through education, dialogue, quiet reflection, sharing, and drumming. The lovely oceanfront property was a source of quiet, rhythmic reflection. Some of the participants were Awakening the Dreamer facilitators and made many connections between the two programs.

Mercy Supports EPA Regulations The Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team joined Catholics United and the Franciscan Action Network in meetings in Washington, D.C., with staff of key senators to urge support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations on mercury and carbon emissions. There is concern that Congress will try to water down these regulations through legislation.

Investors Raise Awareness of World's Water Supply Several organizations, including Mercy Investment Services, the United Nations and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, continue to advocate for the responsible use of water. Mercy Investment Services, guided by the Critical Concerns, focuses on water access and sustainability as one of its high priority shareholder advocacy issues. Current corporate engagements with 14 companies address water issues, including dialogues with Coca-Cola and Monsanto on how their operations impact their water footprint and sustainability. Engagements with corporations such as Molycorp and ConocoPhillips are addressing the community impact of mining on water sustainability. Learn more about Mercy’s efforts and those of the UN and ICCR.

Mount Mercy University Aims to Eliminate Bottled Water A campus sustainability task force this year set a goal of eliminating the sale of bottled water on campus by 2013. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, campus has four new water refilling stations that track the number of plastic bottles saved. The university also received a grant from the Sisters of Mercy to cover the cost of retrofitting existing water fountains with a gooseneck-style spigot. The grant covered the cost of installing 12 of those fountains, and another eight will be in next year’s budget, Barb Pooley, vice president for finance and business operations, said.

IMMIGRATION Visit to Court a Highlight of Immigration Conference Marianne Comfort of the Institute Justice Team and Sister Rose Marie Tresp, justice director for the South Central Community, participated in “Eucharist Without Borders,” a conference sponsored by Celebration, a publication of National Catholic Reporter. Talks, some of which are


published here, focused on the faith and scriptural context for supporting immigrants and immigration reform in the U.S. As part of the conference, Sister Rose Marie accompanied members of the Samaritans, who daily patrol the trails in the Sonoran Desert between Nogales, Mexico, and Tucson, to provide emergency medical assistance, food and water to immigrants. Marianne visited a U.S. District Court where immigrants recently caught crossing the border received criminal sentences, and she writes about the disturbing experience here.

Mercy Joins Amicus Brief on Arizona Law

In keeping with a commitment to stand in solidarity with immigrants, the Sisters of Mercy signed onto an amicus brief submitted by more than 50 civil rights, faith and community organizations in support of the federal government's suit against the Arizona immigration law, “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” (SB 1070). On April 25, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments presented on the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. Sister Reg McKillip of the Institute Justice Team helped coordinate an interfaith 48-hour prayer vigil in front of the Court prior to the case being heard. Above, Sister Pat McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas,opened the vigil. You may watch a video clip here. Other Institute Leadership Team members also participated in the vigil.

Campaign Supports Permanent Residency The Institute Justice Team participated in activities in Washington, DC to launch a campaign organized by Central American immigrant organizations advocating for permanent residency status to be granted for the quarter million+ immigrants from Central America who live in the US under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS was granted after natural disasters in their region as well as years of protracted civil wars, but is due to expire over the next year. For more information on the campaign, click here, or here for the Spanish version.

Immigration Film Shown in Pittsburgh "We are All Immigrants," a documentary co-sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy NyPPaW, was shown at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh March 25 with 350 people in attendance. The powerful documentary tells the stories of 10 immigrants, documented and undocumented: why they came, why they stayed and what are the problems they have encountered. This was the project of the PATH To Justice Committee of the Tri-Diocesan Leadership Conference in the Pittsburgh/Greensburg Area. You can order the DVD here.


NY Farm Workers Portrayed in Film The NyPPaW Sisters of Mercy co-sponsored with the Sisters of St. Joseph the showing in Rochester, N.Y., of "After I Pick the Fruit, the lives of Migrant Women." The film was produced by a local Rochester woman, Nancy Ghertner, and it follows the lives of five immigrant farmworker women over 10 years as they labor in the apple orchards and fields of rural western New York.

Mercy Testifies Against Private Prisons Sister JoAnn Persch was one of the people who testified in support of SB1064, a bill that bans private prisons and detention centers in Illinois. The Executive Committee of the Illinois House passed the legislation by a vote of eight to three. JoAnn wishes to covey her deep gratitude for the prayerful support she received. She said she was very calm the night before and during the hearing as she felt herself surrounded by prayer. She asks continued prayers as SB 1064 now goes to the full Illinois House for a vote the week of May 7.

College Students to Learn About Immigration, Advocacy Forty-one students and staff from Mercy-sponsored colleges and universities are coming to Washington, D.C., for four days in late May to learn about advocacy through the lens of immigration issues. Members of the Institute Leadership Team will talk with them about the Critical Concerns, while members of the Institute Justice Team will describe the work of legislative and policy advocacy. The students will also visit an immigrant center, hear from other faith-based advocates about their work, learn how to lobby and meet with staff of their legislators. Colleges and universities participating in the program, which is co-sponsored by the Conference of Mercy Higher Education (CMHE), are: Detroit-Mercy, Georgian Court, Gwynned Mercy, Misericordia, Mount Aloysius, Mount Mercy, St. Joseph Connecticut, St. Joseph Maine and Saint Xavier.

NON-VIOLENCE Pray for Those Executed and Their Victims There were 11 state-sponsored executions in March and April of people convicted of murder. We invite you to pray for those executed, their victims and all of their family members. You may find here a list of those executed and their victims, and the state in which they were executed.

Connecticut Repeals Death Penalty Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy signed a law April 25 repealing the state’s death penalty, a stance that Sisters of Mercy in that state have been advocating for. However, the new law will not affect the 11 convicted killers already on death row. There are now 17 states without capital punishment.

Human Rights Abuses Continue in Honduras Violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders and opposition activists continue at a high level, according to Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations. Mercy advocacy, including 155 email advocates who contacted their


Representatives, contributed to two letters in the House and Senate sent to the State Department in March urging that the crisis be addressed and that US aid not be used to support police and military personnel involved in the abuses. The letter from the House of Representative was signed by 94 representatives, and the letter from the Senate was signed by seven senators. The Institute Justice Team helped organize a letter from faith organizations to the leadership of the House in preparation for the 2013 appropriations bill to maintain human rights as a condition for aid, and continued high- level Congressional work on these concerns.

Advocates Speak Out Against War with Iran The Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team signed onto an ad in the New York Times, sponsored by the Network of Spiritual Progressives, that opposes a first strike against Iran. Soon afterward, 127 Mercy advocates contacted their legislators and urged them to oppose legislation that would lower the threshold for going to war with Iran.

POVERTY Mercy Supports Healthcare Law

The Institute Leadership Team joined with 20 other congregations of women religious in signing onto a legal brief to the Supreme Court in support of the expansion of Medicaid, the government’s healthcare program for low-income families and individuals. The brief was one of many filed in advance of arguments before the Supreme Court March 26-28, on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Justice Team of the West Midwest Community signed onto a similar brief with a broader list of religious organizations. Above, Sister Karen Donahue joins supporters of the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court. Susan Aiello, president/CEO of Mercy


Community Services in Rochester, co-authored an opinion piece in the Democrat & Chronicle in support of healthcare reform.

Advocates Oppose House Budget More than 302 Mercy advocates contacted their Representatives to urge a “no” vote on the 2013 federal budget released by Representative Paul Ryan. In addition, the Institute Leadership Team joined other Catholic leaders in signing a letter expressing concern for the budget. The budget, which passed in the House but will not be introduced in the Senate, includes cuts to domestic programs that serve people who are vulnerable, while increasing funding for military programs. It also proposes repealing the Affordable Care Act, which is already helping millions of seniors, children and young adults. And it maintains tax cuts that primarily benefit people who are the wealthiest. Afterward, 179 Mercy advocates contacted their Representatives to express their thanks for a “no” vote or displeasure with a “yes” vote.

Mercy Social Service Centers Lobby Against Budget Cuts Debate on the federal budget continues to be in the news. Because of our need to cut the deficit and bring down the debt, the debates focus on which social programs can be cut and nothing about how to raise revenue. Mercy has been very involved in bringing our concerns about the cuts to programs that serve people in need to our Members of Congress. We have done this though our lobbying efforts, emails to legislators and letters to the editors. All of our efforts have tried to put a human face in place of the budget number. One strategy that has proven to be very successful is when a member of the Institute Justice Team is visiting the Washington, DC office of a legislator, we have people on the phone from the legislator’s state who work in a social service center. They provide first-hand knowledge of how the cuts will affect the people they serve and their organization. A number of people who minister at Mercy sponsored social service centers and Mercys who minister at social service centers have been involved this way. They are: Susan Aiello, Executive Director of Mercy Community Services, Rochester, NY; Pat McKeon, RSM, Executive Director of Mercy Housing and Shelter, Harford, CT; Amy Amador, Executive Director of Mercy Education Project, Detroit, MI; Don Wolfe, Executive Director of McAuley House, Providence, RI; Mary Alice Synkewecz, RSM, CoDirector of the Collaborative Center for Justice, Hartford, CT; Pat Lamb, RSM, Pastoral Associate at St Francis de Sales Parish, Holland, MI; Kathleen Harrington, RSM, Director of John E. Boyd Center, Fall River, MA; Mary Sliney, Mercy Associate, Executive Director of The Way Home, Manchester, NH; Eileen Brady, RSM, Nashua Soup and Kitchen Shelter, NH.

Mercy Promotes Faithful Budget

Along with 34 other religious denominations and institutions, the Sisters of Mercy Institute Leadership Team endorsed the preamble to the document, “Priorities for a Faithful Budget:


Acting with Mercy and Justice as One Nation Under God.” It promotes comprehensive and compassionate budget principles that will “protect the common good, value each individual and his or her livelihood, and help lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.” You may find here more information about the Faithful Budget as well as resources for federal budget advocacy.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days Examine Economy The Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team was one of the sponsoring organizations for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a weekend crammed with workshops on topics related to the economy and our nation’s priorities. Those attending included Sisters Karen Donahue and Jeanne Christensen, justice coordinators for the West Midwest Community. Video recordings of the plenary speakers, who quoted scripture as well as examined policies to inspire participants to advocate for persons who are poor and vulnerable, are available here. ____________________________________________________________________________

WOMEN Senate Passes Violence Against Women Act The U.S. Senate voted 68 to 31 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), without harmful amendments that Mercy was concerned about. There were 149 Mercy advocates who contacted their Senators to express support of VAWA. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives, and we will be in contact with our advocates when their voice is needed. To see how your Senators voted, click here.

Trafficking Newsletter Highlights Challenges, Hope The most current issue of STOP Trafficking features news about trafficking victims, traffickers and anti-trafficking legislation in countries around the world. The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas are among dozens of congregations of women religious who co-sponsor this monthly newsletter.

Mercy Students Participate in UN Women Commission Students from St. Catharine Academy in the Bronx attended some of the Commission meetings, accompanied by Sister Pat Wolf, academy president, and Melissa Bullock, assistant principal. The Commission’s primary theme this year is empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. A high school student writes about her experience here.

Mercy Addresses Human Trafficking Globally Through Mercy International Association (MIA), the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas are joining with other Mercy congregations around the world to address the problem of human trafficking. Sister Reg McKillip, OP, of the Institute Justice Team, represents the Institute on this MIA committee. You can read about those global efforts here .


N.C. Sisters Ready to Address Trafficking at Convention Sister Rose Marie Tresp, justice director for the South Central Community, has joined with North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking to educate hotels about the crime prior to the Democratic National Convention to be held in Charlotte in September. They are informing hotel staff how to spot signs of human trafficking and how to report them. You can view an interview with her here.

Omaha Students Support Project Rachel

Juniors Emily Dyer and Emily Janda from the Mercy Pro-Life group at Mercy High School in Omaha presented a check for $775 to Archbishop George J. Lucas for Project Rachel, an organization that helps women in the healing process following an abortion. The Pro-Life Group held a dress-down day in the first semester and a penny war right before spring break to raise this money. Students at the school also raised more than $3,100 for Sister Deirdre Mullan, who will distribute the money to young women all over the world who are in need of education, housing and nutrition assistance.

PROMOTING CRITICAL CONCERNS Assembly Features Justice Table


A Above, Sisters Jean Murin (sitting) and Gratia L’Esperance look over materials displayed at the NyPPaW Assembly to generate interest in the Critical Concerns. There were postcards to send to Senators supporting diplomacy with Iran; resources on human trafficking and racism; and petitions asking delegates to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development to create a new tool to measure the quality of life and ecological sustainability.

RESPONSIBLE INVESTING Proxy Review Recognizes MIS Activity In its third year of proxy voting, Mercy Investment Services has continued to build upon Mercy's long history as a faith-based investor dedicated to making a difference through its investments. As an active shareholder in more than 2,000 corporations, Mercy Investment Services has the right to vote on shareholder resolutions at the corporations’ annual meetings. The 2012 As You Sow proxy preview, which reflects on the 2011 season and examines the issues garnering the most attention for the 2012 season, recognized Mercy Investment Services as the most active faith-based investor, along with the Midwest Capuchins. Visit the Mercy Investment Services website for more information on resolutions filed in 2011 and resolutions being filed in the 2012 proxy year on issues such as hydraulic fracturing and political spending. Mercy Investment Services’ proxy votes will be available on its website as the proxy year continues.

__________________________________________________________________ SUGGESTED RESOURCES Mercy Introduces Elections Website


A page on the Institute website has been launched to provide educational resources on election issues from a Mercy and faith-based perspective. Currently, the webpage contains information on the Catholics Vote for the Common good initiative, a collaboration of Catholic groups, including the Sisters of Mercy. The page also has links to fact-checking websites and the US Bishops’ Faithful Citizenship guide. It will be updated as the election season progresses, with Mercy backgrounder pieces and video clips on issues highlighted by the presidential campaigns.

Play on Immigration Available for School Productions A one-hour play produced at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC, explores the issue of immigration. The play, which revolves around a family with two undocumented students visiting for Thanksgiving dinner, leaves its audience contemplating the effects of current immigration policies in the United States. To receive a copy of the play, contact Sister Rose Marie Tresp at rtresp@mercysc.org

Mercy at the UN Addresses Land Grabbing Sister Aine O’Connor of Mercy Global Action at the U.N., with the assistance of sister Rita Parks, has researched the growing problem of land grabbing. This is the practice of state and private investors leasing or buying up tens of millions of acres of farm land in Asia, Africa and Latin America for mining and food and fuel production. The Sisters’ educational piece on land grabbing is among articles posted regularly at the website for Faith, Economy, Ecology Transformation, a coalition that Mercy participates in through the Institute Justice Team.

Webpage Hosts Mercy Advocacy Information You can find the most up-to-date advocacy campaigns and links to current issues Mercy is addressing here.

Tell Us How You are Working on the Critical Concerns Please send newsletter items and photos to Marianne Comfort of the Institute Justice Team at mcomfort@sistersofmercy.org Also, read the Institute blog and check out the Sisters of Mercy Facebook page to learn more about what’s going on in Mercy.

May-June 2013  

Justice Newsletter

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