Nonviolence . . . Human trafficking . . . Women . . . . The elderly . . . Immigrants' rights . . . Housing. . . Children . . . Prisoners' rights . . . Health care . . . World Hunger . . . Globalization, as it affects Latin America . . . Care of the earth . . . Seamless ethic of life

Note: The ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author's and should not be ascribed to the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes or its members.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Postcard to Congress in Support of Migrants and Refugees

The 2nd week of January is National Migration Week. The Sisters of St. Agnes invite you to participate in a postcard campaign asking our elected officials to work for legislative reform and not to demonize those who engage in humanitarian aid of migrants and refugees (I.e., providing Sanctuary). Postcard

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dale S. Recinella's Book, Christmas Through a Looking Glass

Christmas Through a Looking Glass
By Dale S. Recinella
Catholic Correctional Chaplain
Florida Death Row 
Note: This selection from Dale Recinella’s new book touched me because I have been a member of the pastoral team with the Interfaith Center for Detained Immigrants. Every Saturday some of us visit detained immigrants at the Dodge County Jail in Juneau, WI. Sister Sally Ann Brickner, OSF

It is Christmas Eve morning. Nothing could have prepared me for this. I process through the guard station and collect my chapel keys.

Spirals of razor wire are heaped two-stories high on the three rows of electrified fence. The sliver-gray teeth glisten like tinsel in the crisp morning air. A dozen inmates peer at me from the other side. They are huddling at the gate that separates the chapel from the prison compound.

Merry Christmas,” smiles the officer. My stomach tenses into a knot.

She hits the button that releases huge electric locks on the steel access doors. A loud bang echoes through the sally port. I step inside the prison. The knot in my belly tightens even more.

The inmates at the gate beat their arms, warming themselves against the December chill. Small clouds of breath hang in front of their blue fatigues.

Why does this picture jar me? The specifics are no different than usual. It should be just another other day as a volunteer spiritual counselor at Florida’s Appalachee Correctional Institution.

But this is not just another day. It is Christmas Eve.

In that moment, I am amazed that I have never wondered what Christmas is like behind bars.

Chapel appointments with volunteers are by “call-out,” written requests processed through administration. We open the chapel. A clerk hands me the day’s roster – 19 call-outs. A normal morning is five.

I phone my wife, “I’ll be here until 6:00.”

I am wrong. We won’t close the chapel until 9:30 Christmas Eve night.

But there’s no way I could know that. It’s my first time in prison on the morning before Christmas.

I dig in with coffee and my first inmate appointment at 8:30 a.m. We pray and I ask, “What’s on your heart this morning?”

“Give me a reason to not go for the wall,” he whispers.

We both know the term is prison slang for feigning an escape attempt in front of the guards, in the hope that they will have to kill you.

Men are said to have done such things when they received a “Dear John” letter from their wife or learned of the death of a child. Is Christmas here that painful?

We talk, we cry, we pray. Man after man, blue shirt after blue shirt. Murderers. Rapists. Molesters. No one to call at Christmas. No one to write. No o0ne to see. Their families too far away to visit. Their children severed and adopted by other fathers.

About 5:00 o’clock I tell the clerks we need more “prison Kleenex.” The rolls of toilet paper we unwrapped that morning are all down to the cardboard.

My last call-out, an intelligent and verbal man, has met regularly with me all year.

“I’m not saying I shouldn’t be here,” tears tug at his eyes. “I did terrible things and don’t even know why. I can understand why society wants me behind this fence. I’ll be here the rest of my life. But I’m a human being. I still need friends and relationships with normal people. I’m a baptized, practicing Christian. Christmas is our day. Where are the Christians?”

My lame response about people confusing compassion toward wrong-doers with approval of their bad behavior only angers him.

“Jesus said that when his followers visit an inmate, they visit him!” he grips the tissue roll with both hands. “Jesus didn’t say the inmate had to be innocent. Why isn’t anybody visiting Jesus at Christmas?”

Looking away, I stammer, “I don’t know.”

Soon, it’s time for us to end.

“What do you want to pray for?” I ask.

He leans back in his chair, as if he is talking through the ceiling to the heaven above, “What do I want God to give me for Christmas?”

“Sure,” I reply.

“That every Christmas all the prisons in Florida will be busting at the seams from all the Christians trying to get in to visit Jesus.”

“Brother,” I caution, “that prayer could take a long time to answer.”

He shrugs,” I’ll be here.”

When We Visit Jesus in Prison: A Guide for Catholic Ministry. Chicago, IL: ACTA Publications, c. 2016. pp 17-19

World Day of Peace

St. Francis began every encounter with these words: “May the Lord give you peace!”  The words were not only on his lips but also in his heart.  His namesake, Pope Francis, also shared a greeting of peace for the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace (January 1). This year his message focuses on “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace.”  As we commemorate the anniversary of the deaths of Sister Maureen Courtney, CSA, and Sister Teresa Rosales, CSA, in 1990 it is fitting that we read and reflect on Pope Francis message and re-commit to nonviolence. 

Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace

La no violencia: un estilo de política para la pazLa no violencia: un estilo de política para la paz 

Prayer Service: The JPIC Office for the Incarnate Word Sisters created a short prayer service for the World Day of Peace, January 1st, based on resources from the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. Jennifer Reyes Lay kindly shared the resources in both English and Spanish if you would like to use it in your local community. 

Theological Reflection on Peace and Nonviolence: The JPIC Office of the Incarnate Word Sisters’ latest quarterly theological reflection is also on the topic of Peace and Nonviolence in English and Spanish. We are welcome to read it and/or share with your communities or those you serve.
May we all re-commit ourselves in the coming year to be Artisans of Peace, in the words of Pope Francis, and incorporate the practices of nonviolence into our lives and ministries.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Words of Welcome to the 25th Annual Peace Tree Celebration - December 15, 2016

By Sister Jean Steffes, CSA, General Superior 
On behalf of the Sisters of St. Agnes and our associates, it is my privilege to welcome everyone to the 25th annual CSA Peace Tree celebration.  We are most grateful to have all of you here to celebrate a mutual desire to make peace, keep peace and protect peace for ourselves and for all those with whom we come in contact, especially the next generation who is our future.  It is a privilege to bring together prominent peace-keepers from our local area this evening.  For 25 years, a peace tree has been lit at our Motherhouse.  Each year we light the bulbs, hoping that the next year will be a celebration of peace in our world rather than a celebration of hope for what seems to be an elusive peace.  Who knew that when we began to mark our longing for peace during the 1st Iraq War in 1991 that 25 years later we would still be praying for peace in the middle-east and other “hot spots” across the globe. 

In this year, we have seen what can be done in one country, Colombia, through the concerted efforts of that country’s leaders in concert with families and peace activists.  Even when the majority of people voted down an accord in order to demand terms more stringent for returning rebels, the country’s leaders and government officials found a way to say enough to fighting and division.  We are here tonight to say enough.  We want the peace for which we long and for which every human heart was made.  You are part of that longing and solution.  There is a long tradition in the history of humanity that beckons.  I would like to share a few thoughts from this tradition with you.  The messages are really diverse, so listen carefully and enjoy.

From John Lennon (1940-1980), “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.”

From Mother Theresa (1910-1997), “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

From Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970), “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

From Indira Gandhi (1917-1984), “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”

From Eleanor Roosevelt, (1884-1962), “It isn’t enough to talk about peace.  One must believe in it.  And it isn’t enough to believe in it.  One must work at it.”

From Pope Francis (1936-), “We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”

From Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), “Do you know what astonished me most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run the sword is always beaten by the spirit. Soldiers usually win battles and generals get the credit for them.  You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war. If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that precede cannon shots.”

From Isaiah (740-681 BC), “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (2:4)

And so, in line with a long and very diverse tradition of peace-keepers, we continue our quest this evening.  Thank you for being here with us!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Creating a Culture of Dialogue

Do you find yourself struggling to communicate with those with whom you disagree? 

In the aftermath of the election have you been able to dialogue with those who voted differently from you? We Are Salt and Light provides suggestions for how to engage with others on difficult issues. 

You can review materials in both English and Spanish at this link. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis offers ten tips for creating peaceful dialogue dialogue within one’s family. They are equally relevant to every human interaction. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peace Tree Lighting

The Sisters of St. Agnes invite you to the 25th anniversary of the Annual Lighting of the Peace Tree on Thursday, December 15, 2016 at 6:30 pm at the CSA Motherhouse, 320 County Road K, Fond du Lac, WI 54937-8158. RSVP to Chelsea Koenigs at (920) 907-2300 by December 10, 2016.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Action Alert - Tell Local, State, and National Leaders You Welcome Refugees Friends of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, 

Right now, it is more important than ever to tell your local, state, and national leaders that your community welcomes refugees and stands ready to help them integrate and thrive. Now is the time to urge your local and state officials to declare your communities welcoming.

Call your Senators and Representatives today and tell them your community welcomes refugees: 1-866-940-2439
As a beacon of hope, we are a nation grounded in our values of compassion and welcome. With more than 65 million people who have been forced from their homes and are seeking safety, our actions today will determine if we uphold these values. It is imperative we live up to our commitment to the refugees we pledged to welcome and stand against discrimination based on someone's faith or where they come from.

Make your voice heard and urge your local, state, and national policy makers to welcome refugees and support the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
It will take all of us working together to ensure the United States lives out our moral responsibility to stand with refugees. Tell your local officials to declare your community a “Welcoming City.” Tell your state and federal lawmakers to support refugee resettlement. Share stories of welcome with all of your elected leaders and urge them to live up to our welcoming legacy.

Please spread the word and have everyone you know share this alert. Thank you for all your work and support!


Ann Scholz, SSND, PhD
Associate Director for Social Mission
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
8808 Cameron Street
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-588-4955 ext.238 (W)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Engaged Citizens shared an article (see link) about immigration and what we might anticipate happening in the Trump Administration. Passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, advocated by the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, is highly unlikely. Instead, we may see heightened border security, deportations of those convicted (or not) of crime, and anti-immigrant legislation passed by states.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov 25)

It is reported that 1 in 3 women experiences physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, often at the hands of a partner. Violence is a choice; it is not inevitable. Today is the day; now is the time to do what we can in our own circles to end violence against women and girls.

From 25 November through 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence aims to raise awareness and mobilize people everywhere to bring about change. You can “orange the World” by providing monetary and volunteer support to local domestic violence and abuse programs.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Take Action: Urge Leaders to Keep the Promises of Paris Agreement

In late 2015, leaders from around the world came together in Paris to agree on a path toward global carbon reductions.
The goal is worthy. Significantly reducing carbon emissions will protect poor and vulnerable populations and our common home from the most harmful impacts of climate change. Now, it’s time for the United States to live up to its end of the bargain.

Tell our congressional leaders it’s time to keep the commitment we made. As people of faith, we know that by working together, we can achieve progress towards a greater good.  Encourage our elected leaders to live up to the Paris climate agreement.

We will be delivering a petition to the leadership of Congress (i.e. Leader Pelosi, Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Speaker Ryan) encouraging them to live up to the climate goals as set down in the Paris Agreement and are making one final push to get more signatures. The link to the petition is here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Love Your Enemies By Fred Buechner

Cain hated Abel for standing higher in God's esteem than he felt he himself did, so he killed him. King Saul hated David for stealing the hearts of the people with his winning ways and tried to kill him every chance he got. Saul of Tarsus hated the followers of Jesus because he thought they were blasphemers and heretics and made a career of rounding them up so they could be stoned to death like Stephen. By and large most of us don't have enemies like that anymore, and in a way it's a pity. 

It would be pleasant to think it's because we're more civilized nowadays, but maybe it's only because we're less honest, open, brave. We tend to avoid fiery outbursts for fear of what they may touch off both in ourselves and the ones we burst out at. We smolder instead. If people hurt us or cheat us or stand for things we abominate, we're less apt to bear arms against them than to bear grudges. We stay out of their way. When we declare war, it is mostly submarine warfare, and since our attacks are beneath the surface, it may be years before we know fully the damage we have either given or sustained. 

Jesus says we are to love our enemies and pray for them, meaning love not in an emotional sense but in the sense of willing their good, which is the sense in which we love ourselves. It is a tall order even so. African Americans love white supremacists? The longtime employee who is laid off just before he qualifies for retirement with a pension love the people who call him in to break the news? The mother of the molested child love the molester? But when you see as clearly as that who your enemies are, at least you see your enemies clearly, too.

You see the lines in their faces and the way they walk when they're tired. You see who their husbands and wives are, maybe. You see where they're vulnerable. You see where they're scared. Seeing what is hateful about them, you may catch a glimpse also of where the hatefulness comes from. Seeing the hurt they cause you, you may see also the hurt they cause themselves. You're still light-years away from loving them, to be sure, but at least you see how they are human even as you are human, and that is at least a step in the right direction. It's possible that you may even get to where you can pray for them a little, if only that God forgive them because you yourself can't, but any prayer for them at all is a major breakthrough. 

In the long run, it may be easier to love the ones we look in the eye and hate, the enemies, than the ones whom — because we're as afraid of ourselves as we are of them — we choose not to look at, at all.                                                                                                                         ~ originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words

The Cosmic Christ

The Cosmic Christ
by Richard Rohr
Center for Action and Contemplation

Heaven and Earth Are One 
Thursday, October 27, 2016 

My systematics professor used to say that if the Resurrection had been filmed, it probably would not have shown a man stepping out of the tomb holding a flag, as most Christian art illustrates. The camera probably would have recorded a huge flash of light. The Risen Christ is Jesus released from all space/time restrictions. He is beyond space; he is beyond time. He includes all of the spiritual and the physical world, reconciled within himself.

Next on our diagram of the Cosmic Christ is the Ascension. In the story of Christ’s ascension as told in Acts (1:9-11), angels appear next to the disciples as they gaze after the rising figure. The angels ask, “Why are you standing here staring up into heaven?” Most of Christianity has been doing just that, straining to find the historical Jesus “up there.” Where did he go? We’ve been obsessed with the question because we think the universe is divided into separate levels—heaven and earth. But it is one universe and all within it is transmuted and transformed by the glory of God. The whole point of the Incarnation and Risen Body is that the Christ is here—and always was! But now we have a story that allows us to imagine it just might be true. 

Jesus didn’t go anywhere. He became the universal omnipresent Body of Christ. That’s why the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1), not an escape from earth. We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. What you choose now is exactly what you choose to be forever. God will not disappoint you.

Gateway to Silence: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Reference: Adapted from Richard Rohr, Christ, Cosmology, & Consciousness: A Reframing of How We See (CAC: 2010), MP3 download.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Socially Responsible Investing

Socially Responsible Investing is one facet of justice and peace ministry in which the Sisters of St. Agnes participate. As Coordinator of Justice and Peace and on behalf of the Congregation, I attend meetings of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and the regional Seventh Generation directed by Fr. Mike Crosby. I focus on different issue areas: climate change; human rights (including human trafficking); food & nutrition; water; lobbying & political spending, etc. Part of the work includes dialogues with companies and, when needed, filing shareholder resolutions in order to get companies to move forward.
This fall, an on-going engagement with Hormel led to a great success! Having had regular dialogues with Company representatives about its use of antibiotics and also its use of water, a number of faith-based investors filed a resolution on the water impacts of its operations. Faced with the possibility of bringing the resolution to all of its shareholders at the next annual meeting, Hormel agreed to participate in the World Wildlife Fund’s Ag Water Challenge and to develop a strong policy on water impacts throughout its supply chain. This example shows the power of socially responsible investment and the willingness of corporations to improve their operations for the common good. As a result of Hormel’s commitments on water, the investors withdrew their resolution.
In addition to the resolution with Hormel this fall I filed resolutions with seven other companies: five on lobbying disclosure; one on water impacts; and another on separation of CEO from Chair of the Board. Thank you for including these endeavors in your prayers.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Richard Rohr Meditation: God in All Things

Image description: Whirlpool Galaxy: The crossed pattern within the nucleus of M51 indicating two dust rings around the black hole at the center of the nebula.

Whirlpool Galaxy: The crossed pattern within the nucleus of M51 indicating two dust rings around
the black hole at the center of the nebula. Credit: NASA/ESA

The Cosmic Christ:
Week 1

God in All Things

The day of my spiritual awakening
was the day I saw and knew I saw
all things in God and God in all things.

—Mechtild of Magdeburg (c. 1212—c. 1282) [1]

Understanding the Cosmic Christ can change the way we relate to creation, to other religions, to other people, to ourselves, and to God. Knowing and experiencing the Cosmic Christ can bring about a major shift in consciousness. Like Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9), you won’t be the same after encountering the Risen Christ.

As with the Trinity, the Cosmic Christ is present in both Scripture and Tradition and the concept has been understood by many mystics, though not as a focus of mainline Christianity. We just didn’t have the eyes to see it. The Cosmic Christ is about as traditional as you can get, but Christians—including many preachers—have not had the level of inner experience to know how to communicate this to people.

The Cosmic Christ is Divine Presence pervading all of creation since the very beginning. My father Francis of Assisi intuited this presence and lived his life in awareness of it. Later, John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) put this intuition into philosophical form. For Duns Scotus, the Christ Mystery was the blueprint of reality from the very start (John 1:1). Teilhard de Chardin brought this insight into our modern world. God’s first “idea” was to become manifest—to pour out divine, infinite love into finite, visible forms. The “Big Bang” is now our scientific name for that first idea; and “Christ” is our theological name. Both are about love and beauty exploding outward in all directions. Creation is indeed the Body of God! What else could it be, when you think of it?

In Jesus, this eternal omnipresence had a precise, concrete, and personal referent. God’s presence became more obvious and believable in the world. But this apparition only appeared in the last ten seconds of December 31, as it were—scaling the universe’s entire history to a single year. Was God saying nothing and doing nothing for 13.8 billion years? Our code word for that infinite saying and doing was the “Eternal Christ.” (See John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1:9-12 if you think this is some new idea.)

Vague belief and spiritual intuition became specific and concrete and personal in Jesus—with a “face” that we could “hear, see, and touch” (1 John 1:1). The formless now had a personal form, according to Christian belief.

But it seems we so fell in love with this personal interface with Jesus that we forgot about the Eternal Christ, the Body of God, which is all of creation, which is really the “First Bible.” Jesus and Christ are not exactly the same. In the early Christian era, only a few Eastern Fathers (such as Origen of Alexandria and Maximus the Confessor) cared to notice that the Christ was clearly historically older, larger, and different than Jesus himself. They mystically saw that Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time, and the Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit from the beginning of time. 

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we’re believing in something much bigger than just the historical incarnation that we call Jesus. Jesus is just the visible map. The entire sweep of the meaning of the Anointed One, the Christ, includes us and includes all of creation since the beginning of time. Revelation was geological, physical, and nature-based before it was ever personal and fully relational (see Romans 1:20).

Gateway to Silence:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

[1] Sue Woodruff, Meditations with Mechtild of Magdeburg (Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Co., 1982), 46. 
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Cosmic Christ, discs 1 & 2 (CAC: 2009), CD, MP3 download; and 
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 185, 210, 222. 

“Evolutionary Thinking”
a new issue of Oneing, CAC’s spiritual, literary journal
“Foundational hope demands a foundational belief in a world that is still and always unfolding.” —Richard Rohr

Discover the many ways in which we can consciously contribute to the evolutionary process, both at the universal and personal levels. The story has not yet ended. Have hope!

Featuring Michael Dowd, Tasha Wahl, Micky Scottbey Jones, Mike Morrell, Sally Severino, and others.

This limited edition publication is now available at

2016 Daily Meditation Theme
Richard Rohr's meditations this year invite us to discover, experience, and participate in the foundation of our existence—Love. Throughout the year, Fr. Richard's meditations follow the thread of Love through many of his classic teachings in 1-2 week segments. Learn more and watch a video introduction at

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Center for Action and Contemplation