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.