The Sisters of the Holy Names of the U.S.-Ontario Province strongly disagree with the new policy of the Trump Administration that tears children away from their parents who are seeking asylum on the southern U.S. border. Asylum seekers from Central America travel a long distance from their home countries at considerable risk because they want to live in peace, without fear of gangs abducting their children and senseless killings of innocent people, oftentimes by the military in their own countries.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said, “We don’t want to separate families, but we don’t want families to come to the border illegally and attempt to enter this country improperly.” However, the United States for many years has managed to provide asylum hearings to parents without dividing families. The Trump Administration has created a crisis for unaccompanied children by taking more than 700 minors from their parents between October 2017 and mid-April. The new administration policy is to not let any asylum seekers into the country on our border with Mexico. We find it extremely inhumane that families fleeing to our country for asylum are being cruelly wrenched apart once they cross our border.
There are also reports that between 1,000 and 1,500 unaccompanied children who made the hazardous journey to the U.S. without their parents cannot be accounted for by government agencies that have responsibility for them.
What has happened to our moral compass as a country, and what has happened to the family values that the White House supposedly upholds? It might be a good time to remind this administration and all U.S. Christians that Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do also to me.”
We strongly urge President Trump and all members of Congress to stop the inhumane policy of forcing apart children and their parents as families seek asylum with our country.
U.S.-Ontario Province Leadership Team
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary
The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary support the actions of those who seek reasonable regulations on firearms following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It is morally wrong to remain silent and inactive in the presence of mortal danger to schoolchildren and those who care for them.
We extend our heartfelt prayers to those who will never cease to mourn the loss of those 17 precious lives, and we agree with those who cry out that prayers are not enough. We affirm the call by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for a ban on assault weapons. The USCCB states, “We must respond. Violence – in our homes, our schools and streets, our nation and world – is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers.”
Throughout our religious community’s 175-year history, we have been committed to loving and educating students. We remain committed to the mission of our foundress to support the full development of the human person. This cannot happen when the realistic fear of a mass shooting pollutes the atmosphere of every classroom.
We repeat our call for lawmakers to enact legislation that will end the constant threat of gun violence in the United States. We stand in solidarity with the Parkland students and their allies who reject the idea that existing gun laws are acceptable. We join their demand for immediate action to make society safer for all, especially for children and youth, by reducing minors’ access to guns and banning assault weapons.
For more than 50 years, Sister Catherine Ferguson has been serving as a Holy Names Sister throughout the world. During her career, Sister Catherine, who has served in SNJM leadership, also taught high school in both Oregon and Washington, researched Christian base communities in Latin America, received her doctoral degree in International Studies and founded and coordinated UNANIMA International, an NGO doing advocacy at the United Nations.
This spring, Sister Catherine will take on a new role as a board member of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. NETWORK’s mission is to transform social and economic inequalities in the U.S. by working for just wages, quality healthcare, protecting the rights of immigrants and assuring affordable housing for all. NETWORK’s mission is grounded in Scripture, Catholic social teaching and lived realities. It seeks justice by advocating for federal policies consistent with Gospel values.
Sister Catherine and other NETWORK board members will serve on both the NETWORK advocacy board and NETWORK lobby board starting in April. In this capacity the board members ensure that NETWORK fulfills its mission and maintains a sustainable organization.
In explaining her desire to serve on the NETWORK board, Sister Catherine said, “I am excited to be connected firsthand with NETWORK and its creative and effective work of advocacy at the federal level. Remember its NUNS ON THE BUS campaign? It is so important that we ordinary citizens tell our elected representatives what we want of our government and assure that its policies and actions are truly for the common good and not just for the good of those who are wealthy. I have always wanted to be involved in advocacy at the national level.”
With her many years of experience working as an advocate on the international level, Sister Catherine is ready for the new opportunity to advocate domestically. “Right now I think NETWORK will be advocating especially for immigrants,” she said. She also identified other important issues such as affordable healthcare, creation of jobs and the development of a federal budget which responds to the needs of the country and fulfills our obligations to the international community.
Sister Catherine’s interest in advocacy is driven by the core Gospel values that motivate all Sisters of the Holy Names in their prayer and ministry. These values are succinctly expressed in the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
More information about NETWORK can be found at https://networklobby.org.
As women religious committed to Christ’s saving path of peace and mercy, we implore U.S. lawmakers to do everything in their power to stop the carnage of mass shootings that have ended so many lives and broken so many hearts. Of course, we pray for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting and their loved ones. But as we face the continued epidemic of gun violence in the U.S., we must work to find a common commitment to action as well as prayer.
Following the Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016, Pope Francis expressed his “deepest feelings of horror and condemnation.” The Vatican’s call for meaningful change to end “such terrible and absurd violence” reflects strong Catholic social teaching on providing witness on behalf of a culture of life. Surely we can agree on the supreme value of legislation that makes our society a safer place for all.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called on Catholics and all people of good will to urge their Senators and Representative to adopt “reasonable regulations on firearms” and other measures to reduce criminal and violent activity through restorative justice. Therefore we call on Congress to reject measures that would make Americans less safe, including these proposed measures:
- The SHARE Act (H.R. 3668), which would repeal restrictions on gun silencers and make it harder to detect the source of gunfire during mass shootings.
- The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 38), which would force states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by any other state.
We also encourage the Republican majority in both houses of Congress to sponsor a bill to outlaw the selling of “bump stocks” that make assault rifles into automatic machine-like guns capable of releasing as many as 100 bullets in nine seconds. The guns used to kill victims in Las Vegas were equipped with these legal attachments.
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary
U.S.-Ontario Province Leadership Team
Maureen Delaney, SNJM
Mary Breiling, SNJM
Guadalupe Guajardo, SNJM
Margaret Kennedy, SNJM
Mary Rita Rohde, SNJM
The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, U.S.-Ontario Province join with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other organizations outraged at today’s announcement, in expressing our deep sadness and disappointment that President Trump chose to discontinue protection of our 800,000 Dreamers through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
While we understand that Congress has several other tasks to attend to this session, because the window of opportunity is limited to six months, we urge Congress to take steps immediately to pass the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017. The Dreamers are integral to our society as members of our families, our neighbors, our students and friends. How can we stand by and watch them be expelled, banished to countries foreign to them? They are talented teachers in our schools, competent and compassionate caregivers in our retirement communities, our colleagues and employees. It is impossible to imagine our schools, local hotels, restaurants and businesses, our healthcare systems, armed services and first responders in emergencies without their leadership and skilled commitment.
Will we simply turn our heads in the face of another blatant decision supporting racism?
We strongly encourage all people committed to justice and respect for and love of neighbor to contact your congresspersons to urge them to ensure that the Dream Act of 2017 becomes law, write letters to editors and also join with others in prayer services and in local demonstrations in support of the 800,000 Dreamers and the Dream Act of 2017.
As Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary of the US Ontario Province, a community of over 430 Catholic women religious, we are committed to respect for every person and justice for all. As Christian citizens we are outraged by what occurred in Charlottesville, VA last weekend and dismayed by the menacing comments, violence, physical attacks and senseless loss of life perpetrated by the racist rally.
We appreciate the leadership shown by the statements of the mayor and governor in response to the event.
We call on our president, and all leaders, to exert moral leadership by refraining from hateful and discriminatory speech and actions.
We join our prayers with those of other concerned citizens and members of many faiths in opposition to this violent action, so contrary to the values of our nation. We urge all to work for the healing and reconciliation taught and lived by Jesus and so necessary for peace and justice in our country.
Nearly 60 students received diplomas or GED certificates as Next Step Learning Center celebrated its graduation and National Adult Honor Society induction on July 27 in Oakland, CA. It was an especially satisfying day for the two Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who co-directed the center for more than two decades.
Sisters Cynthia Canning and Rosemary Delaney were among those who applauded the graduates, who included eight community college graduates, and the nine students who were inducted into the honor society. “It was wonderful to witness this milestone for people who have most likely never been recognized before for any accomplishment. They have demonstrated true grit and stayed the course,” they said.
One student named Cha’Shonn said, “I left Next Step but came back; I left again, but came back; I left again and came back and stayed, got my GED, just earned my AA at Merritt Community College, and am enrolled at San Francisco State where I will start in August.”
“The spirit of Next Step got inside of me and carried me through to earn my GED and finish what I started to do at many other programs,” said another student. A third student commented, “Being at Next Step is about more than reading and studies; it’s about continuing on with your life path after getting off track.” And a fourth student added, “There are angels at Next Step who work with you as tutors.”
Melinda, who is a long-time Next Step volunteer, shared these thoughts: “Couldn’t you tell from the crowded parking lot and balloons that we were about to experience a wonderful afternoon? As soon as I parked my car, I began to see graduates posing for photos in their caps and gowns, grinning despite themselves. Inside the gym was another story: live music from the guitar and drums duo, little kids, seniors, even infants all there to witness a grad, tutors galore and Next Step staff. I found one of the few remaining empty chairs and sat between a woman whose fiancé was graduating and another woman who was cheering for two nephews. The formal program began with Elgar’s familiar ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ as the graduates marched in. From then on, we were treated to wise words from Next Step staff, words of support and encouragement and pride in all that had been accomplished. Interspersed, as noted on the program, were prepared speeches by selected students. Their sentiments were echoed, one after another, by the graduates. I couldn’t count how many versions of ‘thankful,’ ‘patience,’ ‘persistence’ and ‘supported’ were expressed. Not surprisingly, those very same descriptors seemed to fit many in the crowd, tutors included. Next Step rocked!”
The Sisters of the Holy Names founded Next Step as an adult literacy program in 1994 to address the high dropout rate in Oakland. It brings together participants pursuing educational and life goals with more than 70 volunteer tutors. Sisters Cynthia and Rosemary led the center until last year, when Lisa Stringer became its executive director.
Next Step Learning Center celebrates the graduation of 60 students on July 27, 2017.
Next Step Learning Center celebrates graduation of 60 students July 27, 2017.
Cha’Shonn delivers a speech during Next Step Learning Center’s graduation ceremony on July 27, 2017.
We, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, are members of an international community of Catholic women religious, 425 of whom are United States citizens living and ministering in California, Oregon, Washington, Mississippi, Florida, Maryland, Michigan and New York. We are committed to “the full development of the human person” through education, social justice and collaboration with others in programs that promote systemic change to protect the human rights of individuals and communities. We were appalled by the facts from the Congressional Budget Office regarding the effects of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House of Representatives last month. We want the Senate to be aware of our distress that the Act goes against the principles and values of our country, our Christian beliefs and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, under the AHCA:
- 23 million Americans would become uninsured.
- Medicaid would be cut by $834 billion and 14 million low-income and disabled Americans would lose Medicaid coverage.
- Low-income senior citizens could see premium increases as high as 800% while the richest Americans would see their premiums drop, plus enjoy a multi-billion-dollar tax cut over 10 years.
- Current funding levels will cover only 110,000 individuals of the 2.2 million ACA enrollees with a pre-existing chronic condition at present.
- Cost of maternity care could also increase by thousands of dollars since the abolished ACA provided prenatal and pediatric care to 9.5 million previously uninsured women.
- States could drop coverage for those needing mental health and substance abuse care.
We want the Senate to take a firm hand in correcting the House’s law and to create a new Act that respects the dignity of every American, provides for those who are the poorest and most vulnerable and does not favor the wealthy with special privileges at the expense of mentally or chronically ill persons.
We urge all Senators as strong and principled leaders to recall and be guided by the January 18, 2017 statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops: “…all people and every family must be able to see clearly how they fit within and access the health care system in a way that truly meets their needs,” emphasizing that “health care should be truly universal and genuinely affordable.”
While working on the Senate Health Care Bill, we urge the Senate also to develop a law that embodies Pope Francis’ statement of May 7, 2016: “Health, indeed, is not a consumer good, but a universal right which means that access to healthcare services cannot be a privilege.”
In keeping with their commitment to “welcome the stranger among us,” the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) have overwhelmingly adopted a corporate stand expressing solidarity with migrants and refugees.
Affirming the corporate stand involved in-depth study, dialog, prayer and finally a vote by the entire SNJM community in countries where they minister, including the United States, Canada, Peru, Brazil and Lesotho.
The corporate stand represents a commitment to unite with others in response to the ongoing world crisis of human migration and strong anti-immigrant bias. About 65 million people who have been forcibly displaced face suffering not only from violence, poverty and illness but from government policies that feed widespread fear and persecution of immigrants.
“Members of the SNJM community have long supported immigrants through public actions such as vigils, marches and letter-writing campaigns, as well as countless quiet acts of solidarity and hospitality toward refugee families and individuals. Our corporate stand will give new impetus to these actions,” said Maureen Delaney, SNJM, Provincial of the U.S.-Ontario Province.
The Sisters of the Holy Names and their Associates based their decision on Gospel values, Catholic social teachings and their community’s unique mission – the full development of the human person through education, social justice, contemplation and the arts.
The Corporate Stand on Migrants and Refugees is the third formal corporate stand by the Sisters of the Holy Names. The Congregation adopted the Corporate Stand against Human Trafficking (2004) in opposition to the exploitation of women and children for sex and forced labor, and the Corporate Stand on Water (2008) to affirm that access to clean water is a basic human right. The full text of the corporate stands can be found at www.snjmusontario.org/corporate-stands.
Just before Easter, two Associates of the Sisters of the Holy Names completed a project to gather hundreds of long-sleeved shirts to protect migrant workers in Florida from agricultural health hazards.
Most people don’t wear long sleeves in Florida because of the warm weather, but Sharon and Chuck Dunham – both Associates from Albany, NY – say local farmworkers desperately need them to limit dangers including burns from liquid and wind-borne chemical pesticides. Working with another couple at their “snowbird” home parish in New Smyrna Beach, FL, the Dunhams dedicated themselves throughout Lent to collecting, purchasing, sorting and folding 1,300 shirts.
The project began with a challenge from the Diocese of Orlando, which Father Patrick Quinn of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in New Smyrna Beach was quick to accept and share with the parish’s Human Ministry team. Sharon and Chuck teamed up with another couple to organize the shirt-collection effort. They decorated giant cardboard boxes with wrapping paper and placed them at strategic collection points in the church and parish center. It didn’t take long before the boxes were overflowing.
“I tell you, something like this you do have to work at. You can’t just let the clothes pile up and think you’ll deal with it all at the end,” Sharon said. “Twice a week, we would meet to sort them, because there were shirts for both men and women, and fold them.” A number of parishioners who didn’t own any long-sleeved garments donated cash, which the Human Ministry team used to shop for shirts at second-hand clothing stores.
Sister Bea Hall in Albany, where the Dunhams live during the non-winter months, called the project a great example of practical caring and taking action “where you are, with what you have.” The couple has never allowed distance to be a barrier, she added. When they lived far north of Albany, they would make the 5-hour round trip to participate in gatherings with other Associates and the Sisters.
The two Associates were in for a shock when they delivered the shirts to a tiny building that serves as a resource center for migrant workers in nearby Pierson, FL, an area that supplies much of the U.S. demand for ferns for floral arrangements. “I was pretty taken aback,” Sharon said. “There were, I think, two small plastic bags of clothing and a case and a half of beans. That’s all they had for resources, and people were lined up outside waiting for help.”
The Dunhams wanted to share their story because the project would be easy for others to duplicate in their own communities. “It worked out very well. It was something that was doable. We didn’t have to have money or anything. The parish put it in the bulletin, that’s all,” Sharon said. “Sometimes you want to do something, but you don’t know what you can do. This was simple.”
In the photo: Chuck Dunham (at left) delivers bags of shirts to the migrant worker resource center in Pierson, FL along with fellow parish member Bob Hellmann (center) and the resource center manager.