Catholic Social Teaching Stories Project

Catholic Social Teaching Stories Project at OLL Encourages Drawings, Paintings and Poems in addition to Written Personal Stories

The Social Teaching Principles of the Catholic Church are a sometimes-overlooked core aspect of our faith. The OLL Justice and Peace Committee has reflected on these teachings and developed an OLL Commitment Statement (see below) based on them. We are now inviting all parishioners and students to participate in a Stories Project through which we can deepen our understanding of these statements and live them out more fully for the common good. Through this project we hope to build community, get to know each other better, deepen our collective faith, and inspire each other to live our Catholic Social Teaching (CST) in an intentional way.
OLL Justice and Peace Committee Statement of Commitment and Action to Living Catholic Social Teaching
 

The Our Lady of the Lake Justice & Peace Committee affirms its commitment to respect the dignity of every human being, strive for justice and peace among all people, and seek and serve God in all persons and in creation.

In addition, OLL's Justice and Peace Committee has asked members of our greater parish community to submit personal stories reflecting on how they feel called to live out one element of the OLL Justice and Peace Committee Statement of Commitment and Action to Living Catholic Social Teaching. We are presenting them here below each element.

We will strive to read, study, and live the words and actions of Jesus. We seek courage and humility to listen and respond to the promptings of the Spirit.
 
"Put put into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." (Luke 5:4:)
 
France is important in my life and faith. My pregnant mother liked how Lorraine sounded as she took notes on the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine for my father’s PhD thesis and so they named me Lorraine. I earned a PhD in French Literature, in the process meeting Dennis. I lived in Paris for parts of high school and college and with Dennis and our children in 1986.
 
Eighteen years ago, I spent three days visiting favorite Paris places. At the top of my list was the Chapel of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, otherwise known as the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal at 140, rue du Bac, a couple of blocks from our 1986 apartment. The kids and I discovered it set in a courtyard behind a high wall and gate near our neighborhood playground. In that Chapel Mary appeared to St. Catherine of Labouré three times, on July 18-19, Nov. 27, and in Dec. 1830, and asked her the second time to have the Miraculous Medal struck on the model she showed her, with the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you” on one side and told her that “the persons who wear it will receive great graces; the graces will be inexhaustible for those who have confidence.”
 
I knelt a long time before Mary’s statue at the side altar asking for guidance. I had sat through a Mass for Chinese pilgrims. There came an image of my ten extended fingers with short rays coming from them. The image did not come from me. On the Miraculous Medal Mary is portrayed with long rays extending from her fingers made of rows of precious stones. St. Catherine recounted that the beauty and brilliance of the rays were so magnificent and that Mary said to her about them: “This is the symbol of the graces which I will pour out on the persons who ask me for them.” Where the precious stones emitted no rays, Mary said: “Those stones which give off no rays represent the graces that people forget to ask me for.” So, like with so much about faith, I was left puzzled and challenged by what that gift at Mary’s altar that summer day meant. The image continues to leave its power and challenge within me. Trust in her; ask grace always from her; try yourself to give out graces in small and bigger ways.
 
On a visit years later to that same neighborhood, Dennis and I visited the Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul, 95 rue de Sèvres. There, above the altar and reached by a staircase, is the reliquary of St. Vincent de Paul, who had appeared to St. Catherine in a dream when she was 19 and said: “My daughter, it is good to care for the sick. You run away from me now, but one day you will be happy to come to me. God has designs on you! Do not forget it!” Years later, while visiting a house of the Daughters of Charity in Châtillon-sur-Seine where her father had sent her so that she would not become a nun, she saw a picture on the wall and said: “There is the priest I saw in my dream! It is truly he, but who is he?” “Our Founder, St. Vincent de Paul,” replied the young Sister who accompanied her. She decided then and there to become a Sister of Charity. St. Vincent de Paul lived from 1581-1660.
 
While standing with my arms outstretched by the reliquary with his body inside, I prayed to him for guidance, remaining there after Dennis had descended the stairs. I received a message: “Abaissez-vous!” Gently and softly: “Lower yourself!” Said in the more formal and respectful French “vous,” not “tu.” The message lingers in me. It is a message to be humble, avoid pride, aspire to be a servant, be lowly.
 
Little did I know when we found our 1986 rue St Placide apartment that Mary, St. Catherine of Labouré and St. Vincent de Paul would guide, challenge and love me in these ways years later.
 
--Lorraine (Oct 15, 2019)
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Our faith permeates everything that we do, but sometimes we do not recognize the work of the Spirit guiding us through our vocations. In 2003, I was hired for a one-year position as an assistant professor of biology. Jumping into this faculty position intimidated me because I wasn’t sure how my lifelong Catholic faith would fit within the culture of this evangelical university. However, working in a faith-filled community forced me to rethink aspects of my own spiritual life. At our weekly departmental meetings, we begin with prayer. At first, I was not comfortable leading the group because I was used to praying in a more formal way, using structured Catholic prayers. Over time, I learned to feel the Spirit working within me as I prayed for the intentions of members of my department. Being stretched through unfamiliar faith practices also has helped me to reflect on the aspects of Catholicism that are central to my personal faith practice. As a Catholic, sacramental participation is a fundamental part of my faith experience. Serving as a Eucharistic minister at Mass lets me witness the transformative power of God’s sacrifice.

 

For the first time in my life, in this faculty position, I also was asked to explicitly connect my faith with my work. As I reflected on connections between faith and science, I realized that I had partitioned my faith life from my academic life without examining the intersections between the two. Although I believed then and still believe that the idea of God as creator is compatible with evolution, I had not thought deeply about how faith might be challenged by a modern understanding of biology. In graduate school, I had learned that humans were not unique or better than other animals because of our shared evolutionary history. Although it was not stated overtly, the subtext was that we are not created in the image of God. However, I began to recognize that humans are unique in the ability to develop covenant relationships with God. The physiological mechanisms that underlie our behavior may be shared, but we possess the unique capability of developing and growing in faith.

 

As I read books and articles in attempt to understand why many of my evangelical students struggled with evolution, I also sought to better understand the Catholic position by taking an online course about “Faith and Science: The Catholic Approach” through the University of Notre Dame. In this class, we focused on the unique characteristics of faith and science, this history behind perceived conflicts between faith and science, and reconciling scriptural accounts of creation with a scientific understanding of evolution. One of my favorite quotes from the materials for this course was: “There can never be a real conflict between faith and reason, since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, and God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth” (Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith).

 

--Janet (Apr 14, 2020)

We will strive to actively listen and acknowledge each other's stories, fears, hopes, and beliefs, even when we might disagree. We will work to foster dialogue to promote diversity and pluralism in our communities and world.
 
"Hear me, all of you, and try to understand." (Mark 7:14)
 
I grew up in a family that had a lot of opinions, which was fine as long as they basically agreed with Mom and Dad’s.  As my world broadened, I became aware of other points of view.  This did not have to be threatening.  It was interesting and made me carefully examine my own views.
 
Nursing school was a gift.  I learned how to communicate, not just speak.  My prime directive at the time: “Communication is everything.  All problems start with communication.”  Just when I think I have it figured out I discover I have not even started.
 
Then I had to learn how to teach.  I had to learn how to communicate so someone would understand and retain what I was trying to share with them.  Now listening is everything.  The respect it gives the other person is so empowering.  People are good.  They have the power to solve their own problems.  By listening and helping when needed we all can come closer to God.  My prime directive now is: “We love each other and work together.”
 
Each of us has a little bit of the truth.  Like the blind mice trying to describe an elephant (God) by feel.
 
Walking this path is a humbling experience.  I have a long way to go.
 
-Alice
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Solidarity:
the Catholic Social Teaching principle that we as human beings are all part of one human family. It is not the “vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortune of so many people, both near and far.” (St. John Paul II) but to actively love and strive for their dignity. However, there are nearly 7 billion people and to practice solidarity, I must first see their brothers and sisters in Christ as they are and not who I want them to be. To do so, I must listen and respect all voices.

 

So I read memoirs to know other’s stories. Stories provide insight, nuance, complexity; and connection. It is a wonderful way to acknowledge other’s stories, fears, hopes, dreams, and beliefs across divides of time, language, place, culture, and any other difference. There are hundreds of stories of the human experience waiting to be read and understood.

 

Variation is key. The author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned of the “danger of a single story”; that without diversity in stories not only is much about the human experience lost and limited, but stories become only about “the other” and limit solidarity.

 

Through these stories, I hear the stories of those I will never meet and lives I will never live. In Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive, Stephanie Land told me about the isolation, shame, and difficulty of poverty. Dr. Kay Redfield Jemison spoke eloquently of her bipolar disorder in An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. In Dream of Trespass, I learned about life in a Moroccan harem in the 20th century, destroying all preconceived notions I had about family life in a harem.

 

The most valuable and most difficult is faithfully reading stories of those I disagree with on a fundamental level with an open heart and mind. There are stories of conversion away from Christianity, like The Butterfly Mosque, a writer’s story of conversion to Islam. There are stories of those who are vilified, like This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Dr. Susan Wicklund, who opened my eyes to the complexity of abortion in America.

 

My responsibility to understand to practice solidarity does not end when I close the book. Reading is merely the tool to be a better citizen and neighbor through greater understanding of the world and its people. Additionally, Christianity dictates to speak the truth at all time, but before speaking, I must know the truth.

 

I will never stop reading and sharing what I learn, for it is a little way I can listen and respect all voices, a way to honor the dignity of the human person.

 

--Jena (February 23, 2020)

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Our fears come from the history of who we are and those experiences we have lived and endured; our hopes and beliefs are formed from the dreams we hold on to, and grow.  We carry these stories close to our hearts, share with our children and are important for our future.  Stories are personal, unique to the individual and tell of identity.  Shared stories can unite us, and give common ground.  Common ground is a starting point for discussion, for getting to discover our sameness.  Given that truth, how can we disagree?
 

I find myself in a position where telling my story requires the emotion of speaking from the heart while reliving the moment.  I would prefer the objectivity of “detached attachment”, either for the safety of protecting privacy or the convenience of being an observer.  My story is a reflection of my culture, “me” as an individual with a “learned” set of expectations, and a belief in the beauty of cultural diversity.  That I have an understanding of cultural diversity or multiculturalism is in contrast to the reality of a society in need of cultural competency.  A lack of knowledge is a deficiency of experience.  And yes, the word racism can be used, some would not like to hear how they could be tainted as a racist, and discussion is hesitant, or guarded.  We automatically assume or expect to be accused and we become defensive.  I am reluctant to share feelings or ideas, not because I’m shy but rather because this discussion has occurred so many times before in other settings and the question is whether or not personal feelings or experiences are communicated and heard by the other (listener).  Unfortunately, I have an attitude best characterized as “been there, done that, so what’s changed?” 
 

 I tend to be impatient, and I find it difficult to accept an ignorance of “cultural knowledge”.  I do believe we need to talk, to share, and to be willing to tackle the discussion of diversity and pluralism with honesty and bravery, patience and empathy, courage and tenacity.  I may disclose things difficult to hear and uncomfortable to say, I may question your intentions and be disappointed with a lack of progress. 
 

I am aware efforts are being made by participation in Just Faith groups, Building Cultural Competency Workshops or other programs sponsored by trainers for intercultural communications.  More needs to be done, should be done.  A willingness to experience the challenges of cultural sensitivity is the beginning.  How do we sustain the effort?  Finding and supporting opportunities for dialogue needs to be identified and encouraged. 
 
-Brenda (March 8, 2019)
We will strive to replace fear with facts when it comes to public and private discussions about immigrants, refugees, ethnic and religious groups, racial diversity, and other related issues.
 
"Anyone committed to the truth hears my voice." (John 18:37)
 

When I was young I read the book by Leon Uris, Exodus: a Novel of Israel.  I was taken with the dramatic migrant story of the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people after WWII.  As with all stories, for many years I didn’t know there was another story behind the Exodus and the newly formed State of Israel, a story of 750,000 resistant Palestinians who were killed or displaced from their homes by Jewish Zionist groups and forced into refugee camps.

 

I was raised to believe that persons from other religions don’t have the same rights and dignity before God as Christians.  With Muslims in particular, I found them exotic at best and not to be trusted at worst.  Along with this belief system inevitably comes the conscious or unconscious belief that ‘they’ are not as good or worthy as I am.  The notion of America First has been around since the founding of our country – for white Christian Americans.

 

Our Lady of the Lake is a member of Kairos Puget Sound Coalition, a network of Christian congregations and organizations in the Puget Sound region working for justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land.   As a member of the Board for this organization, I have come a long way from the young person awe-struck by the Exodus.

 

In the news Palestinians, as a whole, are portrayed as a terrorist group with the sole intent of destroying the State of Israel.  I’ve come to learn another side of the story concerning the Palestinian people.  Muslim and Christian Palestinians seek the same rights and privileges afforded to the Jewish population in Israel.  On the news I hear that Israel is a democratic nation – but for whom?  Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow.  With a certain amount of disbelief and grieving, I have had to come to terms with a different ‘truth’ regarding Israel and the Palestinians that is not simple and one-sided.  I didn’t want to believe Israel, the people of the Holocaust, were just as capable of exclusivity and racism as I was.

 

In Catholic social teaching all are made in the image of God and have dignity worthy of my respect.  This year for Lent, I feel a strong tug to pray and fast (beyond giving up chocolate) and to experience how the sacrifice of fasting strengthens my relationship with God, clarifies what God wants of me, brings me in solidarity with the poor and hungry, and calls me to find the truth underneath my relationship with those who are not part of my world view.  May God continue to give me a change of heart to see all life in the light of the Gospel message of love, reconciliation, and peace.

 

--Linda (Mar 10, 2019)

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When I sat down to write this piece, I felt uncomfortable. I am very aware that there is only so much I can say as a white woman and during this time it is extremely important to listen to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People of Color) voices. I feel embarrassed by my lack of knowledge and effort before this call to action that has so horrifically both inspired and shaken many in our community. However this is exactly why I wanted to express my thoughts, as someone who is working to listen, learn and act. My Instagram and Facebook feeds are currently flooded with information about Black Lives Matter and demonstrations happening across America. I have created this artificial environment because the algorithms that social media platforms use help reinforce my bubble of like-mindedness. There is also a small set of posts touting the opposite opinions. The frustration of seeing people I know spout ideas I cannot rationalize makes me want to shut them out of my online circle. But in doing so, I will push myself further into an echo chamber of my own opinions. Unfriending or unfollowing someone with different views is not the answer. For a while I wasn’t sure if posting on social media was performative allyship/activism. I dipped my toe in by resharing a post with a link to a petition demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. An old friend reached out and thanked me for sharing and said she too would reshare it on her own platform. With that small action, someone else may see the petition who would not have beforehand. Now if I see a piece of information that educates me I share it with my followers, too. Even if
just one person reads it and it makes them stop and think, this is a small step in their own anti-racism journey. Circulating knowledge, understanding and fact checking opposing opinions are important steps in educating ourselves.

 
Racism was not a topic regularly discussed with my close friends. Both of my roommates are white and racism is rarely an acknowledged part of our everyday lives. The systemic racism in our society has led us to believe that we are not racist, but this is not the same as being anti-racist. The three of us have committed to reading  Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi divides people up into three categories: segregationists, anti-racists and assimilationists. The majority of people fall into the third category. “You can be someone who has no intention to be racist, [who believes in and fights for equality,] but because you’re conditioned in a world that is racist and a country that is structured in anti-black racism, you yourself can perpetuate those ideas” (Kendi). Every week we read three chapters and have set aside time on Tuesday nights to discuss our thoughts and realizations from the week. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. There are so many articles, documentaries, podcasts to consume that there is no excuse to be ignorant.


I have a lot of privilege as a white woman. I have never had to worry about the police mistreating me. I have a good job. I am young and healthy. I believe that these privileges should be used to help the Black Lives Matter movement and sentiment. When I first considered attending marches, I was concerned. As a white woman, was it my place to protest? Could I be hurt in the process? But as a petite white woman, I am also less likely to be hurt by police. Since I am a part of the problem, I should be actively working to become a part of the solution. Rallying behind members of the Black community, adding a voice to the demands for justice and equality is crucial to making change. We still live in a world where white voices
often make more of an impact and so I need to use mine to change that. 


I am not perfect. I am still learning. There are many things I do every day that are influenced by the systemic racism that I have been complicit in for far too long. But now is time for change. We are called as Christians and as children of God to act. We cannot let our privilege allow us to be bystanders. This is a lifelong journey and we must get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

 

-Rosie

We will live our belief that all people are made in God's image, affirm diversity as a gift, blessing, and opportunity for our nation, and reject racist, xenophobic, homophobic and religious prejudice.
 
"Anyone who says 'My love is fixed on God', yet hates another, is a liar." (1 John 4:20)
 
While taking “senior citizen” classes to keep my brain stimulated I learned of Literacy Source.  I signed up to be a volunteer tutor and have found that experience to be very rewarding and challenging.  How marvelous that my brain could be learning while helping others.
 
Literacy Source provides free learner-centered basic education to low-income adults in the Seattle area.  They help the 1 in 6 adults in Washington State who are lacking the basic literacy or language skills necessary for self-sufficiency.  Students there are so enthusiastic and eager to learn.  Classes are offered in basic math, reading and writing; English for Speakers of Other Languages; workplace basic skills; basic digital literacy and computer skills; GED and U.S. citizenship prep; conversation classes and more.  Over 300 volunteers offer their time to help the students succeed.  And lucky for me - Literacy Source is located in NE Seattle.
 
I signed up to volunteer wherever the need was greatest.  A lot of training is offered -and required – before tutors start working with students.  After training I was asked if I would like to work with a student who was in the U.S. citizenship prep class.  I worked with her two evenings a week for 18 months.  Her dedication to achieving her goal was amazing.  She worked full time, had high school age children, attended class two nights a week and met with me 2 nights a week.  Her ability to speak and read English was a barrier for her when we started.  I was shocked to discover that she did not know how to spell her name.  Together we came up with a method that helped her understand the required basics – and then she quickly learned the material.  Her self-confidence grew substantially.  I don’t know who was more excited when she passed the exam and was sworn in as a U.S. citizen – her or me!
 
One evening she said something to make me think she believed I was a paid employee of Literacy Source.  She was shocked when I explained that a volunteer does not get paid.  She had lived in the U.S. for 25 years and could not imagine that anyone would volunteer their time to help someone like her.
 
I encourage everyone to consider volunteering at Literacy Source.  Volunteers do not have to have teaching credentials or experience.  Enthusiasm and the desire to help are all that is needed to start.  The gift of your time can make a difference for an entire family – for generations to come. Literacy Source
 
-Mary 
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My father’s grandparents were Mormons. They had converted to the new faith in Scotland in the 1840s. It was a time of disruption when the Industrial Revolution was mechanizing calico printing, the family’s artisan trade, making it ever harder to make a living. Just at that time, Mormon missionaries arrived, preaching that God had given the world a new prophet, Joseph Smith, and that his successor, Brigham Young, was building a kingdom in the West to which God’s chosen were gathering to prepare for the millennium, the end times. 
 
In the early 1850s the converted family made the hard seven-month journey to Utah by sailing ship and covered wagon. But when they arrived, it was not the heaven on earth they had longed for. Far from it. They soon realized that they had arrived during a fanatical period. The family began to doubt, but to doubt was dangerous: some neighbors were murdered simply because they had lost their faith and tried to leave for California. Frightened, the family asked the U.S. Army for help in escaping Utah. The army gave them a military escort half way across Nevada and out of danger. From there they went on to California.
 
Soon there were no more Mormons in my family. Nevertheless I had inherited their story along with a prejudice against the Mormon religion. With a degree in history, I set out to discover why they had converted and what led to their disillusionment. I began making research trips to Salt Lake City to their genealogy library and then the Church Archives. The latter was a scary place, in the headquarters building of the church. But they had the best material—diaries of the family’s contemporaries, tithing records, membership records, and on and on. I told the archivists what I was doing, and to my surprise they were welcoming and helpful. Later a friend told me they were delighted to have an outsider interested in their history. 
 
I joined the independent Mormon History Association (MHA) and was eventually asked to be on their executive board. Over the years I wrote a number of papers that were published. No one treated me like a “damned apostate,” as Mormons called many who left the church in the 19th century. Ultimately, my book about the family’s experiences was published (and even won an award). That led to being asked to co-edit another book about early disgruntled Mormons.
Twenty-five years have passed since I met my first Mormon historians. I feel called to be a Catholic presence among them. A Franciscan priest who teaches history at Siena College near Albany, New York, also attends the annual MHA conference. Over the years, two or three other Catholics have turned up, and some Mormons have become good friends. In time, we friends—Catholics and Mormons—gave up our prejudices as we saw the sincerity of each other’s belief. And so we have learned that God is God over us all and cannot be confined to any one religion.
 
-Polly
We will advocate for immigrants, refugees and asylees and their families, reject mass deportations of immigrants in our communities, and seek a comprehensive and humane national immigration policy. We will work to bring those here out of the shadows of fear to places of sanctuary and safety.
 
"I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35)
 
My family is Irish to the core. Throughout my childhood I heard the story of my great grandmother's immigration to the United States in steerage - "in the bottom of the boat" - at the age of 16. She never set foot in a boat or large body of water again. She never saw her parents or Ireland again. I have often wondered if I would have had the courage to immigrate as she did. Although the Irish were called a variety of unpleasant names and were often unable to find work that provided a living wage, they had one big advantage over many of today's immigrants - the color of their skin. Once our brogue was lost, we Irish melted into the crowd.
 
A young Hispanic woman cleaned house for us a few years ago. I soon learned she was married to a U.S. citizen and they had a toddler. She was delightful - always upbeat and positive, sharing stories about her child. I finally found the courage to ask if she had a green card - adding that her response was inconsequential to me and she certainly did not have to answer. After a brief hesitation she said they had never had the funds to pay for the immigration process. So, with the help of a small inheritance and donations from friends and family, I began that immigration journey with her. I had no idea how difficult it would be - emotionally and financially.
 
She arrived in the U.S. at the age of 15. She had been living with her baby sister and stepfather in Mexico while her mother cleaned houses in the U.S. A coyote was hired to bring her here when her mother learned that her stepfather was molesting her. She told me that she walked through the desert over the border for several days - with a couple bottles of water and tuna fish. To this day she does not eat tuna fish. She arrived in Washington State speaking no English and with very little education - and graduated from U.S. high school a couple years later.
 
I was surprised to learn she and her family were homeless. They had been evicted because she did not have a Social Security number. She asked me why people hated her because her skin was brown. She did not have a driver's license or auto insurance - no money for that. Her vehicle was falling apart. One snowy day she slid on ice and landed on a bush. A police officer came by to help - and arrested her since she had no ID or license. I learned all about bailing someone out of jail that day. I testified in court on her behalf - and she got a license and insurance. She told me if she is deported she will not take her beloved child with her. She does not want her to live in such poverty. Luckily for me my great grandmother never had to even consider making that choice.
 
Her application for U.S. residency was submitted almost 3 years ago. We were relieved and so excited when she received her green card last Tuesday. I hope that future generations of her family will remember and cherish her courage and determination just as my family remembers my great grandmother.
 
--Mary (October 12, 2019)
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During the month of May, 2021, I travelled with another Holy Names Sister to San Antonio and then Laredo, Texas, to become a Catholic Charities volunteer, helping to welcome and support asylum seekers, mostly from Central American countries, who had travelled through Mexico to the U.S., seeking a way out of desperate poverty and constant violence.

 

By being available to interact with the 1,800 young men, ages 12-17, at San Antonio’s Freeman Coliseum, and relieve “pod leaders” for a break, we – along with many other volunteers – were able to help make the two cavernous rooms, containing 900 cots each where the boys spent their days, be a joyful “beehive” of activity rather than a strict “detention” atmosphere.

 

In Laredo at the La Frontera family shelter the border patrol daily dropped off from 20 to 120 families deemed “vulnerable”, most often a mother with a toddler, after they had received papers allowing them to stay in the US until their appointment for their asylum appeal would come up. Here again, we, with other Sisters and persons from other faith communities, could “fill in the cracks” – providing food, diapers, a change of clothes, a travel snack pack, a shower pack, a freshly made-up mattress, so that the very stretched staff could focus on screening for Covid and then helping these families arrange for transportation to get to with whomever or wherever they had connections. So as volunteers there, we helped make families’ 24-hour stay an “oasis” and place to “take a breath” rather than a “processing center.”

 

I learned many things. One was about what makes a situation “welcoming” and personal. I certainly became more aware of the overwhelming challenges of the migration to the U.S. caused by the equally overwhelming issues related to global wealth inequality and climate change. What I participated in during May did not really address the big challenges. All it could do was - for these asylum seekers and the staff working with them – provide an experience of personal welcome, rather than institutional management.

 

At the Freeman Coliseum, upbeat music played in loudspeakers, boys wove bracelets, did origami, played Uno with volunteers. Volunteers were available to escort kids to their case worker appointments, practice a few English words (or learn a few Spanish ones!), just smile and comment on something. We could look for a lost laundry bag or join them in prayer at a Marian shrine with the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe filled with paper flowers. We could relieve the “pod supervisor” for a break. Yes, each child had a number badge and none was allowed to leave until the case workers had thoroughly vetted the family member, relative, friend or stranger who would sponsor them (to avoid trafficking or abuse). But the time of waiting became a time of welcome, even of some happiness and friendship-building, a time when they encountered kindness and compassion. I hope this atmosphere of welcome will be remembered by each boy, and make a difference in his future.

 

The family center was different in that each family’s time there was so short. But again, there was “welcome” because of enough people (and generous donations) to receive more than efficient help with phone calls and travel arrangements. It was a “welcome center” rather than a “service counter.”

 

I believe that my experience in Texas was in an “island of sanity,” and I realize that this is what Jesus did in his time on earth as well.

 
--Linda (June 2021)
We will work to alleviate poverty, homelessness, and mass incarceration and support and protect the marginalized and most vulnerable in life. We will foster a culture that supports and honors life, God's greatest gift to us, from conception to natural death.
 
"Blest are you poor; the reign of God is yours." (Luke 6:20)
 
I grew up with a very Catholic household (though my father was not Catholic), and my early life was grounded in Catholic education.  I envisioned Jesus as having been poor himself from the very start, and that in his public life, healing and teaching he repeatedly lifted them up.  In my life-long Jesuit education and association I was also exposed to being “a man for others,” as we learned it in my time at St. Louis University High School.
 
I had certain imaginings about what that meant, including several periods of time thinking about applying to the Jesuits, especially with such an outstanding role model and mentor as Fr. Jack Morris.  My chance meeting with him at Marquette University brought me into direct service as a Jesuit Volunteer, starting with teaching at Copper Valley School in Alaska, with students from villages over a broad mission area.  From there to a year at St Paul’s Mission in Hay’s, Montana, and then two wonderful years working as support to the growing network of JVs all over the West.
 
It’s always been about God’s holy ones, the “anawim.”  When my JV service ended, I came to Seattle, married Joan (‘74), and began to work at Immaculate Conception parish in the Central Area, spending nine years with the food bank and emergency services, community organizing, and generally interacting on many levels with a wide variety of interracial groups, within and around the parish area.  Joan and I also moved into the Catholic Worker community on Capitol Hill, providing short-term emergency housing in our home and a weekday supper at the Family Kitchen (now the Cathedral Kitchen).
 
In 1983 Joan and I were faced with a decision; our family of five could no longer manage its boundaries, and we needed to move.  I eventually found a spot on the staff of St. Bridget parish – along with the position of Catholic Chaplain from the parish to Seattle Children’s Hospital.  I instantly “knew” it was what God wanted for me to do!  I had the honor of accompanying blessed people - children, of course, and their families – often in times of intense hardship and pain… listening for how to be God’s hands and words… for 34 years!  It is very humbling to be used as an instrument of God’s grace and mercy.
 
Now, after my retirement in 2017, I have become more directly involved in Peace and Justice work, primarily through efforts with Pax Christi.  However, I am pleased to say that last December, I also began working 8 hours a week as a “host” at God’s Little Acre, a weekday day-shelter for the homeless in Lake City that is run by the Mennonite Church.  Once again, it’s something that God waved in front of my eyes that just grabbed me – I wasn’t looking for it.  Challenging again!
 
-Denny (February 10, 2020)
We will work to replace misogyny with mutual respect. We name sexual harassment and sexual assault a sin and a crime. We will pursue gender fairness and equality in our Church, homes, workplaces, schools, communities and political systems. We will promote positions of leadership for women in our Church.
 
"God who is mighty has done great things for me." (Luke 1:49)
 
I was a WIC nurse certifier at the North Seattle Family Center in 2001.  We had a large Islamic group due to our location near the Idris Mosque.  After 9/11 I noticed that our Muslim women were not keeping their appointments.  We generally were not seeing them at the Family Center.  I finally asked one of these women who did come what was going on.  She told me of many incidents where women on the street wearing a hijab were jeered at by passing cars and spit at right in Lake City.  These women were told not to go to the mosque because it was not safe on the streets near the mosque.  These women were essentially prisoners in their homes. This was a very fearful time for everyone but epically for them.

I talked with the director of the family center about what we could do to help.  We thought that we could offer the family center as a safe place to meet for these women to gain support from us and each other.  We called a few of the women who were more acculturated to US society and seemed to be natural leaders.  It was decided to put out a flyer for an initial meeting to see what their needs were.

From this small beginning the Muslim Sisters group was formed.  I was not a part of the group but I did heavily promote it in the area. They elected leaders, had monthly meetings and set a list of priorities.  One of the first was to learn to use makeup.  One of the members was a Cosmetologist so that went well.  Another priority was swimming.  They found a time at the Meadowbrook pool when they could have female lifeguards and put up paper to screen the windows.  This was good exercise for them and got their children familiar with the water and hopefully led to swim lessons.  This was reported in the Times at least once.

This effort spread throughout the county with groups forming at other family centers particularly in the Sea-Tac area.  To the best of my knowledge this group is still happening in some form in the area. I am very happy to have had some part in starting it.

-Alice (9/19/21)
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Raising up Catholic Women Writers-Justice and Peace Committee members are gathering a list of women writers whose voices resonate deeply in us.  Please feel free to suggest additions to this list: 
  • Rose Marie Berger: Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World, Berger, Rose Marie (Ed.); Butigan, Ken (Ed.); Coode, Judy (Ed.); Dennis, Marie (Ed.); Bending the Arch: Poems.
  • Dr. Beatrice Bruteau: The Grand Option: Personal Transformation and a New Creation; Radical Optimism: Practical Spirituality in an Uncertain World; God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World
  • Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS: Hunger for Hope: Prophetic Communities, Contemplation, and the Common Good
  • Joan D. Chittister, OSB: Heart of Flesh; A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God; About Joan Chittister: Joan Chittister: Her Journey from Certainty to Faith, Tom Roberts.
  • Dorothy Day: The Long Loneliness; Loves and Fishes: The Inspiring Story of the Catholic Worker Movement; The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg; About Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother, Kate Hennessy
  • Maureen K. Day, Ph.D.: Catholic Activism Today, Individual Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice
  • Ilia Delio, OSF: Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology and Consciousness; Catholicity in an Evolving Universe
  • Kathleen R. Fischer: Autumn Gospel: Women in the Second Half of Life; Christian Foundations: An Introduction to Faith in Our Time; Winter Grace: Spirituality and Aging; Inner Rainbow: The Imagination in Christian Life; Promises to Keep: Developing the Skills of Marriage
  • Elizabeth A. Johnson, CSJ: She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse; Quest for the Living God; Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love
  • Jeanne L. Porter, Ph.D.: Leading Ladies: Transformative Biblical Images for Women’s Leadership
  • Dr. Cecelia A. Ranger, SNJM: Everyday God: Reflections on Liturgy and Life; Pilgrimage to a Soul Place
  • Joyce Rupp, OSM: The Cup of Life: A Guide for Spiritual Growth; The Star in my Heart: Experiencing Sophia, Inner Wisdom; Dear Heart Come Home: The Path of Midlife spirituality; May I Have This Dance?
  • Olga M. Segura: Birth of A Movement, Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church
  • Mother Teresa: Do Something Beautiful for God: The Essential Teachings of Mother Teresa 365 Daily Reflections, by Mother Teresa and Matthew Kelly; No Greater Love, by Mother Teresa and Thomas Moore
  • Sr. Miriam Therese Winter, Medical Mission Sister: The Singer and the Song: An Autobiography of the Spirit; The Chronicles of Noah and Her Sisters: Genesis and Exodus According to Women; Defecting in Place: Women Claiming Responsibility for Their Own Spiritual Lives; Out of the Depths: The Story of Ludmila Javorova, Ordained Roman Catholic Priest 
We will honor and support the family in all its forms and will strive to further policies that keep families intact, nurtured and valued in our country and in the world.
 
"Go home to your family and make it clear how much God in his mercy has done for you." (Mark 5:19)
 
As a Pediatric Nurse Specialist for over 40 years, I worked primarily with families of high risk infants and toddlers. Now that I am retired, I continue to find ways to interact and share my accumulated knowledge of Infant/toddler development and parenting strategies for families with young children.
 
Some of my most enjoyable experiences have been spontaneous encounters with parents. Here at OLL, I often approach new parishioners who have infants. For parents with their first new baby, I’ll ask three questions: “How are things going for you? Do you have family or close friends nearby who can give you support? Are you getting enough rest?” Depending on their answers, I’ll refer them to our OLL Mom’s Group, hosted by St Anne’s Guild. I also suggest Infant-Toddler Parenting classes through the Seattle College System.
 
As “rain birds” going south to California for 4 to 5 months, I found a charitable organization that has a residential home for Pregnant and New Teenage Mothers. Many of these young Teens have been in abusive situations and/or have been homeless. I met with them, informally, for 1-2 hours after high school. Topics on Infant Care or care of their own bodies were generated from the teen’s questions to me. Many times their focus was about themselves as teenagers and the social happenings at school that day. I had to address their own concerns as teens before I could share with them curriculum on Infant Care and Development.
 
A couple of years ago, I had a great opportunity to minister to a mother with Twins. Roxanna and her husband are new friends of ours from San Diego. I helped support her with her first child. Two years later, they were expecting Twins and had moved to Texas. As a baby gift, I offered to come to Texas for two weeks after the babies came home from the hospital. When I arrived there, I realized I had THREE babies! The 2 ½ year old decided that she wanted to be a baby again. This included drinking from a bottle, staying in diapers, and sleeping in her old baby crib. Roxanna and I decided to divide the day into shifts. She had all three cribs in the Master Bedroom. She fed the babies during the night. I took the shift from 7:00am to 3:00pm while Roxanna slept in a remote part of the house. We worked together as a team from 3:00-10:00pm doing laundry, getting dinner, feeding the twins and playing with the 2 year old. What an exhausting two weeks! I am their official “Auntie” and have a trip planned to Austin this coming February.
 
My most recent Parent Education episode occurred at a resort on a tiny island in the Adriatic Sea. I met a family from England with a 6 month old and a 2 ½ year old. After my initial three questions, the parents continued to ask for advice and information for the next hour. The mother was so thankful to share her concerns that she wanted to make an appointment to meet me again later that day. Unfortunately, my Tour Group had other plans.
 
After both planned and unplanned encounters with young, new parents, I am always grateful that I had the opportunity to share and to bring the principles of living Catholic Social Teaching to them.
 
--Mary Margaret (Jan 11, 2020) 
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Our home church, St. Cronan Catholic Church, is located in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s the parish where Jeff and I were married and where we baptized our oldest son. It’s a beautiful little welcoming justice-based church that nurtured growth and supported all who entered its doors. I was recently thinking about one of the members that we all knew and supported through her complicated life. You see, she had a severe mental illness that provided her with magnificent mental escapes and storylines.
 
Each Sunday during announcements, anyone in the St. Cronan congregation who had an announcement to make would line up along the wall toward the front of the church. Sometimes the line stretched all the way to the back of the church ... and sometimes the line included our friend. She would call for support from the church as she announced her adventures - including winning races in the recent Olympics or calling out a variety of nonsensical needs and aberrations. The parish as whole cheered her on in many ways. We cheered lovingly for her Olympic wins when she needed it most and supported her big and small successes during times of clearer normalized thinking. The community checked in on her, providing simple things like meals or assistance with healthcare appointments. She was an invaluable piece of our lovely quirky parish family.
 
On the day that we baptized our baby, 21 years ago, our family and godparents had hands around the baptismal font in the water as the priest’s blessing took place. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed an extra pair of hands slipping into the font. There she was, joining in on the baptism of our son. It was easy to make room for her in our circle as we moved into blessing our son and welcoming him into the Catholic faith. We loved bringing him into a parish full of experts on supporting and protecting the most vulnerable in our community. This same sense of supporting community and individuals is how we eventually found our way to OLL, where the actions and volunteer hours of parish members make a difference in the lives of those all around us.
 
--Karen (Feb 25, 2020)
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We are hard-wired to support and nurture our families. And strong families, full of nurturing and care, are indeed the first ingredient to healthy human development. I see this in my own life as a wife, mother and grandmother, as sister to seven siblings and their families, as cousin within a huge, close-knit clan, and as auntie to scores of their children and grandchildren.  There is no role I cherish more than the nurturing, loving one I play with my family.
 
But if the care of our relatives defines the limit of our nurturing, we can only lay claim to a confining, clannish version of this value. I believe this tenet of Catholic social teaching invites us not only to nurture our own families, but to embrace and nurture the development of the entire human family. This need comes into sharp relief today with the awareness of our country’s yawning racial and cultural divides. Going the distance will require great skill.
 
What could possibly be more important to instill in our kids than the social and emotional skills they need to build a kinder, more humane world? Over forty years of research shows that Social and Emotional Learning (or SEL) supports the development of healthy human relationships and acts as a preventative for a wide range of social problems. Competencies like empathy, social problem solving, emotion management, responsible decision making, conflict resolution—these skills build a child’s capacity to treat others with respect and compassion, take another person’s perspective, work collaboratively to solve complex problems, and become resilient in the face of life’s challenges. These skills lend us the ability to listen with open ears, learn with humble hearts, and stand up courageously for social justice for all members of our human family.
 
Children first learn social-emotional skills when raised in a healthy, nurturing home. But school is typically where children first experience community (or don’t) with people whose economic, racial and cultural backgrounds do not always mirror their own.  Increasingly, educators have come to embrace the value of SEL as the key foundation for academic learning, and to support the development of a kind and caring school community. Today, more than ever, I hope to see SEL become the cornerstone for our children’s education. I believe teaching our kids these skills offers our best hope for a safer, more equitable and peaceful world.
 
To learn more about the research behind Social and Emotional Learning, visit http://casel.org
For families and educators seeking resources to support children's social and emotional development, particularly while facing the challenges of COVID 19, visit http://www.secondstep.org/covid19support
 
-Joan (June 8, 2020)
We will support the right of productive work for all people, including a fair, safe, and inclusive workplace, a living wage, and the right to organize.
 
"Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me." (Matthew 11:29)
As stewards of creation, we will work to preserve and protect the Earth from climate change. We will advocate for the poor and marginalized who bear the brunt of environmental devastation and injustice.
 
"Learn a lesson from the way the wild flowers grow." (Matthew 6:28)
 
My profession is that of a scientist who studies Earth as a system, with a particular focus on climate change. From the scientific perspective, human evolution and human-induced climate change are well-established facts. No doubt exists on these points. Fortunately, as a Catholic Christian, there is no conflict between science and my religious beliefs at the present time. Nonetheless, in my professional life I do not bring up my faith. Recently, though, I was asked to join a panel discussion about the relationship of faith and science as they address issues of the environment, which would form a couple of episodes of Challenge 2.0*. This made me uneasy, because I wanted to identify both as a scientist and a Christian, and that would be a new thing for me to do publicly. I generally never mix science and religion in my professional life. It would have been possible to present the scientific facts without bringing up my own religious beliefs, but I decided to reveal myself as both a scientist and a person of faith. I thought about the relationship of science to Scripture, which is an issue with some Christians who think that the Bible should be interpreted literally. The same people also tend to deny science, evolution and human-induced climate change. I wanted those people to hear me.
 
The first thing for a Christian to ask is, what would Jesus say about the relationship of faith, science and the environment? In answer to a lawyer who asked for the greatest commandment, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well.” Mt 22:36-40. Based on current understanding of how the world works, and our role in it, I have to conclude that our ‘neighbor’ includes all creation, all life, present and future. Scripture tells us about God and our relationship to God, and what God expects of us. God’s creation is also a book of revelation that can teach us about who we are, where we came from and how we should behave. The Universe was made to follow methods and rules that can be understood by using the brains God gave us. God speaks to us through nature, too. The messages we take from God’s inspiration of Scripture and God’s creation should be in harmony.
 
After I had said what I know about climate change, the moderator asked me whether I saw a conflict between science and religion. I answered with a story. You are a person of faith. God appears and is willing to entertain questions. Do you ask, “How did you bring the universe into existence? Was it a big bang followed by 14 billion years of evolution, or was it the Garden of Eden, the man, the rib and the woman?” I don’t think this is the first question that most people would ask in that situation. You might be more likely to ask, “How do you feel about me?”, “What do you want me to do?”, “How do I have a right relationship with you?” Those questions are what Scripture is about. Another panelist was an Episcopal bishop who is very concerned about the environment. He said he believes that God’s creation of life by billions of years of evolution is a beautiful thing to contemplate and take inspiration from.
 
--Dennis (Jan 26, 2020)
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Even before I came to OLL, I had an interest in practices and common efforts aimed at caring for Earth Our Common Home. My first memory of recognizing how important environmental action is happened in college when I learned that all the fish in Lake Michigan were dying. I recalled seeing this lake as a child, amazed that this lake was so big I couldn’t even see the other side. How could this much water possibly be polluted to kill all marine life? (The lake since has been cleaned up.)
 
Since I have come to OLL, my commitment has grown stronger. Some of this I can trace to having somewhat regularly attended the Wedgewood Meaningful Movies series. I am so grateful to Bill Lavelle and others in OLL Parish and other area churches for supporting this effort, as it has helped me greatly to understand on a deeper level systemic issues in many areas.
 
With relation to Creation, I have been prompted through the film series, the witness of others and the reading I have done to stretch myself to use public transportation almost exclusively (and use my feet!) and to enter into an almost meatless menu. While sometimes it is inconvenient – and often I am inconsistent – I have discovered that I can actually enjoy the challenge (and occasionally freedom!) of finding new routes, doing things car-free, and of exploring new recipes, not foregoing taste and pleasure in my choices.
 
On a common level, working through the OLL Justice and Peace committee, I try to help out when there are efforts around Earth Day to raise consciousness in us all. I work to make better known the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment (NWCRI) which does shareholder action with fossil fuel industries, timber and paper corporations, etc. Elsewhere I’ve participated in some “book clubs” related to reading Pope Francis’ amazing encyclical, “Earth Our Common Home.” In my residence, I am grateful that my Sister-companions are willing to also consider the earth in what we cook for each other and how we purchase.
 
For folks who love to read, I have greatly enjoyed, and felt strengthened in my ecological commitment, by reading the novel, The Overstory, and by reading an article by Father Richard Rohr, titled “Creation as the Body of God.” Bill McKibben’s books (Eaarth; Falter) are sobering calls to action. I’ve also been moved by Zero Hour, a youth Climate Change organization started a couple of years ago by a passionate 10th grader at Holy Names Academy where I work, who is addressing this cause with amazing passion and energy, and, I would say, desperation. I am becoming convinced that we all MUST quickly learn about and act on this planet-threatening issue.
 
--Linda
Christ calls us to be peacemakers. We will reject war and all forms of physical, psychological, emotional, and cultural violence, abuse, and neglect. We will seek to reduce gun violence and disarm weapons of mass destruction and work towards merciful, fair, and effective solutions that preserve life and promote justice. When we protest in our streets, schools or workplaces, it will be with dignity, discipline, and non-violence.
 
"Peace is my farewell to you; my peace is my gift to you." (John 14:27)
 
The concepts of peace and justice have always been important to me. For that reason, I became a teacher at Immaculate High School in 1978. I was attracted to the school because of the Peace and Justice program that permeated the curriculum. At the time Immaculate was a 75-year-old school owned and operated by the Holy Names sisters.  Each department was committed to including peace and justice concepts into their lesson plans.

Each year there was a particular peace and justice theme. One year the theme was nuclear disarmament. We would have a full week to teach on this theme. At the conclusion of the week there was an assembly. One of the guest speakers at this event was George Zabelka, the Chaplain for the Enola Gay. He had said Mass for the crew before they dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Afterwards he and two other priests traveled to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and were horrified by the destruction.  George then became deeply involved in the anti-nuclear movement.

Other themes that were addressed at Immaculate included World Hunger, Multicultural Awareness and Racism. Teaching at this amazing school was enlightening for me. I began to become more involved in the issues. Unfortunately, Immaculate High School closed in 1981 due to lack of funding. The graduation that year was a sad event because all the students had to say good-bye to their beloved school.

Therefore, I had to seek employment.  I got a call from a friend who was familiar with the principal of Eastside Catholic High School. He said that he knew that Dick would be open to bringing peace and justice ideas to ECHS. I decided to pursue this option. I interviewed for a position in the theology department and was hired.

Though peace and justice concepts did not permeate the curriculum, each year one of the concepts was addressed. Together with my partner Pat we established a theme for the year and created Peace and Justice days. During the week preceding the day, teachers would prepare the students according to their subject matter. The themes we addressed were World Hunger, Disabilities Awareness, Elderly Awareness, Multicultural Awareness and Nuclear Disarmament.
 
Mary Lila
 
"Each of us has received God's favor in the measure in which Christ bestows it." (Ephesians 4:7)
 
We encourage all OLL parishioners and students to write a one-page personal story reflecting on how they feel called to live out one element of the OLL Justice and Peace Committee Statement of Commitment and Action to Living Catholic Social Teaching. The tone should be positive, respectful and reflective of Catholic values.