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The measure of a civilization….

16 Oct

hands-holding-bowl-of-rice-thumb12974611Mahatma Ghandi stated that “the measure of a civilization is in how it treats its weakest members.”  What happens when a civilization (a government) ignores its weakest and most impoverished members.  As I write this blog, we are commemorating the United Nations’ designated “World Hunger Day.”  We are also watching  our government in total gridlock attempting to prevent the destruction of a world economy.  There are concerns about what will happen to the stock market?  Will we lose more jobs? What about the poor?

On Tuesday, September 17, the Census Bureau released the 2012 statistics.  (You could try to verify this data through http://www.census.gov, but when I went to the site today it was closed due to the government shutdown. This analysis is from Reuters http://www.reuters.com)  The number of U.S. residents in poverty rose slightly to 46.5 million in 2012.  This includes 16.1 million children and 3.9 million seniors aged 65 and older.  The national poverty rate of 15% remained unchanged.

Although many of the number of jobs lost since the recession have been recouped (8 million), many of those jobs are in service industries that usually don’t pay well.

While the poor and working poor have been struggling to maintain the basic necessities of life, Congress has been shrinking the social safety net to reduce the government’s budget deficit.  Those citizens least able to afford it are being forced to suffer to reduce the budget. Yet those who have actually benefitted since the recession are left alone or given stimulus packages. The food stamp program has been reduced, so that recipients will have a reduction in their food stamps in November.  Food pantries and soup kitchens are fearful of the impact this will have on their already overburdened programs.

Pope Francis has made it clear where he stands. “Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?” …”

We know where Pope Francis stands.  We know where the original Francis of Assisi stood.  Let those in power know where we stand… with the impoverished members of our society… and we expect them to stand with us.

Amen.

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And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

20 Dec

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“Thus says the Lord: In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping!

Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:15)

We are all mourning for the children of Newton, Connecticut; the children of the southside of Chicago; the children of war.  It took me a while to write this, because I with you am mourning for those poor families.

There ,of course, needs to be a time of mourning. Then there needs to be a time of action.  The killing must stop.  These massacres are becoming way too frequent and sickeningly similar. The answers are not simple, but we need to start somewhere.  We cannot throw our hands up in despair and do nothing.

Do we really need assault weapons and the munitions that go with them to hunt?  When will we recognize that there needs to be access to care for mental illness?  We need to look at the violence being promoted through our media and video games. Adults need to take more responsibility to try conflict resolution rather than violence/war.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious sent out a response to the Newton Tragedy that includes some action steps.  (www.lcwr.org)

  • Let your elected officials at every level of government know that you favor responsible gun legislation.
  • Encourage congressional  leaders to support a federal ban on the sale, transfer, importation and possession of assault weapons and the munitions that go with them.
  • Ask for funding for robust care for those with mental illness.
  • Address the growing use of violence as a means of entertainment.

On December 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, there is a nationwide effort to remember the 20 children and six adults killed in Newtown.  Motherhouses, monasteries, churches and town halls are being asked to ring their bells at noon EST and pause for a moment of silence for those who have lost loved ones.

Together we can make this world a safer place for all of our children and with the followers of St. Francis we ask God to “Make me an instrument of Your peace”

Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

13 Nov

This is an old adage.  Yet with the introduction of “Fracking” as a way to increase the production of natural gas, our water tables may become polluted and make this true.

“Fracking” or Hydrofracturing is a way of use hydraulic drills to cut through shale rock and produce cracks around natural gas deposits.  4 to 7 million  gallons of water  are introduced for each fracking along with chemicals to force the natural gas to the surface.  It is hoped that this will make us more energy independent, but at what cost.  Corporations have been asked to produce lists of the chemicals that they are using for this process. This has not happened.  In addition to the water that may be polluted, water enters the atmosphere and comes back down as rain, snow, etc.  What pollutants are being put into our air.

Another concern is the potential of earthquakes as we drill into the earth. Research is just beginning to check on the connections between fracking and increased earthquake activity.

Educate yourself through the following websites  www.frack.mixplex.com/fracking, www.citizenscampaign.org/special features/hydrofracking-center.asp www.nrdc.org/energy/gasdrilling

You can join concerned people who encourage a ban on hydrofracking until technology has been changed to make it safer without toxicity.  Call on Congress to pass the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act this year.

Encourage the use of solar energy.  We know we need additional energy, but let us get it safely without ruin to our environment.

“Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.”  St. Francis of Assisi Canticle of Brother Sun

 

Why Were the Nuns on the Bus?

21 Aug

“He began to say to himself that to refuse what was asked by someone begging in the name of such a great King would be both a shame and a disgrace. And so he fixed this in his heart; to the best of his ability, never to deny anything to anyone  begging from him for God’s sake. This he did and with such care that he offered himself completely, in every way, first practicing  before teaching the gospel counsel: ‘Give to the one who begs from you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Mt.5:42)'”

From the Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano, The First Book

Sr. Simone Campbell and other religious sisters organized by Network, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, hopped on a bus to spread the news about budget priorities being proposed by Congress and how they impact the poorest of this nation.

Right now the United States is facing an increase in poverty.

According to the National Census Bureau in the year 2010 the following were the statistics on poverty in the U.S.

  • More than one in seven Americans – including one in five children – lived below the poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four)
  • The number of people at risk of hunger increased from 36.2 million in 2007 to 48.8 million in 2010 (according to Bread for the World www.bread.org)
  • Food banks in the United States saw a 46 percent increase in clients seeking emergency food assistance from 2006 to 2010.
  • One in seven Americans receive benefits from SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly food stamps)
  • Nearly half of SNAP participants are children. 8 percent are 60 or older.
  • 85 percent of SNAP participants have incomes at or below the poverty line.

At this same time, drastic cuts are being proposed (and in some cases passed) to cut safety net programs in our national budget.

Last year the House voted to cut SNAP by $127 billion — nearly 20 percent over ten years– and recommended turning the program into a block grant. Under a block grant, SNAP would give a set amount of money to states every year which would limit their ability to respond to increases in need.  In the past food stamps were considered an entitlement.  If you fit the criteria, you received food stamps.

Congress must renew the farm bill this year which includes nutrition programs like SNAP and assistance to Mothers with Children called WIC.  We are concerned that these will be targeted for cuts, when the need is so great.

So, the nuns organized by Network — www.networklobby.org –went out into the country to call attention to the potential draconian cuts to essential programs for the poor in this country. There are more cuts in proposed budgets (one called the Ryan plan), Pell grants, job training, etc.

For more information on the budget go to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities www.cbpp.org.

So let’s all Get On the Bus!!!

Celebration without Exploitation — human trafficking

14 Jul

by Sr. Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF

Director of Social Justice

They call it human trafficking.  It is slavery. It is our responsibility as Franciscans, Christians, human beings to do what we can to end this horror.

Human trafficking always includes recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person to be used for:

  1. Labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion resulting in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery;
  2. Sexual exploitation (physical, visual, verbal, etc.) in exchange for anything of value through force, fraud, or coercion; or
  3. Sexual exploitation of any kind  involving jobs
  4.  a person who is under 18 years old.

(United Nations’ and United States’ official definition)

Unfortunately, human trafficking has been recognized to occur during major sporting events through prostitution and hotel and other services. The Olympics are about to begin in London later this month.

“The Franciscan Federation (of which the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis is a member) has joined with Christian Brothers Investment Services, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, Fair Pensions, Franciscan Action Network and others in the fight to stop human trafficking at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games taking place in London from July 27 — August 12.” (Franciscan Federation Website www.franfed.org)

“We expect the IOC (International Olympic Committee)  going forward to incorporate clear guidelines on trafficking and slavery that include public reporting of results.  Our request is in line with the IOC’s Charter that includes support for environmental issues and sustainable development and with the requests made in our letters to companies,” said Rev. David Schilling, director of Human Rights, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Find more info at www.iccr.org/issues/subpages/olympics_home.php  Celebration Without Exploitation.

Is human trafficking a real problem?

  • In 2005, the Department of Justice reported there have been an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the U.S. since 2001 (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • In 2009, a University of Pennsylvania study estimated 300,000 youth in the U.S were at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses.(National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
  • 1.2 million children are being trafficked every year throughout the world; this is in addition to the millions already held captive. (UNICEF)
  • The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (UN)
Look for these and other signs of human trafficking:
  • Evidence of being controlled
  • Inability to move or leave jobs
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Fear or depression
  • No forms of identification

If you suspect trafficking or want more information contact:

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center

888-373-7888 (toll free)

or NHTRC@PolarisProject.org

Additional information can be found at

 www.stopenslavement.org

www.endslaveryandtrafficking.org/action

www.polarisproject.org

www.livesforsale.com