Catholic Charities U.S.A. priorities include refugee resettlement, immigration policy

From The Jesuit Review:

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two top Catholic Charities USA leaders outlined some of the short-term and long-term goals for the organization and its affiliates throughout the country Feb. 3 during the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington.

Catholic Charities is in the midst of a five-year strategic plan to more sharply identify areas where it believes it can make a difference, said Brian Corbin, executive vice president of member services.

One of those areas is refugee resettlement and immigration policy. Corbin said it has worked with Migration and Refugees Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to place 16,000 refugees across the country in collaboration with local Catholic Charities affiliates that have located sponsor families to help resettle those refugees.

It also has partnered with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Corbin said, on issues surrounding the continued migration of Latin Americans to the United States.Catholic Charities is in the midst of a five-year strategic plan to more sharply identify areas where it believes it can make a difference, said Brian Corbin, executive vice president of member services.Tweet this

Affordable housing is another of Catholic Charities USA’s strategic priorities. “In your own town, you probably know there are housing issues,” Corbin said.

“Catholic Charities as an institution is the largest nonpublic provider of housing after the government. We are there. We will continue to be there,” he said to applause. Catholic Charities’ commitment extends to shelters, domestic-violence shelters, transitional housing and permanent housing, he said.

Health care is a key priority for Catholic Charities, according to Corbin. “Forty percent of health care is about biology and genetics,” he said. “Sixty percent is social determinants — what happens when you leave the hospital.” The question, he said, is “How do we help people stay out of acute-care need?”

He told the story of one man who had been largely homeless. “In one year he had 62 ER (emergency room) visits. Sixty-two!” Corbin said. That man was placed in transitional housing furnished by Catholic Charities, he added, “and you know how many ER visits he had the next year? One.” That alone saved the hospital $5 million in emergency room costs, Corbin said.

Lucas Swanepoel, Catholic Charities USA’s vice president for social policy, cautioned against complacency setting in due to what he called a “booming” economy.

“We’re not done addressing poverty,” Swanepoel said, noting that 12.3 percent of Americans still live in poverty in the United States, or 39.7 million people. Moreover, 27.4 million live without health insurance.

“Forty percent can’t cover a $400 emergency expense,” Swanepoel said, “Thirty-five percent have nothing saved for retirement. Seventy-eight percent say they live paycheck to paycheck. And there are zero places — zero — where a minimum-wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment.”

He added, “Having a car that needs repair is enough to drive a family into poverty today.”

As the economy changes, Swanepoel said, the people who seek assistance from Catholic Charities changes. More than half make their first visit, he added, “because they’re hungry.”

In the early part of 2019, those making their first visit seeking such help were more likely than not to be federal government employees who had been furloughed due to the five-week government shutdown, according to Swanepoel. And these were “people with dream middle-class jobs,” he said.

The furloughed-employee phenomenon was not the first time Catholic Charities had to react to federal policy, just the latest. “We also saw it with the family separation last summer,” Swanepoel said. “We have a government policy that leads to dramatic consequences.”

Catholic Charities “stepped into the fray with the help of the (Catholic) bishops’ conference,” he added. “We took on that cost ourselves.”Catholic Charities USA, which has 166 diocesan affiliates, was one of several Catholic organizations co-sponsoring the Feb. 2-5 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

He cautioned, “Even when we think things are going well, it’s those people left behind that we have to remember.”

Catholic Charities USA, which has 166 diocesan affiliates, was one of several Catholic organizations co-sponsoring the Feb. 2-5 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

The annual gathering is organized by the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development in collaboration with seven other USCCB departments and 15 national Catholic organizations.

The event brings together hundreds of Catholic social ministry leaders in the U.S. to address to current domestic and global challenges relating to poverty, war, injustice and the promotion of human life and dignity.

Statement: Pax Christi USA Denounces US and Russian Withdrawal from Nuclear Weapons Treaty

From Pax Christi USA:

One day after the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Russia followed suit. Pax Christi USA believes neither the United States nor Russia should withdraw from any treaties which limit the number of nuclear weapons possessed by any nations. In particular, we note that since 1987 the INF Treaty kept both the United States and the then USSR, now Russia, from developing and deploying certain intermediate range nuclear weapons.

Substantive progress on nuclear disarmament concerns all countries. Accordingly, in 2017, the United Nations General Assembly approved the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and that same year, Pope Francis unequivocally condemned possession of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are immoral, and any government which moves to develop a nuclear arsenal or add to its existing nuclear arsenal should be condemned.

A global majority of states are providing leadership for the elimination of nuclear weapons, yet the U.S. and other powers are modernizing their nuclear arsenals instead. Abandoning the INF will intensify this already alarming trend.

Therefore, Pax Christi USA urges the U.S. and Russia to return to the treaty and to begin new arms reduction negotiations as soon as possible.

Pope Francis Says, “Good Politics Is At The Service of Peace”

FromPax Christi USA:

Yesterday was the World Day of Peace, and Pope Francis offered the following message:

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE
FRANCIS
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE 
52nd WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2019

Good politics is at the service of peace

1. “Peace be to this house!”

In sending his disciples forth on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk 10:5-6).

Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.[1]The “house” of which Jesus speaks is every family, community, country and continent, in all their diversity and history. It is first and foremost each individual person, without distinction or discrimination. But it is also our “common home”: the world in which God has placed us and which we are called to care for and cultivate.

So let this be my greeting at the beginning of the New Year: “Peace be to this house!”

2. The challenge of good politics

Peace is like the hope which the poet Charles Péguy celebrated.[2] It is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence. We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.

Jesus tells us that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In the words of Pope Paul VI, “to take politics seriously at its different levels – local, regional, national and worldwide – is to affirm the duty of each individual to acknowledge the reality and value of the freedom offered him to work at one and the same time for the good of the city, the nation and all mankind”.[3]

Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.

3. Charity and human virtues: the basis of politics at the service of human rights and peace

Pope Benedict XVI noted that “every Christian is called to practise charity in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis… When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have… Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family”.[4] This is a programme on which all politicians, whatever their culture or religion, can agree, if they wish to work together for the good of the human family and to practise those human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity.

In this regard, it may be helpful to recall the “Beatitudes of the Politician”, proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, a faithful witness to the Gospel who died in 2002:

Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.

Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.

Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.

Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.

Blessed be the politician who works for unity.

Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.

Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.

Blessed be the politician who is without fear.[5]

Every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, is an opportunity to return to the original points of reference that inspire justice and law. One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.

4. Political vices

Sadly, together with its virtues, politics also has its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions. Clearly, these vices detract from the credibility of political life overall, as well as the authority, decisions and actions of those engaged in it. These vices, which undermine the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony. We think of corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.

5. Good politics promotes the participation of the young and trust in others

When the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals, the future is compromised and young people can be tempted to lose confidence, since they are relegated to the margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future. But when politics concretely fosters the talents of young people and their aspirations, peace grows in their outlook and on their faces. It becomes a confident assurance that says, “I trust you and with you I believe” that we can all work together for the common good. Politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and abilities of each individual. “What could be more beautiful than an outstretched hand? It was meant by God to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill (cf. Gen 4:1ff) or to inflict suffering, but to offer care and help in life. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hands too can become a means of dialogue”.[6]

Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home. Authentic political life, grounded in law and in frank and fair relations between individuals, experiences renewal whenever we are convinced that every woman, man and generation brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies. That kind of trust is never easy to achieve, because human relations are complex, especially in our own times, marked by a climate of mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers, or anxiety about one’s personal security. Sadly, it is also seen at the political level, in attitudes of rejection or forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need. Today more than ever, our societies need “artisans of peace” who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.

6. No to war and to the strategy of fear

A hundred years after the end of the First World War, as we remember the young people killed in those battles and the civilian populations torn apart, we are more conscious than ever of the terrible lesson taught by fratricidal wars: peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear. To threaten others is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity. This is why we state once more that an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace. Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace. Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.

Our thoughts turn in a particular way to all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights. One out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups. The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.

7. A great project of peace

In these days, we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in the wake of the Second World War. In this context, let us also remember the observation of Pope John XXIII: “Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others”.[7]

Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings. But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects:

– peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”;

– peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say;

– peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.

The politics of peace, conscious of and deeply concerned for every situation of human vulnerability, can always draw inspiration from the Magnificat, the hymn that Mary, the Mother of Christ the Saviour and Queen of Peace, sang in the name of all mankind: “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly; …for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever” (Lk 1:50-55).

From the Vatican, 8 December 2018

Pax Christi USA Bishop President Responds to Covington Confrontation with Native American Elder

From Pax Christi USA:

Pax Christi USA Bishop President John Stowe, Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, KY, in an opinion article in the Lexington Herald Leader responds to the confrontation between Covington High School students and Native American elder, Nathan Phillips. The article is entitled “Wearing a Trump hat? That’s not exactly pro-life.”

In the nonviolent world that we hope for, pray for, and envision, hate is unthinkable, and we are grateful for a Bishop that is using his voice as an authority of the Catholic Church for truth and good.

Bishop Stowe sufficiently gives pause and reflection to all the elements at play in this display of racial ignorance and tension, and he calls us to a deeper understanding of human dignity. This is the kind of leadership we need from our Bishops, and standing up for a politics of love is the message that we must bring to our communities, parishes, and Pax Christi USA groups.

We thank Bishop Stowe for not only pointing out how structural racism has worked itself into the fabric of our nation but for also pointing out how the over emphasis on abortion has indeed become disconnected from other issues of human dignity and the affirmation of all of life.

I encourage you to approach Bishop Stowe’s article with the Pax Christi USA philosophy of Prayer-Study-Action.

Bishop Stowe’s article: https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article224984305.html

In peace with continued hope,

Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA

From PCUSA: The Long, Brutal U.S. War on Children in the Middle East

A related article from PCUSA

Here is an article originally from The Progressive and Pax Christi USA

by Kathy Kelly

On November 28, sixty-three U.S. Senators voted in favor of holding a floor debate on a resolution calling for an end to direct U.S. Armed Forces involvement in the Saudi-UAE coalition-led war on Yemen. Describing the vote as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia and the Trump Administration, AP reported on Senate dissatisfaction over the administration’s response to Saudi Arabia’s brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi last month. Just before the Senate vote, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called current objections to U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia “Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on.”

The “caterwaul” on Capitol Hill reflects years of determined effort by grassroots groups to end U.S. involvement in war on Yemen, fed by mounting international outrage at the last three years of war that have caused the deaths of an estimated 85,000 Yemeni children under age five.

When children waste away to literally nothing while fourteen million people endure  conflict-driven famine, a hue and cry—yes, a caterwaul —most certainly should be raised, worldwide.

How might we understand what it would mean in the United States for fourteen million people in our country to starve? You would have to combine the populations of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and imagine these cities empty of all but the painfully and slowly dying, to get a glimpse into the suffering in Yemen, where one of every two persons faces starvation.

Antiwar activists have persistently challenged elected representatives to acknowledge and end the horrible consequences of modern warfare in Yemen where entire neighborhoods have been bombed, displacing millions of people; daily aerial attacks have directly targeted Yemen’s infrastructure, preventing delivery of food, safe water, fuel, and funds. The war crushes people through aerial bombing and on-the-ground fighting as well as an insidious economic war.

Yemenis are strangled by import restrictions and blockades, causing non-payment of government salaries, inflation, job losses, and declining or disappearing incomes. Even when food is available, ordinary Yemenis cannot afford it.

Starvation is being used as a weapon of war—by Saudi Arabia, by the United Arab Emirates, and by the superpower patrons including the United States that arm and manipulate both countries.

During the thirteen years of economic sanctions against Iraq— those years between the Gulf War and the devastating U.S.-led “Shock and Awe” war that followed—I joined U.S. and U.K. activists traveling to Iraq in public defiance of the economic sanctions.

We aimed to resist U.S.- and U.K.-driven policies that weakened the Iraqi regime’s opposition more than they weakened Saddam Hussein. Ostensibly democratic leaders were ready to achieve their aims by brutally sacrificing children under age five. The children died first by the hundreds, then by the thousands and eventually by the hundreds of thousands. Sitting in a Baghdad pediatric ward, I heard a delegation member, a young nurse from the U.K., begin to absorb the cruelty inflicted on mothers and children.

“I think I understand,” murmured Martin Thomas, “It’s a death row for infants.” Children gasped their last breaths while their parents suffered a pile-up of anguish, wave after wave. We should remain haunted by those children’s short lives.

Iraq’s children died amid an eerie and menacing silence on the part of mainstream media and most elected U.S. officials. No caterwauling was heard on Capitol Hill.

But, worldwide, people began to know that children were paying the price of abysmally failed policies, and millions of people opposed the 2003 Shock and Awe war.

Still the abusive and greedy policies continue. The U.S. and its allies built up permanent warfare states to secure consistent exploitation of resources outside their own territories.

During and after the Arab Spring, numerous Yemenis resisted dangerously unfair austerity measures that the Gulf Cooperation Council and the U.S. insisted they must accept. Professor Isa Blumi, who notes that generations of Yemeni fighters have refused to acquiesce to foreign invasion and intervention, presents evidence that Saudi Arabia and the UAE now orchestrate war on Yemen to advance their own financial interests.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, Blumi states that although Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman wants to author an IPO (Initial Public Offering), for the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, no major investors would likely participate. Investment firms know the Saudis pay cash for their imports, including billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry, because they are depleting resources within their own territory. This, in part, explains the desperate efforts to take over Yemen’s offshore oil reserves and other strategic assets.

Recent polls indicate that most Americans don’t favor U.S. war on Yemen. Surely, our security is not enhanced if the U.S. continues to structure its foreign policy on fear, prejudice, greed, and overwhelming military force. The movements that pressured the U.S. Senate to reject current U.S. foreign policy regarding Saudi Arabia and its war on Yemen will continue raising voices. Collectively, we’ll work toward raising the lament, pressuring the media and civil society to insist that slaughtering children will never solve problems.

Annual Retreat Report 2018

The report from the annual retreat of 2018

Pax Christi Maine held our annual retreat on the weekend of November 17-18, 2018 at St. Augustine Church Hall in Augusta.  The retreat, titled “Becoming Peace: Continuing Our Nonviolent Journey in Turbulent Times” included prayer, silence, individual reflection and small/large group sharing. 

In preparation for the retreat, participants were asked to watch a TED talk video given by Valarie Kaur titled “Revolutionary Love.” Ms. Kaur is acivil rights activist, lawyer, faith leader, and founder of the Revolutionary LoveProject which promotes love as the foundation of our lives and our politics.

The Saturday session was facilitated by Jack Seery, an experienced retreat leader and member of both PCM and Unity of Greater Portland faith communities. Through scripture reflection, silence and a series of questions intended to elicit our response to the turmoil of our times, Jack guided the group to explore our journey of faith and practice of nonviolence. 

Throughout the day, we prayed the Prayer of St. Francis led in song by Ann O’Brien on guitar. A lovely prayer corner designed by Georgia Kosciusko added to our contemplative practice. Before supper, people joined in a prayer service coordinated by Mary Ellen Quinn which included a candlelight ritual where social concerns of our times were named and held in prayer. We also remembered deceased members of PCM as well as others who have inspired peacemaking and the practice of nonviolence in our lives. 

In the evening, Denny Dreher presented on the role of Compassion both toward ourselves and others. We discussed and shared how we demonstrate and live out Jesus’ teachings on love and compassion. 

Many Pax Christi members gathered on Sunday to participate in Mass at St. Augustine Church celebrated by Rev. Mike Seavey, parochial vicar, and then gathered for a final discussion over brunch. We will continue to gather for ‘mini retreats’ in small regional groups throughout the coming year.

Sincere thanks to all members who assisted in set up of the space, who planned, implemented and participated in our fall retreat. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration

 January 14, 2018
My name is Mary Ellen Quinn and I’m here representing Pax Christi Maine, the Catholic Peace & Justice Movement. Pax Christi is an international movement with membership across the globe. The four priorities of Pax Christi are: the spirituality of nonviolence & peacemaking; disarmament & demilitarization; economic & interracial justice; human rights & global restoration. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is for me, a powerful teacher of nonviolence in action, a courageous follower of Jesus, a social justice warrior wielding active nonviolence as his
instrument…an instrument of love and reconciliation.
Rev. King challenges us to be a force for change. His urgent call rings out with as much relevance today as it did over 50 years ago. It is a call for interracial justice, a call to be sisters
and brothers all, a call for equality, a call to love one another as God loves us. Racism has been called a radical evil, America’s original sin, a soul sickness. It is indeed a spiritual illness. Like endless war, racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of who we are in this country. It is part of our culture – pervasive and resilient, often blatant and obvious; frequently insidious and unconscious – always with the power to wound, to divide and to dehumanize. The national office of Pax Christi USA in D.C. has a vibrant anti-racism program which addresses personal, institutional and systemic racism. In Maine, Pax Christi has a membership that lacks racial diversity, the great majority of our members are Caucasian. Being white and a Christian in this culture demands of us a moral accountability. We cannot merely believe racism is wrong or believe that we are not racist because we benefit daily from being white in this society. Pax Christi members have worked to address racism, first and foremost, by examining our own biases and prejudices. We work to raise awareness related to ‘white privilege’. The willingness to self- examine and discover how we contribute to the pervasive culture of racism is an important step in healing wounds. Another effort undertaken has been to educate ourselves about the role of the Catholic Church. In the slaughter of Native peoples through the Doctrine of Discovery. Examining our complicity in the horrendous policies and practices that led to Native genocide and the theft of their lands compelled Pax Christi to renounce the doctrine and its principles publicly. As part of Campaign Nonviolence, Pax Christi, along with the Peace & Justice Center and over 35 local organizations, annually co-sponsors End Violence Together, a public action intended to
bring attention to the inter-relationship of all issues of violence and oppression. Being able to connect the dots is critical to finding nonviolent solutions and building a culture of peace and
nonviolence. Because racism is a spiritual illness, I believe strongly that our faith communities have a significant role to play. We must continue to come together to speak out, to oppose poverty, war, domestic violence, gun violence, militarism, hatred …. most of which have racism at their
core.

As Rev. King did, we must ensure that the message in our spiritual communities, churches, mosques and synagogues is that racism and all forms of violence are directly opposed to the
most basic tenant of all faith traditions, that we are all created in the image and likeness of God and are called to love our neighbor as God loves us. As my niece would say, this is not merely a suggestion but a mandate! Each of us as individuals and all of us as a collective can take steps to recover from the ‘soul sickness’ of racism. A final word from Rev. King, “Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”
Thank You.

2017 Annual Retreat Report

Report of the Pax Christi Maine Annual retreat in November of 2017

Pax Christi Maine’s annual retreat was held on the weekend of November 3-5, 2017 at St. Monica’s Hall
in Augusta. Those present on Friday evening were inspired by a video presentation and discussion of
Pope Francis’ plea in recent talks for a “revolution of tenderness”; the need to value all peoples and our
earth and to follow Jesus’ teaching on love, compassion and nonviolence.


On Saturday we were lead in exploring the main theme of the retreat, “Touching Wounds and Hope in
Today’s World – the Sacred Awaits Us” by Jean Stokan, Coordinator for Immigration and Nonviolence for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in Washington, DC. Over 30 people gathered from all over the state to hear Jean’s presentation on her work with people living on the margins in Latin America, Appalachia and inner city Washington, DC. Through moving images, music, stories and her powerful poetry, Jean brought us closer to people who experience the violence of abject poverty, endless war, oppressive immigration policies, and other human rights violations. Through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, particularly the ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’ and ‘Solidarity’, we reflected on how Jesus is being crucified today and how we can work to change the oppressive structures of violence in our communities and across the globe.
Beginning with her own experience, Jean emphasized the importance of ‘breaking people’s hearts’ with stories of people’s harsh and painful realities in order to enable the hearers to truly feel the plight of others, experience their pain, and subsequently make significant change through actions and policies to
improve lives. Having lived in El Salvador for many years, and worked with Salvadorans in the U.S., Jean was inspired by Archbishop Oscar Romero’s understanding of “The Political Dimension of the Faith”, particularly as presented in an address he made at the University of Louvain in February, 1980, shortly
before his assassination. While his immediate context was the Church in El Salvador in that time of crisis, these words are relevant to the role of the Church at any time, in whatever place: “We are either at the service of the life of Salvadorans or we are accomplices in their death. And it is here that we are faced with the most fundamental reality of the historical mediation of faith: either we believe in a God of life or we serve the idols of death.”
Jean encouraged us to “keep breaking people’s hearts” with stories and to touch the hope that is found in the growing grassroots movements of people who are seeking through nonviolent means their recognition as human beings and their rights as citizens, especially members of groups who have been
repressed and denied their dignity historically – and to find ways to support them. She urged us to remain alert to the hope and opportunities for change offered by Pope Francis and the positive view of him throughout the world.


Many Pax Christi members gathered on Sunday to participate in Mass at St. Augustine Church celebrated by Rev. Frank Morin, pastor and Pax Christi member, and then gathered for a final discussion
over brunch. Pax Christi Co-Coordinators Denny Dreher and Mary Ellen Quinn, PCM Council member Mary Kate Small, and others provided retreat materials, organized meals and hospitality, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas graciously assisted with hospitality and local transportation for Jean Stokan in Maine.