Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

Jesuit Highlights Consequences of Budget Cuts for Native Americans

Jesuit Father George WinzenburgThe New York Times recently reported that sequestration cuts are hurting Native American communities, including the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where the Jesuits have served since 1888. Jesuit Father George Winzenburg, president of Pine Ridge’s Red Cloud Indian School, spoke to The New York Times about the sense of resignation that has set in on the reservation.

“It’s one more reminder that our relationship with the federal government is a series of broken promises,” Fr. Winzenburg said. “It’s a series of underfunded projects and initiatives that we were told would be funded to allow us to live at the quality of life that other Americans do.”

According to reservation officials and residents, the poverty trap that has plagued the reservation for generations will likely be exacerbated by recent developments in federal policy. When budget cuts went into effect on March 1, many programs were exempted that benefit low-income Americans, but virtually none of the programs aiding American Indians were included on that list, reported The New York Times.

“Imagine how people feel who can’t help themselves,” said Robert Brave Heart Sr., executive vice president of Red Cloud Indian School. “It’s a condition that a lot of people believe is the result of the federal government putting them in that position, a lot of people are set up for failure. People have no hope and no ability whatsoever to change their fate in life. You take resources that they have, that are taken away, it just adds to the misery.”

Read the full story at The New York Times website.

Jesuit Serves the Homeless through Ignatian Spirituality Project

Fifteen years ago, Jesuit Father Bill Creed cofounded the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP) in Chicago to offer retreats to an often-overlooked group: the homeless. Fr. Creed and Ed Shurna, director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, have been helping homeless people build community, find hope and transform their lives through ISP ever since.

“Many outreach programs for the homeless try to address basic attributes such as food, clothing, shelter and employment,” said Fr. Creed. “However, when addiction is in play – and it often is for the homeless – there can be no real transition from poverty until the individual person has the inner resources to make different choices … Ignatian Spirituality believes that facing our brokenness begins with facing our truth and encountering the unconditional love of our God who actively labors with us and desires for us ever greater freedom.”

Fr. Creed recently shared about his own spiritual journey while conducting the retreats. Fr. Creed recalled that a man from Canada once showed up two days early at a workshop for which he had not registered, demanding free housing, a free workshop and a special diet. Fr. Creed became very angry with the man in front of the staff.

In response to Fr. Creed’s reaction, one of his colleagues commented on his lack of hospitality for a man who was “poor not only materially but psychologically and socially” and suggested Fr. Creed was “not only angry but also fearful” and out of touch with his own internal poverty.

Looking back, Fr. Creed said, “It was that event which began to lead me to listen inwardly, to my own brokenness, my vulnerability, to what was below my anger and fear. I am poor and that is a gift … We are invited to follow Christ’s poor, either in spiritual poverty or actual poverty.”

Since it began in 1998, ISP has grown into a national network of more than 400 lay volunteers who help homeless men and women through retreats and spiritual companionship, and a new survey shows that the project is helping. The ISP Outcomes Survey, a two-year study conducted in collaboration with a number of organizations and professionals, has confirmed that people who participate in ISP programs experience long-term internal and external change. According to the results, participants experienced a statistically significant decrease in loneliness and improvement in housing and employment six months after a retreat.

Fr. Creed said that feeling as though one is listened to, believed in, respected and trusted can be transformative in a homeless person’s life, and ISP can provide such listening presences. “We are all called to do this wherever we are,” he said.

For more information, visit ignatianspiritualityproject.org. [Wisconsin Province Jesuits]

Jesuit Accompanies Santa Clara University Law Student in Border Protest

DREAMERs protest

Photo courtesy KBI.

Lizbeth Mateo, who is registered to attend Santa Clara Law School in California this fall, took part in a risky border protest on July 22 with other activists who had all been brought illegally to the U.S. as children. The protest started when Mateo and two others flew into Mexico and then tried to reenter the United States by crossing the border. Other immigrants and a large group of supporters, including Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which works on migration issues on the U.S.-Mexico border, joined them.

The young people, who call communities across the United States their home, presented themselves to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the at the Morley Gate in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Fr. Carroll, along with three other staff members of KBI and other religious leaders, gathered near the border with the nine immigrants.

“I and other religious leaders accompanied them and went through the gate with them as part of the action. At the same time, there were people gathered on the U.S.  side of the border in support of the DREAMers and calling for an end to the deportations,” Fr. Carroll said.

The young men and women walked to the official pedestrian crossing point and requested humanitarian parole to rejoin their family members and communities within the United States.

Their request for humanitarian parole was denied, and Mateo and the other immigrants are now being held in Eloy, Ariz., while their case is considered. According to Fr. Carroll, it’s not clear how long they will be there, and he said they are planning to apply for asylum.

Mateo and other protesters say that those already expelled from the country have been lost in the current immigration debate. Deportations have increased from just under 300,000 in 2007 to nearly 400,000 in 2011, according to federal statistics.

“We should not forget the people who have been deported,” Mateo said.

Fr. Carroll said, “The protest has drawn attention to the effect of deportations on families and on young people. It causes separation of family members and it draws attention to the urgency to passing immigration reform that unites families and gives young immigrants the opportunity to realize their dreams. We’re asking that they be released to their families in the U.S.”

The three immigrants have put themselves at risk by returning to Mexico voluntarily, reports The Los Angeles Times. Under an immigration package backed by the Obama administration, young immigrants deported could apply to return to the U.S. Those who leave voluntarily would not have that option, immigration experts say.

According to the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which organized the protest, some of the protesters, including Mateo, are now on a hunger strike until they are released.

Jesuit Father Michael Engh, president of Santa Clara University where Mateo plans to start law school in the fall, released a statement of support for the protesters, calling Mateo “one of our courageous incoming law students” and saying he had “contacted our local representatives requesting their assistance with this matter on behalf of our student.”

Earlier this month, 20 presidents of U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities signed a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging for comprehensive immigration reform as the country’s immigration system continues to separate families and “trap aspiring Americans in the shadows.” [The Los Angeles TimesKino Border Initiative]

Pope’s Letter to Jesuit Is Affirmation to Those on the Margins

Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy

Photo via The Tidings.

This past Holy Thursday, Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy, executive director of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, organized Jesuit novices to wash the feet of minors at a Los Angeles juvenile hall, following the lead of Pope Francis, who washed the feet of detainees at a juvenile detention center in Rome. The young people at the center in Los Angeles also wrote letters to the pope, and — much to his surprise — Fr. Kennedy received a response from the pope.

In the letter, Pope Francis wrote: “I was very moved to read the letters you sent to me from the young people of Juvenile Hall and to know that we were close to one another in spirit during the washing of feet on Holy Thursday evening.”

Photo of Pope Francis' letter to Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy.

Photo via The Tidings.

“When I read the letter from the pope, many feelings flowed through me,” Fr. Kennedy wrote in a reflection in The Tidings. “I thought of what Dorothy Day said when working at the margins: ‘To work with the poor is a harsh and dreadful love.’ Most of the time it feels like you are losing. Being at the margins brings its own isolation.”

Fr. Kennedy noted that in a simple letter, Pope Francis “affirmed that the choice to kneel down with a population that society has neglected is where we find God’s presence. With his gesture, he points to where we should serve. Rather than running away from those who are not healthy, we should run toward those who need healing.”

Fr. Kennedy said he realizes a letter will not change the day-to-day workings of being in marginalized places, but “it is a small sign of affirmation from the man at the head of our church. It embodies the Gospel’s message of forgiveness and healing, and it affirms that this is where God truly is.”

Read Fr. Kennedy’s full reflection at The Tidings website and watch the Ignatian News Network video on the letter below.

Jesuit Honored for His Work Creating Affordable Housing in Boston Area

Jesuit Father Fred EnmanJesuit Father Fred Enman became a Jesuit because of a calling within his calling. When he realized during college that he wanted to be a priest and practice poverty law, he says, “It became clear to me that the obvious thing to do was to join the Society of Jesus.”

On April 21, Fr. Enman was honored for his work with the poor when he received the Madonna Della Strada Award from the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) New England. As executive director and founder of Matthew 25, Fr. Enman and his volunteers rehabilitate abandoned houses in the Boston area to create affordable rental housing for low-income people. In addition, Fr. Enman serves as assistant dean and chaplain of Boston College Law School.

The idea for Matthew 25, which has rehabbed 11 houses since 1994, came to Fr. Enman while he was reading “The True Church and the Poor,” in which Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino wrote that Christians must make Gospel values real in the lives of the poor. The theologian singled out Matthew 25, which proclaims that people shall be judged on whether they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, visited the imprisoned and welcomed the stranger in their midst.

“I was in my room and I was so moved by what I was reading that I put the book down and prayed about it,” recalled Fr. Enman. “Jesuits are encouraged from time to time to make a resolution at the end of a prayer, so what I resolved was that if I had a chance someday to make Matthew 25 concrete, I would do so.”

Matthew 25 houseIn 1988, Fr. Enman had that chance when he created a pastoral project for a class and proposed Matthew 25, with a mission to provide food and housing relief. Through yard sales, Fr. Enman raised money that went to food relief efforts here and abroad — and a small amount was set aside to start up Matthew 25. He continued to raise money while teaching at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and by 1994, Matthew 25 was able to buy and rehabilitate its first abandoned home in Worcester.

Since then, Matthew 25 has restored nine more houses in Worcester and one in Boston, renting them to the poor at affordable prices. Fr. Enman said that most of the work has been done by volunteers, including students from Holy Cross and Boston College, parish and youth groups from local churches and the IVC.

Fr. Enman said his work with Matthew 25 has enabled him to see a “great connection between a Jesuit vocation and the ethical values that are developed in Scripture.” He added, “It’s very practical what we are called to in taking care of the basic needs of human beings in terms of food, shelter and clothing. Everyone in the community has a responsibility.”

For more on Matthew 25, visit its website; for more on Fr. Enman’s award, visit the IVC website. [Excerpted from a story by Catherine Walsh that will appear in the upcoming issue of JESUITS magazine]