Archive for Faithful Citizenship

Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri: It’s Not Just for Lawyers

By Blake Heath, Chair of the Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri

Since September of 2011, I have had the privilege of serving as the chair for the newly formed Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri (YPB).  The goal of the YPB is to support the mission and programs of Legal Aid of Western Missouri through social events, fundraising initiatives, and community outreach efforts.  Many people are unfamiliar with the work that Legal Aid does or they assume that the organization is just a bunch of lawyers so there is no need or way for them to get involved.  The YPB hopes to spread the message of what Legal Aid does and to change the perception that the organization is just for lawyers.   Below is more information about the YPB and a brief description of some of the work we have done and will be doing in the future.

In December of 2010, the staff at Legal Aid put together a small focus group of various young professionals in the Kansas City area to explore ways Legal Aid could raise awareness about the mission of Legal Aid, recruit volunteers, and raise financial support.  Legal Aid recognized that older more established attorneys made up the majority of its volunteer and financial support base.  Legal Aid wanted to expand that base to younger individuals, and Legal Aid wanted to find support outside the legal profession.  After several more meetings, the YPB was officially formed to help Legal Aid recruit young professionals willing to further the mission of Legal Aid.

While Legal Aid’s primary purpose is to provide access to the legal system for clients who are normally shutout of the legal system, the work has a much deeper impact on our community.  For instance, Legal Aid is a leader in converting abandoned properties in the urban core of Kansas City into occupied, high quality housing.  Every year, their Economic Development team works with the City and other not-for-profit agencies to bring litigation that brings 80-100 abandoned properties up to code.  Legal Aid’s work in obtaining Protective Orders and divorces for hundreds of victims of domestic violence every year has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of stopping the cycle of violence.  And, every year they get hundreds of people who are permanently and totally disabled access to long-term, pro-active medical care by getting them onto Medicaid when their benefits have been wrongly denied or terminated.

To help support these programs and the mission of Legal Aid, the YPB has been active since its formation in September of 2011.  We have participated in the annual Party with a Purpose, held informational sessions where Legal Aid staff attorneys described their practice areas, assisted with the construction of a one-of-its-kind playground for children with disabilities, and participated in the Run for Justice 5K put on by the Lawyers Association of Kansas City.  In addition to these events, we will be sponsoring a charity bingo event this summer, we have tables for our members at the Legal Aid Justice for All luncheon, we will promote and participate in Legal Aid’s annual golf tournament, and in the fall we will travel to rural Lafayette County Missouri to volunteer with Legal Aid’s Migrant Farm Workers Project Monday Night Outreach.

If you would like to find out more about the YPB or any of our upcoming events, then please feel free to contact me at blake@boughlawfirm.com.  You can also find us on Facebook at Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri.

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Nuke Free Now plans weekend of action Aug. 3-6

Introducing Nuke Free Now

Information about the group from their group page on Facebook:

The mission of this group is to raise awareness of the true costs and
consequences of nuclear weapons production, nuclear energy, &
corporate profiteering. We are transforming the nuclear narrative and
inspiring a life-affirming future.

We of the Occupy New Mexico Movement, nukefreenow.org, and allied
organizations worldwide invite you to join our 4-day event to
transform the nuclear narrative in the public consciousness and
inspire a life-affirming future.

The event will take place August 3rd through the 6th (Hiroshima
Commemoration Day). Please join us in Santa Fe and Los Alamos, New
Mexico, or coordinate an event in your community to call for the end
of nuclear weapons production and nuclear energy, disarmament, clean-
up and remediation, peace and justice.

Over the weekend our event in northern New Mexico will include
educational workshops, inspiring speakers, celebrity activists, hard-
hitting films and music, large-scale non-violent direct action, a
march to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a hunger strike
(beginning July 16), and more.

It was in the small town of Los Alamos that the first atomic bombs Fat
Man and Little Boy were created, and from there sent to destroy
Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Forty-plus years after the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty was signed and with 5200 thermonuclear warheads
in our arsenal, LANL is still in the business of making bombs. We say
“business” because corporations like Bechtel and Lockheed-Martin are
profiting from the production of these genocidal weapons.

Carcinogenic runoffs from LANL contaminate hundreds of miles of the
Rio Grande, the drinking water source for hundreds of thousands of
people. Native American communities are closest and receive the most
contamination. Radioactive releases poison our air, water, and food
and cause disease. Huge forest fires regularly threaten the Lab,
including one last year and one in 2000 that came within a thousand
yards of setting ablaze 42,000 barrels of radioactive waste stored
under canvas canopies.

In our view, there is no starker example of economic disparity created
by the Military-Industrial Complex than Los Alamos County. Of our
nation’s 3,142 counties, Los Alamos county is among the richest, has
the highest income per capita, the lowest poverty rate in the nation,
and is tied for the lowest unemployment.

Yet it is surrounded by some of the poorest communities in the U.S.,
and LANL’s “contribution” to our economy has not kept New Mexico from
having the highest child poverty rate in the country.

We need your help! We know in our hearts that global cooperation and a
world of compassion is possible. Now is the time to create the
critical mass for disarmament and transformation. We are at the
tipping point.

You don’t have to come to New Mexico to make your voice heard. Any
Bechtel office or subsidiary, any University of California campus,
(which shares administration of LANL with Bechtel), or any nuclear
power plant, arms manufacturer, or public space is a perfect site for
local action in coordination with us and our brothers and sisters
around the world. We will help with material and logistics, and love.

In the coming weeks we will offer a tool kit with key talking and
organizing points both here and on our website.

Together we can create a global action to transform humanity’s
narrative and create the world of beauty that we know in our hearts is
possible.

For further information and to contact us go to:

www.NukeFreeNow.org

http://www.facebook.com/NukeFreeNow (Nuke Free Now on Facebook)

https://twitter.com/#!/nukefreenow (Nuke Free Now on Twitter)

http://www.facebook.com/groups/226519817418501/ (OSF LANL Working
Group on Facebook)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hunger-Strike-Los-Alamos-August-2012/310869175590442
(Hunger Strike Los Alamos 2012 on Facebook)

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The 2012 Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace is… Ruben Garcia

Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, has recognized the life and witness of Ruben Garcia, naming him the 2012 recipient of the Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award.  Pax Christi USA first gave the award to Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, in 1978 and has since recognized some of the most significant U.S. Catholic activists for peace and justice of the past 3 decades, including actor Martin Sheen; poet and priest Daniel Berrigan, S.J.; and Dead Man Walking author Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J.  Garcia is one of the founders and the current director of Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas.

During his career at Annunciation House, Garcia has personally welcomed more than 100,000 migrants to his home and community, putting into practice and personally embodying the radical hospitality that Jesus exemplified to the poor, the marginalized, and the excluded. In his nomination of Garcia, Scott Wright, author and biographer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, wrote that Garcia “teaches peace by embodying peace, welcoming the stranger, and inviting others to share in this community where the least have a place at the table. From the experience of welcome and hospitality, comes an awareness and a commitment to address the root causes of injustice that push migrants to flee from the political violence in their countries, or conditions of economic disparity that condemn their families to die in conditions of extreme poverty and misery.”

“PCUSA is pleased to be honoring Ruben Garcia with the 2012 Teacher of Peace Award. For more than 35 years, he has been an inspiring teacher of peace, exemplifying by his life witness the teachings of the Gospel and the spirit of the Beatitudes,” stated Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA. “Ruben’s faith continues to be an inspiring witness to the best of Catholic traditions, social teachings and practices.”

In addition to his work at Annunciation House, Garcia has welcomed and met with hundreds of delegations to the border, teaching by inviting them into the world of the poor and the migrant, and allowing them to see and hear firsthand the stories of immigrants.  He invites them to commit themselves to address the root causes that deny to the immigrant the justice that is due to them in their homeland and in the United States.

“Ruben’s commitment to the radical hospitality of Jesus, welcoming all to the table, with preferential option for migrants, teaches peace moment by moment,” stated Cathy Crosby, Pax Christi USA National Council member and chair of the Teacher of Peace committee. “The PCUSA National Council celebrates the opportunity to recognize Ruben’s many years of humble service.  We hope that the work of Ruben and Annunciation House continues to inspire others to work for justice and peace, as we each recognize the countless small ways we are called to build God’s kingdom here and now.”

The Teacher of Peace award will be presented at a special ceremony honoring Garcia in Washington, D.C. in September 2012.

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Lobbying Congress for a Faithful Budget

Note:  I participated in these days and was energized by the significant number of young adults who participated.  It give me hope for the future!  Jeanne Christensen, RSM

At the end of March, over 700 persons from many religious denominations participated in the 2012 Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community, and its recognized partners and allies, to strengthen Christian voices and to mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues.

The highlight of the three-day gathering was the release of a Faithful Budget. This promotes comprehensive and compassionate budget principles that will “protect the common good, values each individual and his or her livelihood, and helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.”

On Monday, March 26, EAD participants delivered the Faithful Budget to their Senators and Members of Congress, and lobbied for restoring economic opportunity, ensuring adequate resources for shared priorities, prioritizing human security, meeting immediate needs, accepting intergenerational responsibility, environmental reform, access to health care, and the role of government.

Key talking points included:

  • Restoring economic opportunity: invest in programs that promote economic mobility and security, like high-quality, affordable education, sustainable jobs with living wages, policies that help families to build assets, and international aid programs that build economic security in the world’s most vulnerable places.
  • Ensuring adequate resources for shared priorities: reinstate a just tax system that calls for shared responsibility, among individuals and corporations, to ensure sufficient revenues to meet our needs and priorities.
  • Prioritizing true human security: make investments in growth, not destruction, in order to build meaningful security for individuals, families, and communities.
  • Meeting immediate need: protect the funding and structure of core safety-net programs while ensuring investments in critical human needs, social service, environmental protection, and humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance programs.
  • Recognizing a robust role for government: we need the government’s continued partnership to combat poverty, reduce extreme inequality, restore economic opportunity for all, and rebuild a robust middle class. The faith community cannot meet the need alone.
  • Caring for God’s Creation sustainably and responsibly: make budget choices that protect air, water, and land – the entirety of Creation – that they might be preserved for future generations.

The Faithful Budget was spearheaded by a coalition of leading Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith-based organizations affiliated with many of the major religious denominational movements.  It is a continuation of the Faithful Budget Campaign, an effort launched in July by the religious community during the height of the congressional debt ceiling battle to lift up faithful voices on behalf of the nation’s most vulnerable in order to encourage the administration and Congress to maintain a robust commitment to domestic and international poverty assistance programs.

The full document as well as additional details about the Faithful Budget Campaign can be found at www.faithfulbudget.org.

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An Invitation to hear Father Roy Bourgeois in Kansas City

Note:  the following is taken from a letter sent by local event organizers to Call to Action (CTA) members and others. The letter was sent to CTA members and others known to be open to goodness and courage in the Kansas City metropolitan area.  For goodness and courage are surely the combination that Father Roy Bourgeois, MM brings to every place he visits with his message that Catholic women who are called to priestly ordination should not be denied that Sacrament.  As Father Roy says, “To deny ordination to women is sexism, and sexism, like racism, is a sin.” 

As you know, Father Bourgeois has put at risk his priesthood, his inclusion in the Catholic community, his standing as a member of the Maryknoll Order, his reputation– just about everything of value that he holds dear — to bear witness to this message, which his conscience has compelled him to promulgate.  For his efforts, he has been threatened by the Vatican with excommunication, expulsion from Maryknoll, removal from the priesthood, and likely other forms of censure and/or exclusion.  He is resisting with all the powers of Canon Law, with the Rev. Thomas Doyle as his counsel.  His defense is primacy of conscience.  We might ask is his fight our fight?

Father Roy will spend the weekend of April 26-27 in the Heart of America.  Organizers of his visit are hoping to get him a spot on Steve Kraske’s Up to Date on April 27.   An op-ed piece has been submitted to the KC Star as well as a blurb for the Faith Calendar.  This calendar notice should appear the Saturday before the event on April 27.

Father Roy will speak at Colonial Church of Prairie Village under CTA sponsorship on Friday evening, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. and at First Congregational Church in Topeka at 9:00 a.m. April 28 at the invitation of Catholics for Renewal there. We will also be showing the powerful new documentary, Pink Smoke Over the Vatican, both places.  This is a documentary about women’s ordination as priests.

For additional information, call 913-432-3675.

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Why I Sit and Eat with our Guests: A Reflection on Breaking Bread at Holy Family House

by Rachel Hoffman

Thursday, January 20, 2011

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

As Christians, we strive to follow in the example of Jesus during the Last Supper – as he shared himself deeply in the breaking of the bread.  I am bold in saying that we attempt to the do same during supper time at Holy Family House.  We spend hours planning menus, sorting food, rinsing fruit and veggies, cooking meals, serving meals, and enjoying the fruits of our labor.  Indeed, our work centers on this sacred act of eating- this is how we recognize each other.  I have learned that sharing a common meal, sitting down face to face with a volunteer or guest, is the easiest way to see Christ in another.  This is when I hear about a new job or place to stay, an ill friend or relative, worries and joys.

But we are at Holy Family House to serve, right?  There isn’t enough food to go around, is there?  I have food at home, can’t I just wait till I get home?  I’m so different than the guests, will we have anything to talk about?  I feel guilty about how much I have and how little the guests have, isn’t it just easier to keep my distance?  Whatever your reasons are- we ask that you take a leap of faith with us and join in the breaking of the bread.  Listening is a form of ministry, there’s plenty of food to go around, just take some salad and sit down if you’re not hungry, and we promise there are plenty of things that you have in common with anyone who walks through our door—we are all human after all!

We at Holy Family House are hoping that people from all walks of life can build relationships with one another, understand in little ways how we each think and feel, enjoy each other’s company and in the words of co-founder Dorothy Day; “build a new society out of the old.”  This means doing things differently than we have in the past, sharing resources and time, and interacting in new ways.

So please, humor us- take a break from serving and sit down in our dining room during supper time.  Strike up a conversation, or eat slowly in silence.  Just be with us and our guests in a new way.   We look forward to breaking bread with you soon.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”  Corinthians 10:16

 

 

                                                             

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High Interest Rates Drain Local Wealth

By:  Molly Fleming-Pierre

Communities Creating Opportunity Policy and Development Director

“On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act.   One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they journey on life’s highway.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Every day, thousands of families in Missouri struggle to stretch their wages across mounting bills.  Times are tough, within our faith communities we are finding too many families who lack the income to meet their basic needs.  In these difficult times, social service agencies, church emergency assistance funds, and food banks are all but tapped out.  As the financial woes for our working families mount, many Missourians turn to high interest credit, like payday and car title loans, to meet their short term credit needs.

Payday loans are small, short-term loans that are secured by a borrower’s personal check.  Payday loans typically cost $17 for every $100 borrowed and must be repaid in full before the borrower’s next payday—which translates to an annual percentage rate (APR) of 445% for a two-week loan, meaning that many borrowers pay more in fees than they actually borrow. For a “typical” payday loan in Missouri, a borrower completes eight back-to-back transactions before fully repaying an average loan of $300. This accrues $410 in interest fees.

These loans cause a predatory cycle of debt that traps our families into a spiral of recurring high interest fees. Exorbitant interest rates on payday loans ensnare our struggling families into spirals of debt so usurious that a $300 loan for the month’s groceries typically ends up costing our families a whopping $710.[1]  With these rates, the average borrower pays more in interest than the original loan amount.  The triple-digit interest rate is a product of the payday loan’s very unfair design: a loan that is due in full, plus interest and fees, in two short weeks and is secured by access to a family’s banking account.

These high cost loans don’t reflect the family values of our communities, and they dishonor the old adage that hard work and persistence create prosperity.  Even individuals who are able to repay their astronomical payday and car title loan debts are unable to build credit as these lenders refuse to report positively to credit agencies.  Small dollar, high interest borrowers are therefore trapped in a financial subclass that does not allow them to maintain income or build wealth.

There are now over one thousand payday lenders in Missouri, not to mention the hundreds of car title lenders and pawnshops.  That’s more than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.  While these loans are marked as a short term fix for unexpected expenses, they tend to trap people in debt.  Because the loans (and fees) are due in full within two weeks to a month, the borrower is forced to come up with a sizeable amount of cash in a short time.

Especially in these difficult economic times, we know that Missouri families deserve better.  In order for lending to build assets in our communities, lending products must abide by a fair interest rate.  As an interfaith community, we are building a grassroots base to outlaw the triple digit interest rates that cause the debt rap.  Lowering the APR to a reasonable figure, like 36 percent APR can be accomplished by either lowering the fees charged, or by giving families more time to repay the loan.  In either case, it means a family will be given a fighting chance to succeed, rather than being ensnared in a product that by its very terms makes it almost certain the family will fail.

This month as we celebrate the life and the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we are called to “transform the Jericho Road so that men and women and not constantly beaten and robbed along life’s highway.”  The Jericho Road in Missouri is broken.  Our rural, suburban, and city roads across the state run rampant with predatory lenders that charge triple digit interest, robbing our families of the wages they need to survive.  Faith community efforts are critical to freeing our neighbors from the payday debt trap.  Religious and community groups throughout the state are building a movement to Cap the Rate on these triple-digit interest products.  Visit www.cco.org or www.moresponsiblelending.org to learn how you can get involved.  Together, we can transform the Jericho Road.


[1] The average payday borrower in Missouri has 8 loans each year, most often taken out in back-to-back transactions. They therefore pay $48 in fees eight times, or $384, for what is essentially the original $290 line of credit. These data are from the Center for Responsible Lending.

 

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