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A letter of farewell from Sr. Jeanne Christensen

Dear Friends,

In 2006, the Kansas City Olive Branch was launched by Michael Humphrey and Dan Meyers, members of the Salvadoran Faith Accompaniment Group, who were concerned about the continuity of the work of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Office.  This concern arose because both Fr. Frank Schuele and I were leaving the office.  I was humbled and pleased that they wanted to continue providing a strong resource to the peace and justice community in the greater Kansas City area.  With the help of dedicated individuals who served on the Visioning Board,   KC Olive Branch became a virtual reality.  Over the years religious women and men’s communities and individual donors have provided financial support.  Many have offered their ideas, encouragement, informational resources, and/or written articles.

In 2008, after both Mike and Dan experienced career changes, I became editor and successfully fulfilled that role only with the outstanding assistance of Clare Murphy Shaw – web mistress par excellent!!  Over the last several weeks, Mike, Clare and I have exchanged emails regarding the future of KC Olive Branch – the conversation was initiated when I expressed my need to resign as editor due to my additional ministry responsibilities.  I am continuing my Mercy community justice ministry from Kansas City, so you will still see me around.

I will miss my involvement with this wonderful virtual peace and justice community.  June 2012 will be the last edition that I edit.  How KC Olive Branch moves into the future is still being discussed.  If you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to send them to Clare, Michael or me; and I will see they get included in the conversation.

I hope that KC Olive Branch has been helpful and perhaps inspiring to you.  Thank you for being part of our community, working to make the world a more peaceful and just place for all.

Peace and blessings.

Jeanne Christensen, RSM

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Notable Excerpts: Shredding the Social Safety Net

The March Global Women’s Project’s Briefing Paper, Shredding the Social Safety Net by Sr. Maria Riley, OP, provides not only excellent information but ample food for thought that may leave you uncomfortable.

In her briefing paper, Sr. Maria says in part:

Americans are living in two worlds which are often at odds with each other: the world of political rhetoric and the world of lived reality. This dualism cuts through almost all current issues be they climate change, food security, economics, social welfare, the middle class, poverty, or U.S. superiority, to name a few. One particularly pernicious example is the current political attack on people in poverty. While politicians of every stripe are debating about cutting entitlement programs from social security to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and extended unemployment insurance, the number of people in poverty is escalating.

The briefing paper includes specific information on poverty, an overview of U.S. social welfare:

The shifting focus from people to the economy and points out that in the U.S. Catholic Bishops Pastoral, Economic Justice for All, they said an economy is to be judged on what it does for people, what it does to people and how people participate in it (#1).  Sr. Maria observes, “Based on those simple criteria the U.S. economy is not doing very well. It is time to renew the social contract between the government and its people with special attention given to those living in extreme poverty.

The April 2012 Briefing Paper will examine alternative approaches to social protection as part of the Global Women’s Project effort to refocus the U.S. economy on human well-being and ecological sustainability.

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The Seeking of Justice and Its Consequences

A Reflection for the Fifth Week of Lent from the Center of Concern’s Education for Justice website.  

By Bob Stewart

The Gospel reading for the fifth Sunday of Lent reminds us of an unequivocal demand and an uncomfortable truth for all who strive to live as followers of Jesus: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” As one commentator recently noted, this is not agriculture 101, but Christianity 101.

Do we have examples of modern disciples of Jesus committed to the work of justice willing to pay the ultimate price for their commitment, exemplars of discipleship whose deaths, in fidelity to the Gospel, have produced “much fruit”? Consider these two: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader slain in Memphis while there to support economic justice for garbage workers, and Archbishop Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of El Salvador, slain while presiding at Mass, who publicly criticized his government’s violence and injustice.  Like the Hebrew prophets, these modern prophets called people to do what justice requires. Dr. King, in one of his sermons, said that he wanted to be remembered as a “drum major for justice.” Archbishop Romero manifested with clear moral vision that: “When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises” (8/10/1978).

Catholic biblical scholar Bruce Vawter, CM has referred to the Hebrew prophets as “The Conscience of Israel.” Both King and Romero were committed to calling their contemporaries to do justice, and they continue to inspire others to work for justice even today.  They were the conscience of their nations. Their influence did not end with their deaths; they continue to be celebrated and remembered.

The Seeking of Justice and Its Consequences — A Reflection for the Fifth Week of Lent

The Gospel reading (John 12:20-33) for the fifth Sunday in Lent

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  Jesus answered them,

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat;

but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.

The Father will honor whoever serves me.  “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?

‘Father, save me from this hour?’  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.

Father, glorify your name.”  Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”  Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.

Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

 

Reflection Questions

1. Have you ever taken a public stand regarding a social justice issue? What fears did you face in doing so, and how did you manage them? (cf. Matthew 8:26; 10:31; Mark 4:40)

2. Archbishop Romero stated: “The church would betray its own love for God and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being . . . a defender of the rights of the poor.” Is the church, are Christian communities, being faithful to the gospel?

3. What do you consider the “fruit” of the work of Dr. King and Archbishop Romero? Archbishop Romero once said, “If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people.” How do the lives and spirits of Romero and King continue to empower those who work for justice?  (cf. http://www.uscatholic.org/culture/social-justice/

2009/02/oscar-romero-bishop-poor).

In light of the Gospel message for the fifth Sunday of Lent and the example we have in Jesus and these two modern prophets of justice, what is required of us?  Jesus, King, and Romero were all “drum majors for justice.”   They fearlessly spoke out in public regarding injustices that require correction in order to advance the reign of God.   Raising their voices on behalf of the oppressed and vulnerable exposed them to the conscious and unconscious adversaries of justice. While in the current U.S. context, rarely are peoples lives at risk, advocates for social justice may experience social and political consequences.

However, if we do not, who will? What opportunities do we have to be “drum majors for justice” in solidarity with the most vulnerable in our midst? Consider these two possibilities for a start: First, we can commit to becoming informed regarding, in the words of Romero, “the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry (of the oppressed) arises.” Secondly, we can speak up by writing letters or making phone calls that insist on an end to a myriad of injustices, injustices experienced by those whose voices are not being heard in public forums—e.g., failure of legislators to fund programs for the most vulnerable, law enforcement systems that are more interested in vengeance than justice, injustice manifested by state governments toward workers and their families, to name a few.

We can address our concerns to newspapers, TV, and radio news media outlets, legislators (federal and state), church leaders, and organizations and companies who need encouragement in promoting he common good rather than only the interests of

shareholders.  We are called to express and live our solidarity with the most vulnerable in society, and, when we do so, there are often social, political, and economic consequences. Yet, by manifesting our love of God, we become drum majors for peace and justice.

[Let us pray]

In the Catholic tradition, concern for the poor is advanced by individual and common action, works of charity, efforts to achieve a more just social order, the practice of virtue, and the pursuit of justice in our own lives. It requires action to confront structures

of injustice that leave people poor.

A Prayer from “A Place at the Table,” pg. 14

God, we thank you for the prophets you send us.

They provide comfort for the afflicted, and afflict those of us who live as if justice is

peripheral to our faith.

We ask that you open our ears and enlighten our consciences that we may hear the cries  of the oppressed.

We ask that you remove from our midst the social structures that facilitate oppression,

and guide us in helping to do so.

Give us your Spirit, God, that we may have the courage of Dr. King and Archbishop  Romero.

May we stand with your love and compassion even when the consequences are great.

This we ask in the name of your son, Jesus, our brother.  Amen.

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City Council Passes CCO-Supported Responsible Banking Resolution

The resolution seeks to increase consumer protections and incentivize financial institutions to offer affordable loans to home buyers. 

By Megan Black, CCO at megan@cco.org.

In late February, Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO) leaders like Alesia Drake of True Vine Baptist Church, Charles Lyle of Trinity COGIC, and Mary Rabon of St. James UMC pushed a Responsible Banking Resolution through City Council, making good on a commitment made at CCO’s October Opportunity Now! event. Officials from both sides of the state line promised to support the passage of responsible banking ordinances.

Kudos to City Councilwoman Jan Marcason for introducing the resolution, which directs the City Manager to ensure that Kansas City selects bank proposals that are responsive to our community’s needs and do not engage in predatory lending. The resolution passed unanimously.

We are glad that KCMO elected officials are keeping their promise and are taking steps toward strengthening the City’s proposal selection criteria. We await a more permanent solution and the passage of a similar ordinance from our Wyandotte County counterparts.

Homeowners are not the only one’s suffering from the banks’ irresponsible behavior. City, county, and state governments are facing massive budget deficits thanks to the banks’ well-documented recklessness.

To ensure that our local and state governments are investing their dollars in banks that invest back into their community, congregations and organizations from across the PICO Network (CCO’s national network) are developing ordinances in Los Angeles, New York City, and other locations that will move money out of irresponsible financial institutions and into banks that are willing to keep families in their homes, invest in rebuilding our neighborhoods, and ensure access to good credit. 

Click on http://www.piconetwork.org/newbottomline and http://www.anhd.org to learn more about these efforts and visit www.MakeWallStreetPay.org to see how much Wall Street is costing you, your community, and your state.

Note:  The City Council has not passed a Responsible Banking Ordinance yet (they passed a banking resolution), but CCO will continue to push for a permanent solution to reckless and destructive banking practices.  This effort is part of CCO’s Economic Dignity campaign.

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Statement of Solidarity with School of the Americas Watch

November 23, 2011

Sister Michelle spoke at the School of the Americas vigil on November 21, 2011 accompanied by Mercy Associate Nelly del Cid from Honduras, Sister Tita from Panama and Sister Anita from Argentina. 

Good morning,

I am here to represent the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Mercy Associates, Mercy Volunteers, Mercy College Students, and Ministry Partners who are standing in solidarity with you and with all those negatively affected by the graduates of the SOA. We come with mercy, compassion, and hope, but also with a sense of urgency and impatience:

  • As the Mercy Family, we are scandalized that we, the USA, who are 4% of the world’s population, have 50% of the world’s military;
  • We are scandalized that the US has troops in 130 or so countries currently;
  • We are scandalized that in a country where 80% of us claim to be Christian, many seem to have forgotten the words of Jesus- that we should actually love our neighbor as ourselves.

We all know whose interests our numerous military bases are protecting.

And yet there is hope:

  • There is hope in our Honduran Mercy Sisters and Associates who are part of the “women resisting violence” movement inHonduras;
  • Our Panama sisters gave us hope, when in 1984, their efforts and those of others succeeded in getting the SOA out of Panama;
  • And there is hope in you, who come here year after year to say NO to the oppressive, unjust structures of a military culture.

You know what solidarity is:  standing with our brothers and sisters in love and compassion- to the end.

So we must continue this SOA Watch here and at home- as our sisters from Latin America have reminded us, we must connect the dots and be awake and alert to what’s happening around us.

Let us continue until that day when right relationships, non-violence, the common good, and finally, peace, will prevail in the Americas and all over our planet.  Thank you!

Experiencing the SOA Watch the First Time

By Sister Michelle Gorman, R.S.M,  Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community Leadership Team Justice Liaison,

November 29, 2011

After many years of being aware of the annual School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) protests at Fort Benning, GA, I finally was able to attend.  I was inspired by the presence of so many Catholic groups as well as the intergenerational mix of college students, middle aged activists, and older people aided by canes and wheelchairs. Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Martin Sheen were the celebrities who spoke from a long history of efforts to close the SOA. Mercy Sisters Anita Siufi (Argentina), Tita Lopez (Panama), and Mercy Associate Nelly del Cid (Honduras) were the Mercies who have lived daily with the effects of the SOA in their respective countries.

The continuing existence of the SOA and its history of militarization in the Americas violates every one of our Critical Concerns, i.e., the practice of non-violence, anti-racism, reverence for Earth, and concern for women and immigrants. The causes of violence, racism, and disrespect for immigrants, women, and Earth itself lie in the greed and inhumanity of ‘the few’ who continue to maintain control over resources in many parts of our world, with complete disregard for the needs of ‘the many’.

In one of her several talks during the protest event, Nelly del Cid reminded us that the three most lucrative issues on our planet today are trafficking in persons, drugs, and arms. This scandalizing fact awakens in us a sense of urgency to act and a renewed support for all those resisting the devaluation of human life for the sake of greed and profit. . . .

How do we, as U.S. citizens and taxpayers, get in touch with our own complicity which results in the denial of basic human rights in so many parts of our world? When we and many other groups beyond the U.S. commit ourselves to work for systemic change, we encounter a system that privatizes land and water, seeds and crops, the very basics of life itself?

Where can we find the courage to continue to seek the welfare of our brothers and sisters if not in the placing of our hope in the God of Mercy, Wisdom, and Mystery, whose compassion extends to the fall of a sparrow?  We must be in solidarity with all of those who, past and present, resisted and continue to resist the unjust structures created by a military culture that is becoming more and more pervasive in our world.  Our planet is too beautiful to be destroyed; our brothers and sisters worldwide are too beautiful to be dominated by those who only seem to value the bottom line.

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Fair Trade – Alternative Shopping

By Jeanne Christensen, RSM


In  October, we discussed Fair Trade as an alternative shopping option and we noted that we would offer some ideas and  stores for you to consider. What seemed too early last month is now a reality – Christmas is just over a month away. As Christmas is the season of gift-giving, we will soon be considering our Christmas gifts. Many of us will make donations to worthy causes or organizations in someone’s honor, others of us want to give actual gifts.

If you are among the latter, would you consider giving a fair trade gift — a gift that ensures the artisan or producer gets a fair price for their product? Fair trade means creating sustainable and positive change. When items are fairly traded it means that partners participate in a system that aims to pay fair wages, creates long-term, direct trading relationships based on dialogue, transparency, equity, and respect. For those who live in the Kansas City metropolitan area, the following is a list of ideas for purchasing a great gift while helping to contribute positively to the world at the same time:

Ten Thousand Villages at 7947 Santa Fe Drive in downtown Overland Park, Kansas offers gifts from around the world, knowing that the fair market prices empower artisans and producers from third world countries. Of special note is that Ten Thousand Villages has a holiday tradition of offering local not-for-profit organizations 15% of all sales made on Sunday afternoons before Christmas. This is an opportunity to not only shop but to enjoy reconnecting with friends, learning about the not-for-profit who is benefiting and to enjoy light refreshments.

Two of those benefiting are: Keeler Women’s Center which empowers women in the urban core of Kansas City through education, advocacy, personal and spiritual development. Their Sunday benefit is November 27 from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. The Migrant Farmworkers Project’s (MFP) benefit is Sunday, December 4 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. MFP works in solidarity with seasonal and migrant farmworkers to obtain a healthier, more secure, and more fulfilling life. MFP offers them social, legal, health care and educational services. MFP feels closely connected to the fair trade imperative because the Lafayette County farmworkers whom they serve are exactly the kind of people who have been displaced by global free market practices. On one hand, MFP supports fair trade to keep workers in developing economies at work. On the other hand, they want to support the farmworkers they know so well who have been forced out of their home countries.
KC Organics and Natural Market is hosting a fair trade event on Saturday, December 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This Market will be held at Notre Dame de Sion High School at 10631 Wornall Road, ¼ mile South of I-435. There will be locally produced holiday gifts, including baked goods, seasonal produce, body care products, gift baskets, hand-made eco-cards, wreaths, fair trade coffee and more.

1st Baptist Church of Kansas City, MO offers Equal Exchange fair trade items – coffee, tea, chocolate, coca, and sugar. They are located at 100 W. Red Bridge Road, KCMO. For details, call 816-942-1866.

Both The Roasterie and Parisi Artisan Coffee purchase all of their coffees directly from the producers. They prefer to go to the origin, assess the product offered, make arrangements for purchase and shipment, and pay the farmer a fair price directly. Both also offer an organic line of products and both sell select blends of coffees at Costco. The Roasterie has three locations in Kansas City, sells beans to local grocery stores, and has a line of products that are Fair Trade Certified. Parisi Artisan Coffee also seeks to directly assess  the growers’ commitment to employing sustainable farming practices.

Lastly, the Fair Trade Holiday Market in Lawrence, KS that will open November 27 and 28 from 8a.m. to 7p.m. and again from November 29 to December 3 from 10a.m. to 7p.m. It is located at Ecumenical Christian Ministries 1204 Oread Ave, Lawrence, KS. The Market offers fairly traded arts and crafts from local and international artisans that make unique holiday gifts. It is organized by Lawrence Fair Trade, a community group dedicated to raising awareness of global economic injustice and working to establish sustainable solutions.
Also, donations can be given in a person’s name as an alternative gift to local and national organizations such as UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity, Amethyst Place in Kansas City, Center of Concern, Keeler Center, OxFam, Amnesty International, Migrant Farmworkers Project, The Justice Project in Kansas City, Sleeyphead Beds, St. James Place on Troost, or any not-for-profit of your choice. The needs are great and monetary gifts are always welcome. You can also support or find gifts online through organizations like Catholic Relief Services, namely their Work of Human Hands project, or Equal Exchange.

You might also contact the organization of your choice to find out what their needs are. A great example is our Catholic Worker Houses – Holy Family, Cherith Brook or Shalom. Their needs are especially great when it’s cold; blankets, coats, hats, gloves, and thermal underwear are just a few. Make a donation of needed goods in honor of a friend or family member.

Shop at locally-owned businesses such as Rainy Day Books in Fairway, KS, World’s Window or Stuff in Brookside rather than big-box stores. Gift cards to locally-owned and operated restaurants such as The Westside Local and Chez Elle on the Westside, Pot Pie or Teahouse and Coffeepot in Westport, or Eden’s Alley in Unity Temple on the Plaza  are also good options. Another avenue to explore is purchasing only Made in the USA products.
There are many more alternatives for Christmas gifts. We know we have not included them all. If you have one or more you want us to know about please send them to jchristensen10@kc.rr.com, and we will include them in the December edition of the KC Olive Branch.

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Join with Advocates to Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline

Source:  Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Justice Team, August 30, 2011

In a moving letter (below), environmentalist Bill McKibben urged people to come to Washington, D.C. and join with those opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. While the most recent protests have ended, more may be held in the near future.  Everyone is urged to continue supporting this effort by contacting President Obama.

Please join with the hundreds of environmental advocates who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and are sending a message to President Obama via the CREDO website or here.

“The tar sands represent a catastrophic threat to our communities, our climate, and our planet. President Obama, you have the final word. You do not have to negotiate with Congress or industry. We urge you to demonstrate real climate leadership by rejecting the requested permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Dear brothers and sisters,

This is an impertinent letter. It arrives out of the blue, asking you to do something hard, and to do it quickly, and for all that I apologize. A week ago I wouldn’t have written it. Then we were just beginning a two-week long series of protests outside the White House in Washington DC trying to persuade President Obama to block construction of a giant pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

We knew the cause was important. These tar sands are the second-largest pool of carbon on earth, after the oilfields of Saudi Arabia. Our greatest climatologist James Hansen, of NASA, says that if we tap them heavily it will be “essentially game over for the climate,” and hence for people around the world who live near the margin and suffer first and fastest as the planet warms.

At first the police reacted with the logic of force, jailing us in Central Cell Block of the DC jail, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds.  I spent two sweaty and sleepless nights there with, among 40 others, Rev. Jim Antal, who heads the UCC in Massachusetts. Twenty women spent the weekend huddled together on a concrete floor without even a bed, air-conditioner blasting at them. It was hard but not impossible-and we woke up Sunday morning singing that old spiritual “Certainly Lord.”  Because new waves of arrestees kept coming, the police have figured out that we will not be deterred by suffering, and they have become humane and professional. Still-you’ll be put in handcuffs, put in a paddy wagon, taken to a holding cell, and fined $100; it’s not easy for any of us who are normal law-abiding Americans to be arrested; it takes a certain leap of faith.

Hence this letter. We’ve long since won the scientific arguments around this pipeline, but we need people steeped in our various religious traditions here to make sure that the president, who for once can stop this project with a simple stroke of the pen, never having to even ask the opinion of Congress-understands that the defense of Creation is a moral imperative as well as a practical one.

I have no right to make this request of you. I’ve never risen higher in the religious hierarchy than Methodist Sunday School teacher. But there are moments when the Holy Spirit, the ruach, seems to break through a little. This has been one of them, with hundreds of common Americans displaying uncommon courage.  For me the most moving scene of the week may have been a middle-aged woman who suffers from debilitating anxiety disorders so profound that she has a service dog with her at all times. When the police told her they wouldn’t let her take her dog to jail, she swallowed hard and got in the paddy wagon herself, and with the support of those around her made it through the next few hours. (And it was a joyous, tail-wagging reunion!).

The stirring memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King is now open on the mall-and down in front of the White House we’re doing our best to provide a kind of living tribute to the greatest preacher our society has produced, and perhaps the bravest. If you can join us, please go to http://www.tarsandsaction.org/ and sign up. I know it’s a lot to ask. That’s why I’m asking you.

Bill McKibben

 

Editor’s Note: For follow up on this letter, please read the August 24, 2011 article Bill McKibben, Jailed Over Big Oil’s Attempt to Wreck the Planet found here.  Please also see the article Tar Sands and the Carbon Numbers in the New York Times from August 21, 2011 found here.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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