Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Office
Priests of the Sacred Heart, US Province
"Jesus, Immigrant and Worker" (the Catholic Worker)
I'll be packing up my things from the office next week. The last JPR News is done. CCMR (our migration coalition here in the Milwaukee Archdiocese) has new leadership continuing its advocacy for migrants and refugees (I'll just be another member now), and the JPR Commission is in the midst of an in-depth consultation process with a diverse wisdom group of SCJs to plan for the future of Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation in the Province, potentially the most significant discussion of the last decade or more. Things are in good hands.
It seems a good a time as any to start a new chapter in my life. Retirement beckons, with all its freedoms and possibilities. I'm grateful to the Province for the privilege of being able to devote the last years of my career to justice ministry. I consider myself to have become a "Dehonian," lucky to have discovered your Founder rather late in life, but amazed at how much he anticipated so much of what this ministry has become since its very beginnings under Pope Leo XIII.
I leave with some pride in a few things I leave behind: the JPR website ("Thy Kingdom Come"), the Klingler Social Action Award, and our membership in Seventh Generation Interfaith, which may be the most Dehonian organization outside the U.S. Province that I've come across. I hope you'll read my final report on it below and that the Provincial leadership will see fit to keep us active in that unique form of advocacy.
My one regret is failing to overcome, and perhaps even contributing to, the feeling among many in the Province that I or the JPR Commission was promoting social justice advocacy as a superior form of social action to direct service. This was never our intent. "Justice and peace shall kiss," declares Psalm 85, and so should charity and justice. "We need both feet to walk," says an old image of left and right footprints, one of which is service and the other social justice. Our only goal was ensuring that the Province doesn't hop on one foot!
I cannot praise SCJ ministries all over the U.S. (and Canada!) enough for their service to the poorest people in this country. And that ministry is not only direct service but includes the all-important gift of education as well as creative ways of "helping people help themselves." But those ministries don't tend to ask, what economic, political and societal forces beyond the individual or family keep them down? Should we become public advocates for social change? What forms could that take, and what might it cost?
Should JPR be a "extracurricular activity" for those few who are passionate about it? Should it be something a JPR Office and Commission does on behalf of the Province? Or is it something that should be integrated into formation, spirituality, and our social ministries? Those are the critical questions the JPR consultors are wrestling with - may the Spirit of justice inspire them!
I have some further personal reflections in my last blogpost, and have added new content on social justice, advocacy, and "Fr. Dehon and Politics" to the JPR website which you can find below. God bless you all as you continue to "follow the Founder... in establishing the Reign of justice and Christian charity in the world."
SGI Final Report
Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investing is a Midwest regional coalition of faith-based shareholder activists, affiliated with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. Founded by Milwaukee-based Capuchin Fr. Mike Crosby in the 70's, most of its two dozen member institutions are Catholic religious communities. In a nutshell, members "lobby" corporations rather than government officials, on issues that affect millions of lives and the future of the planet itself.
This has a number of advantages over political lobbying, since corporation can move much faster than Congress, having fewer decision-makers and being able to nimbly respond to consumers and new trends. They can be more concerned about negative press that could impact their "brand." And most importantly, there are lots of companies. If one doesn’t cave to pressure, you can move on to the next one, and once you win a few over, you might be able to start a chain reaction where competitors feel like they need to follow. We saw this recently when many leading companies suspended political donations to certain members of Congress after the attack on the Capitol.
In Modern Usury, Fr. Dehon wrote of the duty of share-holders to participate in annual meetings in order to object to unjust practices, and said that if such objections were unsuccessful, they should invest their money elsewhere. In this spirit, the General Directory (51:5) adds that "We shall be careful not to make investments that contravene our commitment to peace and human advancement." But there is more to socially responsible investing than merely avoiding companies doing "evil." SGI Associate Director Christopher Cox recently wrote that "Socially Responsible Investing Requires Effort." Even the best companies are imperfect, and corporate responsibility work helps ensure that all businesses improve in their respect for workers, for human rights, the common good of society and integrity of creation.
Last year, the SEC, under pressure from the Trump administration, changed the rules for shareholder filings in such a way that eliminate the right to file resolutions for all but the very largest of big investors. This could have crippled the movement just as it was beginning to show signs of catching on in a big way (the fact that a few secular investment firms joined SGI in the last few years shows it is coming into the mainstream). Now, Senate Democrats are trying to undo that rule, as you canread about here.
I hope that the U.S. Province will continue its membership in SGI. You will have a great chance to learn more about its work when Sacred Heart Seminary hosts SGI's annual Fall conference this coming October 12th. I'll leave you with two final links, one to a story of one Sister's maiden voyage into the work of SGI: "Investor Engagement by a Novice," and the other showing how SGI is addressing one of the Province's top social issues: SGI Joins Business Leaders In Calling For Aggressive Climate Targets.
There are several new and continuing actions you can take on behalf of migrants and refugees currently on the JPR website, "Thy Kingdom Come." Visit our "JPR Advocacy" page and take just a few minutes to make yours heard.
Faith leaders, include Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, have called for a holistic, pastoral approach to asylum seekers that is welcoming; mobilizes humanitarian assistance, especially for pregnant mothers and children; and addresses root causes of migration. Seitz recently asserted, “We must renew our asylum laws to reflect the drivers of forced displacement today and protect those who fall into global protection gaps, such as those forced to flee by climate change.”
His frequent collaborator, Dylan Corbett of HOPE Border Institute, urges Americans to avoid one-dimensional takes, remarking, “The crisis narrative flattens the nuance of border life. It spurs inadequate short-term thinking…It breeds nativism.” To learn more, visit HOPE Border Institute.
WSGW: Sister Norma discusses current migrant surge The migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border is similar to past ones, as people don't feel safe in their home countries, said Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Since 2014, there have been various surges, as unaccompanied children and families show up at the border.