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Benincasa Community Updates, Events & Invitations, and Reasons for Co-creation

Welcome Wintertide! - December 2018 / January 2019 Newsletter

Holiday Wreath Covered in Snow

“I will cause a righteous branch to spring forth for David;
Justice and righteousness will be done in the land...
And this is the name by which it will be called:
‘God is our justice.’” Jeremiah 33: 15-16

Dear Friends,

Advent is upon us! This week’s readings from Jeremiah remind us of the “righteous branch” that will be raised up, a precious child who will be a witness to justice and liberation. We’ve been blessed with a beautiful Fall here at Benincasa and the many people who’ve passed through manifest this growing branch of hope in our lives.

During the past two months, our Dan Berrigan Center grew full of righteous branches from the groups that used the space. A group from “Women of Wonder” (WOW!)  working to build a legacy for future generations of Christian women to dream big and follow God's call in their lives used the Center for their board meeting in early October.  Soon after, women religious from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) were with us for their various meetings in New York, continuing their work of holding big corporations accountable. Later in the month a group of students from Villanova University spent a week with us on a Service and Justice Experience trip. The students encountered the question of how to create “home” in various spaces, and explored everything from earth justice, to immigrant rights, to creating an inclusive spiritual space, and spent a few days at the NYC Catholic Worker as well. Thank you to the many members of our extended community who hosted and facilitated workshops for these students! After ‘Nova, friends from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers returned to continue their steadfast work to force Wendy’s to treat their farmers with dignity and respect, by joining the Fair Food Program. What a blessing to share our space with these special people!

Villanova Students at the Catholic Worker

While our institutional Church is struggling, we’ve found vibrant lay movements doing the work of righteousness on the ground. Karen attended the Ignatian Family Teach-In for justice in Washington DC, where our friend Teresa Cariño was the Master of Ceremonies and our beloved Peace Poets performed. It was enlivening to see young students being shaped by the prophetic call of our tradition--one that demands true justice and equity. Sean attended the Call to Action National Conference in San Antonio, where the multiform goals of CTA were explored: Church Worker Justice, Lay Engagement, LGBT Justice, Racial Justice, and Women and Girls Equality (Read Sean’s reflection later in this message). Seeing the broader national movement within the Catholic space and connecting with many new people was evidence that the Spirit is at work! Additionally, the first trimester of our Through Every Age (TEA) program is in full swing. Through an online curriculum and in-person retreats, participants are exploring Church history and reflecting on their present relationship to church.

Jeremiah reminds us: “God is our Justice”. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception we, along with members and friends from Call to Action Metro NY and the NYC Catholic Worker, will gather on the Steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to remind the Archdiocese of this scripture and their accountability to it, specifically for survivor-victims of sexual abuse in New York State. For years, survivor-victims, advocates, and faithful Catholics have worked tirelessly to pass the Child Victims Act. Among them, Call to Action Metro NY has met with legislators in Albany and rallied in NYC to support the Act. The "Catholic Conference", led by Cardinal Dolan, has been the major opponent to the Child Victims Act, spending large sums of money to lobby against it. We invite you to bring your favorite image of Mary and join us in this prayerful procession, calling on Mary as the protector of children to help pass this important legislation. (More information below)
Just before Thanksgiving, Jimmy, Karen and Sean spoke in friend, Jim Robinson’s Religion & Ecology Class at Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus. We were grateful to share about Laudato Si, it’s influence in our community, and a few places we feel Pope Francis comes up a little short in the encyclical. ;) The students were very welcoming, and had a palpable passion for ecological justice and are carrying out “justice and righteousness on the land.”

Benincasa presenting on Community Life and Laudato Si at Fordham U.

The Fall months also brought many exciting events in the lives of our extended community. In early October, our dear friend and former Benincasa Community member, Kelly married her now husband, Justin Parrett! Karen, Sean and Jimmy were able to join the ceremony and celebration in Ohio. It was a beautiful liturgy, clearly rooted in Kelly and Justin’s commitment to inclusion and social justice, and the dancing to follow was a blast. It was also very fun to see another former community member Rebecca, her partner Anthony, as well as our friend Chris and some midwest Dominicans! Congrats Kelly!  

Karen speaks with a few members of the Lady's Guild following her presentation

Later in October, Karen spoke at her hometown parish’s Ladies Guild, giving a rousing presentation on why lay women are the bedrock of our parishes and churches (Above). Also, we were happy to celebrate and attend events for two special organizations: First, the War Resisters League (where our brothers, the Peace Poets received an award for their commitment to liberation and antimilitarism!) and, second, South Bronx United (where our dear friend Andy Hansen works, providing soccer and educational programs to youth in the BX!). We also welcomed our new friend Madeleine from the Des Moines Catholic Worker, who stayed with us as she recovered from surgery. Very fun to swap stories with Maddie on the happenings in and around the church in DM and NYC, as well as meeting her friends and family who came from Iowa to support her recovery.  We are grateful for this new friendship! What joy we find in being with our friends!

The harvest season of Fall was abundant in our community, and we are looking forward to the prayerful season of Advent, holding on to the hope of new branches of justice and righteousness springing forth in the coming months. Have a blessed Advent everyone. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!
Sending much love and peace.
Benincasa Community


Upcoming Programs and Events

  • 12/2 @ 4pm ~ "Christmas Cheer" Fundraiser

  • 12/8 @ 12:30pm ~  "Marian Vigil" to Support the Child Victims Act in NY! Meet on the Steps of St. Pat's (See Below)

  • 12/18 @ 6pm ~ Join the CIW and Alliance for Fair Food Benefit @ Riverside Church. Contact Alex, alex@allianceforfairfood.org for more information.

  • 1/5-1/12 ~ Xavier University Dorothy Day Immersion Trip @ Benincasa Community, NYC

Carry Your Mary, CVA Vigil

December 8th @ 12:30pm

Carry your most beloved image of Mary, process, pray and call for Justice for survivor-victims of sexual abuse in New York State! 
The "Catholic Conference", led by Cardinal Dolan, has been the major opponent to the Child Victims Actspending large sums of money to lobby against it.

What can we do?
 + Pray - Let us gather for a Marian procession around St. Patrick's Cathedral on her Feast as a protector of children.
+ Pass the Act - Call your NY State Assembly Member and NY State Senator and ask them to support the Child Victims Act.  
+ "Stop fighting the Child Victims Act" - Contact The Catholic Conference to tell them you, as a Catholic, want the Act to pass.  


Sean Meets Movement "Cousins" in San Antonio, TX 

I moved to New York City from the West Coast in 2011 and ever since then flying back and forth once or twice a year to visit my folks around the holidays feels normal. So boarding the plane to San Antonio for my first “Call to Action” conference did not feel the least bit unusual. Taking a trip with a pocket full of questions (a few contact cards with our Community’s information) and a carry-on stuffed with curiosity, however, did inspire in me a deep sense of gratitude.

Call to Action USA was founded in the Vatican II moment of “scanning the signs of the times” when the US College of Bishops gathered catholics to determine how the church needed to respond to the issues of the day. The story goes that after the 20,000 signatories proposed their goals in 1976, which included elements like racial justice and women’s leadership,  the bishops never again invited a powerful group of lay people to gather in a similar manner. However, the group did not spend much time feeling discouraged, but formed an organization of progressive catholics that continues in nationwide chapters today. There is a more complete and very compelling history and mission found on Call to Action USA’s website.

Zach Johnson, CTA Executive Director (Left) Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, CTA Keynote Speaker (Right)

Earlier this year, Benincasa Community was invited by Zach Johnson (CTA's new executive director) and Claire Hitchins (a new organizer and director of the 20/30 project) to attend the annual CTA Conference. I had some flexibility in my schedule that weekend, and so after receiving the blessing of the Community, I landed safely in Texas.

It is always a great grace when I encounter other people taken up by the spirit of welcome and reform. As soon as you meet Crystal King (Director of Administration and long-time CTA-er) at registration, you get the sense your weekend is about to be filled with a healthy dose of good logic and joy. Even though I knew very little about them before attending the conference, it is inspiring to see an organization with a legacy like CTA’s continue to embrace that Vatican II pronouncement all these years later and once again “scan the signs of the time.”

While attending my first workshop, I learn that not too long ago, members of CTA began noticing they were a fairly homogeneous looking group. Like many progressive organizations they decided to prioritize racial justice and increase intergenerationality. However, unlike many progressive organization with decades of history, they have chosen to actively recruit and change the leadership of the organization to better reflect the younger generation they are hoping will usher in the new era of CTA’s commitment to lay empowerment, women and girl’s equality, racial justice, and LGBT rights. It does feel good and grace-filled to sense the way the Spirit works in such similar ways all over the world!

Vigil Demonstration Supporting Immigration through San Antonio's "River Walk" Business District

To say I met kindred spirits while attending the conference diminishes the depth of conversations that leave everyone feeling affirmed and inspired in the work of holding onto and wrestling with our both varied and singular catholic identities. Sometimes these connections are made in the follow-up to a panel discussion on mentorship in catholic communities, sometimes they are made listening to powerful speakers like Dr. Robyn, and sometimes they are made in the silence of common prayer, worship, or during an outdoor vigil supporting immigration moving through San Antonio’s “River Walk” district.

In any case, when connecting with people in the community of CTA I find myself leaving as if I am connecting with catholic cousins I didn’t know I had. And that feeling, that feeling of being a little less alone when we hear about or see all the ways the hierarchical Church challenges our faith, can give us the extra hope we need to keep going.

Sean McCreight