The First Signs of Spring ⛅ - April/May 2019 Newsletter
It’s smack dab in the middle of Lent and we haven’t been spiritually transformed yet. Nor has the Earth (in the NYC region at least) seen much of Spring. In our Benincasa Community, William, Francis, Jacob and Brian—young men in their early 20’s—model for us how to keep going during the long haul. One has his sights on obtaining a GED, another on finally finishing undergrad, another works around the clock to get a master’s degree but not incur the monstrous debt, and another works 7 days a week as a research assistant—sometimes paid and sometimes not. Watching them day in and day out during Lent reminds us that everyone walks a lonesome valley. (Little Richie’s version is amazing!) While it is said that you must walk it by yourself, we pray that we can offer them encouragement, friendship, and home-cooked meals to help with the journey.
In February and March women from Chiapas, Mexico attending the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women and friends from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers stayed with us. Both groups know that victories are gained over decades of faithful witnessing to and resistance of systems that profit from their suffering. We were so pleased to see the CIW in the NY Times and to hear that the University of Michigan voted to throw Wendy’s off campus (i.e. booted the braid) until they join the Fair Food Program. One year ago, in March 2018, as they (and we) fasted outside of Wendy’s Headquarters, CIW members assured us that it would not be long now … We trust their vision, deeply rooted in righteousness and experience.
We also found models for the long haul in two of our most beloved guests: Madeleine of the Des Moines Catholic Worker and Rhandi, a recent Xavier University graduate doing an Americorp year of service in Florida. Both women have known adversity and both speak openly and joyously about a faith far greater than the limits of faith-based institutions. With such good friends and role models for the long haul, we can learn (try!) to set aside our worries about the email back-log, next month’s rent, or the ever-encroaching end of our lease in July 2020.
Indeed, we are called to an expanded, longer understanding of life and mission. Suspiciously extracted from the daily readings for March 27th is this directive from Jesus: “I tell you, then, that if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17 – 20) Let us, then, consider our daily work in a much broader way than our to-do list. Let us be righteous in a much broader way than the priests, bishops, college of cardinals, and the pope want for us. Let us be healers and truth-tellers in a much broader way than our politicians are comfortable with.
Christine Schenk, CSJ speaking at Fordham this month did just that! In her book Crispina and Her Sisters, she literally unearths (in the crypts and catacombs) the story of women’s leadership in the early church. And last week we heard from and participated in a panel sponsored by the Women’s Ordination Conference. Despite their 44 years of righteousness work, they are still prohibited from meeting in Catholic Churches … a long haul indeed! You can hear Karen’s remarks as a panelist about “retiring the hierarchy” by clicking here.
Should you need a little help reorienting to the broader way or a reorientation to the truly long haul, we recommend you visit the ocean. The waves have been crashing and receding for 3.8 billion years. It was a great gift to re-orient ourselves to the universe story and reunite as a Through Every Age (TEA) community for our third retreat on Long Beach, LI on March 16th. Thank you, Jamie, for hosting us. The smell of the salt water and the echoing roll of the waves simultaneously “put us in our place” and renewed our Spirit. Even though it was windy on the shore, the sun was warm enough for us to believe that Spring won’t be long now … In fact, we pray that Spring might not come too quickly and pass us by entirely!
Sending much love and peace.
Dispatches from the Beloved Community
"Why the Priesthood Needs Women"
"For those of us trying to hang on to our affiliation with the Catholic Church, Pope Francis’s recent defrocking of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, though commendable, is no recompense for the blindness, the arrogance, the cruelty of a system that allowed that pathetic man to become the shepherd of one of the most visible dioceses in the world. We fear that boys’ club secrecy and prancing misogyny, the profound moral error of discrimination, will prevail.
"For myself, and for many of the Catholics I know (especially women), the question of how much corruption we can tolerate is now weighed against the tremendous loss we would feel, if we left this church. It’s an institution that has shaped us, comforted us, guided and informed us, that is the center of our spiritual lives as well as our community lives and family lives, the source of our own moral strength, of our faith in the substance of things hoped for. And yet small commiserations can no longer placate our outrage. A sea change is required." (Read the Entire Piece Here)
***Also, read more from the Seven Catholic Worker Women who, though not invited, traveled to Rome during the Summit and held vigil and witnessed for the need for the church to listen to survivors and make structural change to ensure that this will never happen again.
"Why Wendy's is Facing Campus Protests"
A program created by a group that organizes farmworkers has persuaded companies like Walmart and McDonald’s to buy their tomatoes from growers who follow strict labor standards. But high-profile holdouts have threatened to halt the effort’s progress.
Now the group, a nonprofit called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, is raising pressure on one of the most prominent holdouts — Wendy’s — which it sees as an obstacle to expansion.
The Immokalee workers’ initiative, called the Fair Food Program, currently benefits about 35,000 laborers, primarily in Florida. Over the last decade, it has helped transform the state’s tomato industry from one in which wage theft and violence were rampant to an industry with the some of the highest labor standards in American agriculture.
“They’ve already been successful in a measurable way at effectively eliminating modern-day slavery and sexual assault, and greatly reducing harassment,” said Susan L. Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif., who has written a book on the program. “Pay is substantially higher for these people." (Read the Entire Feature Here)