December 16, 2021
This week we are mindful of the deadly tornadoes that brought devastation and suffering to so many in Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. We join our prayers with those of the Holy Father who shared his prayers for strength and perseverance for the impacted communities. May the arrival of the Christ Child bring peace where there is pain.

On a personal note, I would like to say thank you for the opportunity to serve as the Justice and Peace Fellow for CMSM for this past year and a half. I will be concluding my position in early January as I anticipate entering a new stage of formation with a congregation of women religious. It has been a great joy to accompany the conference members, the JPIC coordinators, the Laudato Si’ Action Platform promoters, and our collaborating partners.

-Bethany J. Welch, Ph.D.

Beginning in January, Chris Pierno from CMSM will be taking on Justice and Peace efforts on behalf of the conference. He can be contacted at
In the News
Starbucks workers vote to unionize and demands for worker justice grow louder

A group of Starbucks workers at a cafe near Buffalo, New York voted to join a union last week. While the total number of voting employees at that location was small (27 people) the outcome could have a larger impact considering that this is the first union among the 9,000 stores in the country that are owned and operated by Starbucks. Strikes at Columbia University, the Kellogg Company, and Mercy Hospital have also made national news lately pointing toward an uptick in frustration with unpredictable shifts, staff shortages, and other unfair labor practices. This potentially significant vote reflects a trend furthered by social movements like the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Bargaining for the Common Good that have been organizing for several years to bring greater attention to dimensions of dignity and equity within retail, service, and care sectors. 

U.S. Supreme Court permits Texas lawsuit to proceed while maintaining new abortion law

A Texas state law known as S.B.8 can now be challenged in court, per the Supreme Court ruling on Friday, December 10. The terms of the state’s law banning abortions after six weeks will remain in place while the lower courts hear cases on constitutionality. However, private citizens in Texas are those tasked with enforcing the ban and no lawsuits challenging abortion providers have been filed since it was implemented in September of this year. A response to oral arguments in another case before the Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, seem to suggest that the justices may be inclined to defer abortion regulation to legislators and individual states. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops maintains that abortion should not be afforded constitutional protection.” 

Vatican launches #IamChurch campaign to affirm presence of persons with disabilities

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life recently announced the launch of a campaign dedicated to persons living with disabilities. According to Benedict Mayaki, SJ for Vatican News, the effort “will consist of five videos containing the testimonies of Christians living with disabilities from different parts of the world who recount their experience of faith and affirm, ‘I am Church!’” 

U.S. Senate considers Build Back Better bill

After the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act in late November, the Senate took up the bill that includes provisions that assist families with children through funding for childcare, support home-based care via Medicaid, advance clean energy goals, reform immigration policy, and restructure taxation on individuals and corporations. Faith leaders have mobilized a number of public actions in Washington and around the country to call for passage of the bill. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival gathered in DC on Monday to bring attention to the provisions around climate change and to follow Build Back Better with passage of the For the People Act to protect voting rights. 

New developments across the Americas for indigenous leaders

Latin American bishops gathered at the end of November for a regional assembly that sought to take a synodal approach to planning for the coming decade. Media coverage prior to the Sixth Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean emphasized the impact of water scarcity, environmental degradation, displacement of indigenous people due to development, and other harms being experienced in Chile, Bolivia and other countries in the Amazon Basin. According to America Magazine, over 1,000 participants were involved. Meanwhile, a delegation of First Nations leaders from Canada decided to postpone their trip to meet with Pope Francis due to the Omicron variant of COVID 19. Catholic News Agency reports, “The visit had been in the works since June 2021, following the discovery of many unmarked gravesites at the site of former residential schools.” The delegation anticipates that a rescheduled meeting sometime in 2022 will again offer the opportunity for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis delegates to share personal stories with the Holy Father. 

TAKE ACTION - Halt “Remain in Mexico” 

For seven decades, the U.S. has allowed families fleeing danger to safely seek asylum. It is not only a moral duty, but a critical cornerstone of international human rights law. On December 2, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as “Remain in Mexico,” would restart the week of December 6 after a ruling by the Supreme Court that upheld challenges to the suspension of the program by Texas and Missouri. In response to this announcement of reimplementation, Bishop Mario Dorsonville, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, issued a statement reaffirming the USCCB’s steadfast opposition to MPP.

“Remain in Mexico” does not allow those seeking asylum to enter the U.S. but rather sends children and families back to danger in cities with high rates of crime and kidnapping. By entirely undermining the asylum system, the policy forces families to wait in informal “refugee style” camps with no money and no idea when they will be able to move on. We know from the previous iteration of this policy that families are subject to assault, kidnapping, and trafficking while they wait, not to mention physical illness from exposure. The Welcome with Dignity campaign outlines critical components of the policy here encourages you to sign this pledge to help ensure a just, humane, and dignified asylum system that respects and protects the rights of all.
Laudato Si' Action Platform
Men’s religious institutes continue to make public commitments to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform in response to the cry of the earth and the poor, at the urging of Pope Francis. This includes the recent statements from the Jesuits of the US Central and Southern Province and the Provincial Ministers of six OFM provinces in the United States to join those of the Capuchin Friars of the Province of St. Joseph, Order of Friars Minor Conventual, Congregation of the Passion, and the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova.

Resources and tools to assist institutes and their leadership are continually being released. For example, you can: 
  1. Designate an LSAP promoter for your institute by submitting this form that then adds you or that individual to the Google Group for religious orders serving in the United States. The promoter receives regular updates on the platform and assistance with specific elements of the tool.
  2. Complete this short survey on how this small planning team can continue to assist you and your congregation with the LSAP.
  3. Consult the LSAP planning guide here designed specifically for religious orders as you discern your next steps.
Education & Resources
Make a visit on the Rivers of Hope Virtual Pilgrimage

Hear from those ministering with people impacted by some of society’s most difficult situations. Presenters will share how they find hope and strength. Opportunities will be provided for prayer and small group conversations. All sessions run for 75 minutes or so, begin at 6PM CT (4PM PT, 5PM MT, 7PM ET), and are bilingual Spanish/English:

  • January 11 – Mississippi – Climate Change
  • February 8 – Missouri – Human Trafficking
  • March 21 – Hudson – Economy, Education, and Racism

Register here for the links to the three remaining sessions. CMSM is collaborating on Rivers of Hope with the Asociación de Hermanas Latinas Misioneras en América (AHLMA), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the Mexican American Catholic College (MACC), and the Religious Brothers Conference (RBC).

All are invited to the 2022 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. This year's event, "Justice at the Margins," will be held virtually from January 29 to February 1, 2022. Don't miss this transformative gathering of prayer, learning, and advocacy. This year's gathering will include:

  • Inspiring leading voices in the Church and society.
  • Workshops with policy experts and grassroots community leaders.
  • Resources from dozens of Catholic social ministry organizations.
  • Virtual advocacy visits with elected officials.
  • And much more.

The entire program will be offered bilingually (English and Spanish), and sign interpretation will be available. Special opportunities include the Diversity Outreach Initiative, the Young Leaders Initiative, and a new group registration option with discounted rates for groups of 10 or more. Click here to register or learn more. Scholarships are available to cover a portion of the registration fee. Apply now. The application deadline is January 10, 2022.
Join the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) and Kino Border Initiative’s (KBI) Posada

Join ISN and KBI from December 16-24 in a daily virtual experience of music, prayer, reflection and action to end Title 42 as we journey with the Holy Family and migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. The virtual Posada will be in English and Spanish. Sign up now.
Explore the intersections of immigration and climate change in the context of human life

A recent webinar “Trashed: A Roundtable Conversation on Human Life, The Environment, and the Migrant” hosted by the Diocese of Norwich, looks at different ways in which a Catholic ethic informs the Church’s approach to these issues. The recording is now available on video here.

Bethany Welch, PhD, CMSM Fellow for Justice and Peace
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