Photo credit: Society of Jesus, USA Central and Southern Province

March 24, 2021
Spring is officially here and brings with it light, blooms, and, for some, warmer days. For those of us who are gardeners or farmers, this new season is shaped by germination and cultivation, the necessary preparation for growth. There is a lesson here for our justice and peace work, too.

As Kayla Jacobs remarked in the homily reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, “When we allow ourselves to be cultivated by God’s love and being ‘His people’ (Jeremiah 31:33) we are in the right condition to serve the poor, comfort the afflicted, bury the dead, visit the sick and imprisoned, and to bear wrongs patiently.” 
IN THE NEWS
Asylum seekers, changing policy, and humanitarian assistance

Depending on whom you speak to, the rate of arrivals at the U.S./Mexico border are characterized as consistent with seasonal averages, the direct result of past asylum policy (such as Remain in Mexico/Migrant Protection Protocol) that is now being continued with Title 42, or, a new group of unaccompanied minors who are being both expelled (sent back) and detained in facilities before releasing them to sponsors in the U.S.

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
Public charge dropped from U.S. immigration practice

The Biden Administration recently announced that it will no longer defend the 2019 public-charge rule implemented during the prior administration and all pending appeals have been dismissed. As a result, the 1999 interim field guidance on the public charge inadmissibility provision (this is the policy in place prior to the 2019 rule) is now in effect. Immigrants and their families now can use health, nutrition, and housing programs they qualify for under the 1999 guidance, including COVID-19-related medical care, without fear of being subject to immigration enforcement. 

The USCCB has opposed the 2019 rule since it was first introduced. Additionally, the USCCB issued a statement last year expressing concern over the Supreme Court's decision allowing the Trump Administration to move forward with implementation of the rule while litigation was ongoing. To track this change and to follow movement on the bipartisan immigration reform legislation, visit Justice for Immigrants.
 
Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act passed the House of Representatives 

In a big win for American workers, the Protecting the Right to Organize or PRO Act passed the House of Representatives Tuesday by a vote of 225-206. The PRO Act would crack down on employers who fire workers for exercising their legal right to form a union, and would give “gig workers” such as Uber and Lyft drivers the right to form unions for the first time. The Act also provides for mediation and arbitration when workers form a union but can’t reach agreement with their employer on a first contract and clarifies that immigrant workers also enjoy the protections of the National Labor Relations Act, regardless of their immigration status. Now the PRO Act goes to the Senate for action. To follow this piece of legislation, visit Catholic Labor Network.
U.S. Senate considers The Equality Act;
Some faith leaders endorse alternative bill

The Equality Act has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is being actively considered in the Senate. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes it on the grounds of religious liberty, stating, “The Equality Act purports to protect people experiencing same-sex attraction or gender discordance from unjust discrimination. Although this is a worthy purpose, the Equality Act does not serve it. And instead of respecting differences in beliefs about marriage and sexuality, the Equality Act discriminates against people of faith precisely because of those beliefs.”

Some religious leaders have taken different stances on the legislation. NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice has endorsed the act, saying, “Without this legislation, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be fired at will, denied a place to live, and refused medical care.” 
Other faith leaders, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, have endorsed an alternative piece of legislation, the Fairness for All Act. Both bills would outlaw discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, but the latter would expand protections for faith-based institutions.
CALL TO ACTION: GLOBAL VACCINATION
CALL TO ACTION: Global Vaccine Access

The Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology is urging U.S. leaders to support vaccine access for those on the margins. As vaccination ramps up across the U.S. and other wealthy countries, low-income countries are being left behind. Pope Francis and the Vatican has repeatedly affirmed that vaccines must be made available and accessible to all, “especially the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet.”

One of the obstacles to wider vaccine distribution is intellectual property rights. Under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, monopoly rights are granted to the pharmaceutical companies who developed them. This means that other companies who have the capacity to produce the same vaccines aren’t permitted to.

A large group of low-income countries, led by South Africa and India, has asked the WTO to grant an emergency waiver, which would allow pharmaceutical companies to produce generic versions of these vaccines during the pandemic, making them much more widely available. The United States, along with several other countries, is blocking this waiver. Continued failure to approve the waiver will inevitably lead to large numbers of preventable deaths. Click here to learn more about the issue and to send a message to President Biden to take action on vaccine access
GOOD FRIDAY EVENT
Virtual Way of the Cross: Friday, April 2, 2021, 12 p.m. ET 
The observance of Christ's passion is an opportunity to reflect on the ways we have broken our covenant with God at the expense of other persons and creation. At each station, we will focus on a different economic or ecological challenge or sign of hope for our times. CMSM member congregations will read for Station Fourteen, focused on justice for asylum seekers. Register here for the webinar link or watch live on YouTube the day of the event. See the flyer here.
EDUCATION AND RESOURCES
This season of spring is also an important reminder that the Laudato Si’ Action Platform is in process! Watch for regular updates under this heading.

Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP)

CMSM conference executive director, Fr. Frank Donio, SAC, and Justice and Peace Fellow Bethany Welch sent a letter to all CMSM members (major superiors and councilors) inviting men’s religious congregations to participate in the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a seven-year journey to sustainability in the spirit of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’. Both Bethany and Fr. Frank are representing the United States as members of the Religious Orders Working Group being convened by the Dicastery.

In the letter to CMSM members (adapted here), major superiors were invited to identify a person or persons to serve as a kind of Laudato Si’ Action Platform “designee” or “contact person” for their congregation, province, monastery or religious institute. CMSM is working together with LCWR to support designees as they work with their congregations to commit to the journey and to chart their course to sustainability.

Action Steps for CMSM JPIC Coordinators:

  1. Check with your leadership if you are not sure if you are the Laudato Si’ designee. If you are, they can point you to the Google Group sign-up form to receive joint communication from the CMSM/LCWR LSAP team.
  2. Login to CMSM’s JPIC Community via my.cmsm.org and then view the LSAP library of materials.
  3. Mark your calendar to join us for the Quarterly Meeting of the JPIC Coordinators: Thursday, April 8, 3 p.m. ET on Zoom. We will spend most of the agenda on the LSAP. (Invitation sent to JPIC Coordinators directly.)
 
Questions? Email bwelch@cmsm.org.
Webinar - Grappling with Slavery:
Catholic Religious Orders and the Journey of Truth-Telling & Reconciliation

This two-hour, virtual workshop on Thursday, March 25, 5-7 p.m. CT, will provide a broadened understanding of the work being done by several religious orders to grapple with their community's historic role in slavery and the slave trade in America. Panelists each will provide background on the theological, moral, and ethical commitments that led them to investigate their order's ties to slavery and will discuss what their order is doing to create space for confession and reconciliation.

  • Rev. John Vidmar, OP, STD, Provincial Archivist, associate professor, Providence College, Rhode Island
  • Danielle Harrison, MA, JD, co-director, Slavery, History, Memory, and Reconciliation Project, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S.
  • Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ, ThD, archivist, Society of the Sacred Heart, United States - Canada Province
  • Rev. Perry Henry, CM, director, DePaul Evangelization Center

Participants will have the opportunity to present questions to the panel for further discussion. Register here to attend.
Educational program materials for Earth Day

The Catholic Climate Covenant’s new 2021 Earth Day program, “Restore Our Common Home” is now available to be part of your planning! With spiritual nourishment and practical activities, the free one-hour educational program can be easily downloaded. The program is intended for Earth Day (April 22), the 6th anniversary of Laudato Si’ (May 16-24), or whenever works for you. The interactive program includes prayers, readings, a short video, discussion questions, and suggested “restoration” activities. Download the program here.
Forum on promoting a low-carbon economy

The Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC) is offering a webinar on “A Just Transition,” a movement that focuses on the transition to a low-carbon economy that is both fast and fair, with responsible and justice-centered management of the social impacts of this transition in the workplace and wider community. This free session on Monday, March 29, 2021, at 3 p.m. CT. Register here
Job opening: Bilingual justice, peace, and ecology advocacy coordinator

The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach is the U.S. Region of the Missionary Society of St. Columban’s national office for Justice, Peace and Ecology Advocacy and Advocacy Leadership Programs. We seek a bilingual (Spanish and English) individual who is able to multitask in a work environment that is community centered, committed to racial and gender equity, and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. While work may initially be online, we are seeking someone who can work in our Washington, DC office. Click here for the job posting.
For Palm Sunday, Fr. Ako Walker, CSsR, invites us to practice solidarity and on Easter, Sr. Nicole Trahan, FMI, gives us a glimpse of where Mary of Magdala stood in the garden—on the brink of something new.

You can access the lectionary reflections each week at csmsm.org/homilyresources. These resources are posted as they are available.
Contact CMSM JPIC

Bethany Welch, Ph.D., CMSM Fellow for Justice and Peace
Visit us online: cmsm.org/justiceandpeace