Update (April 2002)
InterAmerican Committee Plan for 2004 Conference in Brazil
Each year, representatives from the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC), the Religious Conference of Latin America (CLAR), CMSM and LCWR meet for the purposes of enhancing collaboration and increasing intercultural exchange. This year, the conferences’ presidents and executive directors met February 23-26, 2002 at the motherhouse of the Hospitallers of St. Joseph in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP, LCWR President and Carole Shinnick, SSND, LCWR Executive Director, represented LCWR.
The agenda was full and rich, balanced with brisk walking excursions into Old Montreal in the evenings. The committee spent significant time planning the next InterAmerican Conference to be held in Campinas, Brazil in early May, 2004. This conference, held every five years, will include a delegation of LCWR and CMSM members. The theme for the gathering will focus on the search for authentic religious life within the various cultures of the Americas.
A highlight of our gathering included a presentation with two advocates working with Canada’s aboriginal people. Ed Bianci and Millie Poplar, herself a member of one of Canada’s native peoples, spoke of the history of injustice and efforts to heal past wounds. Their story was not unlike the experience of native peoples in the United States.
The InterAmerican Committee will meet again March 1 – 6, 2003.
LCWR Think Tank on Systemic Change V Meets in Florida
Imagine February flowers by the riverside. Imagine thirty-two women disciples from all over the United States stopping in the sunlight for relaxation, contemplation, and stimulation. Imagine a haven where nonviolence is the seedbed, growth spurt, and harvest of prayer, conversation and action plans. Imagine all that, and you have imagined LCWR's fifth annual Think Tank for Systemic Change, February 10-12, at the Franciscan Retreat House in Tampa, Florida.
Our process was familiar, the framework current: the War on Terrorism, the larded military budget, the deepening call to nonviolence. We started by examining the personal, communal, and national experience of women religious. Social analysis led us to articulate the cultural, political, economic, ecclesial, educational, and social roots of the systems and myths that perpetuate domination and violence.
Theological reflection led us to acknowledge that contemplation, spirituality, and the constant quest for right relationships help us to imagine new ways to transform oppressive systems. We recognize that the Gospel is at stake. We have the tools and need to use them more effectively to affect what happens locally and nationally, to nudge and provoke our Church and world toward processes and resolutions that fulfill the dreams of the Gospel.
The 2002 LCWR Think Tank filtered experience, social analysis, and theological reflection toward action on six fronts:
- collaborating toward public witness for peace at this time of war
- collaborating regionally in peacemaking efforts
- collecting and communicating the stories of women from our congregations who have defied the drift of their times and cultures
- furthering days of contemplation and fasting
- encouraging the National LCWR Board to protest the expansion of the military budget at the cost of programs for the poor
- educating on the root causes of terrorism and violence.
The Think tank was a powerful experience for all who participated.
2001 National Assembly Resolution Follow-Up: Welfare Reform
In August of 2001, LCWR Members voted to "advocate for legislation that will help people move out of poverty as the welfare act of 1996 comes up for reauthorization in 2002." Among the calls for Specific Action were: to communicate with members of Congress and candidates for political office, to write letters to the editors of newspapers, and to cooperate when possible with NETWORK's next phase of the Welfare Reform Watch Project. The relevant issues in the legislation include benefits for legal immigrants; time limits; dollars to be allocated; and work, education and training.
On February 26, 2002, President Bush outlined a proposal for the new Welfare Reform bill to replace the current legislation. He advocated continued Government spending of approximately $16.5 billion a year and preserving the basic features of the 1996 law. His plan calls for 7 in 10 welfare recipients to hold jobs by 2007, up from the current 3 in 10. Those recipients would be required to work 40 hours a week, up from the current 30. The administration further supports spending up to $300 million in public funds for experimental projects to discover ways the government could encourage stable two-parent families. (LA Times, 2/27/02, pp. 1 & 10)
NETWORK notes that freezing TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funding at the 1997 level actually represents an erosion of funds by more than 11 percent because of inflation. Given the widespread state budget shortfalls, this stagnant funding will force many states to cut back on current welfare reform efforts.
A recent study in the state of Connecticut, as reported in the NY Times (“In Control Group, Most Welfare Recipients Left the Rolls Even Without Reform,” 2/20/02), states that in a control group of 2,400 welfare recipients, 81% of the participants, without any of the work requirements, time limits or extra subsidies used to push or lure their counterparts off welfare, left for jobs within a four year period, and 72% were still off the rolls when the research was concluded recently. This research, judged as an "unusually rigorous" study, also found that the other group of recipients who were assigned to the "Jobs First" program were only 5% more likely to take jobs. The cost of the "Jobs First" program was $4,100 per person more than for those in the control group. (The nonpartisan research was conduced by Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation under a contract with the state.)
Action by LCWR members in support of fair legislation is needed at this time. Specific actions to take:
- Support NETWORK's next phase: the Catholic Social Justice Lobby in Washington, DC, continues their initiative called "Making a Noise about the Need" to educate and gain support for a more just Welfare Act. Workshops will be held April 13 in Holyoke, MA, and April 20 in New Brunswick, NJ. May 16 is the National Lobby Day in Washington, DC. For information, see the Welfare Reform Page: http://www.networklobby.org/wrwp.htm.
- Write to Congress: Visit NETWORK's web site www.networklobby.org and click on Legislative Action Center. The site provides a box where you can insert your zip code and be taken to your Sen/Rep page, where you can automatically send email on current issues – either using the template or composing your own email message – and also access congressional voting records.
LCWR Holds Press Conference for Public Release of Women and Jurisdiction
International Women’s Day was chosen as an appropriate day to hold the public launch of the LCWR Benchmarks Study, published under the title Women and Jurisdiction: An Unfolding Reality. To that end, LCWR held its first ever press conference by conference call March 8, 2002, to release the results of the first academic study of women’s experience in Catholic Church leadership roles. As indicated in a media release announcing the press conference, the LCWR study provides empirical proof that Catholic women – married, single, and religious sisters - are already participating in the administration of the Catholic Church by making high-level executive decisions affecting Church personnel, property and policy.
“LCWR chose to release the Women and Jurisdiction study on International Women’s Day to acknowledge women and the ways in which their professional contribution in Church administration enriches the Catholic Church,” stated LCWR president Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP, in the same media release. “Women and Jurisdiction builds on a vision of Church, which emphasizes the call of baptism as that which disposes the faithful to exercise influence and leadership within the Catholic Church.”
Using the conference call format it was possible to bring together for the panel LCWR President Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP while at Provincial meetings in England, Benchmarks Task Force leader Anne Munley, IHM, in San Antonio, TX for an address and Task Force member and canonist Rosemary Smith, SC, who was visiting a health care system center in Appalachia. Media stories generated from the press conference appeared in National Catholic Reporter, Catholic News Service, Religious News Service, the Baltimore Sun and The Associated Press. Earlier that day in Rome, Radio Vatican devoted the whole of its International Women’s Day version of the English News program “This Is The Vatican” to interviews with Anne Munley and Kathleen Pruitt onWomen and Jurisdiction and women’s growing influence in the Church.
Copies of Women and Jurisdiction are still available for purchase by calling LCWR Publications at 1-800-207-7618.
LCWR President and Other Religious Leaders Conduct Congressional Briefing in Washington
Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP, joined Muslim, Jewish and Christian spokespersons on the six-month anniversary of September 11th on Capitol Hill for a Congressional Briefing entitled “Moral Questions: The Budget and National Security”, held March 11, 2002 in the Senate Dirsksen Building, Washington, DC. The purpose of the briefing was to elevate religious voices in addressing US policy directions related to the “war on terrorism”.
Other panel members included Mr. Ibrahim Ramey, a founding member of the Muslim Peace Fellowship and a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, Board Member of the Interfaith Communities United for Justice & Peace, a 60- member coalition in Los Angeles promoting alternatives to the war on terrorism, and a founding member of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel; and United Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of Chicago. Kathy Thornton, RSM, NETWORK National Coordinator, served as panel moderator.
Quotes from Kathleen Pruitt’s address:” We are citizens of a great nation ... but we are also world citizens…Violence will only beget violence… The only path to world unity is peace grounded in justice." The LCWR President, who is also Pax Christi USA’s Ambassador of Peace. said “Those of us who speak for peace are at the edges of society, marked as unpatriotic”, but she countered that speaking out in such a way, "is the most prophetic and patriotic" action that one can make. "We have globalized militarism… Are we a nation of the free, or are we free because we bomb others? Let us not just pray for peace, but let us work for peace."
Media coverage of the event included stories on Catholic News Service, United Methodist News Service, Religious News Service, National Public Radio and a televised broadcast on C-SPAN TV. More information on the briefing may be found at the NETWORK website, www.networklobby.org. Videotapes of the news conference (#169076 Religious Leaders’ Policy Conference) are available through the C-SPAN Web site – www.c-span.org. Call C-SPAN Viewer Services at 765-464-3080 to request information about and encourage future broadcasts of the briefing.
Transforming Community-Celebrating Diversity
- April 6-7, 2002
St. Chas. Borromeo Pastoral Center
Romeoville IL (Region 8)
- April 13-14, 2002
Convent Station NJ (Regions 2 & 3)
- April 20-21, 2002
Catholic Diocese of Witchita Spiritual Life Center
Wichita KS (Region 13)
LRCR 2002 Legal Seminar will be held April 4-7, 2002 at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center, Greensboro, NC, focusing on topics both challenging and practical. Seminar accommodations are at the Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons (attached to the Convention Center). For reservations call (800) 242-6556 and ask for the LRCR rate. In addition, a Risk Management Workshop sponsored by Christian Brothers Services is being held on Thursday, April 4, 2002; call Karen DiVito at (800) 807-0100, ext. 2935 to register. Audio recordings of the sessions will be available. Brochure, seminar information and a registration form may be found at www.LRCR.org/mission/education.htm
Days of Contemplation 2002
Monthly Reflection: Joan Marie Steadman, CSC
May the Spirit of the risen Christ weave the threads of our lives and relationships into a garment of love.
In the quiet of contemplative presence to God, listen for the call to transform hearts and relationships through your leadership.