LCWR President Travels to Middle East
Editor's notes: LCWR President Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM, recently travelled to the Middle East as part of a delegation comprised of the leadership of CMSM and the Relgious Conference of Britain and Wales. She shares her experiences below.
“Thank you for coming to be with us in these extremely difficult times.” This was what we heard as the leadership of the Conference of Religious in England and Wales, CMSM, and LCWR met with Palestinians and Israelis during our peace delegation to the Middle East.
Throughout the region, I experienced how the Israeli matrix of control, formed by Jewish settlements, road blocks and curfews, severs the Palestinian people from access to life-sustaining services such as water, medical facilities, food supply, educational opportunities, the company of family and friends, and any possibility of gathering to organize themselves socially and politically.
We met Tania, a young Russian Jew, who has refused to do the required Israeli military duty and is serving as an active member of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions. We met Nora, a Palestinian Christian from the Ecumenical Theology Center, who is teaching children a non-fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible so as to counteract the literalist approaches which inspire the violence of extremist Zionism and Jihad. We met with rabbis, Latin and Greek Christian church leaders, and the Muslim Mufti, all of whom anguish over the effect of the relentless violence and pervasive fear on the spirit of all people in the region.
We met Arafat who, in his Ramallah compound reduced to rubble, begged us not to identify the Palestinian people with Al-Queda. We met the Christian Brothers at Bethlehem University who shared with us the effects of the long curfew on the educational processes and told story after story of the intense psychological suffering caused by pervasive uncertainty. We went to Gaza where children ran barefoot in rain-flooded streets that carried months of uncollected garbage and where we met Manuel Musallam, a Catholic pastor who, thanks to aid from the Spanish government, has built a flourishing school for both Christian and Muslim Palestinians.
When asked what we could do every Palestinian and some Israelis responded: You must tell your people what you have seen; you must put pressure on your government to demand Israel to cease the occupation.
We walked the Via Dolorosa and, all the time we walked, I knew that the real way of the Cross is being enacted today in the people of the region. When we stopped at the Wailing Wall, I deliberately put my finger through a crack hoping to widen the way, beyond all walls, to peace.
Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM
Remembering the Martyrs, Supporting Justice Today in El Salvador
Ed.'s Notes: LCWR Associate Director for Social Mission Judy Cannon, RSM, is pictured below with current and former LCWR members during their recent visit to San Salvador. Her reflections on the experience follow.
In commemoration of the deaths of Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan in 1980, U.S. churchwomen – 17 religious and 2 lay – journeyed to El Salvador November 30 – December 8. Nine former or current LCWR members participated in the delegation, some sent by their LCWR regions. Organized by the SHARE Foundation, the delegation combined religious pilgrimage, visits with the people in the countryside, and advocacy through a press conference and a visit to the U.S. Ambassador’s office.
On December 2 the group participated in Eucharist and a commemorative service at the site where the bodies of the four martyred women were found. A heartfelt “Presente” followed the announcement of each name and description of the woman’s service and commitment. The people’s appreciation and love, as well as the vibrancy of their memories, were very evident.
SHARE staff led group visits to rural cooperatives where land and the power of decision-making are held in common. The co-ops included a plant for pasteurizing milk and producing gourmet cheeses, a research lab for natural pesticides, two marketing ventures for farm products, and organizations for the production of sugar cane and bread making. Credit co-ops made micro-enterprise possible for raising chickens and cattle (an all-women project). Other skills-development programs included a women’s literacy circle and support for ending domestic violence.
The press conference on the martyrs' anniversary was covered on both television and radio. Advocacy with the ambassador’s office and USAID director focused on the need to complete the levee project in the Lower Lempe River basin to prevent flooding, and opposition to the Central America Free Trade Agreement now in planning stages.
Throughout the week, the delegation was often moved by the stories of the martyrs, the suffering of rural people during the war (1979-1992), and their gracious hospitality and personal warmth. In so many diverse situations they expressed a strong spirit of hope and empowerment. They also asked us as U.S. citizens to give voice to their struggles in the face of great needs, believing that we can influence our country’s policies. The visit certainly deepened our experience of solidarity and transformed our hearts.
Judy Cannon, RSM
From The Executive Director's Desk: Vocation as Passion
Author Frederick Buechner tells us that vocation is “the place where your deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest need.” Reading that definition, don’t many, many people come to mind - people who simply love their lives, love their work, and radiate energy, passion, and commitment?
In December I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with a whole group of such people – most of them members of your own congregations. Because LCWR is interested in finding concrete ways to collaborate with the representatives of religious congregations with UN-NGO status, I was invited to attend the monthly meeting of “RUN” – “Religious at the United Nations.” We met in a large room at Holy Family Church on East 47th Street in Manhattan, just around the corner from the UN. After hugs, greetings, and some initial teasing, the group settled into a circle of chairs, and the energy began to flow. For two hours, these marvelous people from many different countries shared position papers, interventions, and plans for upcoming conferences.
I listened intently as these people explored topics ranging from the impact of corporations on the earth’s environment and the worldwide crisis of clean water, to human rights and the trafficking of women and children. I was deeply impressed at how obviously these persons’ “deepest gladness” daily meet “the world’s deepest need.” We can all be very proud of these women and men religious who minister at the United Nations in our name. They are a great group!
At the end of January, we at the LCWR office will be saying good-bye to another person whose gifts and energies have consistently focused on the deepest needs of the human family. Judy Cannon, RSM, will be ending her six years with LCWR as our Associate Director for Social Mission, and returning to Burlingame, California. Judy has the ability to absorb huge quantities of information about a diversity of topics – health care, sponsorship, foreign affairs, political reform – and to turn the information into intelligent and intelligible material for us all. Judy has been a joy to work with – committed, collaborative, and downright fun. We will miss her drop earrings, her droll humor and her dear presence. Godspeed, Judy, and thank you for all you have given of yourself to LCWR.
For you, the members of LCWR, I pray that each of you in this New Year will find unexpected moments when your own deep gladness will touch the world’s deepest needs.
Carole Shinnick, SSND
Global Concerns Committee Visits Mexican Maquilas
In order to join CMSM’s Justice and Peace Committee, the LCWR Global Concerns Committee met Nov. 21-24 in Brownsville, TX. Led by Ed Kruegar, the group crossed the Mexican border into Reynosa to visit three homes of maquila organizers and workers. The workers described conditions in the factories, the relationship with union leaders commonly aligned with management, and several successful campaigns for safety and justice based on their recently-developed knowledge of Mexican labor law. These were truly stories of empowerment and hope. Members of the Global Concerns Committee were renewed in their understanding of and commitment to the Assembly 2000 resolution on maquiladoras. The group also met with Ninfa Ochoa Kruegar in McAllen to learn of her organizing work among Central American migrants living in colonias in our country.
In other actions, the Global Concerns Committee explored possibilities for future LCWR common action to promote justice in public policy through advocacy and public witness.
One possibility would be an annual advocacy day in Washington, DC. The committee had a preliminary discussion of a public witness event for Assembly 2003 in Detroit as well as an Assembly resolution, and planned the next issues of Resolutions to Action.
Committee members are Mary Brigid Clingman, OP; Marie Cooper, SJC; Toni Harris, OP; Barbara Moore, CSJ; Peggy Nolan, BVM; Aline Marie Steuer, CSC; and Judy Cannon, RSM (staff).
For Your Information
LRCR: Legal Resource Center for Religious attorneys Dan Ward and Judy Hereford have been responding to the Sexual Abuse Crisis by providing educational programs to national and regional groups of religious. Several regions of LCWR have hosted presentations on sexual abuse, focusing on the civil and canon law issues, and providing information on responding to allegations and on revising the community policy on sexual abuse.
As well, LRCR is working with local congregational attorneys to craft responses to allegations, and helping communities review and revise their policies to be more in keeping with the current situation in the church and in keeping with changes in the law. Useful resources for reviewing and revising sexual abuse policies and a list of upcoming workshops may be found on the LRCR web site, www.lrcr.org.