Monday, March 13, 2017

Justice Promoters for Women Religious Gather in Chicago

March 5-7, 2017 JPIC staff and promoters from women's religious congregations across the country gathered in Chicago, IL for their second national convocation titled, "Which roots will we water?  Systemic Change and JPIC Ministry."  Representing the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word was Jennifer Reyes Lay, Assistant Director for the CCVI JPIC Office.  There were over a hundred participants made up of women religious, associates, and lay women and men.  Overall it was an inspiring and challenging three days of strengthening networks and relationships, learning about systemic oppression and systemic change, and praying and reflecting on where we've been and where we are going.

The keynote speaker for the convocation was Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, a professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.  Her latest book is "Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation."  Her keynote focused on themes in her most recent book including what grounds us in our work for systemic change, tools of systemic change, roots of moral power, and tools of resistance.  She reminded us that "to love means disrupting systemic injustice."  This is part of our vocational call, to incarnate God's love in the world, means to work for justice, peace, and the care of creation.  
Cynthia Moe-Lobeda's Keynote Address

Here are some of the wonderful insights shared by Cynthia:

  • We root ourselves in the promise of God's infinite and endless love.  We are called to receive that love and also embody that love in the world.  
  • We need to have "critical mystical vision" which means 1) seeing clearly what is going on and unmasking systemic evil that tries to present itself as good, 2) seeing what alternatives are already in the process of becoming or creating new realities, and 3) acknowledging the sacred powers at work in the universe for the well being of all creation.  
  • Climate change is a manifestation of white privilege and class privilege.  Those with the most privilege are polluting those with the least privilege.  The majority of climate refugees are African and Asian.  
  • By doing little to nothing we actively contribute to oppression and systemic evil.  
  • We come from a rich heritage of "fiercely loving subversive faithful resisters."  Do we know and share these stories?  What is the story we see ourselves a part of?  
  • From the wisdom of Ireneaus of Leon, we are "mud creatures," moist by the dew of the Holy Spirit so we can continually be molded by the Word (Jesus) and Wisdom (Spirit) of God into who we are meant to become.  How will we maintain our moistness?  
  • Pando is a vast network of Aspen trees with interconnected root systems.  Use this image to reflect on how we can build stronger root systems with one another to keep one another nourished and moist with the Holy Spirit.  
  • We need both resistance (stop systemic evil) and rebuilding (create new just systems).  
  • Action in one level of society impacts the others (individual, family, civil institutions, businesses, government).  
  • There are many options for actions to take, and all are needed!  These include: lifestyle changes, economic advocacy, legislative advocacy, community organizing, education and consciousness raising, public witness, economic alternatives, direct service to those in need, worship and prayer, and theological reflection.  
During the rest of the convocation there was time for conversations, relationship building, and breakout sessions on immigration and refugees, human trafficking, gospel nonviolence, feminism, legislative advocacy, Laudato Si and care of creation, and racism.  Many of these topics and actions are items that the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word are already actively involved in, and Jennifer share about some of the ways the CCVIs have engaged in prayer, education, and action around gospel nonviolence, human trafficking, and care of creation.  

On the final day of the convocation each table had time to reflect on the following two questions: 1) What needs to happen to ensure a vital JPIC ministry in women's religious congregations working toward systemic change? 2) How can we as JCWR (justice coordinators for women religious) members help foster this organization?  There were many great ideas and hopes shared to continue supporting one another and working together for systemic change as women's religious congregations.  There was overwhelming support to continue having these national convocations every two years, and in the off years to try and have more regional gatherings.  

After gathering together for three days in prayer, education, and reflection, we left with a renewed sense of hope, energy, and commitment to the work of justice, peace, and care of creation, knowing that we are in the struggle together and are continuing a long and powerful history of faithful resistance to injustice and evil in the name of our loving God.  

The closing blessing of the convocation

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