July 5, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters added their voices to thousands of others on June 30 as they participated in Families Belong Together marches throughout the United States. Demonstrations throughout the nation protested the U.S. immigration policy that has separated children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border as the families attempted to enter the United States without formal documents.
Sister Corinne Florek was one of about 2,000 people to attend a rally at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. “It was inspiring because most of the speakers were young children,” she recalled. “They reminded us of the children’s march during the fight for civil rights. One girl spoke of her father being taken by ICE and how that affected her.”
Sisters Mary Trzasko, OP, and Beverly Stark, OP, were present at the rally in Charleston, South Carolina. Sister Beverly made the connection between the current immigration issue and the history of slavery in the U.S. South. “We gathered on and all around the steps of the Court House in Charleston, South Carolina, which is only a few blocks away from where slaves were bought and sold and families separated,” she said. “It was wrong and cruel then and it’s wrong and cruel today.”
About 20 Adrian Dominican Sisters were present for the rally in Adrian. Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, noted that the people of Adrian have been consistently attending rallies calling for social justice – from the Poor People’s Campaign and March for our Lives to the June 30 Families Belong Together March. “There was a lot of enthusiasm,” she said. “It was very encouraging.” The rally began at 11:00 a.m., and by noon, the crowd had grown to 150.
“The rally was very well attended in spite of the heat,” said Sister Annette Sinagra, OP, who also attended the march in Adrian. “It was a great support for the children and families that have suffered so very much under the cruel policies of [President] Trump.”
Sister Esther Kennedy, OP, also joined the Adrian march. “I was grateful for everyone who came. I also appreciated the cars that went by and honked…in support of immigration reform.”
Sister Esther spoke of her own motive for attending the rally. “We can feel overwhelmed in these kinds of situations, like there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “I do not want to be silent. I must put my body, my heart, my spirit, to join with others, and it’s not just in protest, but in remembering the core values this democracy was founded on. There have been times in our American history when we have not protested enough. I don’t want this to be one of those times.”
Sister Kathleen believes the message of the rally in Adrian goes beyond the call for an end to cruel separation of families at the border. The underlying message of the June 30 rally and the other recent rallies is the same. “There’s a consistent message that voting in November is going to be very, very important,” she said. “We need to get out the vote in November because that’s the only way we’re going to make any changes.”
Sister Cheryl Liske, OP, a community organizer, attended the Families Belong Together Rally on July 2 in Saginaw, Michigan. She accompanied members of the Ezekiel Project of Saginaw, one of four organizations that were called upon to speak during the rally. About half of the people who attended the rally then went to the office of Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) to present a cage full of toys for the children at the border. The action was in reference to reports that children at the border had been put into cages.
Sister Virginia “Ginny” King, OP, attended two rallies in the Detroit area, the first in front of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in Detroit. From there, she attended a related rally at the Hart Plaza in Detroit, traveling with “a small but diverse group,” she recalled.
Feature photo (top): Participating in the rally in Adrian are, from left, Sisters Joella Miller, OP; Maurine Barzantni, OP; Corinne Sanders, OP; Carmen Álvarez, OP; and Sara Fairbanks, OP.
Rally participants gather at the Court House in Charleston, South Carolina
March 10, 2017, Modesto, California – Two Adrian Dominican Sisters – Sisters Cheryl Liske, OP, and Mary Priniski, OP – were among 800 grassroots community representatives to gather at the U.S. regional meeting of the World Meeting of Popular Movements. (WMPM). The first such interfaith gathering in the United States was February 16-19 at Central Catholic High School in Modesto, California.
The WMPM is a series of gatherings of grassroots people, organizers, and activists who have been called together by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to advise the pope and the world on how to meet the needs of two “fragilities” named by Pope Francis: the poor and the Earth. The U.S. regional gathering was organized by the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO) Network.
Sister Cheryl, a member of the planning team for the regional meeting, had attended the WMPM gathering in Rome to get a feel for the gathering and to meet with others to structure the regional meeting in Modesto. A community organizer, she ministers at Gamaliel of Michigan, one of 44 affiliates of the national organization. Gamaliel’s mission is to “empower ordinary people to effectively participate in the political, environmental, social, and economic decisions affecting their lives.”
“I worked with our Gamaliel staff in various states and produced a delegation to Modesto of over 80 leaders and organizers,” including 19 from Michigan, Sister Cheryl said. The diverse group met beforehand and will meet as a follow-up on March 23, she added.
Sister Cheryl also invited Sister Mary to the regional meeting. Sister Mary ministers with the Catholic Community of the South, a “network of clergy and laity who are compelled by faith to solidarity with those on the margins,” according to the organization’s Facebook page. Sister Mary took the opportunity to engage with 11 Southern Catholic bishops about the issues involved in the gathering, and to meet with several grassroots community groups as well.
While the world meeting focused on issues such as land, labor, and lodging, the U.S. regional gathering focused on domestic issues of specific importance. “Right now immigration is the most pressing, and something we’re all working on,” Sister Cheryl explained. “Related to that is mass incarceration. We’re working on a strategy in Michigan to reduce prison [population] by about half.”
The gathering resulted in a document that included eight proposed actions, including the call to faith communities to establish themselves as sanctuaries for people facing deportation; bold, prophetic leadership from faith communities; state and regional meetings of popular movements; and the establishment of International Week of Action on May 1-7, 2017.
Both Sisters Mary and Cheryl came away from the gathering energized and inspired by their experience – from the talks they heard and the commitment of the people involved. Sister Cheryl was impressed by the “great speeches, great panels,” not just by bishops and other Church leaders, but by grassroots activists.
Sister Cheryl was moved by the talk from Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who challenged leaders to “get out there and do the work. We can’t just be praying and hoping for change,” Sister Cheryl said. Cardinal Tobin called for Catholics to work for the poor, to work for those who have been excluded from our society and in our economy, she added.
Sister Mary, for her part, was impressed by the talk given by Bishop Robert McElroy, of the Diocese of San Diego. Bishop McElory’s talk, widely discussed in U.S. Catholic newspapers, was also described in an article in the National Catholic Reporter.
A key point for Sister Mary was the encouragement she gained from the gathering, knowing that may people are working for justice and peace. “We are not alone,” she said. “If you feel alone, you are not. There are a lot of people around the world” working to bring about justice and peace. “The pope is very much supporting the work that we’re doing to stand with those who are suffering.”