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January 31, 2019, Washington, D.C. – Adrian Dominican Sisters joined thousands of other women across the United States in the 2019 Women’s March, participating in the main march in Washington, D.C., and in sister marches in other parts of the U.S.
Among the participants were Sisters Maurine Barzantni, OP, Joan Baustian, OP, Leonor Esnard, OP, and Kathleen Nolan, OP, who participated in the March in Washington, D.C., and Sisters Marian Castelluccio, OP, Corinne Florek, OP, and Evelyn Montez, OP, who marched in Oakland, California.
Sister Kathleen, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, coordinated the efforts of the Adrian-based Sisters who attended the march in Washington, D.C. She said traveling together and sharing the experience was a benefit. The Sisters drove 10 hours and stayed at a hotel in McLean, Virginia. They then traveled to the march with the aid of the hotel’s shuttle and public transportation. The Sisters spent five hours at the rally and march.
“I just wanted to stand up and be counted as one who is really dissatisfied with the way the country is being run by our leaders,” Sister Kathleen said. Still, she added, she didn’t see the march as a political rally. “What [march organizers] continue to do is connect the dots,” she explained. “They talked about intersectionality and how all the issues are connected.”
Sister Maurine said several issues were represented, from immigration to gun violence. “Our issues should be to care for each other,” she said. “That should be the issue for the whole country. Let’s care about each other. … Basically [the March] was about government – the government has to care about everybody.”
Sister Leonor recalled that a person at the march had had a sign listing issues. “The sign was not large enough to contain them all,” she said. “One of the dearest issues to my heart is women’s and children’s rights – equality: equality in pay, respect in relationships.”
The Sisters also saw some gaps in the issues that were represented. “One thing I don’t think they stressed enough through the speakers and the rally was the poverty issue, and especially single moms, many of whom are black and Latino,” Sister Joan said. “They didn’t talk about the thousands of American kids who go to bed hungry every night. You don’t hear that explicitly.”
Sister Kathleen explained there is still a feeling that marchers don’t fully welcome pro-life women. “That seems to be a gap. I’m strong on right to life, but I see it as a seamless garment – right to all life. The Bishops Conference said all people deserve respect.”
Overall, the Sisters found the Women’s March to be inclusive and peaceful. Sister Leonor especially remembered being welcomed to the march after the Sisters disembarked from the train. “It was like a welcoming before we integrated with the group,” she said. “With all those people, everyone was polite and respectful. … You had a sense of safety and solidarity.” She was also impressed with the efforts by some to greet the police officers and military who were in attendance. “We just wanted to thank them for being there,” she said.
The Sisters who participated in the march in Oakland, California were also impressed by the inclusivity and diversity in the rally at Lake Merritt and the 1-mile march to the Frank Ogawa Plaza, where city offices are located. “The beauty of it was the diversity of people: families with young children in strollers, a variety of families – two moms or two dads with their kids – and diverse ethnicities and cultures,” Sister Marian said.
“It was wonderful to be with such a diversity of people and see the many posters asking for inclusion of all,” Sister Corinne said. “The grandmothers were there singing their hearts out on one corner and a group of young women were chanting on another – a real people's party!”
The Sisters also emphasized the energy they experienced – and the sense of hope from the unity among the participants, even among those who focused on different issues. “Just being with a lot of people is energizing,” Sister Joan said. “It makes you think that you’re going in the right direction.”
Sister Kathleen emphasized “women are here to stay. They’re going to be heard and they’ll stay in the struggle. Another world is possible and the women are important in bringing that about.”
March 2, 2018, Washington, D.C. – Four Adrian Dominican Sisters were among about 200 Catholic priests, Sisters, lay leaders, and Dreamers who on February 27 gave public witness to the Catholic call for a clean Dreamers Act that would allow a path to citizenship for young immigrants who had come to the U.S. with their parents.
Sister Elise García, OP, General Councilor, was among about 40 participants who were arrested in a nonviolent act of civil disobedience, staying in the Capitol Rotunda to pray for just and compassionate immigration legislation after the Capitol Police had warned them three times to disband. Standing in solidarity with her and with the other arrested protestors were Adrian Dominican Sisters Attracta Kelly, OP; Corinne Sanders, OP; and Heather Stiverson, OP.
The national Catholic event was organized by Faith in Public Life, Pax Christi International, Pax Christi USA, PICO National Network, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, NETWORK: Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and other Catholic organizations. Events included Mass, followed by talks by two Dreamers; a press conference; the civil disobedience action; and the opportunity for participants to meet with their legislators to lobby for the passage of a clean Dream Act to protect the young immigrants from deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – established under the administration of President Barrack Obama – offered the Dreamers temporary safety from arrest and deportation. President Donald Trump had set March 5 as an expiration date for the program, but the move has been blocked in court.
Sister Elise described her experience of being arrested as very sobering. “As I was being handcuffed and taken away, I knew that I would be free within a couple of hours and could get on with my life,” she said. “But I was also aware that arrest for the Dreamers, without legislation providing them legal status, would have disastrous consequences for them and their families for their entire lives.”
Sister Elise described civil disobedience as a “nonviolent form of action undertaken to draw attention to an injustice.” During her arrest and processing afterward, she said she felt the support of the Adrian Dominican Congregation. “Our three other Sisters participated in solidarity their presence, further symbolizing and giving witness to this action as one that is communal.”
Sisters Corinne, Attracta, and Heather also expressed their solidarity with the Dreamers and their commitment to ensuring that the Dreamer Act is passed. “I wanted to do anything that might help change [the legislators’] minds so they could … take a stand and get the Dream Act passed,” said Sister Attracta. An immigration lawyer and an immigrant from Ireland, she directs the Congregation’s Office of Immigration Assistance.
“The Dreamers didn’t choose to come to this country, but once they got here, they embraced it and it’s now their home,” Sister Heather said. “Those who graduated from college are now working and contributing to our country. They just want to stay here and give back to our country.”
Sister Corinne also recognized the plight of immigrants. “People immigrate not necessarily because they want to, but because of violence, lack of food and water, and justice issues” in their home countries, she said. “I have come more and more into an understanding of immigration and a desire to work more closely on behalf of those who are in our country, and to look for more comprehensive and just immigration reform.”
The Adrian Dominican Sisters said the Day of Action gave them a sense of hope and a feeling of solidarity with the Dreamers and other participants. Sister Attracta said she felt hope just from seeing the faith and hope of the people attending the action. “Everyone was there to be of help, and young people were there trusting us older people that we would help them get some safety here in the U.S.”
For more about the action in Washington, D.C., read articles in Spanish by Telemundo and in English in America Magazine, The National Catholic Reporter, and the Catholic News Agency.