Consider This…

What About our Children?

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

Children have often been compared to sponges in the way that they pick up on what they see and hear and feel in their environments–from home, from school, from the media, on the street. What are they picking up in the many settings of their young lives?

In the Southern Poverty Law Center Summer Report, a headline reads “Minority Children Suffer from Hate Rhetoric in Presidential Campaign.” The Center has surveyed almost 2000 teachers nationwide and found that the presidential campaign “is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color, and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in classrooms….” Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.” Fear among these children is at a high level. The spread of these experiences is nationwide and especially acute in schools with high numbers of minority children. They have concern for themselves and for their families. Rancor in the election is no model for our young people!

ACTION: Pray deeply for our children and our country at this time of profound disorientation. Model and practice hope. Join with others to show compassion in difficult situations. Speak and act kindly of people from other faiths and other races and cultures.

Justice for Immigrants and Refugees

by Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Justice for Immigrants 
are both asking us to give the House Leadership a message:  Don’t bring that flawed Anti-Refugee Bill (H.R. 4731) to a vote!
  • In mid-March the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 4731, which would roll back protections for refugees seeking admission to the United States, as well as for refugees who have already been admitted to the country.
  • Among its many detrimental provisions, H.R. 4731 would drastically reduce and cap refugee admissions. It would give Congress, rather than the President, the authority to set annual levels of refugee admissions. It would impose new barriers to the integration of persons admitted to the U.S. as refugees into the civic life of the country.
  • Religious persecution is real, as we know from our Christians in the Middle East; but this bill seeks to elevate religious persecution above all other grounds and then seeks to favor particular religions over others for priority consideration.

H.R. 4731 is too flawed and does not historically represent the tradition of a country built by immigrants from many places and faiths.


Justice Yes! Vengeance No!

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

The terrible events of this past weekend in France have shaken us to the core in the West. Life suddenly is out of joint! Where do we find ourselves in this new reality?

Paul Krugman’s article in the New York Times (Nov.16, 2015) is a voice of reason in this time of fear and grief. It is aptly entitled “Fearing fear itself.” He says: “The goal of terrorists is to inspire terror…and we can refuse to give in to this terror.” That said, what is our way through?

Our Faith tells us that God is with us all days until the world is no more. With the grace and the strength of our Faith we must condemn the violence, seek justice, pray for the persecutors, acknowledge our own misdeeds. If we act out of blind anger and revenge, we inevitably will repeat the past. As the song “Where have all the flowers gone…” reminds us, “When will we ever learn! When will we ever learn!” If we believe this, we can be guided away from rage, to the depth of soul needed to find a way to compassion and peace–even through this darkness.

An immediate challenge is the President’s decision to continue aiding Syrian refugees who could be a way that terrorists can pass undetected into our country. Our President says we must take the risk–and we must. President Obama indicates that our vetting of refugees is being made even more rigorous than it was already. We are reminded by Pope Francis’ words that “Refugees are more than statistics. They are children of God, each with his or her own inherent dignity. They are God’s children.”

May our Congress be courageous and vote to continue to receive these people uprooted through no fault of their own.


The Sad Side of the Super Bowl

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

wilberforce-quote

Photo by: http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.ie/

In February 2016 the Super Bowl comes to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, and with it the increased demand and supply for sex trafficking. Sadly this is typical for most major sporting events. Our big concern is focused on protecting young girls and boys and other at-risk populations.

The Good News: Local police and support networks in San Jose have been preparing for this Super Bowl. And the Diocese of San Jose and the Diocese of Monterey have formed the Catholic Network to End Human Trafficking. They work with other faith communities to educate, to influence public policy, and to eradicate human trafficking in all its forms. Earlier this year a Freedom Summit was sponsored by Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition (BAATC) with over 1500 people in attendance and participation by 53 anti-human trafficking organizations! BAATC staff are now training employees at the Mineta San Jose International Airport to spot trafficking.

Much effort is already underway to keep this upcoming Super Bowl safe for all and free of trafficking of any kind. Can you help?

ACTION: Call the national trafficking hotline number (888) 373-7888 if you suspect someone is being trafficked.

ACTION: Visit the BAATC website if you want to become more involved.

ACTION: Pray for the safety of our young and for potential predators.

The Future of Energy…Wind and Sun!

by Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

Windmills by Eva Luedin, flickr.com

Windmills by Eva Luedin, flickr.com

Amazing to think that in the future we and our children will be living in a whirl of energy that will be coming primarily from winds and the sun. The shift from fossil fuels to solar and wind energy is already well underway, thanks to the imagination and creativity of our scientists!

Solar and wind power are already replacing the old economy of coal and oil. Lester Brown, a pioneer in the environmental movement, has helped to make eco-consciousness significant to business interests, to many politicians and to academia. He has recently published an important book:  “The Great Transition:  Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy.”

Think how beneficial this shift can be to reverse global warming!

Action: Pray that our legislators may recognize the alleviation possible in care for the earth and in air quality!  And get a copy of Lester Brown’s book!

Action:  Read Pope Francis’ letter to the world: Laudato Si’ On Care for Our Common Home.” It is honest, strong and energizing. It begins: “Praise be to you, my Lord.”  In the words of this beautiful canticle (Canticle of the Sun), St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.


In Praise of a Local Effort to Affirm Our Human Rights

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

The Bay Area News Group carried a story (06-16-15 by Ash Kaira and Brian Carr) that should alert us all. This week the San Jose City Council is considering a law to protect the constitutional rights of human beings over that of corporations. Because a law called Citizens United was passed by the US Supreme Court in 2012 by a narrow 5-4 vote, corporations are claiming the same rights as a person! This law has other important impacts about money and elections.

That Americans are not happy with this ruling is an understatement! Over 450 municipalities have called for a constitutional amendment stating that only human beings have constitutional rights. This week Councilman Ash Kalra and Brian Carr of Move to Amend are asking the San Jose City Council to consider a resolution “that the rights protected by the constitution are the rights of natural persons and that artificial entities created by the people are subject to regulation by the people through federal, state, and local law.” Ellen Goodman, Professor of Law at Rutgers, raised a good question in a recent appearance in San Francisco: “Are we seeing a takeover of the First Amendment by the corporations?”

The article cites several examples of “violators” of Citizens United:

  • In Massachusetts a law banning tobacco advertising within 1000 feet of a school was struck down as a violation of corporate free-speech.
  • In Vermont a federal court prohibited the state from requiring labeling of milk containing a synthetic growth hormone which is a suspected carcinogen that had been banned by the European Union, Canada and elsewhere, saying the corporation had a constitutional right NOT to speak!
  • In Ohio a coal company is suing a public interest group for criticizing it in opposing regulations designed to protect miners by limiting coal dust in the mines as an infringement of the corporation’s right to privacy!

ACTIONS:

  • Pray to understand that we must take responsibility if we want absurd and immoral laws like this to be taken off the books.
  • Go to the www.movetoamend.org to learn the strength and reach of this counter–organization with a helpful, hopeful instructional map.
  • Call your congresspersons at 202-224-3121 to express your views, and talk to your friends about the need to uphold our constitutional rights against Citizens United.

Still a Dream

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

I was deeply moved by the movie “Selma.” What grabbed me most was how Martin Luther King Jr. walked through conflict after conflict, the most painful with his own followers, to achieve a non-violent resolution. Contrary to fears, Rev. King demanded and won the vote for the black community and caused America to live up to its promise, at least in law, of the equality of all.

Today we know that equality and justice for all still remain a dream in the black community, especially for young men. We know of the disproportionate incarceration rates of blacks, the frequent police brutality, the devious ways that access to the vote is being denied, the lack of good education in segregated black neighborhoods.

It is time that we in the religious community collectively search our hearts and raise our voices to complete what Selma achieved by the suffering and courage of blacks, and with members of the churches, and a number of whites at the time.

The country was changed. But not all the way.

We have something more; the conviction of Pope Francis, whose constant refrain from his personal experience–we MUST address the issue of poverty! In America of all places, the richest country in the world! It is clear by now that poor nutrition, poor housing, poor education, conflict in the home, compounded by white stereotypes of black men as “hoodies” and “druggies” need to be addressed by us all.

Let us pray to overcome our own stereotypes, to ponder how we can help to change perceptions in ourselves and others.


Time for Compassion

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

Around us we see the hardship caused by declining opportunity and stagnant wages, worsening inequality for both poor and moderate-income families, and the retired; yet both the House and Senate passed budgets that offer little or no help for these problems. What a time to make staggering cuts to federal nutrition programs!

As we engage in the solemnities of Holy Week, I ponder a poem I received in the mail from a friend, Calvin Niklaus, entitled “The Closing Bell.” Here are excerpts:

Clanging, noise, hand clapping
Smiling faces
With the look of
We have arrived

What used to be
The middle class
Doesn’t hear the closing bell
Of the New York Stock Exchange

The American dream
Has been laid bare . . . .

Maybe I’m black
Maybe I’m Hispanic
Maybe I am what is left
Of the dreams washed ashore
With hope
And so willing

Hello Lady Liberty
I work three shifts
And I’m broke in America

Centuries ago St. Chrystostom warned us of the deception of excluding the poor, disabled, and elders from our concern. Where is compassion? Veterans, children, Seniors, working and unemployed adults need programs like SNAP.


Good Things

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

Last week was a poignant week of reflection and celebration as we remembered the 10th anniversary of the murder of Sr. Dorothy Stang in Brazil.  We welcomed the Stang brothers, Tom and David, with their wives, and also two friends of Sr. Dorothy from Ohio, Sr. Elizabeth Bowyer and Sr. Judi Clemens, who both served with Dorothy in Brazil for many years.

The crowning event of the week was the special concert version of composer Evan Mack’s opera, Angel of the Amazon, about the life and death of Sr. Dorothy. The opera, which has played in New York and Boston, was received with enthusiasm. It featured two young opera professionals, Caitlin Mathes as a most convincing Dorothy and Jeffrey Williams as Luis, one of the farmers. The local chorus, Viva la Musica, directed by Shulamit Hoffman, offered excellent support.  

And in the larger world, there is some very good news to share.  Four bills are being introduced in the California Senate that would move California towards 100% clean energy! (We believe this good news is linked to the largest anti-fracking demonstration in U.S. history – 8000 strong in Oakland, California, on February 7th! Four SNDs participated!) Together these bills would slash oil use 50%; increase renewable energy to 50%; reduce energy use by 50%; divest the state’s pension fund from dirty coal companies; commit the state to 80% reductions in greenhouse gases by 2050; and authorize a panel to ensure that these initiatives would create good jobs.


In This Hope-Filled Season

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

In the spirit of this hope-filled season the Sisters of Notre Dame invite you to pray, reflect and act in each of the four weeks of Advent on those facets of our lives together that will move us to become a more welcoming, caring and sharing community for all.

Week One: President Obama is finally acting, through Executive Order, to help reform of our nation’s broken immigration system. It will provide a mechanism for people to live and work in the U.S. without fear, strengthening our country with the gifts of the many people living in the shadows–a partial resolution. Let us tell the President of our support and tell our friends we are doing so.

Week Two: We are experiencing a long drought in our beautiful state, with diminishing water supplies, depletion of our rivers and aquifers, and damaging fires. We are concerned about the fracking process as a pollutant and a threat to our limited water supply. Our land is sacred and must be treated with respect for its limits. Pray for Governor Jerry Brown. Ask him to declare a moratorium on fracking.

Week Three: Advent and Christmas are always special to children. When Mary and Joseph travelled to a far city to be counted in the census, they found there was no room for them at the local inn and took refuge in a stable and Mary gave birth to Jesus. How sad it is to realize that there are more homeless children in America than at any point in U.S. history–2.5 million! How can this be in such an affluent country? We need to “attack the root causes of poverty, hunger and homelessness,” as Pope Francis declared in his speech at the U.N.

Week Four: We marvel that Jesus came among us with hope and healing and words of wisdom that echo down the years to our own time. It is a challenge to go deeper–beyond charity–to embrace advocacy as a viable way to make the gospel message come alive in our world. When we welcome in ritual the coming of Jesus at Christmas we can ask for a deepening of our love and concern for others. God will be our guide in carrying this out.

May this be for you a blessed Advent!


I received the following powerful and insightful response to an email message I sent. This friend agreed to its publication (edited and anonymous).

“I have thought about your friend’s question, ‘How does one keep hope in this deeply troubled time?’ since receiving your message.

“My experience leads me to conclude that one does not keep hope by oneself . . . in ‘happy’ times or in ‘troubled’ times.  Hope has been for me a shared thing, held incompletely by each of us, that we share with each other as the need to assemble the distributed pieces become clear. As I experience it, the deposit of hope that each of us carries varies from person to person, and within a person from season to season.  When I sense that my world is challenging beyond my own resources, I tend to seek one or two other persons to express a fear, a hurt, or some other strong feeling that has exceeded my ability to put into context.

“Often the missing piece of the puzzle–the one that brings the whole into focus–comes from a complete stranger or someone from whom I did not specifically seek input.  I accept these unexpected contributions as being divine in origin, responses to prayer, the wisdom of ages being spoken through a brother or sister who neither perceives the conversation to which he/she has contributed the key piece, nor appreciates the relief or restoration of hope that results from that contribution. Prayer is almost always a part of the discussion process.

“Frequently I find that the challenge that caused me to be concerned turns out to be more a conclusion born of my own prejudices, my focus on my own needs, my unwillingness to look from a larger perspective.  Most of the time, I find ME at the center of my perceived problems, and the return to a sense of hope requires me to stop at what some have called ‘stinking thinking’–namely, my own definitions of what is good, appropriate, moral; harder still, when I am forced to conclude that it was an ‘act of God’ that created the situation.

“Over a very long time, the understanding that all is gift has taken hold for me–and the insight that the gift is not always directly for me:

A brief example: Saying yes to an invitation to serve in a very troubled refugee situation led directly to a 5-year-period during which I was beset by disturbing dreams the existence of which I did not recognize for over 2 years, bouts of deep depression and other disturbances to family and professional life–not a blessing or gift, but rather a private hell.  With considerable help I did experience healing. I came to have a profound appreciation for what it is to be a ‘broken person’, who cannot do for her/himself. I have recognized that it can be overcome with help.

“Now I listen a lot more than I did prior to this experience: I am direct and honest about my own experiences.  I prefer to offer a safe environment where exploration of possibilities can take place to explore the common deposit of hope:  patience, availability to those seeking to revive hope, and a willingness to share one’s own journey through those periods when hope seems an impossible dream.

“The last of many pieces of hope that I have experienced is the action of the Holy Spirit, who I believe pervades the heart of each person, that allows each of us to speak and/or listen  with a disposition that is beyond our mere human capacity—that allows us to look past color, ethnicity, professed religious beliefs (or lack thereof), ego, political posturing, perceived sinfulness, and all the other chimera that cloud our vision, and to connect with another child of our Creator who seeks to recapture lost hope.

“Returning to the question posed by your friend, I am drawn to the last part of the question, ‘in this deeply troubled time.’  My take is that there are issues spanning several years (if not decades) that cause your friend to recognize a state of disconnectedness, powerlessness, and a lack of options–possibly heightened by pending political elections–that force each of us to examine our individual and collective values, ethics, consistency of our behavior with our beliefs, our acceptance of half-truths, innuendo, and redirection of attention for honest discourse in examination of issues.

“What can we do?  Starting with God’s guidance as underlying the entire effort, the first step, a dated reference, is ‘examination of conscience’ to identify what specific issues (limited to one’s perspective of the self) lie at the heart of the fear, hurt, or other powerful emotion.  The next step is to engage a small number of others with whom to explore the elements of discontent; next to listen to others who many bear within their hearts the key pieces that will unlock the puzzle.  Finally, muster the courage to ask ‘What is my part in this madness?’ and ‘What can I do to change my response to the world in which I live?'”


Praying for Our Beautiful Earth

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

On September 21st, the Notre Dame Community at the Province Center joined with millions around the world to pray for Climate Justice with a litany of hope and the ringing of bells. It was the annual U.N. Day for Peace dedicated that day to fighting Global Warming. Over 140 nations held marches, prayer services, rallies, and educational gatherings to highlight the increasingly violent outbreaks of drought, floods, mudslides, fires, ocean rise, and iceberg melts around the globe.

The problem: 350 is the highest number of parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that will allow for a stable climate. We are currently close to 400 ppm!

This week over 100 world leaders are meeting at the invitation of U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon to discuss how to reverse the emissions trend. The current documented estimate is that 39.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide (2.3% more than the previous year) has been pumped into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and gas.

We must turn this around! Please join us in praying for our beautiful world.


In Tragedy Lies Hope

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

The Catholic Peace group, Pax Christi USA, has issued a statement mourning the loss of life on all sides in the present conflict in Gaza and urging all sides to agree to a ceasefire. They urge negotiations on the underlying causes that fuel this decades-long Middle East tragedy.

Photo from telegraph.co.uk.

Photo from telegraph.co.uk.

Both Pax Christi USA and Pax Christi International have insisted that for peace to come to this region there must be a resolution about land, and issues of barriers and blockades. The organization continues to urge that US policy in the region and aid must be tied to respect for human rights and safeguards in international law for the dignity of all. The current violence and bloodshed is a dead end in a region that has suffered for too long.

In the 1980s during the first Intifada, I was coordinator of an Interfaith group in San Jose. I was invited to participate in a tour to Israel for interfaith religious leaders in the South Bay. Having grown up through World War II, I came back from Israel with mixed sympathies–still with a deep feeling of guilt for the horrors visited on the Jews by Christian Europe. At the same time, I came home with many questions about the effects of the settlements and the land issues on the Palestinians, about the numbers of displaced Palestinian families, about the land limits of Gaza, about the human rights of these people as well.

Reflection: Let us pray as we have not prayed before that negotiation will prevail. This is sacred land to us Christians as well. What a peace statement it would be if we could witness to the world the “courage, strength and tenacity” to peacefully coexist on this sacred, ancient land.

Postscript: One of our great women from Ohio went to God last week. Sr. Mary Evelyn Jegen, SND, a historian and founding member of Pax Christi USA is being celebrated on the their website. Two of our Sisters are on the current staff of the organization–Executive Director, Sr. Patty Chapell, and Director of Programs, Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau.


A Death and Resurrection Story

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is an amazing story of near-death and resurrection. It is the account of a young girl of 12 in Southern California who ran away from a troubled home. Carissa Phelps was kidnapped, raped and trafficked. She describes her life in her memoir “Runaway Girl: Escaping Life of the Streets One Helping Hand at a Time.”

Carissa was recently the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center speaker at NDNU on the topic of Ending Human Trafficking in Our Own Communities. Hers is a remarkable story of survival. With the help of supportive programs in a rehab program and a sympathetic teacher who saw her skill in math; with a counselor who became her mentor; and with her own determination, she took back her life. Now with a law degree and an MBA from UCLA she is giving back as an author, as head of Runaway Girl FPC (a California Flexible Purpose Corporation) and as part of a global network to support youth from the streets.

This most sacred time of Holy Week and Easter invites the pondering of a world of much evil, yet with endless potential. A touching part of Carissa’s story was her struggle to trust and to forgive. She described that for a long period relationship eluded her. Over time she was able to forgive and have empathy with others. Her acceptance of healing through her embrace of faith in God and her reception of baptism has released her capacity to help others.

Such a powerful story for this beautiful and sacred time of Lent and Easter! Thank you, Carissa.


The Gap We Must Heal

St. Paul, writing to the Philippians, declares:
“I thank my God whenever I think of you and every time I pray for all of you,
I pray with Joy. . . .My prayer is that your love for each other many increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception,
so that you can always recognize what is best.” – Phil. 1:3; 9-10

The fabric of the Common Good is in tatters in our country and it must be repaired if we are to recover what we treasure in America and in our faith tradition. The gap between those few who possess immense wealth and those many, who have in too many instances been made poor and can barely subsist, is quite simply shocking.

It is no secret that the number of people in poverty is growing; that the middle class
is diminishing; that too many jobs are going overseas to increase profits for corporations using sweatshop labor; that wages are not adequate in the Walmarts and the fast food eateries so that employees must go on food stamps to feed their families; that millions of families evicted from their homes are in shelters or on the streets while banks are flush with money.

It is no secret that traditional forms of energy are a major factor in overheating the planet and melting the glaciers, even as new technologies are revealing alternative
ways to address our energy needs. We do not need to pollute our water supplies and destroy our planet with harmful processes like fracking and questionable science as applied in GMO foods and pesticides.

It is no secret that excessive love of money and power is contributing to this frightening imbalance where the dignity of the human person is lost. Many of us do not see the importance of sharing; many of us choose to criminalize immigrants, completely forgetting our origins as immigrants ourselves, even denying education to the children of immigrants born here—unable to see the gift that these young are to an aging nation.

Every significant religious tradition upholds not only responsibility to family and clan, but to other ethnicities and cultures, those uprooted by war, oppressions and economic need.

Reflection: St. Paul, a Pharisee, was shaken to his core by the voice of God as he fell from his horse. God let him experience blindness and helplessness to bring new light to his mind and heart. Paul responded.  2000 years later, we should not need such dramatic revelations; We have Bible and Eucharist; the example of countless everyday saints and holy people. To be passionate for justice on behalf of suffering brothers and sisters is holy. Remember the anger of Jesus when he cleansed the Temple! God desires justice for his suffering people. “We are the desiring of God.” – Richard Rohr (“The Passion of God and the Passion Within”)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *