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 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.”