January 31, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters has issued the following statement in response to the recent executive orders by President Trump regarding immigrants and refugees. This statement is also available as a printable PDF.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters share the sense of alarm and concern that many Catholic leaders have expressed concerning the Executive Orders recently issued by President Trump to ban refugees and immigrants from Muslim nations, increase detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, further wall off and militarize our southern border, and cut federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties.
These orders are inimical to our Catholic belief in the inherent dignity of every person; our Judeo-Christian tradition of caring for the stranger; our American values of welcoming people who yearn to “breathe free;” and our nation’s protection of religious freedom.
As members of the worldwide Order of Preachers, which has a long tradition of upholding human rights and includes sisters, brothers, and friars of all nationalities ministering in love and friendship with people around the Earth, we find these actions to be both heartbreaking and chilling. We call on President Trump to uphold our nation’s fundamental values and constitutional protections by rescinding these dangerous, unconscionable orders.
Among the many other Catholic leaders and organizations that have issued statements of concern are the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, bishops from various parts of the country, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Catholic immigration, relief and resettlement agencies. A sampling of excerpts from public statements follows:
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
We are deeply concerned about the administration’s executive orders on immigration and refugee resettlement which serve only to threaten border communities, force our immigrant community members further into the shadows, and endanger those fleeing violence. These misguided executive orders do nothing to make anyone more secure and may well have the opposite effect.
Dominican Sisters Conference
This executive order gives aid and comfort to those forces which are bent on willful destruction. It harkens back to the darker moments of our own history of slavery and internment camps. It lowers our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.
Statements of Bishops
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich (Chicago, Illinois)
The world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life. They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (Galveston-Houston, Texas)
As Archbishop of a Texas diocese, I believe that the order to construct a wall along our border with Mexico will only make migrants more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers – putting their lives in needless danger. It also destabilizes the many vibrant interconnected communities that live in peace along our border.
Archbishop José H. Gomez (Los Angeles, California)
Friends, walls and more aggressive enforcement will not make America great again. We need new pathways to understanding.
Bishop Robert W. McElroy (San Diego, California)
[T]his executive order is the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. …This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent.
Bishop Michael F. Olson (Fort Worth, Texas)
The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth respects the responsibility of the federal government to secure our borders and ensure the safety of our citizens for the common good. ...As Catholics we will not close the door to our neighbor in need out of our fear and selfishness.
Cardinal Séan O'Malley (Boston, Massachusetts)
Our country has the opportunity to respond to the reality of immigration with policies and practices which reflect our deepest religious and social principles. Together let us make the commitment to be a beacon of light and hope for those who look to us in their time of need.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR (Newark, New Jersey)
Wednesday’s Executive Actions do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation. They are the opposite of what it means to be an American. Closing borders and building walls are not rational acts. Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron (Detroit, Michigan)
In a letter to the chair of the Imams Council of Michigan: “I wrote to you a little over a year ago to share with you my statement to the priests of our Archdiocese regarding a proposal made during the presidential campaign to restrict Muslim immigration to the United States. At that time, I reaffirmed my commitment to stand with you in opposing any and all unjust discrimination on the basis of religion. Today, I reaffirm that pledge.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Washington, DC)
As I recently noted, we are called to care for one another, whether it be our longstanding neighbor down the street, or a newcomer to our nation seeking relief from brutal religious and political persecution.
Statements of Catholic Agencies
Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA)
“Pope Francis has urged people not to close the door on migrants and refugees. In concert with the Holy Father, we believe we must move from attitudes of defensiveness and fear to acceptance, compassion and encounter. ... Our commitment to care for those who are most vulnerable resides at the core of our faith,” said Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, president and CEO of CCUSA.
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)
“At a time when war and persecution have driven more people to flee in search of safety than any other time in modern history, we need to protect refugees rather than reject them out of misplaced fear,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC.
Catholic Relief Services
Our elected officials have an obligation to protect the security of the American people, and we should all take concerns about security seriously. But, denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer.
Jesuit Relief Services
By proposing to discriminate among individuals with valid claims for our protection on the basis of place of origin or religion rather than on the criteria firmly established by U.S. and international law, this announcement calls into question the worldwide standards of non-discrimination that are the bedrock of humanitarian response, just at the moment when we are experiencing the greatest displacement crisis since the end of the Second World War
November 15, 2016, Chicago – When Sister Jamie Phelps, OP, PhD, presented a workshop last month to Pax Christi Illinois on “Biblical and Catholic Social Teachings’ Response to Racial Violence,” she was continuing a long-time, deep involvement with the national Catholic peace organization, Pax Christi USA (PCUSA).
For the past two years, under a grant procured by PCUSA, Sister Jamie has been traveling to local Pax Christi groups in the East, Midwest, and South – including Barry University in Miami – helping them to recruit Black and Latino Catholics to their membership. She received this charge from Sister Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, also a Black Catholic, Executive Director of PCUSA, whom Sister Jamie has mentored.
The original grant has run its course, but PCUSA has applied for another grant to continue this work.
In the workshop, “We Grow Together: Catholic Communities of Color and PCUSA,” Sister Jamie outlines the contributions of Black and Latino Catholics and offers theological reflection. Participants have the opportunity to discuss what they have heard, identify a social justice issue pertinent to their area, and identify local Black and Latino Catholics who could become members of their Pax Christi group and help in efforts to address the issue.
In her visits around the country, Sister Jamie has noted that formerly all-white suburban parishes have pockets of Black, Latino, and Asian parishioners.
“I’m not seeing totally white churches as I used to see,” she noted. “What this speaks to is the reality that we … gravitate toward our homogenous groups. We have to figure out how to bring folks of various cultural and ethnic groups together.”
The workshops presented to the Pax Christi chapters helped participants to “reflect on their behavior and choices, like reading the signs of the times, but doing it locally,” she explained. “If we don’t reach out across racial lines, we tend to accept the stereotypes [about ethnic groups]. But if you work with people of other races you see how similar we are.”
The social segregation of various Catholic ethnic groups is foreign to Sister Jamie, who grew up attending Catholic school with students of other ethnic groups – Irish, Italian, German, Polish. “When I was learning about the different ethnic cultures, their feast days and dances, I found that they’re as human as I am human,” Sister Jamie said. “You have to choose to relate. I choose to live in a multicultural neighborhood because how can I relate to my brother who is different in a homogenous neighborhood, where everybody thinks like I do, looks like I look?”
While ethnocentrism – taking pride in one’s own ethnic group – is healthy, it can be problematic if it means closing oneself off from other groups and other ways of looking at the world.
To Christians, Sister Jamie said, being brothers and sisters to people throughout the world is not a metaphor but a reality.
“If we all have God as Father and Mother, then we are all brothers and sisters – but we are estranged. We’ve let all of these different lenses that we use alienate us from our brothers and sisters,” she explained. “While diversity is a gift from God, we use our differences as walls or barriers rather than enrichment.”
For this reason, Sister Jamie relishes the parish Bible Study programs she has been leading. She facilitates two local groups using the Little Rock Scripture Study program – allowing participants to come together and discuss their own understanding of Scripture.
“When we come together, we can come to a new truth, a fuller truth,” Sister Jamie said. “We can never discover everything about God, but if you tell me about your experience of God and I tell you about mine we get a fuller understanding of who God is and a fuller understanding of who Jesus is.”
Sister Jamie has great respect for the work of Pax Christi International, PCUSA, and the local chapters of the organization. “It’s a delightful organization, trying to do justice ministry, particularly looking at issues that come up. They’re very timely in their responses to unjust events.” She said the mission of Pax Christi aligns well with the Mission, Vision, and recent Enactments of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
An Adrian Dominican Sister since 1959, Sister Jamie is a freelance theologian and lecturer, facilitating Bible study at St. Ambrose and St. Thomas the Apostle Parishes in Chicago. She served for eight years as the Director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies and the Katharine Drexel Professor of Systematic Theology at Xavier University in New Orleans. Before that, she had taught theology in the Chicago-based Catholic Theological Union (CTU) from 1986 to 1998 and Loyola University, 1998 to 2003. Sister Jamie has also served as a visiting professor of theology at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, from January to May, 2003, and twice at the University of Notre Dame: in 2005-2006 and 2012-2013.
Sister Jamie has also been engaged in other ministries: theology instructor in a catechetical training program for African American Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago; a psychiatric social worker and community organizer at Chicago Child Care Society; a theology teacher at Aquinas High School in Chicago; and a pastoral associate at three Catholic parishes in Chicago: St. Columbanus, Holy Cross, and St. Laurence.