Category Archives: Sister Karen Donahue

Looking Back: Reflecting on an Act of Civil Disobedience

April 19, 2018

By Sister Karen Donahue

On February 27, 42 faith leaders were arrested in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Building after refusing to disperse by request of the Capitol police. They stood in solidarity with Dreamers, young people protected from deportation by President Obama’s 2012 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program who now face deportation under the Trump administration.

Sister Karen Donahue

Sister Karen Donahue (right) stands with other Catholic women religious for justice for immigrants.

It is not every day that one receives a call extending an invitation to engage in an act of civil disobedience. Yet this is what happened to me early in February 2018.

The caller was Sister JoAnn Persch who has been deeply involved in the struggle for compassionate and humane immigration reform for many years. Faith in Public Life, a Washington, D.C.-based organization working to change the narrative about the role of faith in politics, had contacted Sister JoAnn and Pat Murphy to consider the possibility of having a group of Catholic women religious engage in a nonviolent civil disobedience. The act would take place on Capitol Hill in solidarity with the Dreamers.

I have to admit that I did not have a moment’s hesitation in responding affirmatively to JoAnn’s request. I have taken part in several civil disobedience actions over the years and know that it is not something to be taken lightly. Civil disobedience is something to which one is called and our Chapter commitment to stand in solidarity with immigrants seeking fullness of life was calling me to move beyond the vigils, visitation of immigrants held in detention and the political advocacy in which I am already engaged.   Read More »

A Tale of Two Buses

March 8, 2016

By Sister Karen Donahue

Group photo of travelers to Central America. Sister Karen is standing, fourth from the left.

Group photo of travelers to Central America. Sister Karen is standing, fourth from the left.

Every so often a commonplace experience can be a source of insight into profound reality. This happened to me on a recent trip to Central America where several bus rides became a metaphor for the gross inequalities that characterize our world.

In El Salvador, we made several long trips (two hours plus) and numerous short trips on a quintessential yellow school bus. This bus was a cast-off from a school district in Florida. The seats were so close together that preschoolers would have been hard-pressed to squeeze in. Of course there was no air-conditioning, so we had to open the windows to get relief from the heat.   Read More »

Una historia de dos autobuses

March 8, 2016

Por la Hermana Karen Donahue

Group photo of travelers to Central America. Sister Karen is standing, fourth from the left.

Foto del grupo de las viajeras a Centroamérica. La Hermana Karen está de pie, es la cuarta desde la izquierda.

De vez en cuando, una experiencia diaria nos permite entender una realidad profunda. Esto mismo me ocurrió a mí en un viaje reciente a Centroamérica – varios viajes en autobús se convirtieron en una metáfora de las desigualdades tremendas que caracterizan nuestro mundo.

En El Salvador, hicimos varios viajes de más de dos horas y muchos viajes cortos en un autobús escolar amarillo. Este autobús en particular era de un distrito escolar en Florida. Los asientos estaban tan pegados que los niños de jardín de la infancia tendrían dificultad para acomodarse. Claro que no había aire acondicionado y tuvimos que abrir las ventanas para aliviar el calor agobiante. Read More »

Racism: The Word that Does Not Appear in Laudato Si’

November 16, 2015

By Sister Karen Donahue

Sisters Cora Marie and Georgine discuss strategies for dismantling racism at a recent anti-racism workshop.

Sisters Cora Marie and Georgine discuss strategies for dismantling racism at a recent anti-racism workshop.

The word “racism” does not appear in Laudato Si’. At first glance this appears to be a serious oversight. However, I believe that Pope Francis is calling us to the deeper conversion that is essential if we are to dismantle racism.

As a woman of white, I have had to face my internalized racial superiority and deepen my realization of how economic, political and cultural systems work to benefit me and other people of white.   Read More »

Racismo: La palabra que no aparece en Laudato Si’

November 16, 2015

Por la Hermana Sister Karen Donahue, RSM

Sisters Cora Marie and Rose Marie discuss strategies for dismantling racism at a recent anti-racism workshop.

La palabra «racismo» no aparece en «Laudato Si’». A primera vista esto parece ser una omisión grave. Sin embargo, creo que el Papa Francisco nos llama a una conversión más profunda y esencial si vamos a desmantelar el racismo.

Como mujer blanca, he tenido que enfrentar mi superioridad racial interiorizada y profundizar mi comprensión de cómo los sistemas económicos, políticos y culturales funcionan para mi beneficio y el de otras personas blancas.   Read More »

The Declaration of Independence: A Dream Deferred for Many

July 3, 2014

By Sister Karen D., member of Mercy’s anti-racism team

cc license (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo shared by John Dalton

cc license (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo shared by John Dalton

Makeshift tents are popping up at intersections offering a full range of fireworks. Red, white and blue-frosted cupcakes grace supermarket shelves. The sound of firecrackers can be heard echoing in the distance. For Americans these are all unambiguous signs that the Fourth of July, the annual celebration of freedom commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, is just around the corner.

Like many, I have taken pride in those noble words of the Declaration:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

However, my experiences as a member of the Sisters of Mercy’s Anti-Racism Team has made me aware of the structural racism that is embedded in the very foundations of our country, prompting me to look at the Declaration with new eyes.   Read More »

Responding to the plight of immigrants in Michigan

May 20, 2013

By Sister Karen D.

God’s love has no borders!

Immigration reform must be just.

Stop Deportations Stop Ripping Families ApartEach Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. a small group of us gather on the corner of Jefferson and Mt Elliott in downtown Detroit to remind motorists (and a few pedestrians) that immigration reform must be just. We hold a sign with this message and say the rosary for the thousands of immigrants held in jails, prisons and detention centers across the country. This site was chosen because it is the location of the Detroit offices of the Department of Homeland Security, the government agency that has jurisdiction over immigration. Read More »

Is this the fast that I seek? (Isaiah 58: 5)

March 30, 2012

By Sister Karen D.

This challenging question from the Prophet Isaiah provided the backdrop for Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2012, held in Washington,D.C., March 23-26, 2012. More than seven hundred people representing mostly Christian denominations gathered to reflect on our current political reality and commit to action.

At a time when appeals to religion are playing a huge roll in our political process, speaker after speaker called us to examine closely what is understood by religion in these contexts. They reminded us that the scriptural call is clear: We must break unjust fetters, undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, share our bread with the hungry, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless poor. (Isaiah 58: 6-7)

Read More »

Religious Investors Address Trafficking at Super Bowl

January 11, 2012

By Sister Karen D.


Since major sporting events are occasions for increased human trafficking activity, the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility in Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM) will be contacting all of the hotels within a 50-mile radius of the location of the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The Sisters of Mercy belong to CCRIM through Mercy Investment Services, the single investment program for the Institute and sponsored ministries. Read More »

Mercy Comes Alive on Iowa Campus

October 5, 2011

By Sister Karen D.

The Sisters of Mercy’s Critical Concerns came alive during discussions, classroom presentations and research projects throughout Mercy Mission Week at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Sister Jeanne and I, members of the Justice Team for the West Midwest Community, participated in the variety of activities that week that highlight the Mercy charism and introduce students to the Critical Concerns. The Critical Concerns are Earth, immigration, nonviolence, racism and women. Read More »