On June 20 and 21, thousands gathered online to take part in a virtual Poor People’s Campaign Digital Justice Gathering. In the tradition of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., over the past few years, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, has mobilized across the country to confront the systemic injustice that impoverishes millions in the wealthiest country the world has ever known and now threatens Earth itself.
Members of the Mercy family took part in the online event and shared some reflections.
Sister Mary Pendergast, Rhode Island
The issues that the campaign proposes to transform include racism, poverty, militarism, ecological devastation and the distorted moral narrative. Obviously, our Mercy Critical Concerns are right there, both explicitly and implicitly. Joining the Poor People’s Campaign is a way of joining with others who have a similar mindset and mission.
Sister Mary Ann Clifford, California
What stood out for me was the cry for a living wage. The hundreds of individual stories from poor working people really touched my heart. Of course, many of the stories were from people whose skin is black or brown, who are working hard and still not making ends meet. It was a reality check. I, we, cannot be quiet about this anymore.
Sister Claudette Schiratti, Nebraska
I was compelled to watch this because it continues the Poor People’s March that Martin Luther King began in the 1960s. How tragic that in 2020, we still have not progressed very far. The stories of the poor were heartbreaking. The Poor People’s Campaign is the embodiment of Mercy’s Critical Concerns. I will stay alert to this campaign and hope that, as Mercies, we connect to it collectively.
Sister Janet Rozzano, California
The stories of real people or groups struggling daily with systemic poverty in our country were powerful and touching. Later, I read the Poor People’s Moral Justice Jubilee Policy Platform. This document touches, directly or indirectly, on all our Critical Concerns, listing legislative and policy priorities and actions needed to address them. I admit to feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task as presented here. There is so much that needs to be done! But we are, indeed, “All in this together,” or, as the Poor People’s Campaign principle puts it, “Everybody in, nobody out. Everybody is deserving of our nation’s abundance.”
Sister Carol Mucha, Illinois
This campaign is a perfect match for our Critical Concerns as Sisters of Mercy. It encourages us to listen to those most affected by our current lack of leadership in the United States that adds to the pain of the most vulnerable. I was greatly moved and learned so much with a new set of eyes.
Sister Regina Ward, Maryland
As I reflect on the Poor People’s Campaign, I can’t see it in isolation. With the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests just preceding the campaign, I recognize a surge of issues—poverty, voter suppression, healthcare, gun control, white supremacy, global warming, immigration, DACA—that call our Critical Concerns into response.
Despite our need to stay at home due to COVID-19, we must now more than ever voice our opposition to legislation that supports those of means and privilege at the expense of others who are too often poor and marginalized. I continue to live in HOPE and am grateful for all the folks, especially at our MESA (Mercy Education System of the Americas) schools, who grapple with solutions as they listen to those who are impacted and implement change.
Marylyn Felion, Mercy Associate, Nebraska
I have spent time in Central America, at a Catholic Worker soup kitchen and with people on death row. It was reading Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, and coming to understand that “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” are one that prompted me to attend the Poor People’s Campaign online. The campaign focuses on the intersectionality of problems rather than playing “whack-a-mole” with temporary or cosmetic fixes. The campaign focuses on the oneness of everything, the interconnectedness of all and the message of our God whose own Son “Hears the cry of the Poor” and the cry of the beloved Earth to which he came.
Sister Christine Blair, Missouri
The campaign is perfectly in line with our Critical Concerns for the Earth, nonviolence, anti-racism, women and immigration. So many brave women and men spoke who had nothing and shared their stories of poverty.
Lives may become better, but still factories open and pollute, then close and leave a community without work. The violence that may follow is a response of frustration, and fear and hunger for something better. The divide is wide between people of color and the people of white. What I learned from the Poor People’s Campaign is that I may feel secure, but there is a whole world that does not, and it will take all of us to overcome generational poverty. It is time to stand and be heard.
Virginia Fifield, Mercy Associate, New York
It might have been providential that we could not gather in person because the Poor People’s Campaign was able to reach huge numbers of people who might not have participated otherwise. The powerful speakers brought to light so many issues that are often left in the shadows. They spoke of how racism—both cultural and ecological—denies hope to so many. They spoke of how our broken judicial system victimizes those who are often forgotten. They gave voice to the working poor. They spoke of our broken health care system, which has allowed too many to suffer needlessly.
There is so much pain in our world today, so many unaddressed injustices. I am confident that Mercy will be a part of healing some of the pain and that we as a group will be part of the change that needs to happen. Being a Mercy Associate gives me the courage to speak out in faith while working with the wider community. Now is the time, here in this place.