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May 2024

This month’s articles:

Degrowth is the Only Sane Survival Plan (Karen Donahue, RSM)

Argentina and the Government of Hate (Ana Siufi, RSM)

Listening to a Chorus of Voices (Mike Poulin, Mercy Justice Team)


Degrowth Is the Only Sane Survival Plan

Karen Donahue, RSM

Just last week, two articles published in the Guardian (a British newspaper) highlighted the climate crisis and the failure of the global community to respond in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of the situation. The first reported that CO2 levels have reached a new high (421 parts per million), while the second presented the results of a survey of the world’s top climate scientists. Almost 80 percent of the respondents expect global temperatures to rise by 2.5 degrees C or more by the end of this century. This is well above the Paris Climate Accord goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C.

In a recent article posted on the TomDispatch website, environmentalist Stan Cox raises some challenging questions about climate change, economic growth and consumption. He notes that as far back as1972, scientists were questioning the viability of an economic model predicated on unlimited growth. They observed that “the excessive consumption of resources… is depleting reserves to the point where the system is no longer sustainable.” Technological advances will not be enough, “the change needed to put us on a different trajectory will also require a change in belief systems, mindsets, and the way we organize our society.”

Stan Cox goes on to explore the concept of degrowth. Degrowth policies include “reducing less-necessary material production and energy consumption, converting to workers’ ownership, shortening working hours, improving and universalizing public services, redistributing economic power, and prioritizing grassroots social and political movements.” He recognizes that such measures may be impossible in our current political climate but holds out hope that more enlightened political leaders might be able to turn the tide and head off disaster.


Argentina and the Government of Hate

Ana Siufi, RSM

In Argentina, these are challenging times of pain and powerlessness for those of us who love our people, our country. When the ultra-right won the presidential elections in December 2023, Milei took office, flying the flag of inequality, violence, cruelty, contempt for the vulnerable, and the surrender of the homeland to powerful local interests and – above all – to the global corporate elite. The president says that he is advised by his dead dog, [and he] is photographed wrapped in the flag of Israel, travels continuously to the United States, and with false reasons makes decisions that go against national interests.

Milei refuses [to have] any dialogue [due to] a messianic and authoritarian attitude, defining himself as an “anarcho-capitalist”. He blindly believes in the free market and deregulation, in the benefits of destroying the state and privatizing everything, in the plundering of our natural resources for export, and the uncontrolled imports that will eliminate national industry. He is also reducing or eliminating taxes on the rich and large multinationals and increasing them on simple citizens. He rigorously pays the illegal foreign debt to the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and other agencies while denying essential funds for education, health, social spending, etc.

He declared war on all state institutions, which he considers unnecessary or inefficient. Throughout the territory, political, economic, educational, scientific, technological, sanitary, cultural, artistic, environmental, and communication institutions are being eliminated or their roles weakened. In the name of “freedom”, these “institutional disappearances” facilitate the dismemberment of the country, the denial of rights, chaos, and the loss of democracy, instituting an extractivist, neocolonial situation.

It becomes clear that the Executive Power – through decrees or new laws that annul hundreds of previous decrees or laws or contravene our Constitution – wants to concentrate in itself the powers of the legislature and manage the judiciary. This would ensure impunity to impose its anti-national policy, which is already causing the loss of thousands of jobs, the closure of businesses and industries, the paralysis of production and consumption, the destruction of ecosystems, and the unstoppable growth of hunger, poverty, and social inequality.

With the argument that it is the only way and that today’s sacrifice will produce prosperity in 30 years, this economic plan is brutally dynamiting the social fabric, aggravating the shortages and suffering of all vulnerable sectors. Unfortunately, many of his voters still trust his speeches and the measures taken, while another part of the citizenship – very angry – is seeing the damage and protesting the uncontrolled inflation, unemployment, and the low salaries and pensions. You can feel this question in the air: Are we heading towards a social explosion? The choruses in the marches sum it all up: “This is not freedom; this is hate!” “The homeland is not for sale, it is defended!”

Sisters Ana Siufi, Estela Gomez, & Moira Flynn protest in front of Congress in Buenos Aires

Faced with this process, the defeated opposition parties show divisions, disorientation, or complicit silences, and few politicians, trade unionists, social leaders, religious leaders, or independent journalists come out to denounce with force and conviction so much destruction, proposing alternative policies focused on the common good and real democracy. Those who do not submit but resist this misgovernment with denunciations, strikes, and street protests are threatened by police repression, outrageous judicial processes, and incessant smear campaigns in the media and social networks, including insults and mockery by the president.

More than ever, in these difficult times, we need our Martyrs – who have given their lives for a more just country – to inspire and sustain us; to be boldly present alongside the victims of this inhumane system, accompanying the struggle with hope, the strength of union, the love that seeks equity, and the power of non-violence; to defend the dignified life, rights, brotherhood, and sovereignty of our nation.

No longer shall violence be heard of in your land, or plunder and ruin within your boundaries… He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” (Is. 60:18; 61:1).


Listening to a chorus of voices

Mike Poulin, Mercy Justice Team

I had the privilege of accompanying Nelly Del Cid, a Honduran Mercy Associate, during the first two stops on her recent 10-day, U.S. speaking tour. I also hosted her webinar during that span. (Watch the webinar here.) Time with Nelly, and another recent experience, has me thinking about the voices we listen to.

The week after Nelly’s webinar, I was interviewed by a friend with whom I have engaged in local anti-racism work. A’Jamal was interested in talking to me about what it is like to address racism and racial equity as a white person. In the lead up to our discussion, I sent him a link to Nelly’s webinar, which he attended. Though I knew he had been present, I was still surprised when the first question A’Jamal posed to me was “why did you host a webinar and speaking tour with Nelly Del Cid?” There are a lot of answers to that question.

Nelly is a Mercy Associate. She engages with Sisters of Mercy in Honduras doing work that embodies the Mercy Charism, the spirit of Mercy. The efforts and the struggles of Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates in places like Honduras are of interest to the greater Mercy Community. From my experience, I believe Nelly to be a wise woman. Being a practitioner of nonviolence, a human rights advocate, and someone who works unceasingly for the empowerment of women, Nelly has a wide array of experiences to share, and she shares them through the lens of a native Honduran. Hers is a voice underrepresented in the chorus that most of us hear every day. As I have reflected on this time, I have realized that this type of underrepresentation is not unique.

During my conversation with A’Jamal, we talked about diversity: in workplaces, on campuses, in leadership groups and politics. We talked about the importance of diverse perspectives being raised up across all levels of society, not just among workers, student bodies, and constituencies, but also among directors, board members, elected officials, and other decision-makers. I recognize that the prevailing societal norms in the U.S. are typically those held by white people. As the demographic majority and the occupiers of most positions of power, white voices make the rules in this country. But our influence is not confined within our borders. Our U.S. wealth, military strength, and political standing are extensively used to influence and control the actions of other countries.

Over the course of her tour, Nelly addressed numerous topics. Among them was the 2009 coup in Honduras. Supported by military leaders trained at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA, the coup was not officially labeled as such by the Obama administration. As a result, our government continued to send military and police aid (i.e., weapons) to Honduras. Corruption following the coup led to increased activity by well-armed cartels and gangs and state violence against citizens, including internationally known environmental activist Berta Caceres.

Crime from gangs and cartels creates situations where some families have no place to go. Turning to migration, they end up at our border only to be treated as invaders when, in reality, they are fleeing from situations we have helped to create through our individual action and inaction and our U.S. policies.

Nelly also talked about the exploitation of Honduran resources by foreign companies. Mining and agricultural companies have been able to make deals with corrupt government officials and extract rich profits while native and indigenous citizens receive little benefit and must cope with environmental devastation and displacement. The fruit of this commerce often results in cheap products for people in countries like ours but results in the exploitation of workers and citizens who live elsewhere.

At the end of several of her presentations, more than one person asked Nelly how she maintains hope in the face of so many injustices. She told us that she found hope in the people who came to listen to her and in the efforts groups are making to be in solidarity with the people of Honduras. As she implored us to be hopeful, she asked us to consider who benefits if we lose hope. Hearing Nelly explain these issues from a Honduran perspective reminded me how insular daily life in the Midwestern United States can be. Her experience and perspective are gifts that enable me to reframe issues and fuel my work towards social justice. Not unlike my collaborations with A’Jamal and others who work for racial equity, Nelly’s voice helps to clarify for me the fact that so many people face realities much different than my own. Her stories can also help shift the popular narrative in the United States that blames immigrants for being victims of U.S. policies. We would do well to listen and understand.

The Mercy Justice Team invites you to make plans to host a local gathering the week of March 17th – 23rd to pray and demonstrate for a ceasefire in Gaza. Local gatherings can be held at convents, offices, life centers, schools or in the local community. The necessary materials are provided at the links below.

The printable prayer service can be downloaded and edited to suit your needs. In addition to praying together, consider these possibilities for your event:

  • Hold your event in a visible area outdoors to draw attention to the issue. Print signs for your participants.
  • Invite family, friends, and the public to join your gathering.
  • Share the background information page with participants and invite them to send handwritten letters to their senators and congressperson calling for a ceasefire. If possible, provide addresses, paper, pens, and envelopes.
  • Write a letter to the editor about your gathering.
  • Take pictures at the event and send them to justice@sistersofmercy.org so we can share them with the greater Mercy community.

These are some of the ways in which the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas will more fully live Laudato Si’ in 2024. To see the second year action plan click here.


Responding to the Cry of the Earth

  • The climate sustainability director will:
    • Collect utility usage data for smaller residences (i.e., apartments and houses) located throughout the United States. 
    • Expand community solar subscriptions to many of our houses and apartments for which such programs are available. 
    • Continue the electric vehicle (EV) pilot project at Merion, PA, with the purchase of an additional vehicle and the installation of additional EV chargers.  One other location will be selected to house an EV. Official guidance regarding the use, maintenance, and charging of EVs, along with concerns regarding metal mining, will be developed and implemented. 
    • Finalize guidance regarding the use of various sustainable and compostable alternatives to single-use plastic products.  A pilot location will be selected to test the overall process for implementing various parts of the guidance and determining what is needed (in addition to the installation of water-filling stations) in order to make the elimination of certain plastic products practical.  Complete the pilot solar project on the Belmont, NC, campus by the end of 2024.
  • Mercy Focus on Haiti aims to support the construction of 10 cisterns per month in the Gros Marne region, for the collection of rain water, using locally available materials. Cistern beneficiaries will receive training in the fundamentals of vegetable gardening, tree planting and reforestation, supporting both food production and the opportunity to sell surplus at market.

Responding to the Cry of the Poor

  • The Justice Team will deepen education and advocacy about the harms of extractivism to communities and the environment through: 
    • Mapping of extractivism near locations where the Institute has a significant presence; 
    • Educating the wider Mercy community about the experiences of communities most harmed by extractivism; 
    • Sharing more widely the statement on extractivism distributed among Chapter participants; 
    • Expanding our knowledge of extractivism to include practices such as agribusiness extracting nutrients from the land and the tourism industry dredging ports for cruise ships; and  
    • Solidarity and accompaniment of communities most harmed by extractivism
  • Sisters will continue participating in ecclesial networks (ie, in Meso-America and the regions of El Gran Chaco y el Acuífero Guaraní in South America) and will educate the rest of the congregation about how the Church is accompanying communities in these critical eco-systems.   
  • The Justice Team will participate in the “we are going to change the history of the climate and the planet!” campaign with the peoples of the Amazon in advance of international climate talks (COP30) in Belem, Brazil, in 2025.
  • Mercy Volunteer Corps has placed a volunteer yet again at Sanctuary Farm in Philadelphia and will offer short-term volunteer experiences at Mercy Ecological Center in Vermont.
  • Mercy Investment Services will expand and deepen the integration of environmental, social and governance investment strategies by:
    • Actively allocating capital to address diversity gaps amongst decision-makers and financial access within the Inclusive Opportunities Fund;  
    • Expanding the emerging managers program supporting firms owned or products managed by people with diverse or underrepresented backgrounds;  
    • Deepening Mercy Partnership Fund’s continued dedication to racial and gender equity as well as those that emphasize international opportunities; and  
    • Using our shareholder voice to explicitly call on companies to mitigate their impacts on people of color and to increase equity for disadvantaged communities.
  • Mercy Focus on Haiti will complete the fourth cohort of its poverty eradication program for women, and raise funds and set the stage for the fifth cohort. Participants from the first cohort will be able to create Village Savings and Loan Associations, which was offered to later cohorts as safe places to save money and access small loans. The first cohort participants also will be offered a tablet-based training program to develop the basics of finance and business skills.   Mercy Focus on Haiti will arrange for a physician member from the U.S. to make virtual visits with residents and walk-throughs of Bon Maison Samaritain, a house for persons who are elderly and infirm or mentally ill. Deteriorating conditions in Haiti have prevented in-person visits from the U.S.

Ecological Economics

  • Mercy Investment Services will:
    • Participate in learning opportunities to deepen our understanding of Catholic investing through documents such as Mensuram Bonam and Laudate Deum; 
    • Increase funding of mission-based environmental, social and governance investment managers and thematic managers in the equity fund;  
    • Originate additional commitments to impact managers in the Environmental Solutions Fund, which invests in renewable energy, energy and water efficiency, materials recycling, green buildings and sustainable agriculture;  
    • Commit additional investments to projects whose primary thematic area is environmental sustainability, impacts from the extractive sector or migration, or that address a just transition to a low‐carbon future in the Mercy Partnership Fund;  
    • Partner with other investors to engage corporations on water stewardship, greenhouse gas emissions, plastics use, biodiversity and other important issues; and  engage with other like-minded impact investors through the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, which is led by Francesco Collaborative, and through continued leadership within the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. 

Sustainable Lifestyles

  • The Justice Team and Climate and Sustainability Director will start exploring possibilities for working with other congregations of women religious to influence practices of dining service companies who serve our convents, retirement centers and other facilities. 
  • The Justice Team and Climate and Sustainability Director will continue the  Mercy Tips to Care for Earth as a monthly feature on the website. 

Ecological Education

  • Mercy Education has planned several activities for 2024:
    • “Generation Mercy,” an online meeting for students who are involved in Earth initiatives/clubs at their school, in the first half of the year; 
    • A commitment to highlight Earth in their newsletter at least 1 issue per month; 
    • Promote Mercy Meatless Mondays for the Lenten season; and 
    • Share some suggestions for Earth challenges for schools (i.e. zero waste meetings) to try to implement before Earth Day in April, then share about these in the newsletter/social media.
  • The Justice Team will organize an immersion trip to a region of western Pennsylvania experiencing an expansion of fracking and petrochemical facilities. 
  • The Justice Team will organize three immersion experiences at the U.S.-Mexico border to expand the number of sisters, associates, companions and co-workers who are educated about immigration policy and the reality at the border. One of these experiences will be solely for staff and board members of Mercy Investment Services.  
  • A Mercy associate in Guyana will develop a guidebook and set of advocacy tools for communities to understand the risks of the growing oil and gas industry in her country, and that will become a template for similar education elsewhere.  

Ecological Spirituality

  • The Justice Team will promote Laudato Si animators’ trainings and create a network of Mercy animators to work together and support one another. 
  • The Institute will participate in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ exploration and implementation of transformative justice work. 

Community Participation and Empowerment

  • The Justice Team will educate our network on the issues and the importance of voting our values in advance of the 2024 elections in the United States. 
  • The Justice Team will participate in a newly forming collaborative of Catholic organizations engaged in environmental and climate justice education, advocacy and practices.  
View last year’s grand prize winning video. (*Note: the contest themes have changed for 2024.)

The Mercy Justice Team needs you, a Mercy student, to create a short, social media style PSA (public service announcement) video – think Reels or TikTok – that reflects the Sisters of Mercy’s Critical Concerns. Put those creative ideas and video skills to work and you could win $500!


What does it mean to be a faith filled, values voter?

What is your own immigration story?

What is the immigration story of someone you know?

How can voting with Mercy affect our community, our nation, our world?


To receive information, updates and reminders about this year’s contest, complete this form and we’ll be in touch. Click here to learn rules for entry and how to upload your video.

View the grand prize winning video from 2022. (*Note: the contest format has changed since 2022.)

Purpose

For this year’s contest we are seeking short, PSA style videos (30 to 90 seconds) that are suitable for sharing on social media platforms such as TikTok or Reels. Video entries must focus on one of these topics:

Immigration
  • Videos should reflect the Mercy Critical Concerns, especially the Critical Concern for Immigration, but do not need to identify the Critical Concerns specifically.
  • Videos should inspire action to address the injustices that cause people to immigrate or the injustices that immigrants face in their new countries.
Voting
  • Videos should explore the ways that faith and Mercy values can influence the choices we make on our ballots.
  • Videos should inspire faithful citizenship and active involvement in elections without promoting partisanship or individual candidates.

Contest Webinar

Watch our 20 minute webinar to learn more about this year’s contest.


Who Can Enter

Any student or group of students, high school age or older, enrolled in Mercy high schools, colleges/universities, or involved in a Mercy-affiliated ministry.

Use this tip-sheet to help you as you begin the process of creating your video.

Format

Read the complete rules

Length: 30 to 90 seconds

Language: English or Spanish

Other Requirements

1. Title. Each video must have a title. The title must be indicated on the submission form. The title does not need to be included in the video itself.

2. Credits. Credits must include the name of those involved in the creation of the video. The credits must also include citations for any images, audio, or text used in the video that is not original. The credits do not need to be included in the video itself, but must be included in the submission form.

The Sisters of Mercy may delete title and credit screens before posting videos on social media.

Entrants are strongly encouraged to use original footage and graphics as much as possible.

Important Note on Rules: In order to honor copyright protections, rules regarding use of images and music were updated for the 2022 contest and remain in effect for 2024. See the complete rules for details.

Deadline

All entries must be received by April 3, 2024.

Prizes

A panel of judges will use these criteria to select the winning video. Individual winners will receive financial awards. The Grand Prize Winner receives $500.

Winning entries may be featured on the Sisters of Mercy Institute web site and social media channels. Winners and their winning institution will be formally announced.

Interested?

If you think you might be interested in entering this contest, fill out this form to receive contest information and updates.

Past Winners

Click here to view all of our past winners.

Mission Statement: Nuns Against Gun Violence is a coalition of Catholic Sisters and their allies that affirms the value of human life through prayer, education, and advocacy for common sense, evidence-based, gun violence prevention. 

Nuns Against Gun Violence was founded in April 2023 to bring together congregations of Catholic sisters to speak with a united voice against the crisis of gun violence. Along with over 60 other communities, Mercy has been involved in building this collaborative which meets bi-weekly to share resources and events and plan advocacy efforts. 

Latest News:

NAGV call to action following the Lewiston mass shooting.

Join us on November 8th for Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence, a webinar with Shane Claiborne.

Nuns Against Gun Violence Condemns Racist Shooting in Jacksonville; Pledges to Continue to Work for Change.

National Gun Violence Awareness Day Vigils and Wear Orange 2023 

Pray with Us

Join Us

To join our email list click here or email Angie Howard-McParland, Justice Resource Manager.

Follow Us

Gun violence in society is ubiquitous and distressing. As a community, we are taking steps to prevent gun violence.


Video Contest Honorees: Mercy students address gun violence.

Policy Watch: Read about the policies for which Mercy advocates.

Pray with Us: Let the Shooting End


Mercy Calls for Action to End Gun Violence

“The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas are outraged and saddened by the loss of nine lives and injuries to seven more in Allen, Texas. We offer our deepest sympathies and prayers for the families and victims of the mass shooting and to the community whose lives have been shaken by this horrible act. And we urgently and relentlessly add our voices to those saying it has been too long and our gun laws must change.” – May 9, 2023 following the mass shooting in Allen, Texas.

Read all of the Sisters of Mercy recent statements calling for action to end gun violence:

Speak out to end gun violence!

Engage active campaigns on our Action Alert page.

Take Action Today

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