Midwives for Change

On Thursday, September 8,  Community Shares of Wisconsin honored three amazing people who are working for justice:

Erica Nelson: Liesl Blockstein Community Leadership Award—nominated by Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, sponsored by UW Health and Unity Health
Darla Lannert: Linda Sundberg Civil Rights Defender Award—nominated by OutReach, sponsored by Heartland Credit Union
Sr. Maureen McDonnell: Sally Sunde Family Advocate Award—nominated by Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, sponsored by Zendesk

Sister Mo is a co-chair of the ICWJ board. Her speech on receiving the award is below. May her words inspire inspire us all in our efforts for justice. 

I come this evening with much gratitude for both ICWJ and Community Shares.  Making change is something both organizations know a lot about, & I am honored to be recognized this evening for joining them in that dynamic purpose: of making change for the common good.

When Rabbi Renee invited me awhile ago to join ICWJ board, I agreed, not  because I had much knowledge to offer but because I had (& still have) the desire to learn about workers’ rights and join in the struggle to promote those rights and oppose the considerable forces working against them.  And I have learned a lot in the course of serving with this organization, including learning at this morning’s board meeting that the blowing of the shofar in the Jewish tradition is meant to wake us up and call us to action.

I’m a Catholic Sister, as you know, and I take seriously the Social Teaching of the Catholic tradition, which for about 120 years has consciously promoted workers’ rights … to form unions and to have the kind of work in which they are respected, paid a living wage, have good working conditions, and even can come to see their work as a means of participating in the work of God as co-creators of this Earth we live upon.

When I think of how I myself have learned to work well, I think first of my parents, who took their work of farming, teaching, and raising a family seriously.  Involvement in the civic and church communities were high priorities for both my parents; their 5 children and many grandchildren have followed their path.

My work as a teacher, campus minister, spiritual guide, Dominican community member, and activist could only have flourished as a member of a community – the foundational one for me as an adult, being that of Sinsinawa Dominicans … for over 50 years.

What teachers/mentors/change-makers I have been privileged to meet along the way!

Since our WORT interview recently, when we three were asked what we think we have in common, I’ve given that some thought. The way I would express it is that we are each midwives for birthing change.  We grieve for the oppression & injustice we see others suffer and even experience ourselves at times. We often rage against that.  But that’s not the end of it … in fact, it’s only the beginning.  We acknowledge the education and life experience we’ve had that move us to compassion and action.  We’re grateful for the invitations to learn more … & then, to DO something.  We are never alone, always moving forward in the strength of community.

As many of you know, thanks to Mark Pocan, I was able to be present, just about a year ago, in the chambers of Congress when Pope Francis addressed our legislators and all of us U.S. citizens.  The Pope said many powerful things but one I particularly want to remember and continue to apply to my own life is this:  he said our elected leaders need to have “the courage and daring it takes to seize the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism, initiating processes, rather than just possessing spaces.”

So… courage, daring, openness, pragmatism…  May each of us here own these qualities in our own ways and move forward from our sometimes comfortable spaces into the next change that’s calling us – change of ourselves and change of our world.

9/8/2016

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