Worker Justice

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Board Member Feature: Sister Maureen McDonnell, O.P. (Sr. Mo)

Sr. Mo talks about her many years of service on the ICWJ and WJW Boards

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

I have been a Catholic Sister for over 55 years in a group called Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, based at our motherhouse in southwestern Wisconsin, but sent on mission all over the U.S. and to a few places in Latin America and around the world. I have been an elementary and secondary teacher early on, transitioning to Campus Ministry at the college level for about thirty years on four different campuses… in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and ending up for 21 years at my alma mater, Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. I retired from there in 2009, having taken a 2-year program to prepare to do spiritual guidance ministry. I began this new work in 2006 and continue to the present, meeting with individuals from many faith traditions and three generations. In addition, I have the privilege of helping lead spiritual retreats with a variety of persons.

Growing up on a farm in north central Illinois, where some of my family still farms, was very important to me, as is the education I received in a variety of excellent Catholic schools at many levels.  Our family has been at work for generations as educators, farmers, attorneys, court reporters, business managers, nursing assistants, and more. Thus, my interest in just treatment for all workers.

What has been your involvement in Worker Justice Wisconsin (WJW) and its predecessor organization, the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice (ICWJ)?

I was asked by Rabbi Renee Bauer many years ago to join the Board of the ICWJ, which she was director of at the time. I told her I would do so, not because I had much expertise in worker justice issues but because I wanted and needed to learn more about that. I certainly have grown in my understanding of these issues and was pleased to rejoin over a year ago the Board of the newer entity, Worker Justice Wisconsin, to complete the term of a colleague in ministry who was unable to do so. This is a new era in the life of the organization, and I continue to learn much of value about the world of work.

One important contribution I think I have made is to be able to facilitate the annual giving of a Sinsinawa Ministry Grant, over many years, to this organization. That contributes to our Congregation Mission to promote Justice, as well as to my own personal mission.

What motivates you to serve on the WJW Board?

I see this service as part of my personal ministry to promote justice and compassion in the world, especially for people often in great need and suffering unconscionable injustice.  I also have continued to deepen my learning about the needs of workers and appreciate how a group of committed people can help fulfill these.

What area of workers’ rights are you especially passionate about?

I would like people of faith to see the deep connection between what they believe about the life and teaching of Jesus (or whomever they look to as the source of their faith) and how all people in the world are treated. If they suffer from any injustice, I want to do what I can to right those wrongs. I find wage theft and harassment in the workplace especially egregious and am always pleased to know that WJW can help address these in significant ways.

What are your vision and hopes for the future of WJW?

With the strong leadership and vision of our excellent Executive Director and staff, I am filled with hope for more and more justice being achieved, especially for immigrant and “essential” workers, whose needs have become clearer during this pandemic. I also would love to see growth in interfaith involvement from more and more religious denominations, especially my own Catholic diocese … that we realize how strongly connected our faith is to our work in the world.  The Catholic Church has espoused a 130-year of Social Teaching that informs my core values in this area:  The Option for the Poor and Vulnerable; the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; Solidarity in the Human Family. I think WJW works hard to embody these values, and I am honored and challenged to be part of that effort.

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