Friday, May 22, 2009

Season of Growth and Hope

Happy Growing, Blessed Hoping!

As we move into the holiday weekend that marks the unofficial beginning of summer, I'd like to share a poem on growth and hope and new beginnings, on trusting--even in the darkenss.


God-love waits . . .
Holding deep within her rich and womb-like soil of
The promise of a newer day . . .
A vision for the seeds that dare the dark
And risk the journey
Into God.

Tiny seed surrenders to the
Secure in knowing that
Does not need to fear,
To the whispered secrets of a
Gentle God,
That her journey into
Begins with roots
That burrow in the
Heart of

Nudged by nurturing
Drawn by unseen
Fragile newness moves
And with gentle pressure on the
Womb of Earth
The slender stem is born,
Embraced and welcomed by the
And holding promise in its hidden roots.

And promise comes,
Held fast within each tightly fashioned
Unfolded gently by the
Morning Sun.
And promise lives
In blossomed beauty that reflects its
Many-petaled God
And does not mourn the passing of its day
For blossoms born of
Know well their roots.
And God-love waits .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Franciscans: Taking the Risk; Working for Justice

Advocacy Efforts

One of the ways in which we try to live out our commitment to "take the necessary risks to be a healing, compassionate presence. . . expecially with . . . those who have no voice" is through our advocacy efforts. Each of us does what we are called to do--praying, following up on action alerts, being part of groups working for justice, educating ourselves about various issues. Every effort might not have the total expected or hoped for result, but as our foundress Mother Francis Bachmann was so fond of repeating--"No risk, no gain"!I'd like to share what's happening with some of the issues that are important to us.

Death Penalty
A lot has been happening with attempts to abolish the death penalty. In light of our corporate stand, the outcomes might not have been all that we hoped for, but the efforts involved and the notoriety reaped in each instance do provide hope for future abolition success.

Although Maryland’s efforts to abolish the death penalty were not realized, a new law signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley makes imposition of the death incredibly difficult. The law makes it impossible to impose the death penalty without either biological or videotaped evidence of a murder or a videotaped confession.

Colorado death penalty opponents worked to repeal the death penalty and to re-appropriate budgeted funds to solve cold case crimes. In early May the Colorado legislature came within one vote of reaching this goal. The movement is so strong that supporters believe that it is a question of when, not if, Colorado will repeal the death penalty.

May also saw the exoneration of Paul House who spent 22 years on Tennessee’s death row. Paul’s case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, is an example of the cost and the risks of the death penalty system.

And finally, Ashlee Shelton, director of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, emceed the Voices of Experience tour as it journeyed around Pennsylvania. The tour focused on the experiences of murder victims’ families and sought to help audiences focus on understanding the range of complex emotions that these families undergo. The family members brought their message of healing and of opposition to the death penalty to churches all over Pennsylvania, to a gathering of pastors, to a university, and to a prison.

As women who have taken a corporate stand against the death penalty, we continue to stand in solidarity with all who work for abolition and to support and pray for families of both victims and perpetrators of violent crime.

We’ve also been active in implementing our corporate stand on immigration. Here at the motherhouse we held a prayer service on May 12 as we stood in solidarity with those victimized by the raids in Postville, Iowa last year. We posted video providing background on the raid on our YouTube channel and continue to urge others to work for comprehensive immigration reform.

Our leadership team joined other members of the Baltimore Archdiocesan Forum of Major Superiors, as well as Archbishop O’Brien and his vicar bishops, in becoming a voice for immigrants. Together they published a full-page ad in the Baltimore Catholic Review, calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Neumann College Celebrates University Status!

Carrying A Legacy and Tradition of Excellence into the Future
The community at Neumann College in Aston, Pennsylvania, knew that word about their request for university status would be received any day but actual reception of the word was truly reason for celebration. On May 1 approximately 300 students and faculty gathered at the St. John Neumann Circle to hear Dr. Rosalie Mirenda’s announce the news: Neumann College was now Neumann University. The announcement culminated more than two years of work on the part of the Neumann community, a process that included discussion, research, studies, polls, compilation of materials, and waiting. “University status is the culmination of Neumann’s transformation,” Dr. Mirenda explained. “It will be a catalyst for enhancing scholarship, research, and service to our community. At the same time, Neumann’s commitment to its mission, corevalues, and personal attention to our students will remain the same.”

Word of the honor spread beyond the campus and the congregation, receiving coverage not only in local newspapers and news channels, but also in the House of Representatives. Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak read a statement into the Congressional Record in which he praised the efforts of all associated with Neumann in having achieved this status. “For a college to qualify as a university in Pennsylvania requires extraordinary vision and perseverance on the part of its leaders and Neumann University is blessed to have President Rosalie Mirenda and Sr. Marguerite O’Beirne, OSF, Vice President for Mission and Ministry, to continue the work of their predecessors,” Rep. Sestak said.

Recalling Neumann’s beginnings with 115 students, Rep. Sestak described the steps and plateaus that marked its growth and changes over the years. “Achieving university status marks the culmination of a remarkable transformation for Neumann. It is a living testament to the decency, hard work, and absolute commitment of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia,” he said. “I acknowledge the 8,327 living alumni, 3037 current students, 507 faculty and staff, Board of Trustees, and President Rosalie Mirenda on achieving their goal of advancing Neumann University as a recognized Catholic Franciscan higher education institution focused on its mission and dedicating themselves to make ours a better community, nation, and world.”

To view Rep. Sestak’s presentation, visit the “Favorites” section of our YouTube channel,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Remembering Postville...Praying...Working...

Praying for Change...Working to Make It Happen!

This morning we gathered in the main hallway of our motherhouse here in Aston--sisters and employees--joining in solidarity with the people so affected by the ICE Raid just one year ago in Postville, Iowa. We were conscious that our brothers and sisters, not just in Postville but in other towns and cities throughout the country were gathering at the same time to remember and to pray. We used the same prayer service that would be used in all of these gatherings, its cover (right) a sketch depicting the day of the raid drawn by a Postville High School student.

With music, scripture readings and witness statements, we focused on what we, as people of faith, are called to do--to remember, to pray for justice and reform, and to work in whatever way is ours to do to make that reform become a reality. We readwitness statements from a man from Guatemala and a woman from Mexico whose lives were overturned by the raid. A statement from Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, spoke of the call to each of us as Christians to work for reform. We listened to a statement from Sr. Mary McCauley, BVM, who works with many of the families from St. Bridget's Church in Postville whose lives were shattered by the raid. She spoke, however, not only of the tragedy and the travesty of the raid, but also of the hope and love and ability to move forward which is so much a part of those families and individuals. From each of the statements came a call to work for--and to urge our government to work for--comprehensive immigration reform. It is this work that will give move our remembering to a future reality, that will bring our prayers into action, and that will carry our remembering, our prayers, and our action to a just change for all of us.

Visit for more information on comprehensive immigration reform. Visit our YouTube channels, and to view videos on the Postville raid.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Corporate Social Responsibility

Taking The Necessary Risks...For Those Who Have No Voice...
Our Office of Corporate Social Responsibility has had many opportunities this past season to be that "voice,"to bring about change in corporate behavior. Looking at the chaos in the corporate world, it is obvious that we are dealing with a very complex set of challenges from financial management to climate change, from basic human rights to food, water, health care, and a host of others. The congregation has once again stepped into the chaos and taken several actions that advocate for transparency, accountability and sustainability. Following are some of the companies with whom we have dialogued and the issues we have addressed during the past year.

Human Rights Issues
DuPont: genetically modified organisms, seed-saving rights of traditional agricultural communities, support for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture seed-saving and seed-coating issues related to bee toxicity collapse

Chevron: adoption of a comprehensive, verifiable human rights policy

Starwood Hotels: development of a human rights policy including a section on the rights of children; willingness to work with the ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) organization

Militarism And Violence
Boeing, Caterpillar, United Technologies: ethical criteria for military production, offsets, and foreign military sales. For the most part there is no dialogue because of Department of Defense contracts.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman: defense contracts; arms race in space

Violence In Media
Blockbuster, Best Buy, Target, Toys ’R Us, Sears, Wal-Mart: sales and promotion of violent video games.

Global Warming
Chevron: expansion of oil extraction from the oil sands of Canada’s boreal forest.

Exxon Mobil: adoption of goals for reducing greenhouse gases from both products and operations.

General Motors: establishment of quantitative goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their products

Environmental Health
Sunoco: manufacturing of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical with a variety of uses, among them making plastic water and baby bottles and the lining in food cans.
Hasbro, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Sears Holding, Target, Wal-Mart: phase out products and/or packaging that contain PVCs,

Environmental Justice
Coca Cola: effects their plants in India have had on the levels and quality of water in that country..

Massey Energy: report on the progress of the EPA-mandated remediation of streams that have been either buried or polluted as a result of their mountaintop removal mining process.

Contract Suppliers/Vendor Standards
Target, Wal-Mart, etc. : call for public independent supply chain monitoring, an important need for companies who outsource to factories in developing nations; improving working conditions in manufacturing facilities

Access To Capital
American Express, Bank of America, Citigroup, Discover, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo: resolutions and dialogues dealing with predatory credit card lending practices.

Access To Health Care
Bristol-Myers Squibb, General Motors, H.J. Heinz, Johnson & Johnson, Kroger, McDonald’s, Pfizer, Target, Verizon Communications, Wal-Mart: adoption of principles for national health reform.

Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck: adoption of differential pricing for essential medicines for HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis in low-income countries; participation inpatent pools to share technology that could result in cheaper, more effective drugs and better access.

Altria Group, Reynolds American: report on the effects of marketing strategies on the purchasing practices of poor people who smoke; evaluation of what might be done to mitigate the harm to innocent children in these families.

Corporate Governance
Cisco Systems: excessive executive compensation

For more information, visit

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Putting the Franciscan Mission to Work!

Bringing Life to Our Words

Area Chapter 41 (one of our small regional groups who make up our second level of governance) found a way to enflesh both our corporate stand on immigration and our chapter directions which call us to live more deeply into our mission statement in a spirit of hospitality. When the sisters discussed specific ways in which they could act on this directional statement, Sr. Angela suggested that they do something to help mothers in the local Hispanic community. The sisters agreed to collect items for babies—formula, diapers, and wipes. The sisters agreed that the supplies would be given to the Hispanic Ministry of Delaware County. Sr. Dominica works with this group, both in Upper Darby and Chester and agreed to distribute the items to mothers who needed them. Some would also be distributed through Catholic Social Services.

Like all good things, the project grew beyond the sisters in the area chapter. Sr. Theresa , who is the area chapter representative, also enlisted the aid of the faculty, students, and parents of St. Catherine of Bologna School in Ringwood, New Jersey, where she is principal. The results from all involved were overwhelming. On the Wednesday before Easter, formula, wipes, and diapers were loaded into the trunk and back seat of Sr. Dominica’s car and headed off to make many mothers very happy. “This is making our ‘words’ very real,” Dominica said. “The school community at St. Catherine’s is helping to carry on the Franciscan mission and we are ‘giving flash’ to our mission and commitment statements.”


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