The New York Times had an interesting article November 12, 2011, Nuns Who Won’t Stop Nudging. The Sisters of St. Francis have been quietly occupying the offices of Wall Street since 1980! They are active in raising awareness about corporate irresponsibility from labor to CEO entitlements. Part of their strategy is to become minority investors so they can have a voice at annual shareholders meetings if CEOs refuse to meet with them. Smart!
Religious communities of women have tirelessly lived out their vocation advocating and caring for, teaching and training, healing and helping those easily overlooked and forgotten. They continue providing real ministry, a moral compass, and a prophetic voice long after everyone else has tired of the work and moved on.
Mother Teresa, probably the most famous sister of social justice, worked caring for the poor and sick in Calcutta right up until she died. Long after they’ve retired from teaching, or nursing, or hospital administration, or social work, or whatever their vocation demanded of them, they continue to work at something. They have to. The Catholic sisters I know are totally on their own, not being cared for by the Catholic church like the [male] priests.
When I was still in the life (the clergy life), I went on a personal retreat once a year. I used this time to plan out my preaching calendar, puzzle through program ideas to present to my team, and get away from the office so I could pray! I was fortunate to be able to chose: Villa Maria del Mar in Santa Cruz, California if I wanted to be at the ocean or Presentation Center in Los Gatos, California if I wanted to be in the mountains. Even though I was on retreat for my own benefit, I always looked forward to talking with a couple of the sisters. They were progressive, thoughtful, and well-grounded in reality. The Presentation Center, for example, has this to say about how they think of their center:
…They came to recognize that the natural beauty of the Center, the plant and animal life which characterized it, was calling them to awareness of a new obligation to preserve the earth. Thus they began to think “green” that is, to become environmentally sensitive in all of their planning and their actions.
The most dramatic response to this realization has been the opening of a new Welcoming Center and the replacement of their dining and kitchen area with a totally green building, one which can teach all who come practical ways to integrate their responsibility to preserve the earth into their life and actions and spirituality. Destruction of the natural resources of the earth for economic gain is a principal cause of continuing of poverty in world. The daughters of Nano Nagle are still concerned for the poor especially all who are being impacted by destructive practices against the earth. Presentation Center continues to reach out to shelter, support, and teach all those who seek true peace and renewal of life and spirit.
Not what you would expect of women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s!
What can we learn from these sisters of social justice? The occupy movement may raise awareness, but real influence and change comes from getting involved in real, practical ways. They do social justice.