Sister Patricia Weidman, CSA, BCC shared a reflection in the May/June 2021 issue of "Vision," the newsletter for the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. Her article entitled, "Twenty years in correctional chaplaincy: Sharing humanity and setting boundaries," explores the careful balance required by chaplains serving inmates.
A huge victory, more than 10 years the making, was won on May 26 when 55.6 percent of the ExxonMobil’s stockholders voted to pass a resolution asking the company to disclose its trade association payments used for lobbying. The resolution was led by United Steel Workers and cofilers Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, Home Missioners of America, The Sisters of the Holy Family, Sisters of St. Agnes, School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund, Gwendolen Noyes and Oneida Tribe of Indians Trust Fund for the Elderly. The Sisters of St. Agnes have been consistent cofilers for several years.
“Shareholders face a dark money blind spot when the company fails to disclose its trade association payments used for lobbying, especially when these lobbying efforts contradict with ExxonMobil’s public position,” said Ricky Brooks, a member of USW Local 13-2001 who introduced the resolution. “Disclosure of the company’s payments to trade associations and social welfare groups that influence public policies will allow shareholders to assess the company’s management of risks.”
A brief mention of this win and the big climate win for religious shareholder advocates can be found in this National Catholic Reporter EarthBeat article.
As part of CSA’s work with UNANIMA International, Sister Susan Seeby virtually attended the United Nation’s 59th Session of the Commission for Social Development. This year’s focus was on a socially just transition towards sustainable development and explored the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.
While there were more than 100 events and presentations offered, they primarily fell into the three categories discussed in the Civil Society Declaration
Digital Inclusion in Education and Social Protections for All
Digital Technology and Financing for Development: Eradication of Poverty and Promotion of Equality at Global and National Levels
Digital Technology and Good Governance: Creating a Legal Environment that Protects Human Rights, Respects Privacy, and Prevents Abuses
Attending the sessions virtually highlighted the need to bridge the digital divide and showed the many ways that the pandemic has accelerated the pace of technology development and innovations.
The commission issued, and CSA endorsed, a “Civil Society Declaration.” The declaration includes calls to action for UN Member States to guarantee, among other things, “internet connection as a fundamental right and provide appropriate funding to extend broadband internet and digital access to all, in rural and urban areas, for women and girls, elderly population, indigenous, people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities and people living in poverty.” With young people throughout the world attending school remotely for the past year, the need for this action item and the others was readily apparent.
On first review, many of the action items seem beyond the reach of one single individual; upon further reflection, it becomes clear that individual actions can have a global impact. For example, providing digital literacy training at local service organizations, ensuring the use of closed captions during virtual meetings, and supporting community-funded broadband efforts are all the first steps in creating inclusive digital environments.
To read the full Civil Society Declaration, visit:
To watch presentations from the event, visit:
The Sisters of St. Agnes served in many high schools throughout Wisconsin, including Beloit Catholic High School (BCHS) in Beloit, Wisconsin, from 1950 to 1994. A Facebook group of BCHS alumni began as a simple tool for planning reunions and sharing memories. In late 2020, Tim McKearn, former student, teacher, and principal at BCHS, began using it to share updates on the sisters who used to teach there. Tim reached out to CSA Archivist Jenny Lukomski with the names of several sisters who had been mentioned on the page and Jenny provided him with photos and a brief update on each sister.
In addition to getting accurate histories of the sister’s ministries from the archives, Tim has also shared some of his favorite memories of the sisters that shaped his life and his tales have motivated other alumni to share stories as well.
- Sister Lucida Vorndran inspired Tim’s senior basketball team by giving each of them a medallion of St. Joseph of Cupertino, because their high jumps reminded her of the Saint’s ability to levitate.
- One alumnus credits Sister Philip Neri Saller’s exceptional teaching skills for her career as a nurse.
- As principal of the school, Sister Mary Dennis McMahon would introduce herself at the podium and then add that, although she had never been married, she still thought of herself as having 230 children (the population of the school at the time).
- Sister Catherine Dolan helped a small group of senior girls fundraise and arrange for a secretarial class trip to New York and Washington, DC, during their Easter break.
- Another student was convinced by Sister Christi Ann Laudolff to become the first male cheerleader at BCHS.
- Sister Michaela O’Brien was remembered for her supportive teaching style and her dedication to bringing excellent stage productions like The Music Man and Fiddler on the Roof to the high school theater program.
- An alumnus who became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) described Sister Germaine Lichtle as the reason for his career choice.
Despite the school's closing in 2000, former students are still in touch with many of the sisters who continue to inspire and educate them. As Tim said, “I am so grateful for the education I received from the good sisters and the lay teachers at Beloit Catholic High. I consider that education the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.”
Do you have a story to share? Visit www.csasisters.org/share_a_story to let us know how a sister impacted your life!
Sister Celia Fernández recently shared an update about her work to ensure the well-being of the Miskito people along the Rio Coco after the recent Nicaraguan hurricanes:
Visita de Hermana Celia Fernández
Fui invitada por la confer, para acompañar a la comisión y poder traducir de Español a Miskito a los nativos del lugar.
El viaje consistía en visitar a la familia que fueron favorecidas con el proyecto techo para una familia, especialmente las más afectadas por el Huracán ETA y IOTA.
Una congregación de la Academia de Maria, hizo una donación para ayudar a las familias, con casa, siembros (donando semillas de arroz y Frijoles., todo el proyecto era por via Confer.
Visit of Sister Celia Fernández
I was invited by the conference, to accompany the commission and to be able to translate from Spanish to Miskito to the people native to the place.
The trip consisted of visiting the family who were favored with the Roof for a Family project, especially those most affected by Hurricane ETA and IOTA.
A congregation of the Academy of Maria, made a donation to help the families, with a house, crops (donating rice seeds and beans), the whole project was via Confer.
Sister Sharon Pollnow has been ministering in Ohio for more than half of her life. With a Master’s in Education, she was initially a teacher and principal and later became a certified spiritual director, offering workshops and retreats. She earned her Master’s in Clinical Social Work, became a licensed clinical social worker, and taught at Lourdes University in the Psychology and Education Departments.
With the blessing of CSA, Sharon collaborated with Sister Rachel Nijakowski, OSF, PhD, in opening a Counseling Center in 1993. Together they chose the name “Sophia Center” to reflect the feminine wisdom of God. Sophia Center is a faith-based counseling center focused on holistic healing, open to persons of all faiths and backgrounds. It provides counseling for sheltered abused women and children and also initiated “Step Up,” a violence intervention program for adolescents and their families.
The pandemic compelled Sharon and Sophia’s staff to quickly learn new technology skills including, professional encrypted “Zooming” with clients and transferring to digitized record systems. Sharon counsels 25-30 clients a week using teletherapy and eagerly awaits the day when staff and clients will be able to return to in-person counseling at Sophia.
As one of 13 therapists at Sophia Center, Sharon’s clinical practice includes assessments, diagnoses, counseling, psychotherapy, and cognitive therapy for depression/anxiety. She also counsels married couples looking for a faith-based counseling approach and is a grief and trauma specialist. This past year she has also been on-call 24/7 for any woman in a domestic abuse crisis in Sylvania.
Sharon is passionate about assisting clients through difficult times in their lives. Her ministry has been especially challenging this year as she journeyed with many through grief, loss, depression, anxiety, confusion, and fear. When she noticed her own “compassion fatigue,” Sharon turned to prayer, music, her spiritual director, and her sisters, family, friends.
“I miss the hugs terribly…I don’t know what I would do without prayer… One day what helped was I imagined all of CSA and the people across the world just reaching out and holding each other’s hands and getting through this pandemic together, with each other and the Divine.”
On March 11, 2021, CSA hosted the 17th annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast. As has been common in this most unusual of years, the event was celebrated virtually. The event featured the “courageous initiatives” of Mother Agnes as manifested in the ministries of a 6-person panel engaged in the fields of social services, education, and health care.
The presenters all spoke in terms of “pre-Covid” and “during Covid” and outlined the challenges they and their programs faced in moving from face-to-face experiences to mostly virtual ones. The loss of socialization and peer support were identified as significant losses that began a year ago last March and, in many cases, persist to this day. Emotions like fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and sadness were identified as strongly present within their organizations and among their co-workers. However, they also identified creativity, resiliency, and flexibility as “gifts” the Covid experience called forth. The presenters expressed their hope that these gifts would continue to be valued and deepened.
The phrase “new normal” was used to express how they and their programs were evolving. One presenter spoke to the organic, changing nature of normal through use of the phrase “normal-ish,” a term that resonated with many as a reflection of the fluid nature of our current experience.
Attendees were able to engage in question-and-answer sessions with each pair of panelists to deepen their understanding, and many expressed feeling empowered and enlightened by the presentations. Each presenting pair shared opportunities for action, and attendees shared intentions to volunteer in the organizations that were represented, to research volunteering with other community-based programs, to share information about relief programs with those in need, to support women-owned businesses more intentionally, or even just to find joy and focus on moving forward. As one participant noted: “Working together we can do great things!”
Watch the full video of the breakfast at csasisters.org/breakfast
This summer, Sister Peg Spindler is retiring after 25 years serving as the Executive Director of Sojourner Truth House in Gary, Indiana. On May 5, she was featured in Gary's local newspaper, the Post-Tribune.
The article discusses the work of Sojourner Truth House, a ministry of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, which serves as a resource "for women and and children who are experiencing poverty, homelessness, or domestic abuse."
Sister Peg's retirement doesn't mean she is done working though. She states in the article, "As I recently read, 'homeless people aren't the problem, homeless people are the result of the problem.'" Her work to address that problem will continue as she teams up with other social workers to launch the Lake County Homeless Trust Fund and leads the charge to reduce carbon emissions at parishes around the country.