Thursday, January 28, 2010

Latino Rights Talk Tonight

Members of the ACLU and Lu Lac (Hispanic advocacy group) will be speaking in the cafeteria of the St. James the Less school tonight at 7:00 pm (which is the building adjacent to the CW house) (Thursday, January 28th).

There is urgency in the Latino community now. Recently, Ohio passed a law requiring all people to show proof of residency in order to register a vehicle. As many as 47,000 people in Ohio may be affected. Many Latino families face the possibility of having to leave the state or live in even more fear.

The topic is "Know Your Rights." It is an informational session for members of the Latino community helping them to know what to say and do if members of their family are deported, if they are pulled over by the police or involved in an accident. Anyone who has ever had to learn a second language can tell you that a situation like that can be terrifying, even if you have done nothing wrong.

The main presenter is an ACLU lawyer who will be speaking in English with an interpreter, so even if you don't speak Spanish you can benefit from this talk.

If you are interested in immigration reform or issues which face the Latino community, this would be a good event to attend. It is not sponsored by the CCW, but some of us will be attending. Call or email with any questions!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Texas of the North

As hard as it may be to believe, Ohio ranks third only behind Texas and Alabama for the most executions of any state in 2009.

While there has been an overall drop in the number of executions nationally since 2000, Ohio seems to be running counter to this trend by increasing since that time. There was a brief time in 2007-2008 where the number was decreasing in Ohio, but in 2009 it rose dramatically and shows no signs of stopping, based on the list of scheduled executions for 2010--there is one scheduled each month in Ohio through June. Last year, Ohio had a total of 5--this year, we'll have 6 only halfway through the year.

This trend has remained consistent even with different people from different political parties occupying the governor’s mansion.

I will admit that sometimes I find it hard to be passionate about this topic. Even though I am against the death penalty, there are times when it seems it is more urgent to advocate for other causes which involve justice for thousands or even millions of people. However, the death penalty sets the tone for how our entire nature operates. The effects reach far beyond simply the lives of certain incarcerated individuals.

For me, it boils down to this:

If we as a society can't figure out how to solve our problems other than by killing someone, then why are we so surprised that criminals are not able to figure out a better way, either?

Our society sees violence as a way to dealing with problems. When we are born and bred into this culture, this mindset permeates how we conduct ourselves in our interpersonal relationships as well as how our nation behaves politically. A lot of people simply do not know of any alternative other than dealing a problem violently--they have rarely seen anything different.

However, the evidence is quite substantial that violence of this sort does not solve problems, that the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent to crime, and that our criminal system is messed up at best and corrupt or unfair at worst. We make only token attempts at working toward rehabilitation of criminals and true reconciliation.

The movement against the death penalty is not just a crusade to save the lives of certain incarcerated individuals--it is a quest to save the soul of our nation.

What can be done?

Hearing Sr. Helen Prejean speak on this topic is one of the best ways to be introduced to the subject. If you are undecided or simply need inspiration, I would recommend hearing what she has to say. Her story formed the basis for the movie Dead Man Walking. She will be appearing at Ohio Wesleyan University on Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 at 7 pm. The cost is free. The event will be at the Gray Chapel, 61 South Sandusky Street, Delaware, OH 43015.


  • Folks gather for a peaceful vigil every Friday night from 6-7 pm at the Governor’s Mansion, Parkview and Maryland.
  • I’ll be joining St. James the Less parishioner Dave at noon on Fridays at the corner of State and High downtown, in front of the governor’s offices.
  • On the day of any scheduled execution, there is a vigil at 10 am in front of the State House. The next one is February 4, 2010, on behalf of Mark Brown.

Send letters to:

The Honorable Ted Strickland
Riffe Center
77 S. High St. 30th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6117

Call the Governor:


Send emails:

Go to, click on governor’s picture, then click on “Contact the Governor.”
If you are not sure what to say, ask for commutation of sentence to life without parole.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


In our extended saga to discover the name of our Catholic Worker house, we tried just about everything under the sun. We prayed about it, talked about it and came close to settling on a name a couple of times. We wanted to recognize the Dominican tradition or perhaps the Precious Blood order. We thought about Latino-oriented names. We pondered saints, themes, places.

Erin even facilitated a naming discernment session where we had large poster paper sheets taped to the walls of the living room with ideas all over them in an attempt to brainstorm and zero in on something. Still, nothing.

We've been quite simply the Columbus Catholic Worker House and I suppose that is just fine.

Among the naming methods tried, we toyed with using our address. We are at 1614 Oakland Park Avenue. What does the Good Book have to say about 1614? A few books in the Bible have a chapter 16, verse 14, and I almost fell off my chair when I read a couple of them. Whether they can be adapted into good names or not, they really capture our values:

Deuteronomy 16:14, New American Bible/Jerusalem Bible

You shall make merry at your feast, together with your son and daughter, your serving men and women, and also the Levite, the alien, the orphan and the widow who belong to your community.

I Corinthians 16:14, New American Bible

Your every act should be done with love.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Immigration Reform

The mural above is called "SueƱos." Artist information and background is here.

The time is right to work for immigration reform. The Catholic Church has launched a nationwide campaign to make our voices heard. Even if you are not Catholic, I ask you to consider joining in as the principles advocated for by the Catholic bishops are sensible, just and apply across religious lines.

The US Catholic bishops have always been a strong voice for immigrants, and their stance on this issue has always been a great source of Catholic pride for me.

Postcards will be distributed at Masses all across the country. Ask for them at your local parish. If you don't have access, you can find electronic copies online here.

The Columbus Pax Christi chapter as well as the Catholic Worker have joined in the efforts. We will be distributing these postcards and advocating to whomever we can find.

The website sponsored by the US Bishops on this issue is excellent and summarizes the terms of the proposal and provides responses to some of the most common myths about immigrants. It is a great one-stop-shop for questions and answers on immigration reform.

The immigration reform proposed by the bishops includes the following:

  • The right for families to stay intact. Right here in our Catholic Worker programs, we meet families who have been torn apart by deportations and unfair immigration policies. Children are left without parents and are easy prey for the drug culture and gangs.

  • The right to due process--many immigrants are detained for months and even years without a proper trial.

  • The creation of a reasonable and fair temporary worker program, which keeps families intact and allows workers to eventually move toward naturalization and citizenship.

  • Legalization of people who have been living here for a while who can show a record of upstanding behavior.

The truth is that many of the immigrants in this country--especially from Latin America--should truly be classified as refugees rather than immigrants. They do not come here as some sort of "get rich quick" scheme. They risk life and death because conditions are so bad in their homeland.

On a deeper level, it is easy to see how conditions in their homeland are made so unfavorable by direct US intervention and exploitation. Conditions in much of Latin America can be called neocolonial, as foreign businesses and governments support the exploitation of the local people. When people struggle for better living and working conditions, they are often suppressed violently, as seen through the lens of the School of the Americas. Yes, our economic and military policies actually create the waves of immigrants in the first place! The US bishops urge that people should have a "right not to migrate" in the first place by having the option for a living wage and safe, sane conditions in which to live.