Justice and Peace
"While accepting and integrating Francis' insights in our own lives, we are called to witness in contemporary society. We hope to share with all persons a search for the values of freedom, human dignity and relationship in Christ. This is our Franciscan mission." Call and Response, paragraph 6
Living the Gospel message in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare, we commit ourselves to serve God's Kingdom of justice and peace with special focus on care for God's creation, human trafficking, anti-racism, and immigration/migration.
Care for God's Creation
"As sons and daughters of God, we Christians acknowledge our responsibility toward all creation: to love it, to redeem it, and to return it to the Creator."
- Call and Response, paragraph 11
The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi have been longtime innovators and advocates for Mother/Sister Earth. The 1999 Sacred Web of Life proclaims, "All of creation, from the initial creative event to the arrival of humans, is a single, interconnected and interdependent whole…Creation is the primary revelation and each being reveals something of the Divine."
Season of Creation 2022
Garden Gratitude Drum Circle Resounds!
Bongo and conga, rain-stick and thunder-shake, kalimba and cymbal, plus a few overturned buckets…these instruments inspired sounds that filled convent grounds on July 13, 2022, when local drummer Jahmes Finlayson led a gathering of about 30 resident and non-resident Sisters and friends in a drum circle to give thanks for the land on which we stand and the abundance of our gardens.
Care for Rivers is Focus of Water Witness Project
On International Day of Action for Rivers 2022, 10 Sisters gathered in the 12-degree cold on the Lake Michigan shore to witness on behalf of the community in prayer, blessing, and song. The site that was chosen is significant because it is the confluence of three local rivers—the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic.
Human trafficking, in the forms of sex trafficking and forced labor, is a criminal industry that impacts the most vulnerable people in society - women and children, those in poverty, people seeking refuge.
"If we're serious about ending trafficking in persons, we must also work to combat systemic racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination."
-U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken,
2021 U.S. State Department Annual Report
"Blue Campaign" Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking
The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi and staff at St. Francis Convent participated in the January 11, 2023, Department of Homeland Security “Blue Campaign” in solidarity with victims, survivors, and those working to end human trafficking. We have a long history of action and education about human trafficking, including partnering with Sisters Program South, Franciscan Peacemakers, and recently the St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House in Milwaukee. Wearing blue served as a reminder to pray throughout the day for people whose lives are impacted by trafficking.
We pray and act in solidarity with the estimated 21 million women, men, and children worldwide who suffer each day from modern slavery in the form of human trafficking.
Sisters Pilgrimage to St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House
In partnership with Franciscan Peacemakers, St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House houses women in recovery from human trafficking. Sisters pilgrimaged to St. Bakhita House on December 15, 2022. After Mass in the second floor chapel, they toured and appreciated the beautifully appointed bedrooms, and meaningful artwork throughout. They then shared a meal the Sisters brought with Bakhita House residents and Director Anne Haines.
In Support of Sisters Program South
Sisters Program South, Milwaukee, is a respite for women who have been trafficked or who are involved in prostitution. The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi have been involved in the program for many years. Sisters regularly make homemade casseroles and desserts for women there who are in counseling.
St. Catherine Residence Saved
St. Catherine Residence (1032 E. Knapp St.) has a legacy of helping women in Milwaukee since 1894. Sisters Program South and other organizations partnered with St. Catherine Residence to provide essential housing for women ready and committed to healing. The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi is a longtime supporter. Sister Ceil Struck has served on the board, and now Sister Margaret Kruse serves on the Advisory Board of Sisters Program South. Continuance of this programming is part of our shared moral call to respect the dignity of all human beings.
On September 27, 2022, management of St. Catherine Residence had a hearing at City Hall before the Milwaukee licensing board chaired by District 4 Alderman, Robert Bauman. Sisters and JPIC staff attended, voiced support for St. Cate’s, and the license renewal was approved.
"We express our mission by striving…to bring the healing, teaching, reconciling and liberating power of Jesus into the human situations in which we live and minister."
- Call and Response, paragraph 20
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, January 16, 2023, was a day of remembrance, celebration, and prayer in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our livestreamed prayer service included readings proclaimed from Dr. King's words:
"I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world."
"Faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future."
"I choose to identify with the underprivileged; I choose to identify with the poor."
"Every person is somebody because they are a child of God."
Sister Margaret Gardner, 102, reflected on her ministry in Harlem in 1968:
"The weekend after Dr. Martin Luther King was killed, we made a march from 151st St. in Harlem to Central Park where groups were gathering…we sang 'We Shall Overcome' all the way and picked up groups of people as we went along, trying to keep the people as calm as possible."
Interfaith Support Against Racism
On Saturday, August 6, 2022, our community presented a letter of support and a flourishing peace plant to Sikh officials who were commemorating the 10th anniversary of the martyrdom of seven of their members during a racist attack. JPIC animators Jill and Steven Haberman are pictured here with Sikh representatives. On Sunday, Sisters Ellen Carr and Ruth Mary Costello participated in memorial prayer at the temple.
Sisters Supply Warmth and Nourishment With Love
Resident Sisters knit colorful hat/scarf sets for central city children and adults in Milwaukee's most impoverished 53206 zip code.
Resident Sisters bake homemade cookies and assemble batches of 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for distribution by StreetLife Communities, a ministry building relationships with people living on the streets in Milwaukee.
Sisters Bless Every Step Toward Nonviolence
Our celebration of International Day of Peace on September 21, 2022, at the convent and via livestream incorporated the Catholic Nonviolent Days of Action 2022 theme, "Blessed is every step toward nonviolence." Sisters, staff, and Associates gathered at the peace pole in front of the St. Francis grotto for reflection, blessing of the peace pole, and joined a global moment of silent prayer for peace. With joyful bells and banners, we processed into San Damiano Center for prayer, readings, reflection, and song. The group culminated their prayerful action by making the Pax Christi Vow of Nonviolence. The vow has been a longstanding tradition in the congregation for over 30 years.
Sister of St. Francis of Assisi Continues Her Work at the
U.S. - Mexico Border
Sister Rosalia Vadala, a member of the congregation, has served migrant workers, immigrants, and refugees in the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico since 1987. She founded an independent project called Proyecto Santo Nino de Atocha that aids these individuals with paperwork, “know your rights” resources to avoid deportation, and other related resources.
Over the many years of her Hispanic pastoral ministry in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and to the present day, Sister Rosalia works with men, women, and children who make it across the Rio Grande River and continue their journeys on foot to other parts of Texas or to other states in the U.S. where they meet family or friends.
“Helping people in this manner deeply touches the heart,” she said. The immigrants “continue on their arduous, very long journey, mostly on foot, enduring scorching sun, vast ranch lands, and other untold dangers” in hopes of finding a way to a better life.
Sister Rosalia has one assistant for migrants/refugees who has direct contact with new arrivals to the McAllen Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, on a daily basis or as needed. Once a month, this assistant goes to Sister Rosalia’s home to pick up clothing, shoes, diapers, water, etc., that has been purchased by Sister for distribution at the center.
In Mexico, Sister Rosalia, together with her Mexico partner, works for justice for maquiladora (foreign-owned factories in Mexico) workers and their children. They are currently searching for a contact with International Human Rights Watch to monitor the violation of human rights of the workers who are employed in these factories. Her Mexico partner is also actively working with the thousands of migrants/refugees living outdoors on the Mexico side of the river as they await their asylum appointments.
In recent correspondence with the congregation, Sister Rosalia pointed out that her location at the last 200 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border is presently seeing a vast number of migrants/refugees from Latin America, Central America, Haiti, and China. It is at Brownsville, Texas, where the largest number of Chinese are entering with the hope of remaining in the United States.
Sister Rosalia Vadala
Partnering with Voces de la Frontera
We honor the dignity of every individual by supporting immigrants and migrants, especially asylum seekers who have resettled in Milwaukee from Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Cameroon. We recognize that climate migration calls us to open our tent even wider. We call on Congress and the president to implement comprehensive immigration reform.
Justice and Peace staff partnered with Voces de la Frontera to advocate for immigration reform in Madison in May 2022. Pictured is the advocacy team with Rep. Jonathon Brostoff.