The right to vote is foundational to our form of government. Voting allows citizens to have a say in decisions that affect our lives and to be fairly represented by officials who are responsive to our needs.
The cry of our dear neighbor impels us as Sisters of St Joseph, together with our associates and companions, to commit ourselves to work towards dismantling interlocking systems of oppression, including those that would limit access to voting. Our sisters marched in Selma to help secure the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Sisters of St. Joseph were part of the treatment team that cared for John Lewis when he was brutally beaten on the Edmund Pettis Bridge fighting for voting rights. Today, we urge the swift passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. These are two steps to ensuring that our voting processes do not discriminate against voters based on race.
Please find further information about both The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act below. If you are looking for a way to contact your Senators about supporting these acts or want to send a letter to the editor of your local paper, you can find both below as well.
Both of these bills deserve bipartisan support. As the Community of St Joseph, which values seeking unity and communion, we are disheartened by the absence of such collaboration. If our Congress cannot find compromises that allow passage of these two bills, then we reluctantly support a filibuster carve-out by the United States Senate for bills that relate to voting rights.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to restore the full protections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. This new legislation is updated in part to reduce its vulnerability to another court challenge on the grounds of having outdated data on discriminatory voting practices, which was the basis for the 2013 Supreme Court decision. The revised bill is also worded to address a more recent Supreme Court decision that made the use of lawsuits against election officials under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act more difficult.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act provides the necessary tools to address discriminatory voting practices and protects all Americans’ access to the ballot box. This bill:
• Creates a new coverage formula that applies to all states and hinges on finding repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years;
• Establishes a targeted process for reviewing voting changes in jurisdictions nationwide, focused on measures that have historically been used to discriminate against voters;
• Allows a federal court to order states or jurisdictions to be covered for results-based violations, where the effect of a particular voting measure (including voter ID laws) is to lead to racial discrimination in voting and to deny citizens their right to vote;
• Increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes;
• Allows the Attorney General authority to request federal observers be present anywhere in the country where there is a serious threat of racial discrimination in voting;
• Revises and tailors the preliminary injunction standard for voting rights actions to recognize that there will be cases where there is a need for immediate preliminary relief; and
• Increases accessibility and protections for Native American and Alaska Native voters.
The Freedom to Vote Act creates national standards for states that have voter identification requirements, expands early voting, makes Election Day a national holiday, bans partisan gerrymandering and implements election security and campaign finance measures. This bill is a compromise effort to find middle ground that is acceptable to moderates of both parties, replacing the For the People Act. It addresses new legislation in many states that increases voting restrictions.
The Freedom to Vote Act:
• Allows for same-day voter registration,
• Establishes automatic voter registration,
• Protects and expands access to voting by mail,
• Establishes 15 days of early voting, including at least two weekends,
• Restores voting rights to individuals who have been previously incarcerated,
• Prevents partisan gerrymandering, and
• Protects against voter intimidation.
Moving always towards profound love of our neighbor without distinction, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet defend the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.[i] We do this through advocacy and actions. In these complex times, we commit ourselves to both deepen and broaden our understanding of the interlocking issues that impact both people and governments. While recognizing the complexity, we acknowledge the simple truth that the right to seek asylum is a human right, and migrants are our sisters and brothers worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.
Worldwide migrants, asylum seekers and refugees encounter racism and discrimination. We urge countries to prioritize just and humane processes in their immigration policies. We encourage interventions to address these issues at a systemic level and through personal conversion. Those who assist these people in the legal processes and resettlement benefit from training and cultural sensitivity. Immigration officials have made great strides but need to continue to improve trafficking victim identification rates. Legal protections are needed to address discrimination faced by migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The countries in which we minister—Chile, Japan, Peru and the United States of America—all signed on to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a UN International Treaty. This protocol commits to treating asylum seekers and refugees in accordance with internationally recognized legal and humanitarian standards, including:
We call on our governments and the United Nations to fulfill their obligations under this protocol. We continue to advocate for global cooperation to address the 4.2 million human beings seeking refuge and asylum. To accomplish this, we need:
Many of our members continue to support those seeking refuge or receiving asylum and migrants living in our countries by providing emergency assistance and longer-term supports. As we continue to educate ourselves and learn from our interactions with those we serve, we share our learnings with the wider community and invite them to join us in our advocacy and actions.
[i] An asylum seeker is a person seeking to be admitted into a country as a refugee and awaiting decision on his/her application for refugee status under relevant international and national instruments. Persons seeking asylum flee persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, or political reasons, including conflict and war.
Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country.
There is no internationally accepted legal definition of a migrant. Migrants are not asylum-seekers or refugees. They leave their country for a variety of reasons including seeking work, to study, because of poverty, natural disasters, gang violence or other reasons.
by Patricia Hunt, associate in the Albany Province.
Associates are women and men from various faith traditions, married and single, who extend the mission and share the spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph without becoming vowed members. Find out more about becoming an associate.
Once again, within months of each other, the Syracuse CSJ Associates have lost another long-time and beloved member of our group. Suzanne Warner was called home to God after a valiant battle with cancer on July 18, 2021.
Suzanne would have made her 32nd commitment this past June, but her health didn’t allow for her to join us either in person or via Zoom that particular day. We are most grateful for the opportunity to have her join us, if for a brief time, for the last time, at our annual CSJ/CSJA picnic and Mission Day on June 28th. We will always be grateful to her dear friend, Pat Pilon, for making this meaningful and memorable occasion possible.
Sue played many roles in her life, but it was obvious that her role as wife, mother and grandmother took precedence. Even though many of the Syracuse associates who joined our group over the years never met her son, Tom, or her grandchildren, Brooke and Patrick, they certainly knew all about them and their latest achievements or activities.
Most remember her as a proud school bus driver for many years. As one associate related at her wake, “It was more a ministry than a job.” One of the main responsibilities of a bus driver is being attentive to traffic and weather conditions and ensuring passenger safety. Suzanne made it a point to be attentive to each child each time and encouraged them to greet each other. If there was a troubled or “about to be in trouble” child, she would take the time to find out what was going on, and help diffuse the situation with a one-on-one calm approach. Most of Suzanne’s dear neighbors were under the age of 12.
The profound influence on the associate community Suzanne had is not to be forgotten. She served on and off over most of her 30-plus years as a Syracuse area coordinator. She graciously volunteered behind the scenes of many associate Commitment Weekends. Most recently, she oversaw the Candle Lighting Ceremony, the last one held at the Provincial House.
So, my dear friend, please continue to help us as we navigate our own journeys with the dear neighbor, and help us keep following the planned route to our own divine destination.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are heartbroken by the recent events in Afghanistan.
Like people around the world, we are watching the unfolding events there with great sadness. We are also challenged by Pope Francis in his address to the 6th International Forum on Migration and Peace: “We have a duty toward our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice, of civility and of solidarity.”
The United States has a clear duty of justice to those who risked their lives over the last 20 years as translators, interpreters and in other roles to assist the U.S. military in their efforts. We made promises to those workers that we must now honor. We urge our government to find ways to protect these vulnerable Afghans.
We also have a duty of solidarity with the women of Afghanistan, who in recent years have achieved some of the rights for education and professional development that should be afforded to all people. We urge our government and the international community to do all in its power to protect these rights for all Afghans.
Our charism calls us to love God and love the Dear Neighbor without distinction. We will not distinguish people by religion, color, gender or creed when they cry out for mercy. Let us all respond to our Dear Neighbors with love in this challenging time.
As a congregation, we have made a commitment to “deepen awareness of our complicity and work toward dismantling interlocking systems of oppression.” One such system of oppression is the existing immigration system in the United States. Our dear neighbors who are seeking asylum and better opportunities in the United States face a byzantine process that results in many living in constant fear of deportation and unable to access social safety net programs.
DREAMers are undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children (the term comes from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act, which never passed Congress). The United States is frequently the only home they have known. DREAMers are critical members of our community. They serve in our military. They are teachers and students. They are health care providers and front-line workers. They are our neighbors. Together with their families, they make our nation a better place.
More than 650,000 DREAMers have already benefitted from the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy, a program created by executive order that has allowed them to apply for driver’s licenses, social security numbers and work permits. Tens of thousands of DREAMers have pending applications for DACA, but that program remains in jeopardy as it is being fought in the courts.
Please take a moment to use our tool below and tell your elected members of Congress that these young people are essential members of our communities. They deserve a permanent solution and a road to citizenship now.