WASHINGTON, D.C. – Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ), Associates and members of the Society of the Sacred Heart community alongside Catholic leaders, advocates and activists held prayer and later held witness to an act of civil disobedience Thursday, July 18, 2019. Those present raised their voices for an end to the inhumane treatment of immigrant and refugee children and families by the United States government.
Among those present were Bridget Bearss, RSCJ; Meg Causey, RSCJ; Linda Kato, RSCJ; and Ellen Nelson, RSCJ. D.C. Catholic Coalition, a group of religious congregations and nonprofits, planned and led the Catholic Day of Action. Sister Bearss, the executive director of the Stuart Center in Washington, D.C., and Sister Causey, the director of the JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) office for the Society, were involved in the planning. “In less than three weeks, we went from concept to action. This required the contribution of each member organization and enlisted the support of many religious communities and organizations,” said Sister Bearss. She shared it was a profound experience to serve and support those called to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience, as well as to find ways the Society of the Sacred Heart could be present through the Stuart Center in each step of the planning and implementation. The Stuart Center, a Society ministry based in D.C. and which houses the United States – Canada Province’s JPIC office, is formally part of the D.C. Catholic Coalition. The coalition, rooted in the Gospel message of hope and wisdom of Catholic social teaching, states “as a forum of national and international, multi-issue Catholic organizations engaged in advocacy, we commit to five equally valued actions: community, dialogue, educate, mobilize and advocate.”
Both Sisters Bearss and Causey served as marshals for the event, directing the crowds and leading participants from prayer to the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building for the act of civil disobedience. “It was edifying to see so many religious and lay willing to bear the extreme heat of the day to have their voices heard. While I chose not to participate in civil disobedience resulting in arrest, I saw in those who did, especially the number of elderly religious, the face of Jesus in our world today,” said Sister Causey. Sister Kato added, “I was moved to see elderly nuns in their 90s being handcuffed as they prayed the stations of the cross and others lying on the floor of the rotunda, forming a crucifix with photos on their chests of children who died in transit or in detention.” Sister Kato said she, along with many others, watched from the 4th floor balcony in the senate building, where the local and national press were gathered and senators and their aides came to witness the protest activities below. She added that several sisters and advocates, including herself, fielded questions from aides and media persons about the current administration’s detention policies, conditions of the interned children, the official church stance towards these policies and organizations involved in the protest. No RSCJ participated in the civil disobedience action. Sisters Bearss and Causey served to pick up those who had been arrested proceeding the action, and the Stuart Center housed participants the day before and day of the action. Sister Bearss noted the coalition is planning additional phases to this action, including ways each of us can participate in our local areas. These additional phases will be communicated to the wider Sacred Heart family through the Stuart Center and RSCJ websites and social media.