Friday, December 15, 2017

Urgent: Take Action to Stop the Harmful Tax Bill

We must stop this harmful bill! Tax reform should help, not hurt, people who work hard but still struggle to put food on the table. - Eric Mitchell, Director of Government Relations, Bread for the World
Early next week, Congress will vote on a tax bill that will irreparably harm the lives of millions of hardworking Americans. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would raise taxes on 10 million low- to moderate-income households over the next decade. The bill would also increase the national debt by $1 trillion, leading to cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.  (Learn more about how tax policy is a hunger issue).

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. House member and Senators to tell them to vote NO on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

For New Mexicans, here are the e-mail links Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Steve Pearce, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Sen. Tom Udall, Sen. Martin Heinrich

Talking Points for Your Letter (Personalize Your Message to Congress for the most impact)
Subject Text: Oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ) 
  • I urge you to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 
  • This bill disproportionately benefits high-income households and corporations while increasing taxes on low-income families. If passed, this fiscally irresponsible tax plan will increase our nation's debt and lead to deep cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, and international assistance.  
  • With 1 in 8 U.S. families struggling to put food on the table, we need a tax reform bill that benefits low-income families by strengthening tax credits for low-income workers. In addition, no tax reform bill should fund tax cuts to high-income earners by cutting funding to programs that help low-income families.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act fails to achieve  these goals. 
  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases taxes on individuals making less than $75,000, and also cuts funding for other programs that help low-income people.
     Tax reform should help, not hurt, low-income families. That's why I urge you to reject the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act , and instead work on a bipartisan tax reform bill that helps those who need help the most.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Webinar to Review Accomplishments of Bread Grassroots Network

December is shaping up to be a busy one for Congress. Many key pieces of legislation, which have implications for hunger and poverty, remain unfinished.

Register for the Grassroots Webinar and Conference Call scheduled Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT, 2 p.m. MDT, Dec. 19 for a 2017 year-end wrap up.

Eric Mitchell, the director of government relations at Bread for the World, will join us this month to talk about the key issues moving through Congress that affect hunger and poverty.

In this month's call, you will:
  • Review a year of advocacy and
    celebrate the many accomplishments of our grassroots network.
  • Hear about legislation in the House and Senate on tax policy and immigration reform and how we constituents can influence decisions.
  • Learn about the status of the 2017 Offering of Letters: Doing Our Part to End Hunger and what Congress is doing about a final spending bill.

Please join Bread staff to learn how you can make a difference. Send your questions to Robin Stephenson ahead of time, rstephenson@bread.org

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Richard Rohr: St. Francis of Assisi and Christmas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
In the first 1200 years of Christianity the great feast, hands -down, was Easter, the holy week leading up to it, leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But around 1200, a new man entered the scene called Francis of Assisi and he felt we didn't need to wait for God to love us by the cross and resurrection. In fact, he thought it started with love and he popularized what you and I take for granted today as the big Christian feast, Christmas.

Richard Rohr, OFM, shares the meaning of Christmas from a Franciscan perspective. “When we speak of Advent or preparing for Christmas, we’re not talking about waiting for a little baby to be born. We’re in fact welcoming the universal, cosmic Christ—the Christ that is forever being born in the human soul and history.”    See Video and Transcript

Monday, December 11, 2017

Rep. Lujan Grisham one of 79 Co-Sponsors of Bill to Strengthen SNAP

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham,  who represents the First Congressional District in New Mexico, is one of 79 members of the House of Representatives who have sponsored H.R. 1276, the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2017. The bill is an important positive measure in the midst of many initiatives that threaten the well-being of low-income families in our country (including a tax bill that could increase hunger in our country).

Because all 79 co-sponsors of the initiative are Democrats, the tendency would be to view this as a "Democrat" measure. However, the focus should not be on party affiliation but on the impact of the initiative on hungry and low-income individuals and families in our country. Among the Democrats who have not signed on to the measure is Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.  If you are one of his constituents, you can  contact Rep. Lujan via his website.  If you live in southern New Mexico, contact Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican, to let him know that this issue is important to you.

Here is a note from the Food Research and Action Center

Protect and Strengthen SNAP: Urge Members of Congress to oppose block granting SNAP, making structural changes to SNAP and/or cutting SNAP funding, whether through the budget, Farm Bill, or any other legislative vehicle. Instead, urge House Members to cosponsor H.R. 1276 to strengthen SNAP by increasing SNAP benefit amounts and ameliorating the harsh time limit on jobless adults willing to work.

Resources:
SNAP Matters Fact Sheet
USDA Report on SNAP Participation in FY2016
(44.2 million people participated in the program in an average month. Nearly two-thirds of SNAP participants were children, elderly, or had disabilities). Full Report  Summary

Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2017  (H.R. 1276)
This bill amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to revise the requirements for calculating Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) benefits.

The bill increases the minimum SNAP benefit and requires benefits to be calculated using a low-cost food plan. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) must determine the requirements for the low-cost food plan, which is the diet required to feed a family of four, consisting of:
  • a man and a woman 19-50 years of age,
  • a child 6-8 years of age, and
  • a child 9-11 years of age.
USDA must make adjustments to the plan to account for household size, changes in the cost of the diet, and the costs of food in specified areas.

The bill revises the amounts authorized for nutrition assistance block grants for Puerto Rico and American Samoa and requires the amounts to be modified based on adjustments to the low-cost food plan.

The bill modifies the requirements for calculating household income to determine SNAP eligibility by: (1) authorizing a standard medical expense deduction for households containing an elderly or disabled member, and (2) eliminating the cap on the deduction for excess shelter expenses.

The bill exempts from SNAP work requirements able-bodied adults without dependents who are not offered a position in a SNAP Employment and Training Program. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Maryknoll Advent Reflection (Week 2): The Message of John the Baptist

Our history as human beings, and even before, has been a history of life on the move. As your sons and daughters, we continue to search for a place to sleep, food to eat, and families and communities to support us.

We are a people on a journey.

We are grateful for the earth that sustains us, but we do not always take time to thank you. Also, we too often lack compassion for our brothers and sisters who have been uprooted by violence, natural disasters and poverty. Help us to remember that we are always on a journey with them and with You, to a new way of life in abundance.

Amen.  -*Father Paul Masson, M.M
The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent points to the scripture verse in Mark 1 where John the Baptist is “crying out in the wilderness” with the urgent message to repent and reform of our lives and prepare for the Messiah whose time is at hand. We are called to make John’s message our own message, to change the direction of our hearts and bring good news and comfort to those who are oppressed.   

Response: The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people around the world is at a record high. Learn what is causing people to flee their homes, from where refugees are coming, the top hosting countries, and much more at the UN High Commission for Refugees website.  Learn about the hundreds of thousands U.S. immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti who may lose Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and be come vulnerable to deportation in 2018.

The Advent Guide offers reflections, questions, prayers, and actions base d on each week’s Gospel reading and the experience of Maryknoll missioners who have lived and worked with communities affected by forced migration in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. 

* Father Masson served in Ciudad Juárez and Cochabamba, Bolivia, wrote this prayer for JustFaith Ministries’ “Exploring Migration” module in 2017

Saturday, December 09, 2017

(New Time) How will Proposed Tax Changes Affect Anti-Hunger Organizations?

The time for this event has changed to  2:00-4:00 P.M.  (It was previously 10:00-a.m. to 12:00 P.M.)  Everything else is still the same

New Mexico Voices for Children invites operators of food banks and food pantries and community leaders and organizations in the Santa Fe area to a workshop on how proposed state and federal tax polices could have an adverse effect on the work of non-profit organizations.  The workshop on January 11, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., will be held at The Food Depot food bank, 1222 A Siler Rd., in Santa Fe (map). The Food Depot and McCune Charitable Foundation are co-sponsors of the event.  See flyer below for more information. Please RSVP to Amelia Cassau by e-mail acassau@nmvoices.org or via a phone call (505) 361-1279


Friday, December 08, 2017

Closing Out the Share the Journey Exhibit with a Posada

Tiffany Window, St. Saviour, Bar Harbor, Me.
Join the Norbertine Community at Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey, 5825 Coors Blvd. SW (map) on Saturday, December 16 from 6:30-9:00 pm for the “Share the Journey” Art Exhibit Closing with Las Posadas and posole! 

The art exhibit was put together in conjunction with The Share the Journey campaign, launched by Pope Francis in in September to support our brothers and sisters who have fled their homes seeking a decent and safe life for their families. The Archbishop's Hour radio show broadcast a special program on the campaign in November.

All are invited to evening prayer with the Norbertine Community at 6:00 pm; Posadas will begin at 6:45 pm, followed by Mass.

Share in the journey of the Holy Family and in the journeys of people within and around our community through artworks displayed across the Abbey campus before they are taken down.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Advent, 'Happy Holidays' and Other Joys of the Season

For those who complain that Christ has been taken out of societal Christmas celebrations, I have one answer: individuals, families and communities of faith can add meaning to the season and not depend on society.  For  Catholics, Lutherans and other Christian denominations, the weeks leading up to Christmas Day are just as special as Christmas Day itself.

The Advent season offers us a great counterpoint to the immediate gratification that often comes with our activities during this time of year. There is a sense of beauty in waiting and anticipation and the celebrations that accompany Advent. In Latin American countries, people celebrate posadas for eight days, commemorating the search for shelter by Joseph, Mary and Jesus. When I lived in Mexico City as a child the whole block was invited to a posada, and this was a great opportunity to get to know our neighbors. This was a beautiful part of my Christmas season growing up.

This is  indeed the season of recognizing our connections to  everyone around the world, regardless of their beliefs. So, when a person wishes you Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, let's appreciate the good wishes from that individual instead of lamenting that this person is not celebrating the birth of Christ.

This brings me to my other point. Even as we celebrate Christmas, we have to recognize that not everyone is a Christian. Our Jewish brothers and sisters are celebrating Hanukkah close to the same time period, but this is only one of the holy days for Judaism.  The bigger celebration in Judaism comes in the fall and includes Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot. The Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Baha'i communities all have holy seasons  during other parts of the year.

So, how do the people who are not Christian adapt to the Christmas holidays? Every year, the Congregation Albert Brotherhood sponsors a latke brunch to address this question.  Here are the details for the brunch and panel/forum this year.

Being Non-Christian in Albuquerque
Sunday, December 17 
10:00am
Congregation Albert 3800 Louisiana Blvd. NE Albuquerque, NM

The latke brunch. including Chanukah latkes, eggs, corned beef hash, sufganiyot (jelly donuts) and fruit, will be followed by a thought-provoking panel discussion of leaders from the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Atheist communities.

Cost for the brunch and program is $12 for Brotherhood and Sisterhood members and $14 for non-members. Proceeds go towards the Brotherhood’s community service projects

For reservations: Please call 883-1818 ext. 3203 and leave your name, telephone number and the number of people that will attend OR email your reservation to brotherhood@congregationalbert.org by December 14.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

#2000verses: A Capitol Hill Witness Against Tax Bill

But I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian face, faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love. - Martin Luther King Jr   From Sojourners Verse & Voice for Dec. 5, 2017
On Thursday morning (November 30), Capitol police arrested 12 Christian faith leaders Thursday morning in the Hart Senate office during a protest against the GOP tax plan. The faith leaders, eight ordained ministers and four staff members of Sojourners, gathered in the Hart Senate office building to participate in the #2000verses protest campaign. The campaign underscores the message that the Old Testament and New Testament contain more than 2,000 verses  reminding people of faith of their responsibility to the poor.  Sojourners posted s a video of the protest and the response by Capitol Hill police.



The eight ministers arrested were Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine; Barbara Williams-Skinner of the Skinner Leadership Institute and National African American Clergy Network; Bishop W. Darin Moore of African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Chair of the National Council of Churches; Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq.  of the National Council of Churches; Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network and co-founder of the Global Catholic Climate Movement; Carole Dortch-Wright of the Cathedral International Episcopal Office; Rev. Catherine Griggs of Cathedral International Episcopal Office, Senior Executive Assistant to Bishop Donald Hilliard; and Rev. Rose Marie Berger of Sojourners.

The four Sojourners staff members arrested are Jeff Hoagland, David F. Potter, Bob Sabath, and Feriel Ricks.

“People will die from a tax bill that reflects a reckless disregard for human life because millions will be thrown off health care; and struggling Americans of all races and backgrounds will be treated as collateral in a race to give the rich a tax cut they do not need,” said Williams-Skinner of the Skinner Leadership Institute and National African American Clergy Network. See full coverage in The Daily Caller newspaper

Monday, December 04, 2017

'We Need to Honor Truth and Wisdom in all its Forms'

The Perennial Tradition includes truths within Catholic, Franciscan, Episcopalian, Calvinist, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations and orders. It also embraces wisdom within Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. In fact, if we’re honest, each of these faith traditions share something in common with Christianity. We need to honor truth and wisdom’s authority in all its forms. If it’s true, it’s true everywhere. That should make us happy—not defensive or aggressive.

In discerning truth, our first question should not be, “Who said it? Did a Catholic, Methodist, or Hindu say it?” That should be of little concern. Of greater importance is, “Is it true?” Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Doctor of the Church, held that if it was true, it was always from the one Holy Spirit.

Notice that two-thirds of the Christian Bible are comprised of the Hebrew Scriptures; and the Old Testament writers themselves built upon stories, traditions, names of God, and practices that existed before Israelite history. Scripture gathers together cumulative visions of the divine.

 -excerpt from Truth Is Known by Its Fruits (Daily Meditation for Monday, December 4, 2017, by Father Richard Rohr, OFM)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

'We are Called to be Contemplatives in Action'

Betty Anne Donnelly, a former board member of Bread for the World, reflects on the First Sunday of Advent.  Her reflection is posted in the Catholic Women Preach site.  Her reflection focuses on our Christian responsibility during Advent to be both be vigilant and act faithfully.

"Do we take the time for prayerful discernment to watch how God's reign is unfolding in history? Do we truly look through the lens of our faith and identify the serious obstacles that impede the full flourishing of God's love and thus demand our attention: things like widespread hunger, poverty and war. One obvious difference between our own time and that of Mark's listeners is our globalized economy ..Isn't Jesus urging us to be attentive to the urgent challenges facing the least of our sisters and brothers worldwide?"



Maryknoll Advent Reflection (Week 1): All are WE, None are Strangers

(The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns put together a powerful reflection guide for Advent. We will post reflections for each of the four Sundays of Advent.  Here are the excerpts for Week 1. Check out the full guide, entitled A Season to Welcome the Stranger  in PDF format)

 The Hope of Advent
 We begin the Season of Advent with a simple message from the gospel of Mark : “ Stay awake for the Lord! ” Jesus urges an attitude of attentiveness and hope that God will come to set right a world gone awry .

The four watches of night named by Jesus symbolize moving deeper into despair , until an all - consuming fear induce s a "sleep," a loss of one’s sense of purpose .

Not only do we not know when the Messiah will return to judge the living and the dead we also do not know where to expect it. The Advent scriptures focus our attention on these stark realities and remind us that we are called to wait and watch, not passively, but with a hope that comes from faith rooted in a God of love and in the goodness of humanity. For the 11 million undocumented people living the shadows in the United States, and especially fo r the nearly 800,000 young immigrants who lost their protection from deportation when the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it may be difficult to feel hopeful this Advent. The long night of the watch may resonate more easily.

Questions for Reflection
When have you felt like Emmanuel, vulnerable and powerless ?
In what ways can we be “community” for each other and offer hope?

Prayers for Encounters with Strangers
 “I was a stranger and you welcomed me. ” (MT 25:35)
In earlier times, perhaps we found it easier. The brokenness of our modern world has released an unending tide of humans in migration. By land and by sea they come, from Sudan, Syria, through treacherous waters to Lampedusa, across parched deserts to the Mexican border.
From the rubble of Aleppo a seven-year-old girl tweets, “Can we build a country called Republic of Refugees? It will be the most peaceful country in the world.”
Our brother Francis implores us to open our hearts wide to God and says:
RESPONSE: “Every stranger who knocks on our door brings an opportunity for encounter with Jesus. ”
How to understand? How to welcome, when this migration touches our own exile? We the receivers ; they the strangers. Their lives disrupted and now ours disrupted. But you, O God, call us to be a Eucharistic community in which all are WE and none are strangers.

Help us to remember, O God, that you call us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) Touch our hearts with courage as you have provided our br others and sisters in Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia and Uganda who have opened their doors widely to your searching and migrating people.
See the Full Reflection in A Season to Welcome the Stranger

Saturday, December 02, 2017

A TedxFulbright Talk by Kimberly Burge: 'Where Curiosity Stops'

Kimberly Burge made five appearances in New Mexico in April 2016 to discuss her book The Born Frees. Burge has spoken to audiences and has been a guest on broadcast media in many parts of the country about her experiences working with a group of girls on a writing project in Gugulethu, a black township about ten miles outside Cape Town. Her most recent discussion came via a TEDx event using the TED conference format in Washington, D.C. in June of this year.  Below is the YouTube video of Kimberly's Ted Talk and the text that came along with it.



People don't always question the curious reasons why a place or a community or individual lives have been overlooked or excluded. Kimberly Burge is a narrative journalist, a longtime activist, and a Fulbright Scholar to South Africa. She earned a bachelor of science in journalism at Bowling Green State University, a master of fine arts in nonfiction writing from George Mason University, and was a fellow in global religion reporting for the International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins University.

A contributing writer for Sojourners magazine, she previously worked for twelve years at Bread for the World, a Washington-based advocacy organization combatting hunger and poverty in the United States and worldwide. In 2005, she accompanied 150 grassroots activists to the G-8 activities in Scotland, where an international mobilization organized by grassroots leaders, along with Bob Geldof and Bono, called on world leaders to increase efforts to fight poverty in Africa.

Kimberly has published feature stories, editorials and reviews on issues of culture, politics, global poverty and development, faith and public policy. Her articles include an account of Johnny Cash’s last public performance (“Johnny Cash Goes Home,” Sojourners, January 2004) and an award-winning profile of writer Anne Lamott (“Crooked Little Faith,” Sojourners, May-June 1999). She has spoken about the girls of Amazw’Entombi at “After Girl Power: What’s Next?” an an international girls’ studies conference hosted by the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of York, U.K, and at “Culture, Creative Transformation, and Adversity,” a faculty seminar at Waterford Institute of Technology in Waterford, Ireland. In 2012, as Visiting Humanities Scholar, she led a creative writing workshop for 25 inmates at Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. She was born in San Antonio, Texas; grew up in Blytheville, Arkansas, and Cincinnati; currently lives in Washington, DC; and returns to Cape Town every chance she gets. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Friday, December 01, 2017

A Season to Welcome the Stranger: Maryknoll Advent Reflctions

The 2017 Advent Reflection Guide: A Season to Welcome the Stranger from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns contains reflections, questions, prayers, and actions based on each week’s Gospel reading and the experience of Maryknoll missioners who have lived and worked with communities affected by forced migration in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

As the number of people fleeing wars, violent conflict, and political persecution reaches new heights, countries around the world are struggling to meet the demands of receiving these vulnerable people. Maryknoll missioners have the unique perspective of having been the stranger who has been welcomed, often by marginalized communities in some of the most isolated parts of the world. What a transformative experience it is! This lived experience of welcome has deepened our faith in the strength of God’s compassion and mercy and challenges us to create a culture of welcome for all migrants and refugees. We believe, as Pope Francis says, “Welcoming others means welcoming God in person!”

We will post excerpts from each of the four weeks of Advent in this space, starting with Week 1 this coming Sunday. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Selected Tweets about World Hunger