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Gail Grimes, SNDdeN

Apopka, FL

So often when people work in communities of people made poor by our systems, they end up working with a certain segment of the community.  So when a small team of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur began working in a small farmworker, immigrant and working poor community in Central Florida in the early 1970’s, they made it their mission to work with people from many sectors of the community – African Americans, Latinos, Haitians, and Caucasians.  However, they also began cultivating relationships with people in the middle class communities from various religious, social and political backgrounds to join together as sisters and brothers to begin to transform the racist and unjust situations that existed here.

Seven non-profits were developed, which included members of the communities being served in decision-making positions as well as members from the middle class community.  Many of these non-profits still exist and continue to address health, housing, savings and finances, literacy, leadership development, farmworker economic and health issues, and legislative advocacy issues.

Participants believed that by working together, skills could be shared and all would become more knowledgeable about each other and break down barriers of division among different races, religious, ethnic, and social classes. 

Successful lawsuits initiated by affected African-Americans broke down local governmental plans to deprive them of rightful access to water, sewer and housing.

Local community organizations of low-income people of color pressured local government to also provide them with services previously provided only to white citizens like community centers, and housing. These activities were based on the belief that we are all children of God, made in God’s image and capable of contributing to making this world a sacred place.  We are all teachers and learners so no one comes with all of the answers; we need each other.

Efforts were made to gather people around appropriate days and times during the church year to relate those events directly with the lives of the people being served and make real the Gospel.

Together people recognize that religion is not just going to church but that we are all called to build a peaceful, just, and caring world.  That is what God calls each of us to do.  Every time we do this, we are building God’s world.

Yet, with all of these accomplishments, the situation of the people we serve is worse than ever.   The Anti-Immigrant, Racist, and selfish attitudes that have surfaced in these recent years have made all of us in this country realize that what many really believe has been kept quiet, surfacing only in certain circles.  This country of so much wealth still does not agree that all have a right to adequate food, housing, and a living wage.  The world that God created is treated as a source of wealth for those who have the money and skill to use it for their own ends.  Many do not care about what we are leaving for future generations. 

So we thank you so much Pope Francis for calling this world to deeper living out of God’s call, especially all of us in the United States and other richer countries.  We are heartened by all you have called us to be and to do.  Know that you have given us hope for the future of our Church and this world of ours.