At this moment in time, the brokenness and systemic injustices of our society are unmistakable and in full view. From the disproportionate havoc wrought by the coronavirus pandemic to the acts of racial violence condoned and perpetuated within our legal system, we are being constantly bombarded by reminders of our society's failures to uphold the sanctity of human life.
When injustice is seen everywhere, it is easy to feel like our efforts to make change has been wiped away. But I can attest that no matter where you sit, opportunities to proclaim the dignity inherent in each human person exist — even abound — through creativity and the Holy Spirit.
I first learned about Catholic Mobilizing Network while working at a parish in Northwest Houston. I left the presentation with a heart aching to do more, so I signed up for their mailing list and began to understand the value of human life through death row inmates.
I’ve since transitioned to the Nesti Center for Faith & Culture (CFC) at University of St. Thomas-Houston. During March, April, and May of this year, the Nesti CFC hosted daily conversations about how the coronavirus pandemic affected various communities. Conversations included local leaders and members of diverse faith communities and were posted to our social networks — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. (See them all on the Nesti CFC’s YouTube playlist.)
In reaching out to leaders, I thought back to that presentation from CMN and was moved to contact Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of CMN, for a conversation on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting death row inmates and the prison system. I had sent many emails to leaders about a variety of topics, so I was ready for no response or even a response of, “I’m sorry, I’m just too busy for this.” I was ecstatic when Krisanne emailed me back in less than an hour! I couldn’t believe I’ve made a connection with an organization I’ve revered for so long.
During our conversation, Krisanne shared that CMN released a Statement of Solidarity: A National Catholic Response to COVID Behind Bars. See our conversation online.
Since then, the conversation series has become one of commentary on what is happening in our culture. We’ve had conversations about the death of George Floyd and the U.S. Bishops' response to racial injustice. This is where I found myself being able to make a contribution in a meaningful way.
Currently, people are being called to step up in a lot of different ways — to combat COVID-19, fight for racial justice, and advocate for human dignity. For those who answer the call to do something, it can be intimidating. Will people like what I have to say? Is my voice the appropriate one to be speaking? Am I bold enough to stand up for what I know is right?
If you get in your own head, you can talk yourself out of a lot of good ideas and initiatives. However, when someone affirms that the work you are doing is worthy, it can change everything.
By responding to my email and being open to a conversation, Krisanne affirmed the contribution I wanted to make to the world. Doing this not only gives me the confidence to carry on the work I am doing, but it allows others to reap the benefits of my renewed spirit.
In deciding on your contribution, be confident in your abilities. In advocating with CMN, we support the removal of a prisoner from death row by saying, “Your life matters to me.” Whether your idea is a little unorthodox or has been done many times, you can still make difference and your voice matters.