WASHINGTON — Mercy Sisters Joan Serda and Marilyn Graf said they hope the June 18 Moral March on Washington, organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, will lead more people “to understand the plight of the poor in our country.”
If so, “it will be a success,” Sister Serda said in an interview posted on her religious community’s website before she and Sister Graf left their convent in Mobile, Alabama, to head to the national capital.
“Maybe there will be a groundswell and we can make some changes,” she added. “I’m also looking for more enthusiasm for myself.”
Prior to the march, Sisters Serda and Graf were among a group of about 100 nuns, brothers and lay associates along with many other Catholics who gathered for a brief prayer service on the steps of St. Patrick in downtown Washington before joining the event in front of the United States Capitol.
The Catholic contingent was organized by Network, a Catholic social justice lobby; the Women’s Leadership Conference; the Sisters of Mercy; Pax Christi USA; the Quixote Center; the Community of Loreto; and the Franciscan Action Network.
“The gospels and Catholic social teaching call us to care for the common good and to prioritize the needs of the poor and vulnerable,” said Tobias Harkleroad, campaigns director for the Franciscan Action Network. “Our nation is at a time that calls for unity and solidarity to tackle many issues that conspire to cause great stress and hardship for those living in poverty and low-wage jobs.”
“It is so important for all of us to look beyond the lines of division to see our common humanity and our common struggles so that we can create solutions for the common good,” he said in a statement. “We are proud to join our voices with those of the Campaign of the Poor to demand justice together! »
The prayer service included quotes from St. Francis of Assisi, the Prophet Micah and the Gospel as well as quotes from a prayer written by Candidate for Sainthood Sister Thea Bowman. The Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, who bears the title “Servant of God,” is one of six black Catholics vying for sainthood.
The service also included a poem written by Amanda Gorman, a young black Catholic and poet laureate from Los Angeles who read a poem during the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.
The Catholic group concluded the prayer service by singing, “Make me a channel of your peace.”
Then they marched under a “Catholics for Justice” banner and made their way up Pennsylvania Avenue to join a much larger crowd of poor and low-wage workers, leaders of many religious communities and their members, as well as labor leaders and social justice advocates. .
According to the Poor People’s Campaign, tens of thousands lined Pennsylvania Avenue and even more watched online as speaker after speaker shared their stories on a wide range of issues: right to vote; the country’s inability to respond to COVID-19, especially among poor communities; labor rights; the need for health care and decent wages; and the daily struggle of not having enough money to survive.
“As long as there are 140 million poor, low-income people in this country, and we know it doesn’t have to be that way, we will no longer be silent,” said Reverend William Barber, who co – chairs the campaign with the Reverend Liz Theoharis.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, as the organization is officially known, is inspired by the movement that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and many others led in 1968 calling for a “values revolution” in America.
“They sought to build a broad fusion movement that could unite poor and affected communities across the country. Today, the Campaign of the Poor: A National Call for Moral Renewal has taken up that unfinished business,” the campaign website reads.
The Sisters of Mercy “played a leading role in advocating for Catholics to participate in Saturday’s events and the sisters were probably the largest contingent among us with sisters coming from all over,” Harkleroad told Catholic News Service. .
He said Catholics included the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia, the Loretto Sisters, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Franciscan Friars of Atonement and the Secular Franciscans.