By Katie Beckmann Mahon, Communications Manager
Since its founding, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, have followed in the footsteps of Mother Mary Ann Sammon to respond to the signs of the times, understand the causes of injustice, and create systemic change through advocacy.
Some of the most passionate advocates in the congregation are members of the Blauvelt Social Justice Committee.
These Sisters and Associates, who make up the Social Justice Committee, participate in advocacy efforts ranging from attending demonstrations, marching for social justice causes, and, most recently, participating in projects to get out the vote (GOTV) in November.
"So much is at stake – our health, our economy, our safety and security, racial justice, our very planet. I decided to get involved," explained Sr. Joan Agro, OP. "How often have we heard that this is the most important election of our lifetime? Now, the time has come that it is the most important election of our lifetime."
Sr. Joan first began her GOTV efforts by participating in postcard campaigns to engage voters across the country and encourage them to vote. After starting this project, Sr. Joan reached out to the entire congregation to see if others were interested in participating in this project and got an overwhelming response.
Joined by Sisters Dorothy Maxwell, Noreen Walsh, Bridget Mary Troy, Patricia Horan, Joan Clark, Jane Francis Marron, Mary Jo Lynch, Margaret Flood, and Mary McFarland, Sr. Joan was able to produce more postcards and reach a wide variety of voters across the country.
"I hoped that it would allow us, despite the lockdown due to COVID, to participate in the election season, and in doing so, encourage others, strangers to us, to participate by voting, as well."
Along with these efforts, Sr. Joan and the Blauvelt Social Justice Committee have also hosted small discussion groups within the congregation for sisters and associates.
At these groups, participants discussed current issues, as well as reflected on materials given to them by the Social Justice Committee, such as "A Reflection Guide for Faith Communities – Democracy, Values, and the 2020 Election", a “2020 General Election Voter Guide” by US Sisters Against Human Trafficking.
Besides these discussion groups, Sr. Joan and others have encouraged sisters to participate in early voting and filling out their absentee ballots when necessary.
Ellen Nash, an Associate of the Sisters of Saint Dominic and active member of the Social Justice Committee, has been participating in these discussion groups and other advocacy activities with the sisters, and described the experiences as “empowering.”
She elaborated, “Being a member of the Social Justice Committee with Blauvelt is an unbelievable moment in my life. When we talk about a social justice issue, I hear so much that it is overwhelming and that there is nothing that I can do about it. Being a part of the Social Justice Committee has empowered me so much to know that I matter."
For Sr. Joan, a long-time member of the Social Justice Committee, her advocacy efforts relate closely to her spirituality and connection to the mission of the Sisters of Saint Dominic.
"Saint Dominic charged us to preach the Word persistently, whether welcome, or unwelcome, to correct, reprove, encourage, and teach with patience. Our Baptismal Call, Congregational Constitution, Belief Statement, and Chapter Directives are essential to our formation as Dominican Women. Beginning with Jesus' call to ministry in proclaiming, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; God has anointed me. God has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners.’ We, too, are anointed to do the same. Therefore, Social Justice, seeking truth, and speaking truth to power is at our core."
As the election approaches, Sr. Joan and others will continue their GOTV efforts. One of her hopes is that others will "take your right to vote seriously. Be informed, study the issues, avoid being a one-issue voter, and consider the bigger picture and consequences of your choices. We are blessed in this country with rights and freedoms, which should never be taken for granted. So, use your voice and your vote to seek and project justice for all. It matters."