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8th Day Center for Justice: Taproot to the Future

A little rain doesn’t stop this dedicated group of BVMs, (l. to r.) Katherine Heffernan, Letitia Marie Close (St. Noel), Rose Mary Meyer (Sebastian), Catherine Krippner (Mary Claretta), and Christine Hannibal, who are gathered for a march and rally for a non-nuclear future in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 1980.

“I could not at any age be content to take my
place by the fireside and look on.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Her words summarize the impact of the 8th Day Center for Justice, Chicago, on the motivations and lives of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, associates, and countless others.

8th Day Center broadened the base of membership and actions of its precursor, the Urban Apostolate, convened by Teresina Grasso, SP.

BVM Gwen Farry (Leontia) remembers: “My introduction to 8th Day was the proposal brought to the 1974 BVM Senate in Los Angeles by former BVM Joann Crowley Beers.”

Joann, now an associate, further explains the proposal: “By 1974, we had six communities ready to risk creating a new thing. We took to heart Pope Paul VI’s words, ‘If you want peace, work for justice.’ We looked at the stories of creation and saw that God rested on the seventh day, so on the eighth day, the ongoing creation was in our hands, too.”

Since its founding over four decades ago, 8th Day expanded into a 35-congregation coalition, working closely with other groups and individuals advocating for justice in society and in the Catholic Church. 8th Day Center envisioned a world of dignity and respect for all people and creation.

In the past 15 years, 8th Day has experienced the effects of today’s realities facing religious congregations. Since the early 2000s, fundraising efforts and other possibilities for sustainability did not provide results necessary for continued existence. After much exploration and discernment, a decision was made to close 8th Day in September 2018. (Adapted: News from 8th Day Center for Justice, May 2017.)

The spirit of 8th Day will live on in the hearts and history of congregations, in the many collaborations, and in the justice seeds planted, sprouted and multiplying into the future.

Joellen McCarthy, BVM (fourth from r.) joins the March for Science in Chicago, part of a series of rallies and marches held in Washington, D.C., and more than 600 other cities across the world on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. Photo by Shabbir Bhati.

With much gratitude . . .

We remember the consistent support of our BVM congregation from 8th Day’s birthing through 43 years of presence among us. During these years, the Center’s organizational structure evolved into a non-hierarchical governance built upon mutuality, nonviolence and collaboration. BVM Joellen McCarthy, office coordinator of 8th Day since 2009, notes: “The organizational structure of 8th Day flows from the belief that how work is done is as important as what is done. Process matters.”

With much gratitude . . .

We remember the BVM leadership who were members of 8th Day’s board of directors, whose title evolved with new consciousness. These women are Kevin Gallagher, Mary Frances Shafer (Frances Edward), Eileen McGovern (James Leone), Bernadette McManigal (Lucinus), Patricia Griffin (Michael Ellen), Therese Frelo (Ann Carmelle), Diane O’Donnell (Joanella), Margaret (Peggy) Nolan (Timothy Maura), Kathy Conway (Richard Marie), Barbara Gaul (Charles Mary), and Colleen McGinnity (Rose Maureen).

With much gratitude . . .

We remember our congregation’s 8th Day staff representatives: Associate Joann Crowley Beers; BVMs Katie McHugh (Dolores Marie), Rose Mary Meyer (Sebastian), Eloise Thomas, Carol Cook (Conrad Ann), Mary Ellen McDonagh, and Gwen Farry; and lay staff Mary Ellen Madden and Liz Deligio. Mary Ellen Madden reflects: “The time I spent as the BVM representative were some of the most formative years of my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to be mentored by and work alongside those deeply committed to the call to work for justice in our church and world.”

BVM Carol Cook has been a
“regular” at the annual Good Friday Walk for Justice in Chicago.

With much gratitude . . .

We remember countless BVMs and associates who were office coordinators and support staff, volunteers, donors, and participants in education sessions, celebrations, prayer support, and 8th Day peace and justice activities. BVM Helen Gourlay comments on her full-time volunteer experiences: “Together as women and men religious, lay persons and interns, we had energetic discussions on all kinds of issues, deeply moving prayers, and fun parties.”

With much gratitude . . .

We remember the justice seeds planted in our BVM and associate lives and the lives of others influenced by the presence of 8th Day Center, calling us to co-create a more just world. Through the way we live our lives, may we nourish those seeds and multiply their impact by sharing the heritage of 8th Day as witnesses to peace and justice for all. May our lives echo the ancient yet contemporary challenge of Micah: “. . . what Yahweh needs from you: simply do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with your God.”

 

Photo by Jill Landith

Once upon a time I had a tiny plant that had no seeds or sprouts, but on every tip of every leaf a tinier plant would appear. If I took that leaf and placed it on fertile soil, each of the new plants would mature and continue the strain. Only our loving God knows how many “off-shoots” have already matured and continued the good work begun by the 8th Day Center for Justice.

—Janine Wolff, BVM


Highlights: 8th Day Collaboration

  • Alliance to End Repression
  • Bread for the World
  • Central American issues (including rituals honoring the four church women murdered in El Salvador and the first overground railroad transporting an undocumented family to a sanctuary site in another area of the United States)
  • Chicago Torture Justice Center
  • Corporate Accountability Lab
  • ERA advocacy
  • Food Stamp Hotline
  • Good Friday Walk for Justice
  • Grey Panthers
  • Homeless sheltering
  • Illinois Citizens for Better Care
  • Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
  • Infant Formula Action Coalition (INFACT)
  • Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility
  • Jane Addams Senior Caucus
  • League of Women Voters
  • NETWORK
  • Project Equality regarding economic issues
  • Publications of 8th Day Center, including booklets regarding use of inclusive language
    School of the Americas Watch
  • The Peace Museum (and other peace activities including marches in many local areas, nuclear test sites, Washington, D.C., Year of the Pentagon, and Tuesday Morning Peace Vigils)
  • Urban Plunge
  • Women in Church and Society
  • Women-Church Convergence

About the author: Rose Mary Meyer, BVM (Sebastian) lives in Chicago and is director of Project IRENE, an initiative of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in Illinois.

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