Closing Riker’s Island and Prison Reform

JoAnne Page & Liza Jessie Peterson

On this week’s episode of JustLove, Monisgnor Sullivan speaks with two guests focused on the Closing of Riker’s Island and issues surrounding Prison Reform:

Calling into the studio, JoAnne Page, President CEO of The Fortune Society a New York City-based non-profit that advocates for and provides services to the formerly incarcerated. On the show Msgr. and JoAnne talk about recent discussions surrounding the closure of Riker’s Island – New York City’s 413 acre facility administered by the Department of Corrections where on any given day 9,500 people – the bulk of the city’s prisoners. They also discuss how feasible the plans to close Riker’s Island are, and what priorities should drive this initiative if it is truly to benefit and rehabilitate those behind bars.

Poet, Playwright, and Educator, Liza Jessie Peterson joins Monsignor in the Studio. Liza Jessie Peterson has dedicated over 15 years of her life to teaching creative writing and poetry to incarcerated youth, including those held on Riker’s Island; Liza is also the writer and performer of the one-woman play “The Peculiar Patriot” – which is now playing at the at the National Black Theatre in Harlem. The story  follows’ the protagonist – Betsy LaQuanda Ross – over a series of visits to incarcerated friends where she shares family milestones and neighborhood gossip while revealing a shrewd indictment of the criminal justice system. Msgr. Sullivan and Liza talked about her inspiration for writing and performing “The Peculiar Patriot” which sprung from her own experiences and observations from working in and around the prison system.

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In Honor of 4th of July Family Picnics & BBQ’s

One aspect of the administration’s executive order on the travel ban against nationals from certain countries merits special 4th of July attention, viz. what is a bona fide family relationship?

After the recent Supreme Court decision[1], the administration issued guidelines that interpreted a bona fide (real) family relationship to include parents, children and siblings. They left out grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts and cousins. They also initially excluded fiancées, but then subsequently included them. By that action alone, the administration demonstrated that there is discretion in the interpretation of a bona fide family relationship.

Continue reading

This July 4th Weekend: Pledge Allegiance to One Another

The following message was sent to our Catholic Charities network for the 4th of July weekend.

Capitol of the United States

Capitol of the United States

Allow me a word of appreciation and thanks for all you do to make our world a better place – each, in your own way, as trustee, staff, volunteer, donor, or friend. 

I attach my own picture of the Capitol of the United States from the visit I made two days ago with Catholic Charities people from throughout NYS to visit with members of Congress and convey to them the need to enact policies and budgets that give due consideration to the needs of the poor and vulnerable.  Included among our discussions were Catholic Charities’ wide areas of concern: children and youth, those with addictions, the hungry and families needing affordable places to live, immigrants who are feeling particularly anxious and those dealing with emotional and physical challenges.

In light of this visit, and as we approach the 4th of July weekend, I am reminded that the title of the Declaration of Independence is both accurate and partially misleading.  It is accurate in that it is a declaration.  And, it is true that it declared the colonies’ independence from England.  Yet, the title can also be misleading because it fails to capture the values embedded in its non-severable concluding paragraph: God, honor, and solidarity:

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Continue reading

Diversity Reigns

Catholic Charities is a the center of building a more just and compassionate society. We engage in a wide range of activities and interact with many different people.

Here’s a collage for this week –

  1. Twelve consul generals from Latin American countries meet at the Catholic Charities Community Services Immigration and Refugee Resettlement offices. (Top Left)

  2.  Evi Siskos from Telemundo was the MC for Astors Services Junior Gala at the Supreme Courthouse in lower Manhattan. (Top Right)

  3.  Zoe Saldana was taping her guest satellite radio appearance in the same Sirius studios that JustLove was taping.  Here’s a picture of her as she was leaving. (Bottom Left)

  4. Two talented Catholic Charities immigration attorneys from our expert legal team. (Bottom Middle)

  5.  On the same day as Pres. Trump’s Executive Order on religious liberty, the Becket Fund held its annual dinner.  This photo demonstrates the breathe of religious freedom issues in the United States. (Bottom Right)

Remembering International Down’s Syndrome Day & Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Kristy Chau & Katie Driscoll

On this week’s JustLove episode, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan speaks with Katie Driscoll, Founder of Changing the Face of Beauty and Kristy Chau, Education Director of the Kennedy Child Study Center, a Catholic Charities affiliated agency.

On the show, Katie Driscoll discusses with Monsignor her founding of Changing the Face of Beauty, its successes so far, and what her hopes are for the future of including people with differing abilities in all facets of the mainstream media. 

Msgr. Sullivan and Kristy will be discussing her work at the Kennedy Child Study Center, where she directs all activities at 16 classrooms serving the developmentally disabled, ensuring that each student receives an education that is appropriate for his or her educational, socio-emotional, and physical needs. 

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Gazing Upon the Nativity with Fresh Eyes

Pat Keay & David A. Croteau

On JustLove this week, Monsignor Sullivan speaks with two guests: Pat Keay of Director of Community Engagement of Heifer International and Professor David A. Croteau, Ph.D. of Columbia International University in South Carolina. On the show Pat Keay speaks with Monsignor Sullivan about Heifer International –  a charity that donates livestock as well as environmentally sound agricultural training to families in need around the world. Heifer International also partners with Churches and other faith based and civic organizations to support their mission and how JustLove listeners can also contribute. Professor Croteau discusses his book Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions” and popular beliefs regarding Jesus’ Nativity.

Helping Those In Need During Fashion Week

L-R: Rachel Alexander O’Neill and Kirsten Dickerson

L-R: Rachel Alexander O’Neill and Kirsten Dickerson

On this week’s episode of JustLove, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan focuses the show on Fashion Week and how individuals are working to help those in need. He invites guests Kirsten Dickerson, Founder and CEO of Raven + Lily : Empowering Women Through Design and Rachel Alexander O’Neill, Founder of Little Dresses For Africa. Kirsten Dickerson talks with Monsignor about how her company alleviates poverty among women around the globe. And Rachel Alexander O’Neill talk about how her organization not only provides clothing to to vulnerable children throughout Africa but raises awareness to their needs.

Affordable Housing Needs the Catholic Community’s Continuing Partnership

Haven Plaza 2The topic of housing was covered extensively in the media this past week.  The focus has been the announcement of New York City’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.

For those who work with low-income individuals and families, there is perhaps no more pressing need.  Families have the most difficult time finding decent housing they can afford.  Too many families are forced to make choices among essentials – food, rent, or medicine.

It was also good that the work of the Catholic Church over the past four decades in building and constructing affordable housing was recognized.  Of the many positive things the Church has done to help weave the fabric of NY and make our town more compassionate and just, housing may be one area under-recognized.  Arguably, our work with at-risk children and youth, our emergency food programs and immigrants, is better recognized.  However, this week housing was at the forefront.

I was fortunate to be able to hear the Mayor speak so positively about this work. I had the chance to say a few words about how the strength of this work has been the result of the diverse parts of the Church that have engaged in it – charismatic clergy, talented and expert laity, religious communities, parishes, community based organizations and Catholic Charities, in all five boroughs.  Sometimes this gets unwieldy, but when put together, it is a contribution flowing out of our common values that each person is made in the image of God, worthy of dignity and respect and having their basic rights met – and that housing is one of those basic human rights.

The ambitious, complex and critically needed plan of New York City to build and preserve affordable housing does need the continued partnership and energy of the Catholic community.  Once more this is a critically important role we play in building a more just and compassionate society.

It was good to hear the tremendous work of so many recognized this week, to spotlight some of it, and to express hope and commitment that this legacy continue and deepen into the future.

“I Don’t Get It.” A Different Take on Aftermath of Philip Seymour Hoffman Death

05_Thorpe Playground

Famous actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman dies of overdose: large scale publicity and police hunt to find drug seller. Read more  on the New York Post 

What about the thousands of unnamed youth in the communities and neighborhoods of NYC and across the nation who suffer similar tragic fates? Where’s the interest, concern and caring? I don’t get it. Are not these youth and their families and friends also made in the image and likeness of God?