This is going to hurt our Dear Neighbors, those struggling day-to-day, experiencing poverty, and often without voice. As Christians and as Sisters of St. Joseph and Consociates, we look to the Christmas message for hope and GOOD NEWS. But where will the “poor” find hope in the Tax Cuts of 2017?

“I have come to believe that every Christian who takes his or her faith seriously needs to be in contact with poor people,” writes Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ.

I am reminded of one of our 2017-18 St. Joseph Workers, Melissa, reflecting on her work at a meat factory as a Production Supervisor Intern. “I wasn’t expecting to find God in a meat factory. Dimly lit, 40 degrees or below and in need of some Febreze, employees rarely smile. Like me, other interns feel drained. Making rounds one day, a woman called to me as she shaved fat off a pork thigh. Shouting above the factory noise she asked, ‘Do you know Jesus?’ I smiled, responding, ‘Yes, of course I do!’ ‘Good, good!’ she responded adding, ‘Jesus is the light of my life!’ She told me her immigration story, about her high-school graduate children and the role Jesus played in her life. Jesus brought her joy and a reason to smile. I was uplifted.”

“There’s a disconnection with people,” continues Sister Prejean. “In our search for God, we continue to strive to remain open to finding God wherever our journey takes us.”

Today, Melissa struggles and worries about how the tax bill may particularly hurt the people she serves through the St. Joseph Worker Program. Where will the people the CSJ community serves find hope in the Tax Bill of 2017? As Melissa shares, “All of it has me a little confused but one thing stands out: the bill will definitely impact the people I serve. For example, the repeal of the requirement for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act may mean higher premiums and low-income families may not be able to afford health care. Families will have to choose food and shelter over health insurance.” Things like the Child Tax Credit will disappear. How will the tax bill benefit or hurt our Dear Neighbor experiencing and struggling with poverty? In this Christmas season, where is the GOOD NEWS and glad tidings for the poor.

What does standing in solidarity with those most negatively impacted by this bill look like?

For me working with the CSJ community, it is about finding new ways to be GOOD NEWS for our Dear Neighbors. How can I be a light in the darkness? For Melissa, it means “Continuing to call my elected officials in Congress, supporting free health clinics, staying informed and volunteering with a community organizing group to take action steps toward a better community for all. And YES, spending time with the poor and homeless listening to their stories, making meaningful connections, and connecting them to resources like shelters and warm meals. It is not enough to just pray, but we must act if we are to support all those living in our community. “

For the CSJ community, it’s raising our voices in support of our homeless neighbors at Listening House and Peace House. We look for bold new ways to stand in solidarity with the mothers and children where Melissa serves as a St. Joseph Worker. Informed by the CSJ charism, we commit to walk, share, listen, partner and advocate for those without voice.

Again, I turn to Sister Prejean: “TO ME, TO FIND GOD IS TO FIND THE WHOLE HUMAN FAMILY. Physical contact with the poor… If we never eat with them, if we never hear their stories, if we are always separated from them, then something really vital is missing.

This reflection is offered by Marty Roers, Co-director of the St. Paul Province’s Justice Office

More on the tax bill and take action visit NETWORK, a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace, educates, organizes and lobbies for economic and social transformation.

December 15th, 2017