Inclusionary housing. Destruction of the environment. Elections in Kenya. The death penalty.
No matter what the issue, whenever a voice is needed to speak out for justice and peace, it’s there – thanks to the Murphy Initiative for Peace and Justice.
The initiative, a partnership of 13 vowed religious communities, is a living tribute to the late Bishop P. Francis Murphy, former western vicar, who died in 1999.
After his death, said Sister Diane K. Bardol, who recently was hired as executive director of the initiative, “people felt a void and a need to join efforts and resources to carry on this mission of justice and peace.”
Brother Jerry O’Leary, C.F.X., chairperson of the initiative’s steering council, said the peace and justice coordinators of the religious communities had met informally but felt they needed a central office. Eight communities helped found the initiative but it quickly grew to 13.
“I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of a giant,” Sister Diane said as she prepares to shepherd the initiative through its sixth year. “Their power is incarnated in the initiative and their power is now my power. I hope to be at the service of the initiative and carry it forward.”
Sister Diane, who has served as a principal in Kodiak, Alaska, and as superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, established a justice and peace curriculum. For the past 15 years, she’s worked to educate the public about sweatshop labor, unjust labor practices, and she’s been involved in peace rallies and protest vigils against the war in Iraq. She recently spent a sabbatical studying at the European Peace University in Austria; she’s still finishing a paper on human trafficking.
She quickly becomes passionate when talking about the sweat shop issue and how it’s tied to human trafficking, but she’s just as passionate about her concern for the environment and begins to expound upon the concept of sustainability.
“When we don’t take the simple means, the simple way, it bespeaks an attitude of a lack of concern,” she said.
“The world by its nature is sustainable,” added Brother Jerry. “But we have to shift our attitudes and our way of doing things.”
Persuading people to change their attitude is just the job for the initiative.
Traditionally, the initiative has been involved in housing issues and advocating for the abolition of the death penalty. It counts the passage of the inclusionary housing bill as one of its biggest achievements.
Another role of the initiative is networking throughout the archdiocese and beyond. The initiative has a Web site (http://pfmjpi.org), where people can sign up to receive e-mail alerts.
“I envision myself as a servant leader,” Sister Diane said. “I want very much to work with member communities … at the same time I hope to bring forth new issues.”
Part of the initiative’s mission is to work for justice within the church as well, “which presents a whole different set of challenges,” Sister Diane said. She knows that, like in any family, issues within the church call for conflict resolution.
“Conflict is not bad,” she said. “What it does is bring us to a new level of relationship.”