Praying as a Catholic Community
Faced with the federal government's repeated attacks on human dignity, CMN organized 13 virtual prayer vigils throughout the wave of executions — one vigil for every life taken. The events provided a crucial outlet for more than 2,500 Catholics and people of goodwill to lament together and draw strength for the work ahead.
I sent [CMN's prayer vigil] to a couple of colleagues who have clients at Terre Haute, and two of us joined. We agreed these are not experiences we often have as lawyers — the executions happen during busy days. We are aware an execution is pending and of the flurry of activity surrounding it. But we don’t often stand vigil or rest to mark the moment. When it’s over, we text each other our pain, and that’s it. It felt good to find some space." (Donna, Defense Attorney)
Dozens of Catholic lay leaders, bishops, and religious participated in CMN’s vigils, which have since become a standing event on the First Friday of every month. These special guests continue to offer their monthly prayers, petitions, and Scripture reflections in an effort to amplify the Church’s call for an end to capital punishment.
Pictured: Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore leads prayer at a CMN vigil for Dustin Higgs, who was executed by the federal government on Jan. 16, 2021.
LEADING ABOLITION EFFORTS IN THE NEW ADMINISTRATION
The presidential transition was significant for the national abolition movement, with President Biden being the first president in U.S. history to have campaigned on an explicitly anti-death penalty platform.
Recognizing the importance of delivering a clear, Catholic call for abolition early in the new administration, CMN launched a national petition in January 2021, urging President Biden to take the steps within his power to dismantle the federal death penalty.
By the close of Fiscal Year 2021, the petition had garnered nearly 10,000 signatures, including those of: Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ; Most Rev. Joseph Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston; Most Rev. Ramon Bejarano, Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego; Most Rev. William Medley, Bishop of Owensboro; Most Rev. Richard Pates, Apostolic Administrator of Crookston; and Most Rev. Oscar Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City.
Mr. President… I urge you to use the fullness of the power invested in you to commute every federal death sentence... Be bold, President Biden! Truly, what would Jesus do?” (Comment from Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ on CMN's petition to President Biden)
PROMOTING RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
CMN’s restorative justice programming surged exponentially in Fiscal Year 2021, even amid the pandemic.
Virtual platforms paved the way for creative, wide-reaching CMN initiatives, including a national Catholic conference on restorative justice, an expansive new implementation resource, and multiple capacity-building trainings and intensives.
The Harm, Healing, and Human Dignity Conference
In October 2020, more than 700 ministry leaders and advocates gathered online for CMN’s all-virtual Catholic conference on restorative justice. The historic convening was organized in collaboration with the University of San Diego Center for Restorative Justice and the Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
I came in feeling I knew just about nothing about the topic. After two full days of speakers and topics on K-12 education, racial justice, a look at incarceration, and the discussion on the death penalty, I think I am beginning to see applications all around me. (Jane, Conference Attendee)
Over the course of three days and more than 20 dynamic sessions, conference participants learned, networked, and explored vital ways of enlivening Catholic engagement with restorative justice in the U.S. Featured speakers included Bishop Robert McElroy, Father David Kelly, C.PP.S, sujatha baliga, and more.
I have done restorative justice work for the past ten years and have attended many trainings and workshops. This was the most powerful and informative yet. The information as well as the presenters were incredible. This work can sometimes feel very isolating. During those three days I felt very connected to so many people involved in this great mission. (Ulli, Conference Attendee)
Recordings from conference keynotes, workshops, and side events are currently available for discounted purchase on CMN's website.