May 27, 2022

Reflection on Income Inequality and Basic Human Rights by Sister Kathleen Holland

The Cry of the Poor, Income Inequality and Basic Human Rights are terms/concepts we’ve all heard, but do I (we) really know what they mean or how they affect a person’s life?  Recently, U.S. Catholic printed a Haitian proverb, We See From Where We Stand, which I found very thought-provoking. “Where do we stand? Do we stand in the luxury of our own home? Do we see the walls filled with comfort and security…?”


This prayer reminded me that what I have witnessed in the past ten months ministering at the YWCA Clinton Empowerment Center has changed where I stand as I view homelessness. One of the philosophies of the Center is “Housing First.”  The premise of this concept is that if a person has housing, then he/she has a foundation on which to build the rest of his life. Poverty and economic inequality are major reasons persons are homeless, and people living in such conditions cannot obtain certain human rights. Without an address, for example, a client can’t apply for food stamps or a medical card.


When we stand in a place of comfort and security, we often overlook victims of injustice, income inequality and basic human rights. It is so easy to turn our heads and say, “that’s their problem” or “they don’t want to change.”


Recently, the Empowerment Center housed an 18-year-old man who had lived in homelessness since he was 5 years old; he was attending high school and working. When he was given the keys to his apartment and some basic necessities, he picked up the pillow and stated, “I’ve never had my own pillow.”  Since his placement, he’s completed his high school graduation requirements, transferred into full-time work, and started to pay his monthly rent, a month ahead of the due date!


In today’s first reading, we read of the Lord speaking to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid . . . for I am with you. . .” Can we, too, heed these words as we reach out to our brothers and sisters?


We live in a world where the gap between those who have an abundance and those who lack continues to grow. What am I (we) willing to forego so another may have more?


Sister Kathleen currently serves with the YWCA Empowerment Center in Clinton, IA, and volunteers at MercyOne in Clinton. She is co-president of the YWCA Board of Directors. In addition, Sister Kathleen serves on the Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish Pastoral Council, Social Justice & Peace Commission, and the Diocesan Pacem in Terris committee. She served as Councilor on the Sisters of St. Francis Leadership Team from 2016 to 2021. Previously, Sister Kathleen has ministered in various capacities in collegiate administration. She has also ministered as a vice principal and guidance counselor at St. Margaret Mary School in Chino, CA, and guidance counselor at Trinity Elementary and Mater Dei High School, Clinton, IA, and as a Residential Counselor at Girls Hope.