My name is Angel Figueroa, and I am a first year law student at DePaul University. [Recently], while many of my colleagues were resting from the past semester and preparing for the new, I was with a group of 8 other law students in our nation’s capital. Now law students traveling to DC is by itself no big deal as I’m sure you are thinking. However, the purpose of our trip was. We were in DC for the primary purpose of assisting the great organizations there as they supported the local homeless population. Being law students we also visited such popular locations as the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Capitol. DC is in many ways two cities, and the difference between the two was striking.
|Angel Figueroa is a Law Student at DePaul University, |
and leader with South Loop Campus Ministry
Is it a government of and for the people when Congressmen care more about saying powerful words in their nice suits, than they care about the people they need to work by on the streets to get to the hallowed chambers of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. It does not seem right and just to me that the city of monuments is also a city of the poor, with no place for many to live because of out of control housing prices.
I am incredibly grateful for the chance to work with such amazing organizations as the Father McKenna Center and S.O.M.E., which provide food and services to those who need it. But I am pain and filled with righteous anger that such help is needed at the center of power and politics of our nation. It is a city that is the site of an almost religious sort of pilgrimage, yet it has one of the highest homeless populations in the country. It seems to me that the United States Congress is failing in its duty to see to the wellbeing of those who live in the capital district.
Yet while the disparity between the haves and the have nots is perhaps most striking in Washington DC, it is not unique to that city. In fact, my very first trip out to lower Wacker with the people at South Loop Campus Ministry to provide some limited sustenance to the homeless of the Chicago Loop shocked me. Because of the layout of the city, it is easier for those without homes to become invisible, but they are there, not far from some of the wealthiest businesses in the world.
There are two additional experiences I had in DC that will stay with me, probably as long a I have breath. The first was a visit to see the memorial to the great prophet and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope". These words greet you as you enter the memorial, to see the statue of Dr. King. The world might seem to be stacked against those who are not among the elite. Yet while the world may despair that the peaceable kingdom of God, where none are hungry and all are equal, has not yet arrived, there is hope. There is hope brought to us by the works of such great warriors for Christ as Dr. King, and Dorothy Day. Inequality and oppression do not need to rule this world, as fallen as it is. We are all broken people, imprisoned by sin. However we are also called to be set apart from the world, to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven upon this world. Dr. King understood that, and we live in his legacy.
The second thing that I brought back from DC was a conversation with a very special person. We were fortunate enough to meet with Sister Simone Campbell of the Sisters of Social Service. Besides being a member of one of the many religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church, she is also the director of Network Lobby. While many have not heard of the organization itself, many are familiar with the Nuns on the Bus, an outreach effort undertaken by Network. One of the things that she discussed with us were the essential aspects of lobbying. If you are like me, you probably consider lobbying to be a dirty word. However, lobbying efforts are the reason we have had such bills passed or proposed such as the ACA or DREAM Act. And one of the essentials of lobbying is the field. All the big money people in DC can’t change things without the support of We The People. That is why the field is such an important part of trying to force Congress to implement change. They need to know that we care about these issues, and that we will not stop until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.
We are called to bring about the realm of the Prince of Peace, which can not exist until there is true justice for all.