Caring For All: An Interview with Debbie Weber, Director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Care for Creation
By Megan Simmermeyer, Communications co-op
From Sept. 1, 2017, and until Oct. 4, 2017, congregations around the world celebrate the Season of Creation, a time when communities unite with the purpose of caring for our planet. For Debbie Webber, director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Care for Creation with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, caring for God’s creation is her passion and career.
In an interview, Debbie discussed her role within the Sisters of Charity Office of Peace Justice and Care for Creation (OPJCC), as well as the impact her office has on the community and the ways in which the actions of one person can affect many.
What is your title and your role? Is this a new role in your community?
I am the director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Care for Creation for the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati (SCs). The SCs established this office in 2004, with a mission that focuses on education, advocacy, and action.
What is your role? (Job Description)
My role is to provide Sisters and Associates with education, advocacy, and action opportunities regarding social and Earth justice issues. My goal is to offer varied ways Sisters and Associates can gain knowledge and then act according to their abilities. Examples of social and Earth justice topics I focus on include, but are not limited to, women’s issues, active nonviolence, anti-racism, eco-sustainability, anti-human trafficking, immigration reform, abolishing the death penalty, and basically any issue affecting our sisters and brothers who experience marginalization and discrimination.
I work with my city, state, national, and international neighbors, building relationships of solidarity and support. Locally, two committees on which I serve involve corporate responsibility and anti-human trafficking.
Nationally and internationally, I am very involved with the SC Federation. I am the facilitator for the social justice representatives of SC Federation congregations along with social justice representative of the broader Vincentian Family. I am a liaison between the Federation’s NGO representative to the United Nations and my SC congregation. In addition, I serve as a liaison between the Federation Board and the newly formed Laudato Si’ committee.
What is your background and/or experience in this area?
I have a master’s degree in social work – public welfare administration. For the past 20-plus years, I have worked and/or volunteered nationally and internationally, serving those who experience extreme poverty and discrimination. I have integrated Catholic Social Teachings and the SC charism into my personal and professional life. I am proud to be an SC Associate.
What are you currently working on?
New this year is a “Click to Act” initiative, which involves sending emails through the SCs list serve on Charitynet. I provide weekly actions on various justice issues in Ohio, the U.S., and internationally. With a click of the mouse or a touch on a screen, one can sign a petition, write a letter, register for a webinar or event, watch a short video, read a short article, or download a prayer.
In addition, I am holding prayer vigils in the Motherhouse the afternoons before Ohio death row inmates are scheduled to be executed.
S. Teresa Kotturan, SCN, will also be coming to our Motherhouse in October to talk with SC family and friends about migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons, with a focus on women and children. She is the SC Federation’s NGO representative to the United Nations, and we are excited that she will be visiting us.
How does your role fit into the congregation’s stance on ecological and social justice issues?
The Sisters have several Congregational Stands and numerous other passions and concerns for all of creation. I take all of that into consideration as I allow the Holy Spirit to direct me toward my next endeavor to explore spiritual, educational, advocacy, and action opportunities for my SC family. These opportunities allow them to do something, as much as their abilities allow, even if it is something as simple as praying.
How does your congregation actively practice ecological and social justice?
They actively participate in numerous ways. A geothermal system and solar panels are in place for our compound houses, significantly reducing the usage of natural gas and often supplying electricity back to the grid. Composting, recycling, LED lighting, and many more practices at the Motherhouse, as well as where the Sisters live beyond the Motherhouse, keep us engaged in ecological sustainability.
Our Sisters continue to be actively involved in social justice issues as their abilities allow. In the U.S., Guatemala, and Mexico, we have Sisters actively involved in fair housing, healthcare, education, social services, and nonprofits, to name a few. Prayer vigils, peace rallies, writing letters, and calling political leaders are just a few ways Sisters and Associates are involved in advocacy and action.
What does your personal commitment to ecological sustainability look like, and how does it play out in your life?
I take into consideration how my actions may impact others and Earth. I drive a hybrid car, and my house has solar panels. We compost and are mindful of not wasting water. We reuse, repurpose, and recycle. We are not just consumers—we are producers. We also have backyard chickens that provide us with fresh eggs and the bonus of fertilizer, which we use on our fruit and vegetable garden. Furthermore, we have turned a yard barren of flowers into a yard that attracts a variety of pollinators.
What are some things that your average person could do to care for the Earth? What are some steps one could take?
There are so many things people can do. Being mindful is the first step. When you throw trash “away” consider that there is no “away.” Your trash will end up in someone’s backyard … or possibly in our oceans and rivers. Reuse if possible, then recycle as much as you can. Save money, water, and electricity by turning the faucet off while brushing your teeth and turning off the lights when you leave a room. Avoid styrofoam products that leach chemicals when heated and do not decompose.
Learn how and why everything interconnects—climate change and food, climate change and health (think disease), climate change and medicines (think disease management), climate change and water (too much, too little), climate change and poverty, climate change and migration. Then, tell your political leaders you want them to protect all of us by protecting Earth.Within the SC Cincinnati community and in her personal life, Debbie Weber strives to make the world just a little better, a little cleaner, not only during this Season of Creation but throughout the year, every year.