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Eileen Markey :
16 article(s)

Eileen Markey is a contributing editor at BustedHalo®. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, City Limits and the Village Voice, among other publications. She lives in the Bronx.
June 8th, 2010
Mourning the anonymous homeless and indigent in NYC

There is an island in the East River, within view of the glittering Manhattan skyline, where the homeless and indigent are buried: an island of the dead. There, amid tall grasses and the calls of seagulls, the poorest New Yorkers — those who had families that couldn’t afford to bury them or who had no family, those who died anonymous and homeless on city streets, and those whose bodies were never claimed from the city morgue — find their final repose.
While some of the people buried on Hart Island are nameless, they are not forgotten. Every second month a knot of people gathers on a windy pier on City Island in the Bronx and boards a ferry to the island. There they say prayers for the dead and stand in silence…

April 6th, 2010
Accompanying undocumented immigrants who are in prison

On a recent Saturday morning a minivan weaves through the warehouse district of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a port city an hour south of New York. It pulls to a stop beside a nondescript building where the Corrections Corporation of America — a private company — holds hundreds of immigrants in prison conditions. The firm is one of seven nationwide that contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to house immigrants awaiting deportation or applying for asylum. ICE also operates eight facilities itself and contracts with 300 county and state jails to hold immigrants. For the tens of thousands of detainees nationwide, time in immigrant detention is lonely and frightening.…

January 14th, 2010
A Haitian man and his family wait to see if he is deported and if their family is torn apart

Jean Montrevil and his family, from whom he is currently separated while in an ICE detention facility awaiting deportation to Haiti

Jonathan Freed hasn’t eaten since New Year’s Eve. The South Florida immigrants’ rights activist is one of six people who say they will not eat until President Obama puts a stop to deportations that separate immigrants from their American families. (Download the letter to the president.)

After a few days he stopped being hungry or thinking of food, he said. Instead he is consistently queasy, and his head is a little foggy.

The hunger strikers are part of a increasingly impatient immigrant movement that wants to see a moratorium on deportations until comprehensive immigration reform is enacted by Congress.

So Freed and his companions are camping on the grounds of St. Ann’s Mission in Naranja, Florida. Naranja is a community filled with Mexican, Guatemalan and Haitian immigrants, too many of whom, Freed said, are at risk of deportation either because they are in the country illegally or because they’ve committed crimes ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) deems worthy of exile.

“In our community the amount of enforcement is ripping families apart,” he said Wednesday. Freed, who is executive director of We Count!, a immigrant rights organization, acknowledges that the hunger strike is a dramatic step — and one that could fail. But more traditional forms of protest haven’t worked, he said.

“People have marched, written letters, held rallies and vigils. We’ve done all that. The situation has become so critical we felt we had to do something dramatic,” said Freed.

So for thirteen days now Freed and five others — among them undocumented immigrants with American children — have slept in a tent on the church grounds and spent their days explaining their action to visitors, keeping each other company and praying.

“It’s a political action, but it’s also a spiritual action that you try to get God to intercede and change the hearts of those in government,” Freed said.

A senseless policy — a family suffers

That is exactly what Jean Montrevil is praying for as well. The 41-year-old Haitian immigrant, Brooklyn, New York resident and father of four is in a jail in York County, Pennsylvania, awaiting deportation to the country he left when he was 16. Tuesday’s devastating earthquake offered an odd sort of reprieve, temporarily suspending deportations to Haiti, but Montrevil is still in detention, three hours away from his family and could be deported as soon as ICE deems conditions in Haiti stable.

May 18th, 2009
Iraqi refugee artists find a home in a Hell's Kitchen church

The picture shows the rough wear of its many journeys. A cheap canvas tacked to a wall then tightly rolled and unfurled again somewhere else. The rolling and unrolling repeated a dozen times as its author fled her home, then her neighborhood, then her city, finally her nation. It’s the art of a migrant now. A person without a country. A refugee.
“Freedom and Beauty: The Art of Iraqi Refugees,” on exhibit daily through May 28th at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on West 59th Street in Manhattan, is an attempt to link American viewers and Iraqi artists. You should go see it. That canvas, rolled and unrolled with the wandering of a displaced person, is like a message stuffed in a bottle and tossed to…

June 18th, 2008
A renowned New York artist adds a modern twist to ancient Jewish law in creating a painting of Biblical proportions

“Each painting lays out in black, white, purple and magenta just how present G-D is in all aspects of life.”

November 19th, 2007
A review of A Jesuit Off-Broadway

In his latest book, James Martin, SJ explores the work of a contemporary priest and exemplifies the quintessential Jesuit as cultured, literate believer who seeks to “find God in all things, in all peoples and in all environments.”
A Jesuit Off-Broadway recounts the months Martin—author of My Life with the Saints and an editor at America magazine—spends as the theological advisor and unofficial chaplain for the LABryinth Theater Company in New York while they mounted a brand new play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. When company member Sam Rockwell (The Assassination of Jesse James…) took the role of Judas he sought out Martin for crash courses on New Testament theology, the historical

October 8th, 2007
The new documentary for the Bible tells me so re-examines the scriptural prohibition toward homosexuality

What do Christianity and Judaism say about gays and lesbians? Even the most nominal believer is familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the chapter in Leviticus forbidding same sex intercourse. But scriptural scholarship actually presents a much more nuanced understanding of those famous Hebrew Testament passages than most followers know and one at odds with what is taught from most pulpits. For example, several hundred years of religious scholarship interprets the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as inhospitality, not homosexuality and the famous “Man shall not lie with man as with woman” verse as an insistence on procreation to build the Israelites society, not a comment on gay relationships,…

September 10th, 2007
My own dark night of the soul in Calcutta

A new book of the letters of Mother Teresa, edited by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, a Missionaries of Charity priest who is responsible for presenting her case for sainthood to the Vatican, reveals that the founder of the Missionaries of Charity suffered for years with what St. John of the Cross termed “the dark night of the soul.” The letters between Mother Teresa and various spiritual directors and confessors are compiled in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light … (Doubleday 2007). They are vivid, heart-wrenching pleas to a God whose presence she no longer feels when she prays. Mother Teresa’s experience of spiritual dryness doesn’t mean she didn’t believe in God, said Dr. Janet Cousins,

June 22nd, 2007
New York artists use a church as their gallery

When Michelangelo and Da Vinci were working the Catholic Church embraced contemporary art as a form of prayer. These days the institutional church is more likely to condemn contemporary art than commission it, as evidenced by the uproar over Cosimo Cavallaro’s nude chocolate crucifix during Holy Week this year.
The Church of St. Paul the Apostle in mid-town Manhattan is doing its part to rehabilitate this contentious relationship by welcoming artists into discussion on God that focuses more on mystery than dogma.
Who…
Until the end of June, St. Paul’s is hosting a group show of contemporary painting that asks artists to address the questions “Who, What, Where, When, Why is God.”…

May 14th, 2007
How one 20-something turned a brief service trip into his life's mission

Each year hundreds of college students visit developing countries to volunteer on humanitarian projects, learn about another culture and foster solidarity with people whose poverty and trauma are shaped by the geopolitical actions of wealthy nations. While the lessons of the service trip continue to inform students’ actions, as time passes their intensity generally fades.
Not so Matthew Nespoli, a Villanova University alumnus and founder of Water for Waslala, a micro-development initiative that brings safe drinking water to isolated communities in the mountainous Waslala region of Nicaragua. Nespoli’s brief trip abroad in the summer of 2002 has determined the course of his life since.…

April 4th, 2007
Holy Week in Haiti

So look, if the divine made flesh really did roll into town to adulating crowds only to be betrayed, tortured, killed and then, holy god, rise from the dead, shouldn’t we be dancing in the streets?
Easter. The birthday of the church. The most holy Catholic festival. A day for really dressing up.
But if we’re taking it seriously, if we’re really taking to heart this utterly insane story of a savior executed and miraculously raised from the dead, doesn’t it call for something more than a dry-cleaned spring dress and a rack of lamb?
Shake It
Last Palm Sunday I was in Haiti, part of a group of Americans visiting the Caribbean nation to learn about grassroots efforts at environmental preservation…

January 26th, 2007
Siblings Clare and Mary Byrne combine music and dance into something sacred

As the children of two academics who met while studying theology, growing up in the Byrne clan meant that religion was always about more than simply going to church on Sunday.
It still is. Now adults, Mary Byrne, a rock guitarist and Clare Byrne, a modern dancer, say Catholicism, the search for God and a sense of enacting holy rituals infuses their art. The rest of the family is similarly engaged with faith. One sister is a writer and comedian, their brother—who is also a musician—and father are starting an organic farm and intentional community in North Carolina. The oldest sister is the chair of Catholic Studies at Hofstra University.
Sense of Celebration
“We definitely grew up with a lot of…

December 30th, 2006
The Secular Prophet of American Cities

When Jane Jacobs, the 20th Century urban activist and pro-city theorist died in May at the age of 89, we lost a secular prophet. Reading Jacobs’ landmark resistance to modern city planning methods, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was one of the seminal experiences of my college years. It was an academic experience, but also a spiritual one.
Jacobs’ work trumpeted the city not as a problem to be solved but as a life-affirming manifestation of creativity. A city allowed to function properly has a soul, she argued. Her work resonated with me, a bookish suburbanite transformed into an urban studies major at Fordham University in the Bronx. The book put into words that awe the living city ignited…

August 11th, 2006

In June 2004 Rutba House, an alternative Christian community in Durham, North Carolina, developed this list of ideals meant to shape the nascent “new monastic” movement, which includes The Simple Way and dozens of other groups.
A New Monasticism
Moved by God’s Spirit in this time called America to assemble at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, NC, we wish to acknowledge a movement of radical rebirth, grounded in God’s love and drawing on the rich tradition of Christian practices that have long formed disciples in the simple Way of Christ. This contemporary school for conversion which we have called a “new monasticism,” is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic…

August 9th, 2006
Dirty dishes, anarchist art, morning prayer and other hallmarks of a burgeoning Christian movement

They started out as good Christians. They thumbed through their Bibles, were concerned with sex and feared God. Then they started taking Christianity seriously.
“This thing Jesus called the Kingdom of God is emerging across the globe in the most unexpected places, a gentle whisper amid the chaos,” writes The Simple Way co-founder Shane Claiborne in The Irresistible Revolution, his manifesto on the movement. “The truth is that much stands in the way of God’s will for our world, beasts like what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the giant triplets of evil: racism, militarism and materialism.”
But in a broken down, post-industrial neighborhood in Philadelphia, a group of young…

January 8th, 2002
I'm only five "Why's" away from an ontological crisis

What’s that?
I’m buckling my son into his car seat the other morning when he points to the tool used to scrape snow off the windshield.
“It’s an ice scraper, sweetheart.”
Why?
“So we can scrape the ice off the windshield.”
Why?
“So we can see when we drive.”
Why?
“So we don’t crash.”
Why?
“Because we don’t want to die.”
Why?

What am I supposed to tell the kid? Because we value our lives? I know what his reply will be: Why? Because they are a gift. Why? Um, because life is sacred. Why?
I like to think I have a good education and am respectably literate on matters of meaning and religion, but my two-year-old son reminds me that…

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