Sandy is the new president of WISDOM, Gamaliel’s statewide organization in Wisconsin. Sandy is a lifelong resident of Kenosha, WI and is a retired special education teacher. She is a member of St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie, WI and became actively involved in parish Charity & Justice Ministries. Sandy is the first Catholic president of WISDOM. Working in an interfaith organization has helped Sandy’s own faith grow immensely.
How did you come to work with Gamaliel?
Actually, I came in through the back door – There are 10 affiliate organizations around the state that receive support from WISDOM. We work on our local issues and come together with WISDOM to work on state-wide and national issues. Eight years ago I was invited to join my local organization, Congregations United to Serve Humanity (CUSH). Having been an advocate for my special education students, this was a perfect “fit”. My first experience with Gamaliel was when I went to week-long training in 2007. That was an eye-opening experience for me. The week was challenging, but I left feeling energized and empowered. As they say, the rest is history!
How is Fire of Faith linked to Catholic Social Teaching?
As Catholics we are fortunate to have such explicit principles in Catholic Social Teaching. These guideposts give us direction in how to live that great commandment to “love your neighbor”. The first goal of Fire of Faith “to rekindle congregations” is the impetus to move us further into society. Congregations have a strong voice in our communities and this voice is needed to speak for the many voiceless people in society. Like the dominoes that tumble, strengthening congregations will in turn strengthen communities…and ultimately respect the human dignity of all. Locally, state-wide and nationally as we address issues such as immigration, transportation and housing, we show that Catholic Social Teaching is an essential part of both our Catholic faith and our work. As Catholics, we talk about social teaching, however, working in an interfaith organization, we see that the principles of Catholic Social Teaching are evident in all of our faith traditions! That is why we are so successful in meeting the needs of the people.
How has WISDOM committed to the Fire of Faith?
WISDOM holds an annual leadership retreat and the major focus this year was on congregational development and building power. There was an emphasis on how we use our training to help congregations build and rebuild. Affiliates discussed how their local organizations were going to do this and the consensus was that we needed to go back to the basics of our 1-1 training. WISDOM is a large organization spread throughout the state. Within our 10 affiliates there are over 145 congregation members that represent 19 different faith traditions. We have brought the Fire of Faith from the state level to the local level not only through our issue work but also in a symbolic way. A fire pot representing the Fire of Faith has traveled the state and held a place of honor at our many local events and actions.
What is WISDOM doing now that is aligned with Fire of Faith?
WISDOM is working on a major state-wide initiative called the 11×15 Campaign for Safer and Healthier Communities which perfectly mirrors Fire of Faith. 11×15 calls for increased funding for Treatment Alternative and Diversions (TAD) for non-violent offenders suffering from substance or mental health issues. Our challenge to the state of Wisconsin is to reduce the prison population from about 22,000 to 11,000 by 2015. Increased TAD programming would promote jobs, strengthen families, reduce racial disparity and save money. 11×15 has the potential to promote Fire of Faith’s goal to help move 1 million people into economic security.