Over the past 45 years Sister Pat Murphy's and Sister JoAnn Persch's work together in Chicago has focused on the rights and needs of immigrants, refugees, older persons, and families who are homeless. In Band of Sisters we see them still going strong, trying to get a bill passed through the Illinois legislature that would ensure pastoral care for immigrant detainees. Amid a nonstop schedule of meetings, lobbying, vigils, and rallies, they visit twice a week with prisoners awaiting trial and deportation, offering a compassionate presence to each person in the few minutes they are allowed. Knowing that they might not be able to keep this up much longer, they are drawing together people of all ages and faiths to carry on their ministry, and holding out hope for an end to the U.S. immigration policies they label "demonic." Some of the groups with whom Pat and JoAnn work: Interfaith Committe for Detained Immigrants, Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition
"I did exactly what the church asked me--and now, the church is looking at me like, where have you come from...who are you?" says Sister Nancy Sylvester, IHM (Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary), in Band of Sisters about the remarkable transformation of Catholic nuns in the United States since Vatican II of the 1960s, and the reaction of some members of the church hierarchy who oppose their changes. Perhaps more than any other group, U.S. nuns embraced Vatican II's call to serve where there was the greatest need.
In the static convent setting of the 1950's, a rigid schedule prescribed daily life down to the minute. The goal for the sisters was to achieve perfection and holiness, and the best way to do this was to remove oneself from the world to the furthest extent possible. Everything changed in the aftermath of Vatican II, a 1962-65 council meeting in Rome of all the world's Catholic bishops, convened by Pope John XXIII to bring the church into the modern world.