Felician Hosts Annual Pope John Paul II Lecture on Social Justice

Felician Hosts Annual Pope John Paul II Lecture on Social Justice

Felician University recently held its 2017 Pope John Paul II Social Justice Lecture, titled “Life in a Clear Plastic Bag: The Limbo of Immigration Detention Centers.” Co-sponsored by the Order of Malta, the event was a panel discussion on immigration in general and the Elizabeth Detention Center in particular.

Held before a large crowd of students, faculty, staff and Felician sisters, the event was informative, thought-provoking, practical and spiritual. The three panelists were: Sr. Antonelle Chunka who has been ministering to the immigrants in that center for years; Sr. Maryann Agnes Mueller who is part of a Pax Christi group that protests in front of that Center every Ash Wednesday; and Dr. Anna Brown, Chair of the Political Science department at St. Peter’s University and actively involved in social justice causes.

The evening became with a welcome from Dr. Anne Prisco, president of Felician University. She called the three presenters “women of courage who have dedicated their lives to the cause of social justice.” Sr. Juanita Arnister served as moderator of the lecture, introducing each panelist and providing background on each.

Sr. Antonelle spoke first, giving a firsthand account of her experience ministering to residents of the Elizabeth Detention Center and explaining in great detail how the system works. She spoke about the categories of undocumented people, and the history of detention centers in northern NJ. She told the heartbreaking stories of immigrants and why they sought a better life in the US.

Sr. Mary Ann Mueller spoke next, giving an account of how the Felician sisters are living their mission to help the most vulnerable among us by reaching out and advocating for the residents of detention centers. The Sisters seek to change policy through ongoing lobbying for what is fair and just.

Finally, Dr. Brown provided a Catholic social teaching context to the immigration issue with her reflective presentation. She explained that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and are called by Christ to work to combat the idea of “disposable” people. She reminded the attendees of Pope Francis’ words: “We must avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever is troublesome.”

The Pope John Paul II lecture on immigration shed light on the reality of detention centers and reminded us that: “We are called to be Easter people in a Good Friday world.”

About Dr. Anna J. Brown

Dr. Anna J. Brown is chair of the political science department and director of the social justice program at Saint Peter’s University. She co-founded and is a faculty advisor to the University’s Center for Undocumented Students. Along with James L. Marsh, she co-edited and contributed to the book, Faith, Resistance, and the Future: Daniel Berrigan’s Challenge to Catholic Social Thought. She has published in the areas of social justice, immigration, nonviolence, and Buddhism. She is a member of the Kairos peace community, which was co-founded by Daniel Berrigan, S.J., and has participated in numerous acts of nonviolent civil disobedience as well as works for peace and justice internationally.

About Sister Maryann Agnes Mueller

Sister Maryann Agnes Mueller is delighted to be the full-time Justice and Peace Coordinator for the Felician Sisters’ North American Province since 2010. She is also a member of the Felician Sisters’ Congregational Office for Justice and Peace and edits the Congregational Justice and Peace newsletter.

Sister directed the Justice and Peace committee in Lodi, a very dedicated group of sisters, associates, and employees from institutions on our grounds, until she moved to CT two years ago. She has served on the Leadership Council of Pax Christi New Jersey for seven years and edited The Christian Peacemaker, the newsletter for Pax Christi New Jersey for over five years.

Sister has been involved with the Franciscan Action Network, the Franciscan voice advocating in Washington, since its inception in 2007. Currently she serves on the boards for Franciscan Action Network and for United States Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking.

Sister Maryann’s baptismal mandate compels her to make an attempt each day to live the Beatitudes. Sister’s favorite quote from Mahatma Gandhi—“You must be the change you want to see in the world” challenges her to fulfill God’s will in compassionate service, total availability and concern for the salvation of all people.

About Sister Mary Antonelle Chunka, Ed.D.

Sister Mary Antonelle Chunka, Ed.D, is a Felician Franciscan Sister who has been cooperating with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world for more than 50 years. As a teacher, writer and international speaker, Sister Antonelle continues to advocate for social justice in all areas of human dignity.

In 1982, Sister left her administrative position at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, to begin The Promise Outreach, a faith-based ministry to at-risk and delinquent youth. Through the years, Sister Antonelle extended the ministry to include adult correctional centers which led to a further outreach to immigrants detained in federal ICE facilities.

Under Archbishop Peter L. Gerety, Sister Antonelle was appointed as a founding member of the Newark Archdiocesan Commission for Justice and Peace and for the Commission on Women in Church and Society. She used these experiences to influence policies as a trustee on numerous boards of education, health care and social services. This year, in the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, the Most Rev. James Checchio, Bishop of Metuchen, named Sister Mary Antonelle as a “Disciple of Mercy.”


Panelists at Felician University’s annual Pope John Paul II lecture on social justice, left to right: Dr. Anna Brown, Sister Mary Antonelle Chunka, Ed.D. and Sister Maryann Agnes Mueller.