The Start of a New Year

Welcome to our new and continuing members of the Cortina Community! After a busy start to the year full of new student orientation and the beginning of classes, we couldn’t be more excited for the year to come.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 11.22.09 AMOur first community meeting of the year was the annual Community Partner Bash where students learned who their community partner for the semester would be and met their fellow Formation Group members and leaders. Cortinians are eager to go to their service sites and learn about the Omaha community.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 11.22.53 AM The following weekend was the Cortina Fall Retreat, held at Carol Joy Holling Camp, for a time of learning, reflection, relationship-building and plenty of fun.

Students learned about Fr. Jon Cortina and were given a glimpse into his life of faith and service. In addition, we were privileged enough to see the premiere of a film made by Nico Sandi, second-year RA in Deglman, called “Faith That Does Justice,” which tells about the Jesuit martyrs tragedy in El Salvador that occurred 25 years ago. The incident shocked the world and spurred Fr. Cortina to fight injustice during a time of civil war in the country and for the rest of his life.

Cortinians also heard informative and inspirational talks from Ken Reed-Bouley, director of the Creighton Center for Service and Justice; Kyle Lierk, director of Campus Ministry at Creighton; and Dr. Faith Kurtyka, assistant professor of English at Creighton University, who all gave greater insight into the Cortina Community and how it will challenge students to think and to grow during their time in the community. We thank them for taking the time to speak to us, and we are looking forward to discussing and reflecting on what they shared with us as we continue to learn about ourselves and our world during the year.

In these first two weeks, we faced our fears, thought about our own beliefs, met new people, and shared laughter with wonderful people.

Here’s to the start of a life-giving year.

Cortina Interview Project||On Justice

As finals for students are upon us, it seemed like an apt time to share this video of Dr. Anne Ozar (Cortina Professor-Sophomore Philosophy 250 class) speaking about Justice.

Cortina Info Nights Begin Tonight!

Cortina Info Nights Begin Tonight!

Come to the Deglman Basement at 7:30pm tonight to hear about what it means to “do sophomore year differently” in the Cortina Community. We look forward to sharing a bit about the vision and logistics of a life lived in … Continue reading

The Syria Series//A Twisted Calculus//Tim Nendick//

Tim Nendick is a wanderer and ponderer of the world. When he was a student at Creighton, he was a Cortina Student and then a 2-year Cortina RA. This is where he stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

Violent intervention gives rise to a twisted calculus: these lives, those dollars, this many bombs.  As our country prepares to attack another, it’s a calculus we must learn to speak.  As critically conscious people, we must learn to rewrite its axioms.

The rationale for strikes in Syria is alleged use of sarin gas, a human rights violation.  I fully support my government peacefully acting in my name when such violations exist, in order to make the world a more just place.  The use of chemical weapons is a grave offense, as are the concentration camps of North Korea, the domestic spying programs of the United States, the massacre of demonstrators in Egypt.  Around the world, we needn’t look far to see our brothers and sisters dehumanized by the societies we create, attacked by a culture of violence.

Ending injustice with tools ultimately designed to destroy and kill precludes justice. Responding in kind to violence in hopes of peace is a fruitless enterprise.  As students, we must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.  As people of faith, we must collectively labor for the Kingdom of God.  As citizens of history’s most powerful empire, we must creatively challenge our leaders.

The financial cost of this intervention is not yet known — quoting a White House Staffer, “Who the f— knows how much it will cost? It depends entirely upon what happens.” We have finite scientific thinkers, natural resources, laborers.  How we chose to invest those things in the betterment of humankind is the ultimate question of justice. Investing them in war-making, destruction is to fundamentally deny our call to be co-creators alongside God.

With each B2 bomber, let us see 16000 full scholarships to Creighton. With each tomahawk missile fired from proud boats, let us see a teacher’s lifetime salary flashing through the air on its way to maim another person. With each speech to the American people, let us hear our leaders justifying killing our fellow humans in the name of peace.

Let us hear, see these things and be confused.  Let us cry out, together, no más, no more! Nonviolently, creatively, let’s speak with the violence of Love, the certainty of hope, the promise of peace.

For reflection, I offer a video I made during my own Cortina year of Kurt Vonnegut reading a favorite passage from his Slaughterhouse Five:

The Syria Series//A Pulling Forward//Sarah Peraud//

Sarah Peraud is a Junior Justice & Society Major and a Formation Group Leader in the Cortina Community. This is where she stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

I have no idea what to write about Syria. I am clipping editorials and stapling those words into my journal because I cannot find my own.

The thought of striking Syria makes me deeply sad. There is no part of me that things this is a good solution. But, try as I might I haven’t come up with a better one and I know that even if I did I would not be asked to share it with those in charge.

So what can I do? How do I wrestle with Syria? How do I wrestle with my own feelings about the conflict? Is clipping news articles enough or am I just doing that to create an illusion that I am doing something—that I can do something?

In the past few years and most recently this summer I’ve done a lot of work with refugees. Time and time again I have met people from Iraq, from Iran, from conflicts not totally unlike Syria, struggling to build a home here.

One question mentioned in an editorial ( has really stuck with me all day. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights referred to peace activists (much like I like to consider myself) and asked, “Where were they the past two years?” This is not a new war.

Asked that question after so recently working with refugees has brought up still more questions for me. Where was I in Myanmar? Sudan? Bhutan? Where was I in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why didn’t I know the pain of these people until they were on my doorstep?

I cannot go back two years, read and act about Syria or any of those other places. But, there are things I know I can do. I can be here the next two years. I can be present the next two years. I can be present to refugees as they come and present enough to ways to build creative solutions now so that there is less need for resettlement agencies because homes stay intact.

Especially as a part of a community called to solidarity, I feel compelled to struggle over these questions and with these people. I have not loved Syrians well the past two years. How can I love them better the next two? One of the first steps to doing this is to stay as informed as possible. I cannot claim that I have answers, but I can say at least that I am looking for them.

If I am sure of one thing, I am sure of this: We must keep reading.

I was asked once why I still read the news because “doesn’t it just make me sad?” Of course the news makes me sad. My heart wrenching for Syria is proof to me that it is still working. Our hearts should wrench for Syria, for the thousands dead who have become statistics, for all those living in fear, for those who will lose everything, and even for Assad and the rebels. It should not be a stagnant grief however, but a pulling of the heartstrings—a  pulling forward.

We have been blessed with incredible opportunity and resources. We can use them to read about Syria, as tools for dialogue, as ways to form a conscience that will not only speak up at the last minute, but in that first minute, not just this year or the next two years, but every year. We must keep reading. We must be present. We must feel our hearts continually, communally pulled to new solutions, to finding answers, to loving with. I don’t have answers. I am trying desperately to find a place for my own voice in all of this. I am conflicted and angry and sad.

But I feel the pull. I feel a beginning.

Some of the things I am reading: (Live updates!)


What Cortina Was To Me: Strength and Direction in Community

I entered the Cortina Community with a fairly strong sense of social justice.  Social justice first interested me in the 6th grade when I started speaking out against sweatshops and Nike.  This advocacy didn’t garner me much popularity, and I became used to being independent and working on my own.  The high school wrestling team gave me my first real sense of community, of belonging and being part of something.  I finally felt part of my faith community when I attended the Jesuit Family Teach-In my junior year of high school.  I realized how important community is not just for my own health, but also for social justice.  Cortina taught me that.

My best friends Bill, Pat and Tim also joined Cortina.  I thought we would all live in the same suite, but the leadership thankfully changed plans in the middle.  We picked roommates but were assigned suitemates.  Unable to be with only the people that made me comfortable, I had to branch out into the wider community.  I made amazing friends as I became the guy with a minivan, a self-proclaimed giver of excellent hugs and the oddball who always slept on the couch in the common areas.  These experiences not only helped me find joy, but taught me the vital importance of love and community in social justice.

I learned what it means to give myself to community, to serve and to love others.  More importantly, I learned what it means to let others love and serve me.  I share in the brokenness and struggles.  As a weightlifter and wrestler, I sometimes find it difficult to realize that others might be stronger than I am.  The wonderful people on my floor, however, demonstrated inexplicable love and kindness.  They helped me learn humility, generosity, and what how to engage social justice in a way I could have never done on my own.

Many of my community mates also unknowingly helped me discern my vocation.  Most knew I was interested in joining the Jesuits, but only six knew I was in the midst of the application second semester.  Through their support and graciousness I learned what vocation means—to be called not just by God, but just as much by the community.  My vocation, given by God and community, is to be a voice for the voiceless.  It is to live justly, live communally, live as a Jesuit.

-Ken Homan, A Cortinian in

Ken Homan pic

Advocacy Alerts

Thanks so much to the Advocacy team in the CCSJ for these reminders.

Sierra Club
No More Deepwater Horizons
Three years ago, the Gulf experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation’s history, when an explosion on BP’s Deep Water Horizon rig left an oil well gushing. The damage from that disaster will be felt in the Gulf region for years to come. But Big Oil hasn’t learned its lesson. Oil companies continue to push for dangerous, devastating drilling projects on our coasts and in our public lands. Last year, Shell Oil had to abandon plans to drill in America’s Arctic when its equipment continually failed. And just this month, an Exxon Mobil pipeline in Arkansas ruptured, releasing 157,000 of gallons of oil into a small community. Tell President Obama that we need to protect our communities, coasts, and public lands from dangerous oil drilling and spills!

Amnesty International
Urge President Obama: No more drones!
You’ve helped convince Congress to hold hearings on the Obama administration’s killer drones. Now take the next step and urge President Obama and Congress to follow Amnesty International’s 5 Point Plan for reforming the U.S. drone strike policy. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the Obama administration’s so-called ‘targeted killing’ program allows for the use of lethal force, including with drones, that violates the right to life under international law.

Health Care Conscience Rights Act
The Obama Administration’s contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization mandate will begin to be enforced against nonprofit religious schools, charities and health care providers on August 1. In the days to come, Congress must decide whether to address this problem through must-pass legislation before that deadline. Members of the House should be urged to include the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940) in the next bill needed to keep the federal government operating. Please send an email asking Congress to protect conscience rights and religious liberty.

Upcoming Events
Omaha Together One Community
On Monday, May 6th at 7pm, OTOC is hosting a Candidates Accountability Night. The event will take place at Pius X Church at 6905 Blondo Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68104. Candidates for Mayor and City Council will be there so that the community can be educated on where each candidate stands on important issues. For more information, go to OTOC’s website.

Film Streams
A Place at the Table runs Friday, May 3 through May 16th at Film Streams’ Ruth Sokolof Theater. The film discusses food injustice-specifically food insecurity. Fifty million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite the fact that we have the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine this issue through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity. Their stories are interwoven with insights from experts-especially sociologists. A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it can be solved once and for all. Yet, the solution will only come when the American public decides that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all! For more information, or to watch the trailer, click here.

USCCB and Catholic Relief Services
On April 22, from 1-2pm EDT, Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are hosting an online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion called Promoting Human Life and Dignity in the Year of Faith: Why People Migrate. Join the online discussion for an opportunity to hear about the Church’s ongoing work to address the root causes of migration through programs and advocacy efforts that protect life and human dignity. You will also be able to ask questions and engage in dialogue regarding how Catholics in the US, through the Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative, can make a difference for our brothers and sisters living in poverty.

Finding the Courage to Forgive

“If we believe terrorists are past redemption, we should just rip up like 1/2 the NT because it was written by one.” –Shane Claiborne

A few weeks ago I heard a talk by Shane Claiborne. For those of you who don’t know, Shane is a peace activist who advocates for non-violence on a personal and societal level. He believes in, and promotes, forgiveness because he truly believes that, “Grace has the power to dull even the sharpest sword.”

Today I did a little experiment. I typed in “Boston Bombings” on Google, and to no surprise, all of the articles I found started by talking about the bombing suspects, and the investigation to find out who we can punish for this act. When an act of terror occurs, the media focuses all of its energy on who did the act and how those people will pay for what they’ve done. It emphasizes the type of justice that involves finding a punishment that will harm the person who did the crime as much as that person harmed others. It’s all about that person getting a fair penalty for their crime. Our justice system does not emphasize forgiveness, but rather emphasizes people paying for their mistakes.

There is a quote on a poster that I’ve seen in many places around campus. It says, “All religions believe in justice.” However, the type of justice this is referring to is not the type that we observe in our criminal justice system in the states. While our system is discriminatory and revolves around profits and punishment, the justice of faith traditions is about love and forgiveness.

Trying to get someone to see how they have hurt us or someone else, or trying to control how someone will act in the future, has nothing to do with forgiveness. The World English Dictionary defines “forgive” as to free from the obligation of. Forgiveness grants the person we are forgiving freedom. It grants them the freedom that they were born with that is a part of their human dignity. Forgiveness is not something that should be based off of what a person will do for us in the future or how they will change. Rather, forgiveness is a gift that should be given to everyone, and that everyone should receive as part of their dignity.

As Shane Claiborne says, “All of us are better than the worst thing we’ve done.” We are all human, and everyone makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are small, and some of those are much bigger. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter; because God forgives everyone, and in our journey to be more like him, we should strive to forgive everyone as well.

By forgiving people for the wrongs they have done, we are not excusing the pain they have caused. I wish that whoever bombed the Boston marathon, had never felt the need to do so. But I also know that people cause others pain and suffering when they are in pain or are suffering. Humans hurt other humans when they don’t feel loved, or when they are craving attention. What if when violent acts occurred, we reached out those who had committed the act? What if we told them that we forgive them, and embraced them unconditionally instead of shunning them and dehumanizing them? What if we loved them regardless of how much they hurt us? How would that person react? Do you think we’d be getting to the root of what caused the problem in the first place-namely that the person didn’t feel loved? I do. We should all strive to forgive those who wrong us. Because we are all human, we all make mistakes, we are all imperfect. And regardless of our faults, God loves us, and in doing so, he calls us to love one another.

So even though forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us to do, I believe we are called to try and forgive everyone regardless of what they have done. Every person deserves to be loved, every human being is inherently good, and everyone has the potential to find redemption. Yes forgiveness is hard, but, as Shane Claiborne says, ” Each time that we want to hate, we can always find the courage to love.”

-Haley Warren

Monday Meditation: On Sseko Designs

During our Community Time yesterday, Kara began a discussion on Social Entrepreneurship, that is, ways that businesses can be resources for community development–and still be good businesses!

One of my friends, Liz, started the sandal company Sseko Designs with her husband, Ben. See below for an excerpt from the Sseko website to help us understand how their business plan emerged and how it attempts to use business to address deep needs in a society.

Sseko Designs uses fashion to provide employment and scholarship opportunities to women pursuing their dreams and overcoming poverty. 

Issue #1: Female students, due to a lack of economic opportunity, are not able to continue on to university and pursue leadership positions in society.

Solution #1: Sseko Designs provides employment during the 9 month gap between high school and university where high potential young women are able to earn and save enough money to pay for college tuition. 50% of their salary  each month goes into a savings account that is not accessible until tuition is due. This ensures that their income goes towards education. This also protects the women in our program from the social pressure they often feel from their families to give away the money the are earning which can perpetuate the cycle of poverty. At the end of each term, Sseko Designs grants university scholarships that match up to 100% of the savings each woman has made during her 9 month session with Sseko.


Issue #2: In a patriarchal and male dominated society, women are not afforded the same employment and economic opportunities as their male counterparts. We know that for every dollar a women in a developing economy earns, she will reinvest 90% of it into her family. We also know that although 66% of the world’s labor is done by women, we own less than 1% of the world’s assets. As long as women are not afforded educational and professional equality, extreme poverty will continue to exist. 

Solution #2: In addition to providing employment to women working their way towards university, Sseko partners with women from all walks for life. Sseko employs university graduates who comprise the upper level management team. These are women that use their education, experience and voice to help shape our company. Sseko also works to provide employment for women who have aged out of the education system and have no other form of income generation. We also partner with a local non-profit in Uganda that works with young women who have recently come out of the commercial sex industry. Providing stable, dignifying and fair wage employment is a key component to keeping women from entering back into prostitution. We believe that every woman has the capacity to end the cycle of poverty and that it can be done in a way that is fair, dignifying, honoring and life-giving.


Issue #3: Although charities and non-profits play a vital and necessary role in all societies, sometimes charity and aid can play a negative role by enabling dependencies and damaging the local economies.  Like us, our African friends need and desire opportunity, dignity, job creation and empowerment. 

Solution #3: Instead of treating the symptoms, we aim to address the deeper, underlying issues of extreme poverty. Although Sseko Designs has been built for the purpose of impacting a specific social sector, we have chosen very intentionally to use a sustainable, self-sufficient business model to do this. Our hope is to help create industry and fair-trade with the belief that a large component of economic development lies in the business sector. We believe in the power of responsible consumerism. Instead of competing for limited donor dollars, we hope consumers think about the story behind their “stuff.” If we considered the impact that each product we consume has on the lives of those who produced that product and chose to see consumerism as a force and opportunity for positive social change, we believe the world would be filled with beautiful products with even more beautiful stories.


How often do businesses seem to take this approach to their work? What kind of ethical potential do businesses have? Do you see any injustices that might be solved by business or the creation of new markets? What injustices can be created by business? How can we re-train our minds to creatively think about how to use all tools in our cultural tool box, including business, to act on behalf of justice?


THINK: Poetic Justice

In the preface to Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman describes the poet as a kind of judge:

“He judges not as the judge judges but as the sun falling round a helpless thing…He sees eternity in men and women, he does not see men and women as dreams or dots.”

In her book Poetic Justice, Martha Nussbaum interprets Whitman, saying, “The poet does not merely present abstract formal considerations, he presents equitable judgments, judgments that fit the historical and human complexities of the particular case…When the sun falls around a thing it illuminates every curve, every nook; nothing remains hidden, nothing unperceived. So, too, does the poet’s judgment fall, perceiving all that is there and disclosing it to our view…In particular, the sun illuminates the situation of the helpless, which is usually shrouded in darkness…All of this is a description of judgment. It is also a description of the literary imagination.”

In August, we talked about the importance of story. Nussbaum claims here that story is not just important for knowing people or for entertainment or for culture. Story is important for justice. There are, of course, political constraints, which Nussbaum acknowledges and accepts. But, many times we accept uncritically a scene that is shrouded in darkness. Story, poetry, history, art, all have the capacity create illuminated spaces in which justice can be done.

Is it not true that when we do not want to have to acknowledge the complexity of someone’s situation (say, a rape victim, or an undocumented person, or a person living in homelessness)–we do not want to know their story? Stories illuminate humanity. To deal with humans instead of ideas or precepts makes decisions harder, breaks apart shoddy ethical systems and organizational policies, and creates a tension that is neither comfortable nor desirable.  And who says art isn’t difficult?

Nussbaum concludes her book this way: “As Whitman indicates, ‘poetic justice’ needs a great deal of nonliterary equipment: technical legal knowledge, a knowledge of history and precedent, a careful attention to proper legal impartiality. The judge must be a good judge in these respects. But, in order to be fully rational, judges must also be capable of fancy and sympathy. They must educate not only their technical capacities but also their capacity for humanity. In the absence of that capacity, their impartiality will be obtuse and their justice blind…the ‘sun-rise’ of democratic judgment will be to that extent veiled…the ‘interminable generations of prisoners and slaves’ will dwell in pain around us and have less hope of freedom.”

In what ways do you orchestrate complexity out of your life in order to have easy answers about people? Where do you allow the veil of darkness to remain, shrouding the situations of those whose lives are too difficult to see? How do you view justice? Who deserves it? Why?