There are many images of nuns out there – from the movies, from the media and from our own experiences in school or CCD. While the flowing robes of habit and confines of a wimple have given way to simple skirts or suits and a no-nonsense hair cut, few realize just what roles the nuns and sisters play in the current world. Yes, they still teach, administer, pray, minister to the poor, the sick and the elderly… but there’s so much more. These woman of faith and strength have expanded their sphere of influence into the world of finance and big business. They have become corporate activists!
The New York Times writer Kevin Roose tells of one order of nuns – the Sisters of St. Francis – who are looking at more than the financial returns on their retirement assets.
The Sisters of St. Francis are an unusual example of the shareholder activism that has ripped through corporate America since the 1980s. Public pension funds led the way, flexing their financial muscles on issues from investment returns to workplace violence. Then, mutual fund managers charged in, followed by rabble-rousing hedge fund managers who tried to shame companies into replacing their C.E.O.’s, shaking up their boards — anything to bolster the value of their investments.
The nuns have something else in mind: using the investments in their retirement fund to become Wall Street’s moral minority.
Sister Nora and her congregation aren’t alone in this pursuit. They are part of an organization known as – The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility – an umbrella group of activists that includes Jews, Quakers, Presbyterians and nearly 300 faith-based investing groups. One member has very deep connections to Lowell – Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI. His views are also noted in this article:
“Companies have learned over time that the issues we’re bringing are not frivolous,” said the Rev. Seamus P. Finn, 61, a Washington-based priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and a board member of the Interfaith Center. “At the end of every transaction, there are people that are either positively or negatively impacted, and we try to explain that to them.”
Read more about Sr. Nora, the Interfaith Center, its shareholder advocacy program and its social justice fund here at nytimes.com and read an article by Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI on the “occupy” movement here at Huffiingtonpost.com.