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Networking: sister pursues just causes through array of groups.

ROME -- One of Franciscan Sister Mary Litell's favorite words is "nice," not as used in the gooey sense, but as in able to make fine distinctions and having high standards of conduct and caring.

She's a walking Rolodex of sorts. She has envelopes stuffed with details, articles and notes about and from people she's connected to.

But to know who matters to this Franciscan Sister of Penance and Christian Charity (Redwood City, Calif.), it helps to know what matters to her, what she likes. Litell likes Italy, particularly how a simple, everyday meal is a celebration -- even in Rome's diocesan Caritas-run "trattoria-like" dining room for the homeless.

"They do it in such a nice way," said Litell. "You still come in and go through the line, but you choose what you want. If you have too many bags, or a cane, or children, someone carries your food to the table."

The place she described had "nice" pictures on the wall, napkins and servers who keep fresh bread coming to the table. "It is not big, and everything is homey and familylike. It is done in a decent way, a communion of sorts."

And perhaps that, too, is what networking is: a communion of sorts. More than that, people who network, making links with other Christians and non-Christians, are typically open to being influenced by others -- capable of thinking anew.

Personally, and as a Franciscan, Litell is devoted to nonviolence, justice and peace. She was involved with the Franciscan Center in Las Vegas, which releases people into new ventures around the country and world.

Litell's past ventures included the Theology in the Americas movement, the Brazilian bishops' Project for Society Overcoming Domination, solidarity work and efforts to change U.S. policy in Central America. There also were sanctuary, Concord Naval Weapons Base and political asylum issues.

Then, in 1984, her congregation assigned her to Rome as a councilor, which required travel around the world on visitations or doing administrative work.

So Litell is welcome at Il Gubbiano (the Sea Gull), a work-release program for prisoners with no work experience. The business recycles waste into high-quality paper. Prisoners visit parishes and say, "Hey, we were waste, too, and we're being recycled."

She can pop into Adista, the journalistic group publishing twice-weekly commentaries on what is happening in the Italian and global church.

She is familiar with the ecology/environmental movements in Italy and, more particularly, locally and globally by the Franciscans: The Franciscan Non Governmental Organization (NGO) at the United Nations was the brainchild of a Maltese friar and Iowa Franciscan Sister Elizabeth Cameron. It took a decade to come to fruition. It watches creation, peacemaking and concern for the poor issues at the U.N.

Essentially, the U.N. is a data-gatherer and debating hall. It is the NGO's presence and activities in combination that can be a witness and call on governments and people to the spiritual, moral and ethic values involved.

Litell is in contact with the Inter-Franciscan Conference on Justice, Peace and Ecology of Indo-Afro-America, which held a landmark third conference in Chile last year.

The lists of people and groups she has networked with through the years seem endless. "Do you know Gianni Novelli at CIPAX?" And what about the Canes -- "They do really nice work at IF," she continued, as she pulled more pieces of paper out of her envelope and slid them across the table -- nicely.
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Title Annotation:Franciscan Sister Mary Litell
Author:Jones, Arthur
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Apr 23, 1993
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