Sister Richelle Friedman talks about insights from her vow of poverty as a Presentation sister and how they shape her public policy work. Hear the full In Good Faith episode IGF043 at aNunsLife.org.
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Sister Richelle Friedman, PBVM, is Director of Public Policy at the Coalition on Human Needs in Washington, D.C. She has over 30 years of legislative experience on a wide range of issues, with the goal of strengthening the economic reality of low-income families. Her recent work with the Coalition includes efforts to advance the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package with help for millions of families living in poverty.
Prior to the Coalition, Sister Richelle worked as a policy analyst and lobbyist at the Children’s Defense Fund, McAuley Institute, and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. Sister Richelle has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a Master’s degree in Pastoral Studies. She was born in Iowa and was raised on the family farm. She is a member of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Dubuque, Iowa.
This podcast is brought to you by A Nun's Life Ministry. I'm Sister Maxine, and my guest is Sister Richelle Friedman, Director of Public Policy at the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of national organizations that promotes public policies which address the needs of low-income people and other vulnerable groups. Sister Richelle, poverty is one of the vows that we as Catholic sisters take when we enter religious life. Does your vow of poverty as a Presentation Sister affect the way you look at public policy?
It definitely does. My community was founded in the 18th century by a woman named Nano Nagle, and we know that the small group of sisters living with her in Ireland at that time under the Penal Laws sometimes literally begged in the streets--not so much for themselves, but for people living in poverty in their midst. And today, there are enormous disparities in income and wealth, not only in our country, but across the globe. So the mission of my work at the Coalition of Human Needs is about addressing the needs of people who are low-income and living in poverty. For that work, I take great inspiration from the foundress of my community and the sisters that have followed her. I love what Gandhi said. He said, "Live simply so that others may simply live." Today my vow of poverty is about living simply and possessing an attitude of having enough--so that others might also have enough.
This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.