Trees continually grow. When they stop growing,
they die. Like trees, we also grow, as long as we live. We do not increase in
height; we certainly do not put out additional appendages, such as arms or
legs, but even physically our bodies continually grow new cells that replace
old ones. But, as embodied spirits, our main area of growth is not physical,
but in our thoughts, values and motives and in the ways we fulfill our purpose
in life.

Most of us enjoy the presence of trees in all
their variety. They are not only pleasing to our eyes, but also connect us with
nature. We perceive more than the bark and branches, roots and leaves, and are
at times moved with appreciation for the gift of life even in a form so
apparently different from our own. We plant trees, and nurture them, but we do
not make them. Like trees, we too are not self-created. Though we are unique
individuals, we are communal and interdependent, which often brings us much joy
and pleasure, though at other times sadness and pain as well. Through our
interactions in all manner of relationships, we can recognize our own
connection with nature – human nature.

Though we appreciate the beauty of shrubs,
flowers and grasses, trees are easier to identify with as individuals. We can
see in them many qualities that we value highly. Trees remain steadfast in all
kinds of weather, favorable and unfavorable; they do not try to appear as any
other tree, but retain all their own characteristics whether they are in an
urban or country environment. We admire in trees some of what we respect in one
another: continually adapting to present circumstances, always reaching for the
light, no matter what the surroundings, and never ceasing to grow.

Though trees do not of themselves move from place to place as we do, yet we use the metaphor of “grow where you are planted” in praise of the human virtue of being one’s self in all the unchanging or unchangeable personal qualities that are ours, as well as within the circumstances of our environment. Trees are not considered “stubborn” for
being the kind that they are, nor are we, when we make decisions according to
the values that make us who we are. We adapt, we change, we learn through
experience, but the “tree rings” of our growth are manifested by the way we
take responsibility for all that we say and do.

We do not expect to live as long as oak trees or giant sequoias, but we hope to proceed to a mode of life in which we will at last be able to fully appreciate all of God’s creation, and relate in utter clarity with the very Person of God. For now, we can appreciate the gift we have, as our kind of creature, that enables us to look at trees with our eyes,
but move from physical sight to internal thoughts and uses of imagination that
characterize our ongoing human growth. Our roots are directly in God, while we
are yet part of this earth; our growth is not primarily towards the light of
the sun, but into the very person of God.

Trees turn out beautifully as long as they are
within the proper environment. Our beauty depends upon our freely chosen
response to God.

Father Randy Roche, SJ, Director of the
Center for Ignatian Spirituality, has an M.A. in Theology from Santa Clara
University, and an M.S. in Counseling from San Diego State. He has served as
LMU Director of Campus Ministry, Rector of the Jesuit Community at Jesuit High
School in Sacramento, Director of Studies and Spiritual Director at the Jesuit
Novitiate, and as Pastor, Superior, and Director of Diocesan Campus Ministry at
the Newman Center in Honolulu.

Throughout his years of ministry, he has
continuously deepened his own experience of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises,
while also acting as a guide in the Exercises for lay people and religious. Not
surprisingly, his specialty is Ignatian spirituality as a tool for discernment
in decision-making.

Ignatian News Network: Fr. Ciszek

Dear Campus Ministers,

Warm greetings from the Jesuit Conference! This week, we are pleased to unveil a short mini-documentary from the Ignatian News Network on Fr. Walter Ciszek, available
now on our Jesuit Vocation Promotion Month website at
The video showcases the Ignatian News Network’s extensive archival research on
Fr. Ciszek and features an interview with Jesuit Father Daniel Flaherty, Fr.
Ciszek’s co-author on his two autobiographies. A brief post on the video is
currently the lead story on our blog, National Jesuit News.

Please continue to watch for updates from the Conference as Jesuit Vocation Promotion Month progresses, and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

Kind regards,

Doris Yu

The 40th Anniversary National Conference


Just over two weeks ago, Pax Christi USA began the opening plenary of the 40th anniversary national conference. If you weren’t able to attend, I’ve compiled as many of the presentations, workshops, photos and other resources as I could, and created a special webpage with all of the highlights of the conference for you to check out. And if you were there, you can re-live some of the exciting moments or perhaps find that quote from one of the keynoters that you are trying desperately to remember! Once the conference was over, I asked presenters to send me any materials they had which they wanted to make available on the website, so much of that material is available on this special conference highlights webpage as well. You may want to check back in a few days in case any additional items come in also.

Click here to see all of the highlights and resources from the 40th anniversary national conference.

Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, has also written and asked me to share a special message regarding the national conference. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Dear Companions on the Journey,

How does one begin to say “Thank you”? At times, words are inadequate in conveying the depth of gratitude one wants to communicate with these two simple words. Yes, it is from a full heart that this message of thanks comes to you.

Although we have not yet read through all of the evaluations, it appears that most participants were pleased with our 40th Anniversary Conference. Following the Conference, the National Council met with the PCUSA staff. There was an energetic spirit throughout our conversations as we looked at the critical issues pertinent to the growth and expansion of Pax Christi USA…

You can click here to read the entire letter from Sr. Patty.

In Peace,

Johnny Zokovitch

Director of Communications, Pax Christi USA

Highlights of Obama’s plan to cut carbon

President Obama unveils a broad plan aimed at curbing climate change and its impacts in a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University.

Curbing carbon pollution

• Directs the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.

• Promises $8 billion in loan guarantees for fossil fuel projects.

• Directs the Interior Department to permit 10 gigawatts of wind and solar projects on public lands by 2020.

• Expands the president’s Better Building Challenge, helping buildings cut waste to become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020.

• Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through efficiency standards set for appliances and federal buildings.

• Commits to developing fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

• Aims to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases.

• Directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy.

• Commits to forests and other landscape protection.

Preparing for climate change

• Directs agencies to support local investment to help vulnerable communities become more resilient to the effects of global warming.

• Establishment of flood-risk reduction standards in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region.

• Will work with the health-care industry to create sustainable, resilient hospitals.

• Distribution of science-based information for farmers, ranchers and landowners.

• Establishment of the National Drought Resilience Partnership to make rangelands less vulnerable to catastrophic fires.

• Climate Data Initiative will provide information for state, local and private-sector leaders.

Leading global efforts to address climate change

• Commits to expanding new and existing initiatives, including those with China, India and other major emitting countries.

• Calls for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired power plants overseas.*

• Expands government capacity for planning and response.


Jesuit Collaborative June E-news

  Jesuit Collaborative

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
- Isaiah 43:19
 The Jesuit Collaborative is doing many new things to help people pray in an Ignatian manner, gain the freedom to discern and follow God’s will in their lives, grow closer to God and one another, and realize their full potential. Our fiscal year closes June 30. If you have not made a gift yet this year and would like to support our ministry, please Click Here!
Application deadline extended for Magis North
The Magis Program is a structured and creative way for lay people who work in Jesuit ministries to more deeply engage in Ignatian spirituality, learn about the Jesuit Mission and Way of Proceeding, and meet other committed lay colleagues from the many and varied Jesuit works on the East Coast. The eighteen month program consists of four seminars, a retreat, regular reading, personal reflection and prayer.
Jesuits desiring a prayerful experience alongside lay colleagues are encouraged to consider this opportunity. The new application deadline is September 1. The next cohort will begin in October 2013 and each seminar will take place at a retreat facility between NYC and Boston.

For more information or to recommend someone for the program,
contact Kevin O’Brien


Reflections on Hospice Volunteering

During the last days of my husband’s life, God provided for us the blessing of Midwest Care Hospice Center. I call it a blessing because it was beyond expectations; I say God provided for us because their services and care were generously extended to our family. My husband went to heaven with a beatific smile; his face will remain in my heart forever. Needless to say, the meaning and center of my life changed suddenly. After 42 years of marriage, a life of love, togetherness, and sometimes struggles, life became directionless and without dialogue…

But deep down inside of me, a little fire started to rekindle: a fire in search of meaning, in search of service, and mostly, in special expression of gratitude. Yes, gratitude to that magnificent God always present, always there, always caring. “Do not be afraid I am with you always until the end of time” was resonating in my heart constantly in the midst of the fears, loneliness, and hard decisions. I wanted and needed to respond in total gratitude. That became the new motto of my life and I started searching for ways to make my life meaningful again.

Since early years, I have felt close to the spirituality of the Jesuits and many Jesuit friends have been at our table. Looking for help, a Jesuit friend suggested that I connect with the IVC. In April, 2012 I applied and the process started.  At the same time, I established a closer connection with the Midwest Care Hospice Center and also benefitted from their grieving services for several months.  When the time came to find an IVC ministry, I knew the MCHC was the right place for me.

At Midwest Hospice, I find myself in a challenging interdenominational organization where professionals and recipients come from a variety of different faiths, or in some cases, no faith.  And indeed it has been a challenge: a nurturing and revitalizing experience and often, a humbling opportunity with many lessons to integrate on my journey.

With the opening of the new Hospice Pavilion in Glenview, I have been serving as the First Floor Receptionist which I call the Ministry of First Impressions. I don’t mean this title to be glamorous, but a reminding bell of my ministry. When entering the hospice facility, many visitors become overwhelmed by confusion, pain, mistrust, and worries. They are carrying the heavy burden of the unknown for their loved one and their care as well as for their own decisions in the coming uncertain future.  Tears, anger, distant indifference, hard breathing, and expressions of stifled emotion are common. And every time I look into those faces and read the pain in their eyes, I know that a simple greeting, a comment, a hug, a phrase of reassurance and acceptance, is the essence of my ministry… deep down I ask the Lord to use my heart, my mind, and my actions to serve Him by touching those souls in pain with His Love. Other times, after a visit to the family member and upon leaving, there is another opportunity to reengage, to give a hug, to offer a smile, to reassure them of my prayers…

One day, while at my post, I received the special unexpected visit of the Eucharist. On a regular basis, volunteer Eucharistic Ministers come to visit and give communion to the Catholic patients. I was deeply moved when one day a woman offered the Eucharist to me at the front desk. I realized that the Lord was coming to visit me in that quiet distant place; it was a special moment for me that has continued to revitalize my ministry.

The volunteers and the professional staff at Midwest Hospice present living examples of dedication and unselfish giving. I have seen some of them early in the morning, really exhausted and sometimes in tears, after assisting a patient at the last precious moments of life. Within only a few days of arriving, the hospice patients truly become part of the family and deep relationships grow in a dimension that seems beyond the barriers of time. Every volunteer, staff member and patient become part of the total Hospice mission. In my simple responsibility to control and supervise the garage door (which welcomes new patients and offers a dignified ‘goodbye’ to those departing), I see the importance of my ministry because we are all contributing to a common blessed cause.

Even the architecture has been designed to create a soothing atmosphere of reverence and peace. In the front of the building, the Healing Garden has little creeks, flowers, and bushes to surround patients and visitors with a sensitive expression of life, tenderness and peace. Not far from the front desk where I sit is a beautiful chapel and meditation room that can be used by any individual or group for reflection, prayers or services.  There is a wide open window looking to the healing garden and ending on the horizon with a marsh where cranes, ducks and other birds come to rest. In the background one can see the profile of the majestic towers of The Divine Word Missionaries at Techny. I glance at it from my desk and a silent but powerful connection with The Lord takes place.  One cannot ask for more blessings.  Here again, I am grateful, Oh Lord. St. Ignatius said that “it is important to see God in all little things.” In this ministry, all little things become a grand expression of the Lord’s Presence for His little creatures.

Posted June 18th, 2013 by <!– & filed under Uncategorized–>.

Lucia P. Hall is an Ignatian Volunteer in Chicago, where she serves at the Midwest Care Hospice Center.  She is a retired Clinical Psychologist  and offers workshops on Psychology and Spirituality to interested groups.  She enjoys writing, traveling and contact with nature.

The Cross and Resurrection Always Intermingled

In the fall of 2010, one of the women in our Love & Lunch support groups, Cecilia, was dying. She was our translator. Because our support group which had sustained her through years of an abusive relationship was located in a church, she joined that church. In the two years of her life, Cecilia had gone through RCIA and been confirmed, attended every retreat we had and translated it into Spanish, and was a quiet spiritual force in our lives. She fought cancer for 9 years, and then it went to her brain. We supported her through the end or her life, helping her get into the same Extended Care Center as her mother,  moving the support group to her bedside, giving her the first birthday party she ever had in her life, and loving her to death. We paid for her funeral, and housed her sister, Rosita who came in from out of town. Rosita made the rounds of all Cecilia’s support groups, meeting all her friends and hearing their love for her sister.

The Tuesday after Easter 2013, I got a call from Cecilia’s sister, Rosita. She told me their mother, Blanca, was now dying. I arranged for her transportation from the airport to the hospital, and waited for her call to bring her to her place for the night. She called once, left no message and when I tried to call, a weird busy came on. When she couldn’t contact me, Rosita resurrected her contact with her long lost brother to stay with him.

I also contacted the various people who supported Cecilia and Rosita 2 and ½ years ago. Their relationships are being resurrected, and their friendships renewed. The times we shared with Cecilia are always with us, and Rosita’s presence reminds us of Cecilia’s journey from the cross to her own resurrection.

When Rosita went to visit her mother on the first day, she looked at the whiteboard where they listed her mother’s caregivers. Imagine Rosita’s surprise when she saw the name of the Nurse’s aide (see picture) written just the way her sister used to write it. Sign of resurrection!! Cecilia is still taking care of their mother.

The trust and reliance of this family on God for sustenance is inspiring, and the response of the community to Rosita’s bravery in coming to be with her mother with no place to stay and no plan except to see and be with her mother all put me in mind of the community of believers that were present at the first resurrection. They were challenged to trust God in their fear.

Jane, one of the women in our Love & Lunch group called during Rosita’s visit with the Love & Dinner group to say that she needed prayer for her son’s back pain. Earlier today Jane had expressed her pain around the death of her younger son many years ago, and we were able to listen and pray for God to be present in her memory. She was able to receive that grace, experiencing that painful memory in a new way. At the meeting this morning Jane had spoken about Simon of Cyrene and how he had been forced to help Jesus to carry the cross, and how we joyfully and lovingly play Simon for one another.

Always intermingled, the cross and the resurrection. Daily we are volunteer Simons helping those we serve to carry their crosses, knowing that our service is to be escorts to the resurrection, and in escorting those we serve, to experience our own daily resurrection, new life, and deepening love. We do what we can to follow in those precious footprints left on the trail to Calvary so many years ago, leading to the Kingdom not of this world.

Please pray for Blanca as she enters her final days, and for Rosita as she escorts her mother to her sister Cecilia’s side. And remember our women and myself who are being Simon to Rosita and her mom. And yourselves as you escort those you serve to the place God is calling them to be.

Louise M. Sandberg is a IVC Spiritual Reflector and Volunteer, as Director of the Mary & Elizabeth Center which reaches out to women in need on Long Island, NY.  She is a pediatric home care nurse, and facilitates Wildflower groups for women healing from childhood abuse, praying for healing of feelings and memories.

Posted April 23rd, 2013 by <!– & filed under Uncategorized–>

Extending the Table

A fantastic blog post on April 30th by Vicky Risacher jumpstarted my thoughts around what it means to “come to the table” in terms of faith. Ms. Risacher’s story perfectly encapsulates the unexpected places and people who bring us hospitality in much the same way our Christ did.

The most obvious metaphor of a table we have in our faith is our sacrament of communion. Much could be said here about the different ways that different faith groups within Chrisitianity celebrate communion, or about the tradition-breaking ways in which Christ changed the Seder, or about transubstantiation. Ok, maybe not transubstantiation, but you get the point.

I have just begun the process of ordination in the United Methodist Church as a candidate for deacon. Though not charged with administering the sacraments, deacons are authorized in the Methodist church to assist in their administration. Now, that can sound pretty second class on first glance. My mentor, however, forced me to think of it in an incredibly empowering way when last we met: We should always be asking the question, “Who’s not at the Table?”

By extending the Table into the rest of the world, deacons are called to bring God into every messy, dark, powerless, and rejected place we can find. In fact, I would venture to say that it is in those places that we find the most need for the Table. If we think of the Eucharist as something that doesn’t just happen at the moment we take the bread and the cup, what does that require us to do in the world? And even if we do think of the Eucharist as that moment during our worship when we queue up and take the Elements, what do those people look like? Do they all look like each other? Are they the people who need God the most? And if they aren’t, why have they not found their way into the place in our communities that are supposed to be the most welcoming imaginable?

I sit front and center at my church every Sunday. I was hesitant to sit there the first few times my wife and I did so, but she plays music at our church and I wanted to sit next to her during the rest of the service. So, when we take communion, I’m always one of the first couple of people in the congregation to do so. I pray at the rail in front and then I sit down. Over the years, then, the most rewarding part of my communion experience has been watching everyone else in the church pass by and take communion. Right there. A few feet in front of me. Every single person. “The body of Christ broken for you.” “The blood of Christ shed for you.”

I can silently judge people all I want. I can inflate my own ridiculous ego. When each and every human being comes to the Table, he or she is exactly as loved, forgiven, and washed as I am. That completely reshapes me every week.

As our Christ reached across lots of culturally divisive lines (and angered the religious authorities in the process) so must we. Who is not at the Table, Church? Why aren’t we letting them eat and drink?

Kenneth J. Pruitt is a teacher by trade, and the Director of Volunteer Management at Kingdom House, an IVC partner agency focused on social services and founded during the settlement house movement. He is proud of St. Louis, his adopted home. His wife is far more attractive and intelligent than he. He loves what you’ve done with your hair.

Posted May 28th, 2013 by <!– & filed under Uncategorized–>.

Loyola And Men’s Soccer Program Receive Community Partner Award

BALTIMORE – The Loyola University Maryland Men’s Soccer program and Loyola’s Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ) were honored on Monday June 3, 2013 with the Soccer Without Borders (SWB) – Baltimore – Community Partner Award.  Together, the men’s soccer program and CCSJ partner with this local refugee program to help the participants learn to interact in their new home.  

The Greyhounds’ men’s soccer program has worked with the staff of SWB to coordinate weekly soccer clinics to work with the boys program.  CCSJ has worked with SWB by coordinating tutoring and other services to help support the program.   The award was presented at the Journey to America Fundraising Dinner on Monday evening.  Members of the Loyola Men’s Soccer and Athletic Staffs and the CCSJ staff attended the dinner celebrating the SWB program.

Loyola men’s soccer head coach Mark Mettrick and assistant coaches Matt Dwyer and Bryan Harkin, in addition to members of the men’s soccer program are committed to making a difference in the community and have made SWB the focus of their community service outreach.

The Center for Community Service and Justice invites all members of the Loyola community to inform their minds and experiences through educative community service opportunities in Baltimore and beyond.

CCSJ offers a variety of service opportunities for students, staff, faculty, and administrators, and hope to have something for everyone.  CCSJ is committed to building partnerships with organizations that work with people who are marginalized. This collaboration ensures a productive, transformative experience not only for clients and beneficiaries of the agencies, but also (and perhaps more so) for those who serve.

Soccer Without Borders Baltimore City began in the fall of 2009 in response to various state, local and non-profit agencies that serve the city’s burgeoning refugee population identifying a need for positive recreational programming for area refugee youth. In response, SWB Baltimore emerged to provide opportunities in the form of soccer, simultaneously encouraging healthy living while developing English-language abilities, teamwork, academic success and cross-cultural skills.

 SWB Baltimore’s mission is to use soccer to promote positive change. SWB does this by providing refugee, asylee, and immigrant youth with a toolkit that they can use to overcome obstacles that might otherwise inhibit growth, inclusion and success. They utilize the global power of soccer to create positive life changes through five key programming areas: soccer play and instruction, off-field lessons and academic tutoring, civic engagement, team building and cultural exchange. Currently, SWB Baltimore serves middle school and high school students. The student-athletes who make up the program have recently arrived to Baltimore City from a variety of countries, including but not limited to, Cameroon, Eritrea, Somalia, Rwanda, DRC, Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Mexico, Sudan, Guinea, Iraq, Bhutan and Nepal.

While these young people come from diverse backgrounds, they share a passion for soccer and a genuine interest in and desire to engage with their new surroundings. Few of these kids have ever played organized soccer or had their own equipment or proper coaching. In addition to regular programming, participants have the opportunity to enjoy special events such as college visits, summer camp, conferences and trainings, and outings to watch college and professional soccer games.

June 6, 2013

Two companies accused of discrimination in hiring

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday accused two major companies of indirectly discriminating against African Americans by using criminal background checks to screen out workers.

The commission said BMW effectively fired 70 black employees with criminal histories from a facility in South Carolina, even though many had been there for years. One woman with 14 years under her belt was let go after a misdemeanor conviction surfaced that was more than 20 years old and carried a $137 fine, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit.

EEOC says firms used criminal background checks to screen out workers, most of whom were black.

The agency also alleged that retailer Dollar General revoked job offers to two black women after conducting criminal background checks. In one case, the EEOC said that the records were inaccurate but that Dollar General declined to reconsider the woman’s application. The other involved a six-year-old drug conviction.

“It is a fairness issue,” said David Lopez, the commission’s general counsel. “Litigation is really, truly the last resort.”

The growing use of criminal background checks in hiring decisions has become a flash point in the broader debate over high unemployment rates among African Americans. Not only did blacks lose more jobs and more wealth than other racial groups during the recession, they also have struggled to gain a foothold in the recovery — an issue some community leaders have called the next front in the civil rights movement. A criminal record, advocates say, is an economic scarlet letter that can send otherwise qualified applicants to the bottom of the pile.

The EEOC lawsuits were brought under the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against job applicants on the basis of race. Both BMW and Dollar General denied the allegations and said they complied with all laws.

Although the commission said employers are allowed to conduct background checks, it charged that the companies’ blanket policies of not hiring candidates with criminal records amounted to discrimination against African Americans. Justice Department statistics show that blacks accounted for 37 percent of those behind bars last year, even though they make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

The EEOC is not alone in focusing on the role of criminal background checks in black employment. Since the recession, seven states — including Maryland — have adopted laws that prohibit employers from including questions about criminal history on job applications.

The movement has been nicknamed “ban the box,” after the box that offenders often are required to mark. Bills are pending in four other states, and at least a dozen local governments have enacted versions of the ban. Business groups have not mounted organized opposition to the measures.

Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George’s), the leader of Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus, helped spearhead the legislation, which applies only to state government jobs. She said the tight employment market is the top concern in her community, and she connects the problem to the county’s high rates of foreclosure and crime. Helping people find jobs is the first step to addressing broader issues, she said.

They should pay . . . but should they pay for it for the rest of their lives?” Braveboy said. “We have a responsibility as a society to provide people with opportunities to be gainfully employed and to make better choices.”The link between race and crime has long been a highly charged and difficult debate rooted in factors such as discrimination and socioeconomic status. The EEOC emphasized that companies have a right to consider criminal history in hiring. Guidelines updated last year say that when evaluating job candidates, employers should weigh the nature of a crime, how long ago it occurred and its relation to the position. Offenders are generally prohibited from working in day-care facilities or prisons, for example.

But the EEOC said it is wary of the way hiring policies can disproportionately hurt minorities.

A landmark study by Princeton sociologist Devah Pager found that white offenders were only half as likely to get a callback from a potential employer and that the effect was even greater for blacks. A separate study by the Pew Center on the States found that even when offenders do land jobs, men with criminal histories earn about 40 percent less than those in similar circumstances without records.

A survey last year by the Society for Human Resource Management, an industry group, found that more than two-thirds of companies conduct criminal background checks. About a quarter of them said nonviolent misdemeanors, such as drug convictions, could influence their hiring decisions, and 60 percent reported that violent crimes could disqualify a candidate. Almost all indicated reluctance to hire someone who had been convicted of a violent felony such as murder. A majority said they allow candidates to explain their records.

In a statement Tuesday, BMW said it has “complied with the letter and spirit of the law” and touted its diverse workforce.

According to the lawsuit, the automaker banned those convicted of crimes ranging from murder to drug use to “theft, dishonesty and moral turpitude.” In 2008, when BMW switched contractors that were handling logistics at its facility in Spartanburg, S.C., it asked employees to reapply for their jobs under BMW’s criminal-background policy. The EEOC suit said 88 people were not rehired. Eighty percent of them were African American.

In its case against Dollar General, the EEOC said the low-price retailer does not adequately evaluate criminal records when hiring. The result was that 10 percent of offers made to black candidates were rescinded after a background check, compared with 7 percent of offers to whites.

In a statement, Dollar General said it seeks to foster “a safe and healthy environment” through its background checks.

But Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said too many minorities are running into roadblocks.

“It’s such a tough economy that there’s a lot of concern about the barriers that people are facing to employment beyond the fact that there’s just not enough jobs,” she said.

Ryan Moragneel of Baltimore was 18 when he received a felony conviction for distributing marijuana. A few years later, he was put on probation after robbing a pawnshop with some friends. In 2011, he received a misdemeanor charge and spent several months in jail. He said employers take one look at his history and toss his application aside.

“I never really got a chance to be an adult without a record,” Moragneel said. “I’ve never been hired off a computer.”

Now 30 with two kids, Moragneel is set to graduate this month from a skills training program in Baltimore that he hopes will open the door to a job in electrical engineering. If he could talk to an employer, he said, he would say that he has learned from his mistakes and wants to move ahead.

But that can happen only if he lands an interview.

“So far,” Moragneel said, “it’s no calls back.”

By: Ylan Q. Mui