Faith Communities and COVID19

I love my faith community, but I think this week they failed the community. It is Sunday and I stayed home. I am not sick, but I did get off a plane at 2:00 AM Saturday morning. I took all reasonable precautions and probably some that were overly cautious, but I would feel horrible if I went into what is a mass gathering and unintentionally put others at risk.

I fail to understand why we canceled university classes and religious leaders are not canceling services. For example, the University of Tennessee closed until April 3, closed the library (I chuckled that they feared a mass gathering), and put all classes online.  Why didn’t the university parish which serves the larger community also cancel services? They are creating a mass gathering. Do people of faith really believe that they are not creating a risk situation by gathering, or do they think God will protect them, or is it that their own self-interest is more important to them than the health of the community?

If I am sitting in a pew there are going to be a minimum of 12 people within 6 feet of me. That means one person that is infected can easily expose 12 more. They may not be coughing or sneezing, but they are touching the pews, singing, and reciting prayers. Even talking distributes droplets. I think we have all had the experience of talking to someone and have spittle land on us. Singing is likely to spread those droplets further than talking in a normal tone. Now add 100 – 500 people in a church, synagog, mosque, or another place of worship and imagine what you are potentially doing.

I am saddened to see our places of faith being less responsible than sports teams. Next time you talk about universities being the places that teach self-interest and are concerned that they don’t put the community first or don’t teach moral values,  you need to take a look at all the churches that chose to hold services knowing the risk and then compare that to all the universities and sports teams that cared enough for the community to act quickly.

We don’t have to be physically together to pray together. While it may help to clean the church, not pass collection baskets, and remove the holy water that is not social distancing. It doesn’t stop droplets and it doesn’t stop the respiratory spread from droplets in the air. People with no symptoms can spread coronavirus without knowing they have it. Be compassionate and know that God doesn’t live only in church. I am grateful to all of those that did cancel services and for all of those that took the time to pray at home. If you didn’t cancel your services you are not helping to flatten the curve.

I know for many their place of faith is a support system and not being able to attend is emotionally difficult. If you are sick or worried during this time I will promise to pray for you daily by name if you post a request and I will ask my friends to do the same. We can be a community and be in community with each other without being physically together.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”


How many people have I failed to see

I woke up yesterday morning and wanted to paint. Painting is what I do when I need to see the beginning and end. It focuses my mind on the straight lines in my life of which there are far too few. Fresh paint brings a clean look that covers the scratches, dust, and general wear of times when I wasn’t careful enough. It covers errors and at least for a while all is new.

I didn’t make it to the basement to start painting but instead went to Mass where the Priest reminded us that we all have difficult times when things do not go as we planned, but God has a plan and there is a purpose.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

–Leonard Cohen (Anthem)

As I sat there too self-absorbed in my own life and difficulties a woman came in near the end of the Mass and sat down directly in front of me. Her body odor was strong and acrid. She wore multiple coats and carried yet another. In her left hand was a plastic bag and over her right should a pink backpack like children carry to school that still had a tag on it. She knelt down on one knee with her right arm draped over the pew in front of her and rested her head on the pew. She looked exhausted. 

As a nurse who started my career in an acute psychiatric admission unit, I’m used to all manner of malodorous smells. They rarely bother me. It is even more unusual when I want to escape a smell. This was one of those smells that invades one’s nostrils and sinuses. As my sense of smell screamed at me to move over I could not bring myself to do so. Clearly, this woman had sought refuge in a place that was warm and safe. It was a morning Mass and like most, there was enough room to be far away from others if that was what she wanted. It is usually what I want. She chose to sit directly in front of me and knelt in a way that she could see my face. It could have been that she was hypervigilant about who was around her, but if that were the case she would probably have chosen another seat.

When Mass ended I left and she stayed. There was a time that I spent a couple of nights a week working with those experiencing homelessness. I never knew why I was so passionate about homelessness, but I’ve always suspected it is my own insecurities and fears. The fear of being alone, or unloved, or without the basic necessities of life. I have no idea where such fears come from as I’ve never experienced any of those things. Like all people, I face difficulties and disappointments, but perspective is important.

A week before Christmas I saw the person in front of me. How many people have I failed to see? It seems many are exhausted, or sad, or frustrated, or angry, or overworked. I wonder how often we walk past each other without seeing. “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

 


Gratitude and a Little Sarcasm on Thanksgiving

When your Dean asks you to share something you’re grateful for in a meeting there is a certain amount of internal pressure to say something. Of course, request like that cause my brain to immediately become a vast wasteland of irrelevant thoughts. Worse yet ask me when I’m working on accreditation reports and massive sarcasm floats to the top.  I remained silent for fear of saying what I was thinking,  “I’m grateful CCNE only comes every 10 years.” Ah, sarcasm my defense mechanism to sharing my true feelings.

Now that I’m home and I have a solid draft of the CCNE self-study I have time to reflect on the year and be grateful. Let me begin with the things that are truly important as I get older. I’m grateful for the scientist and the pharmaceutical industry that invented and manufactured my ACE Inhibitor, Motrin, and Tums and the federal government that provides the vast majority of the money for the research that makes such miracle drugs possible. I’m also grateful for being a nurse and having the skills to monitor my own blood pressure and adjust my meds when CCNE self-study stress causes my blood pressure to rise from the combination of stress and stress eating french fries at lunch with all the associated comforting fat and salt.

I’m really, really, really grateful that I work with nurses who by their natures are nonviolent, compassionate, and don’t harm me when I make repeated request for the same data, but divided by the various different dates that don’t align for USNews & World Report, CCNE, the Tennessee Board of Nursing, and PhD self-study and all the other people that make requests and seem to have absolutely no idea how much time all the reporting eats up.  I would be more grateful if they would all learn to share and pull the data from one source and cut it whatever way they want for themselves so I could actually focus on curriculum and making things more efficient for students and faculty.

I’m grateful to have five cats. When I get home they could care less about data. They care about food, bird watching, letting me know about all the ladybugs they found in the house, and of course standing in front of the computer screen to remind me they are much more interesting than anything on the screen.

I’m grateful for amazing friends that have stuck with me throughout my life. I’m grateful my friends are so diverse and keep me grounded in the reality that what seems true to me isn’t always true to them. Long ago I forgot what it feels like to struggle financially, but some of my friends still do and they remind me to be a good friend means to share. I’m grateful to those of color who remind me that what I experience as a white woman is not what they experience and I need to work every day to check my own privilege. I’m grateful for those that are progressive and conservative because their friendship reminds me that good people see the world differently and their difference do not mean they are any less children of God or any less deserving of my love and respect. I’m grateful to those of faith for lifting me up when I struggle with my spirituality and am grateful to those that are atheist because they remind me it isn’t faith that makes one a moral person. Friends make the world a much more beautiful place and I love them all.

It should go without saying that I’m grateful for a good job that I love, a husband who is the love of my life, a family that brings joy, and all the may blessings that I probably fail to notice every day.

Happy Thanksgiving and may you be blessed with amazing food, family, friends, and gratitude. As I enjoy a good meal I pray:

This food comes from the Earth and the Sky,
It is the gift of the entire universe
and the fruit of much hard work;
I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.


Catholic Nurses and Abortion

I returned from New Mexico where I visited San Felipe de Nero Church and bought a new Rosary. Not because I needed another Rosary, but because it is as beautiful and I find the faith. I was reminded that I never finished this post probably because I’m conflicted about the issue of abortion in some circumstances, but not the least bit conflicted about the religious freedom of nurses to decline to participate in abortion when they have a reexpressed objection.

Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in April 2019 broadens the ability of HHS to enforce existing laws preventing discrimination based on conscience and essentially reinstated the 2008 rule with enhanced enforcement and clear definitions. The most significant change beyond enforcement is the definition of “assist in the performance” which is now “to participate in any program or activity with an articulable connection to a procedure, health service, health program, or research activity, so long as the individual involved is a part of the workforce of a Department‐funded entity.” It does not override existing law including EMTALA.

As part of the background for instituting the rule, HHS cited the cases of nurses who exercised their conscience rights and suffered discrimination as a result.

In 2010, Nassau University Medical Center disciplined eight nurses when they raised objections to assisting in the performance of abortions.26 Nurses in Illinois and New York filed lawsuits against private hospitals alleging they had been coerced to participate in abortions. Mendoza v. Martell, No. 2016‐6‐160 (Ill. 17th Jud. Cir. June 8, 2016); Cenzon‐DeCarlo v. Mount Sinai Hosp., 626 F.3d 695 (2d Cir. 2010). A nurse‐midwife in Florida alleged she had been denied the ability to apply for a position at a federally qualified health center due to her objections to prescribing hormonal contraceptives. Hellwege v. Tampa Family Health Ctrs., 103 F. Supp. 3d 1303 (M.D. Fla. 2015). Twelve nurses in New Jersey sued a public hospital over a policy allegedly requiring them to assist in abortions and for disciplining one nurse who raised a conscientious objection to the same. Complaint, Danquah v. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, No. 2:11‐cv‐6377 (D.N.J. Oct. 31, 2011).

Rosary

Rosary from San Felipe de Nero Church

One can easily argue that the rule goes too far and favors the provider over the patient and that it makes it difficult for people in rural areas or areas where the only access to care is through a faith-based hospital or clinic. However, it does not prevent any facility from providing reasonable accommodations to the healthcare worker in such cases. In other words, as an administrator, if I know that a nurse objects to participating in abortion I can reassign that nurse to other responsibilities to prevent the nurse from having to violate conscience. That is not to say that the nurse could be reassigned to non-nursing duties, but other nursing duties.

What does it mean to be a Catholic nurse?

Long before I understood and deeply pondered Catholicism I knew I wanted to be a registered nurse. The decision to become a family nurse practitioner came much later, but the reasons are similar. Nurses provide for the holistic health care needs of others. The care provided ranges from education, to preventive services, to highly technical care. It can and does frequently include care for the needs of family members, addressing social concerns, and spiritual care. As a nurse, it is a privilege to walk with people as they journey through life.  However, there are times that their journey may take them down a path where I chose not to follow. As a provider, I have always ensured I understand my responsibilities so that any conflicts would be clear upfront. I’ve intentionally avoided jobs that would put me in regular conflict with my beliefs.

When I entered nursing there was no social contract that said I must give up my immortal soul to be a nurse. If you ask me to participate in abortion you are asking me to commit a mortal sin, risk excommunication, and take a life. I passionately disagree with the belief that “If you don’t want to provide abortions, don’t go into healthcare.” It is as if there is one truth and those of some faith traditions don’t know it. Of course, that lack tolerance goes both ways as anyone that has ever interacted with the “Right to Life” movement knows. Of equal importance is the fact that the vast majority of health care has absolutely nothing to do with abortions so why would one believe that a refusal to participate in abortion should be an exclusion criterion?

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow men and cooperate with them.”

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

The Pew Research Center has a great deal of research on where major religious groups stand on abortion.  However, official teaching does not mean that members believe that abortion should be illegal or even that religious people don’t have abortions at the same rate as the general population. One of the beauties of the United States is that we can freely practice our religion and for the most part firmly believe we should not force that religion on others. Thus, I can be Catholic and believe that while you should not have an abortion in most cases that you currently have the Constitutional right to make that choice.

I will not block your way or give you false information if you seek an abortion. In fact, I will do my best to give you all the relevant information. That is where I part ways with the new regulation. I do believe we have a responsibility to refer a person to another provider that shares their beliefs if that is what they desire. I also believe that I must always be honest with the patient. If as a provider I am unwilling to instruct a patient on abortion I should be upfront that my beliefs prevent me from doing so. The regulation does require facilities to post or give notice about what they will not do based on religion but does not require a referral to someone that will provide the requested information or care. While it appears clear that notice must be given to the patient about the limitations of services I worry about the willingness of this administration to enforce that section.

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What would it mean to have no Catholics in healthcare?

Approximately 21 percent of the population of the United States of America is Catholic. Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume that 21 percent of all nurses in the USA are also Catholic. There are 660 Catholic hospitals and 1644 Catholic continuing care facilities in the USA alone. There are approximately 750,000 employees caring for almost 5 million admissions including 1 million on Medicaid each year. That equates to 1 in every 7 patients being treated in Catholic facilities.

If one excluded all Catholics that followed the teaching of the Church from practicing it would devastate our healthcare system. We would lose about 15% or our hospitals many of which serve already underserved areas. We would also lose about 20% of our nurses and physicians which means many would go without care.

A rational solution not based on hate of those who choose life.

As nurses, we have the ability to see the world in a way few can. We have walked with those that are rich and poor, from many cultural backgrounds, many countries, and just as many perspectives. We have seen people experience great pain and great joy.  We have cared for the victim of violence and the person that committed violence. And, we have always tried our best to provide compassionate care.

I believe that Catholicism made me a better human being just as Soto Zen practice does. In stating our beliefs, we may find common ground that brings us together to find solutions that don’t criminalize acts of fear and desperation or ignore the needs of women whose beliefs do not equate abortion to wrongdoing.

Here is what I believe:

  • Women are fully human – not less than men or human embryos or human fetuses.
  • A human embryo has all the genetic material of a human being but is not sentient from the time of conception.
  • The human embryo/fetus is drawing its life from the mother.
  • Self-determination should be a right for all sentient beings – rights come with responsibilities to make moral decisions.
  • Pregnancy is a choice in most circumstances – rape, incest, and the life of a mother are special circumstances that force choices between the good of the human embryo and the human fetus and the good of the mother.
  • Contraception meant to prevent implantation is not equivalent to abortion – it does violate the teaching of the Church, but can result in a reduction of abortions.
  • Poverty, abuse, lack of childcare, fewer education options for women with children, fewer job opportunities and discrimination against women with children, and inadequate support for those that are pregnant impact a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
  • Abortion is a moral and healthcare decision – women are endowed with consciences and can make moral decisions.
  • Pregnancy is stigmatizing – society values fertility, but not always the pregnant woman especially if she is unwed or poor.
  • The objective act of abortion being immoral does not equate to the person carrying out the act as either good or evil.

The compassionate solution cannot be to build a wall between women and legal and safe abortion and expect it will end abortion. We should begin with compassion and start by passing laws and making policy changes that will encourage giving birth and value pregnancy.

  • Paid maternal leave for six months
  • Affordable childcare based on income
  • Educational support for pregnant teens and new moms
  • Adequate nutritional assistance for all women of childbearing age
  • Free adoption
  • Women’s health care in all communities that is free to all women of childbearing age
  • Corporations that don’t disadvantage women with children

Nurses must practice in a manner that gives great consideration of the patient’s needs. This requires carefully working with an employer in advance to ensure one’s views don’t unreasonably compromise access for a patient.  Nursing is a big profession with many options so it is important to consider options.

  • If a portion of a job violates one’s conscience think carefully about the extent to which one’s views impact the care of the patient.
  • Make any conscience objections known in advance and in writing.
  • If one’s views would prevent providing life-saving care then it is inappropriate to take the job.
  • Always show respect for the patient which can be done without violating one’s own conscience.

Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their very body, that he tends to. –Pope Francis

Let us as nurses show the same compassion to and respect for each other.

 


Catechism of the Catholic Church on Abortion

Abortion

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77” by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80

“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81

2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safeguarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”82

2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”83

“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”84

“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity”85 which are unique and unrepeatable.


Curse of a Nurse: Social Justice Nursing in the World

The curse of a nurse is an educated mind often formed by religious and social backgrounds combined with work experiences which enable us to see things from a little different perspective. Principles of religion, education, and nursing practice illuminate what is wrong in our society.

We are both blessed and cursed with what we see and experience. The day of an average nurse is full. It is full of cultural perspectives, love and hate, grief and joy, violence and compassion, and fear and bravery. Nurses see people when they are vulnerable and willing to share truths, but they also see them when in the delirium of medication or pain they reveal what they would normally never give a voice. The nurse in the clinic or at the bedside sees the end result of failed policy, bigotry, and poverty. The nurse also sees those with privilege, success, and wealth and realizes the results of disparities.

Nurses experience all we see and what we see fills our lives with wonder and a search for the truth. There are days that we are bone tired with aching feet. The best we can do is ramble on about what we have seen to supportive family and friends. There are times when the mind is too tired to resist and in those times the truth is most apparent. There are also angry and frustrating times when we can identify with the worst instincts of humanity. It is a unique perspective and empathy that drives us to work for social justice. Out of our wonder, we find joy.

Many nurses are called to address social justice in the world and see it as part of what it means to be a nurse. It is tied to our spirituality. I write from my perspective as one who embraces the curse of a nurse and strives to pursue social justice in my small piece of the world. Love my perspectives or hate them, but know I have a thick skin and think we all grow through open and honest conversation even when it is difficult.

And so the [hu]manwho philosophizes and wonders is ultimately superior to one who submits to the despairing narrowness of indifference. For the former hopes?  – Joseph Pieper


Letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis

women deacons

A detail from the “Procession of Female Saints,” a Byzantine mosaic in the Basilica St. Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.

His Holiness, Pope Francis

Apostolic Palace

00120 Vatican City

May 9, 2019

Dear Pope Francis,

I am writing to ask that you call women to be ordained deacons in the ministries of the liturgy, work, and charity. I am aware of the committee findings, but at some point, we must admit the evidence is clear. To say it is not is to ignore facts and history.  When we ignore the truth about women we are all diminished.

There was a time when I prayed every morning and evening and attended daily mass, but in the last few years, I have found it harder and harder to pray. The acts of men scream in my soul that women are less than men and do not share the same human dignity.  It is so loud at times it drowns out the voice of God. I question how I can belong when I’m seen as less than a man. When I express my pain over this issue there is a segment of the Church that is condescending, insulting, and generally hateful.

The history of the ordination of women runs throughout the early church. In fact, the only person called a deacon in the Bible is Phoebe. There are even documents saying how old a woman must be to be a deacon. I understand that many people have theological arguments that relate to the Priesthood, but those are rules implemented by men in more modern times. Do we really think we are closer to God than was the early church?

I want someone that can minister to me and understand my life experience, needs, and desires within the church. When I read With God in Russia about Walter Ciszek, SJ ministering to men in the Gulag I was moved and saddened. I could not help but feel pain for the women I had never met. Fr. Ciszek was able to minister to the men in a special way, but the women were alone. Did God abandon them? Did God think men more deserving or did the hardened hearts of men cause greater suffering for women then as they appear to today?

I have spent most of my adult life as a nurse working with the poor, the underserved, and those experiencing a disaster or seeking refuge in the United States. I now teach nurses so that others will go out and do the same.  I can’t imagine teaching them that because they were born male or female they couldn’t be a nurse. Likewise, I can’t imagine a world where there is no role for women to preach and minister.

When I worked in a prison almost all the ministers were men and so men in prison received greater pastoral care than women. We need more space in the church for women and especially for women that can go into the world and preach and minister to us in a way that men have not.

I believe in the equality and dignity of women and I struggle with a church that does support women as it does men. Please ask women to step up and be ordained deacons. It would send a strong message to the world that women have equal dignity with men, that we have value, and that we have much to offer the world.

I pray that one day I, and all women, will feel at home in the Church. I ask for your prayers and hope you receive this letter with the love and compassion with which it is intended.

With Warm Regards,

Roberta Lavin


The letter was inspired by women who I highly respect for their tireless work on the issue of women deacons. There is more information on women deacons in the Catholic Church and I hope all people will prayerfully consider writing the Pope. Women are not less than men. The question is do we let ourselves be run out by those men or do we stay and fight for justice? I think the Catholic church needs a new generation of Suffragettes.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2 NRSV)


Spiritual Confusion and Gardening as a Measure

I’m a Catholic, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a “good” Catholic. I’m a Buddhist, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a good Buddhist. I would describe myself as a human being trying to live a compassionate life that respects the diversity of ways of seeking.

Almost everyone that knows me is aware that I am Catholic, but few realize I accepted the precepts of Buddhism (Jukai)  in 2015. I studied with Rosan Diado and now Dōshō Port. In Buddhism who one studies with is important. In Catholicism, it is not emphasized, but I will always remember that I first studied Catholicism with Fr. Gabriel Anderson, read Fr. James Martin and Thomas Merton, and truly touched the meaning of freedom, charity, and faith through wonderful Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Franciscans. Anytime I struggle I still think of Fr. Gabriel and the Sisters and what they taught me about the faith. Unfortunately, all Priests are not Fr. Gabriel and all cities do not have multiple orders of sisters that seek to teach first.

I’m on a journey. There are days the journey is to seek a closer connection with God, days it is transforming the mind, and days it is to find truth through science, philosophy, and nursing. Sometimes that means letting my logical mind rule while faith and myth are pushed aside. Every day it is to seek and express compassion, love my neighbor which I define very broadly, and seek social justice. There is never a day that my journey isn’t feminist in nature as I cannot conceive of a world where women achieve equality until equality is recognized in our spiritual lives and I do not mean separate, but equal spiritual lives.

This morning I woke up considering how I intend to pursue this journey. I was looking for something. I looked online for masses that may appeal to me because what I’m doing now leaves me detached. After the search, I decided to buy hostas instead and then mow the grass. I find more meaning infullsizeoutput_3961 mowing the grass, seeing each pass as a line to completion, and each step taking me closer to realizing my goal. It calms my mind and shuts down the words or worry, and to-dos. Then I hit a big metal hunk from the power poll that KUB dropped in the tall grass when they were fixing whatever blew up. My spiritual life is a hunk of metal stuck in the blades of my lawnmower. When the mower stopped all the words rushed back in (some profane) along with the worry. It is time to fix the mower and my spiritual path, but unlike the mower, I can’t pay someone to fix my confused spirituality. I need to do the work myself.

I have a plan. It is as simple and complex as Mu. It is a Rosary of Modern Sorrows. It is a search for meaning and truth that doesn’t require me to be less than and make me desire to be more than. My only vow is to follow where it leads, be willing to strip away what I “know”, never ignore the truth, and always be cautious of dangers in the tall grass.fullsizeoutput_2e00 When I can’t figure out the next step I will garden. I have a lot of work to do.

It was a good day…except for the broken lawnmower.

 

 

 

 

 

 


When Priest Pray for the Death of the Pope

I’m rarely shocked by the hate and vileness of religious leaders. I’m not numb to their hateful rhetoric directed toward LGBTQ, women, people of other faiths, and anyone that dares to disagree with them, but I’m not shocked by it. Who doesn’t remember the vileness of Westborough Baptist Church protests at the funerals of fallen war heroes or the Islamaphobic rants of Rev. Franklin Graham? And if you are a person that follows James Martin, S.J. who promotes of a church open to all and open tries to build a welcoming environment for those that are LGBTQ then there is little doubt you have seen the daily hateful attacks on him by Priest and lay alike. Today I was shocked.Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 5.49.20 PM

As I was scrolling through my twitter feed today I came across a post that caught my attention. It was yet another post that questions what Pope Francis knew about a case of abuse and why he has not said more. The leadership not being open about abuse is not shocking as too many seem incapable of transparency about it. The shocking part was a priest saying “God has a fix for that; it’s called  “death”.” He then apparently had a brief moment of what I interpret as a realization that some may believe what he said as calling for the death of the Pope and followed up by saying, “For the record I abhor contemplating death for anyone. Better to pray for eternal life for all with the Church.” To me, this seems like a difference without a distinction. After all eternal life for all…does require death. While I think he is aware of what he wrote and the meaning of it how can any Priest encourage people to pray for the death of the Pope? What level of vileness is that and what a supreme lack of supervision by his superiors?

There were a couple of people that pointed out how shocking his comment was, but there were more that hopped on board. If we can’t look to religious leaders to promote peace and Church of love then it falls to each of us to let the world know that we don’t pray for the death of others. The laity must take back the Church least within a few generations no one can in good conscience support it. People are speaking with their feet we have already fallen from 75% attending mass weekly in 1955 to 39% in 2017.  Twitter may be our end as the hate in the hearts of too many comes spilling out for the world to see.

I love my Church and I won’t give up, but my days of being silent are over.

 


Women Mourn Jesus

Lent Obsession

Each year I obsess about what to do for Lent and then like my New Year’s resolution usually fail and give up in short order. This year I will try to fully engage with my spiritual side and give my rational mind a 40-day sabbatical to the extent possible for a professional.

I’m going to intentionally explore areas of self-denial, giving, and prayer rather than just picking some food item I could live without? I live in the world and I see it not as a pit of sin but a beautiful and hopeful place filled with more people of good will than bad intents. My practice during this Lent will be to find the Church I seek in my own spiritual life rather than looking for it others. I seek a Church that isn’t filled with twitter post by angry and vengeful Priests or those that are so rigid in their faith that they are unable to accept others who have different practices. I seek people that see beauty in the world and the beautiful aspects of the Church and the faith. I seek tolerance for all that that are searching. I seek a Church where it is more important to worry about and moderate my own desires than to obsess about the perceived sins of others. I will trust that others know when they are going against their consciences and they will in time address it. My role in their lives is only to provide compassion and when asked honesty that is soaked in love.

My Weakness

I don’t have a pet sin for which I have zero tolerance. I do have great patience for the person that has failed in self-denial of desires and who struggles and fails. At 56 most of my sinning days are behind me. I try to live lightly on the earth, give to charity, etc., etc., etc. However, my weakness is food. I love to cook, and I like to eat and drink wine so it would be hard to deny that I fall victim to the deadly sin of gluttony and spend an excessive amount of money on fine food and wine.

“The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine” (No. 2290).

My excess can be measured in wastefulness, quantity, and spending more on food and wine each week than a person making minimum wage earns. I’m going to use the CRS Rice Bowl recipes as examples of meatless meals that that are simple and frugal. Whatever I save I will give to the CRS Rice Bowl as a donation.

Prayer

I belong to Zen group and recently someone asks if the members prayed, did we think the prayers were answered and was it embarrassing to admit? My husband could not understand why anyone would be embarrassed by prayer. Being embarrassed expresses a sense of self-consciousness and confusion that should ideally be absent in prayer or meditation. I haven’t been able to let go of that as I have never been able to utter a public prayer. Once Sr. Joan, the Provost at Clarke University, suggested that since I should start meetings with prayer that it might help me to write them down so all I had to do was read them. It did not help.

Lent is the only 40 days of the year. This year I’m going to let myself obsess about religion and faith. My goal is not to be embarrassed that my rational mind loses out to my faith. Rational mind be damned I’m going to try and grow during this season. At my age, it is good for the continued functioning of the brain to learn something new. I’m going to learn some more Latin (good for the aging brain) and practice by attending a Latin mass or two during Lent and memorizing some of the Rosary in Latin. I don’t want to be the person that is so rigid in my faith I can’t be open to the beauty others find in theirs and in this case a Latin Mass. I admit that I have a bias against it. I often associate it with the vengful Priest that are too critical and those that are so rigid they only see the sin in others. It is odd that I hold this view as the one person I know that attends Latin Mass regularly is a very kind young woman. This will be an exercise in addressing my own biases and looking for beauty in a different kind of practice.

Giving is Easy

The easy part is giving. Donating what I save on food and wine to the CRS Rice Bowl is obvious. I will also make a sizable donation to the parish or order of the Priest I read on social media that says the fewest hateful, condescending, or uncharitable things about others. That includes not publicly criticizing what he sees as the sins of others. Fraternal correction is not the same as public twitter comments or criticism. Twitter is filled with blowhards that appear to think being critical of others is their pastoral calling.  I think good behavior should be rewarded and maybe a potential donation will mean something to a parish or order that can help me to see the beauty of the faith through kindness in their approach to the many rather than the few. 

Women Mourn Jesus

Stations of the cross at St. Andrew’s Abbey


Open Letter to Catholic Bishops

Maybe I have reached the age when I no longer care if I’m complicit in evil. I cannot make people behave the way I wish, and I cannot walk away every time they do not act. I worked in a prison where on a regular basis I cared for those I did not think belonged there, but could not change their circumstance. I worked in an immigration detention facility where for too many the crime was crossing a border without permission; they forgot to say mother may I. Was I complicit? Yes, I was complicit, but I doubt they would be better off if I had not been there. I cared passionately about their well-being and ensuring they received quality healthcare. In the same way, I care about the Catholic church, but I cannot get to the same place in my reasoning.

I’m Catholic, and I love being Catholic. I hate it that too many of you (Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals) sexually assaulted or abused men, women, and children and even more of you covered it up and have continued to do so. Don’t bother trying to tell me it is only 1%, or that it is less than in the general population, or that teachers do it too. I know all of that, but I don’t look to any of them to help me grow stronger in my faith or be closer to God, or even to be able to be more compassionate to my neighbor. Sadly, too many of you are apologists for sexual misconduct of all kinds. We see it in our Church, and now we see you doing it in society.

As Bishops, you offered arguments for the coverup and allowed it to become embedded in your culture for too long. It seems every day we learn of some new old case that was hidden while the offender maintained his position and comfortable life as his victims struggled. Making lousy matter worse you tried to blame the scandal on the sexual revolution, which is utter nonsense as the sexual revolution was about consenting adults having sex without guilt and never about rape or molesting children or even sexual harassment. The sexual revolution was about freedom and control of one’s own body while what the Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals did was about power, control, and violence. The sexual revolution and the scandal in the Church had nothing in common. In an attempt to further cloud the issues those of you that disapprove of LGBTQ tried to blame them. It is as if you did not know that a homosexual man is no more attracted to a child than is a heterosexual man. People attracted to children are pedophiles, and they are not attracted to adults. These attempts to deflect blame are easily refuted, but how many of you care what caused them to commit such evil? We can’t fix every broken person, but there are some positions which the broken should not hold. What I don’t understand is how you were so blinded to this evil in your midst and why you still try to blame others for your failings.

Sadly, I have no power to make a change in the Church. I don’t know any of you on a personal or professional level. You don’t know that last week I chose not to attend mass, that I stopped my automatic donations two weeks ago, and told some friends I was leaving the Church because I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel powerless and deeply troubled by the decision to go and desperately wanted one of you to say don’t do it. That would require you to be aware enough to recognize my absence or give damn once you did. As one of the many that have written to my Bishop and never heard back, I hope you heard my vote when I walked out and took my money with me.

I tried to convince myself to leave the Church because I don’t want to be complicit with evil. I don’t want to give money to people I can’t trust, and I don’t know who to trust. I wish each of you would write down what you knew and when, what you did to address it, and how you reconciled your actions with your conscience. I wish you would then personally address an envelope to every member of your diocese and sign the letter you wrote and once they are all sent have as many listening sessions as it took for us to all vent our frustration. I would not want you to answer questions or to say a word. I want you to listen and then take what they hear to heart and know the pain you have caused not just to the victims of their sexual violence, but to all those they have victimized through the harm you have done to the Church we love.

I wondered aloud how all this could happen and the answer was the culture of the church makes it possible. The same culture that I love.

  • It is the culture that says we all have a sinful nature and by that nature will make mistakes, but we are not defined by our worst moments.
  • It is the culture that says for every sin there is forgiveness, and with that forgiveness, there is hope that the person will sin no more. There is hope that we will learn and grow closer to God and be what we were born to be.
  • It is the culture that believes obedience to rules is essential. The same culture that made me a successful officer for 20 years. Rules matter.
  • It is the culture that says when someone confesses a sin it is confidential never to be repeated to anyone. As a healthcare provider and even a professor, I wish I shared that level of protection of confidentiality that is given to priest. I am grateful you have it and that you would never break the seal of the confession, but I think some may have used it with the intent to keep you silent.
  • It is the culture that says we do not recognize the power of the State over us, but instead, we handle issues within our courts, our own rules, and our laws. And it is here where the failure occurred. Because we believe in freedom of religion and separation of church and state, it is here that absolutely must fix our house least we all turn to the state to fix our Church.

Instead of leaving I should have said what I meant. I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take it anymore. I’m the person that will be at every meeting. I will write you letters and I will show up at your office. I will stage a sit-in if I have to, but you will hear about my dissatisfaction with the job you are doing. Consider this the beginning of your 360-degree evaluation. Sadly, I’m not that person. I won’t force myself on people, and I don’t participate in protests. I take my money and my faith and go home.

I feel bad for those that are good, but like me you were complicit, and you remained silent out of obedience to the false god of scandal. I will be back when there is real change, but in the meantime, I’m looking for a church where the people have a voice in the leadership and where the rules don’t result in the clergy being silent in the face of evil. I’m looking for a church that doesn’t support men that sexually assault or harass others or think a man can sexually assault anyone so long as he professes to be “pro-life.” I’m looking to ease my conscience for not taking a stand sooner.


Moving In

This morning as I was going to Mass I passed a mom hugging her son and crying as the father stood by stoically. The son kept reassuring her he would see her soon. It was clearly a struggle to let him go. She had done her job and now she was sending this young adult off to find his way in the world. He will face new challenges and if he embraces the challenges he will grow into a productive member of society that can give others what his parents have given to him.

I love move-in days because it is a hopeful time of the year for students, parents, and faculty. Parents are sending us their greatest accomplishments in life and trusting us to help them transition into adulthood. We will help them build on the foundation their parents gave them. It is our responsibility to help students seek the truth, but not to define that truth for them.

As an instructor of nurses, both novice and experts, it is my responsibility to introduce students to the art and the science of nursing at multiple levels. It is also my responsibility to foster in nurses a sense of duty to those we care for that must sometimes outweigh self-interest. As with any art, nursing requires a passion for the vocation because without passion the skills and knowledge alone will not sustain one when there are too many patients, too few nurses, or not enough resources. Likewise, with students, it is the passion for nursing that will sustain them when there are too many pages to read, too many papers to write, and not enough time to memorize every possible medication.

As a teacher, I strive to recognize students that are having difficulties and help them to find a path to success. I have found in my career that it is those that came to me with the greatest difficulties, that when nurtured, became the most loyal and productive. I know from my own experience that early failures are not always a predictor of future success and thus it is important to look past grades alone and assess work habits, drive, and determination. The student is responsible for embracing his or her vocation, striving to learn, exploring personal motivations, and seeking guidance and assistance when needed.

We began Mass in the presence of new students and their parents singing “All Are Welcome“. It is never more meaningful than the beginning of the academic year.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions… All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

The students enter with hopes and dreams for the future. Some will cling to what their parents taught them and some will choose another path. I hope that in all I do I encourage students to seek the truth through academic endeavors. I always remind myself that students see me in all I do and all I say. Let us all embrace our status as role models and know that parents are looking at us to be the role models in their absence.

It is time once again to help students fill their intellectual toolboxes, but it isn’t our job to ask them to throw out the gifts their parents gave them.


Cooperating with Evil

I woke up this morning and I was still Catholic. I had to ask myself why? Would I belong to a Sorority if a significant number of the leaders had raped children? Would I join a country club if I knew that they raped the children of the members, knew it was happening and covered it up guaranteeing that even more children were raped? Would I give money to a charity that I knew had been abusing and raping children for most of my lifetime?

I bet almost everyone is saying of course not. You and I would stay far away from such organizations. Yet, I find all manner of justifications for staying.

  • I enjoy the sense of community which I share with others who have similar beliefs about social justice. It doesn’t even seem right to use those words in association with the Church today.
  • I find the churches, the art, the music, and the liturgy beautiful. But the beauty on the outside hides an ugly truth.
  • I go for the Eucharist which the Priest brings to life for us, but did God intend it to have such a high price. Would God have created such evil and hold us hostage so that to have access we must go through rapist and those that cover for them?

The truth is I don’t believe in running from evil or abandoning a person that commits an act of evil.

It is true that we are told the number of pedophiles and rapist is small but is 300 small? It isn’t to me. Because of all the secrecy, how do we know it is only 300 hundred in 6 dioceses? After each scandal, there is a promise of transparency that only turns out to be another lie by the Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals. They knew they hadn’t told the whole truth and they knew transparency was one more lie told to the hostages of their faith.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
Maring Luther King, Jr.

I believe faith is a beautiful thing, but I don’t believe it should be a justification for being cooperating in supporting evil. If there were 300 priests in 6 dioceses that were rapists that is about 50 in each. Considering the number it is impossible for me to believe that every Priest, or the vast majority, in those dioceses didn’t know along with all of the United State Council of Catholic Bishops. It is too many for that to have been kept secret.

Some priests are displaying their anger and indignation and telling the people of the Church to do something. I’m curious what they would have us do. Do we get a vote in how the parish is run? Do we get to select our own Priest? Is there any hope that we, especially women, can have a leadership role? Can we vote them all out? Can we fire all of the Bishops?

It seems the only thing we can really do is withhold our money which only hurts the people served by the Church, vote with our feet which leaves those that will turn a blind eye to evil, or stage a protest demanding that the evil is removed. Could we all meet outside the churches and not come in until every last person that raped, covered up rape, or remained silent is no longer a member of the clergy? Could our protest be in the form of prayer vigils outside the parishes across the country? What would happen if a million Catholics marched to the USCCB building and refused to leave until everyone that knew stepped down and voluntarily committed themselves to a life of penance? Would we have the power to end the cycle?

I have no idea who is a good priest and who is raping children or abusing seminarians, but I know who does know – Priest, Bishops, and Cardinals.

If we all walk into Mass this weekend and do nothing we are cooperating with evil. What are we going to do? I for one am not willing to do nothing and I’m not willing to let them steal my faith or my Church from me. I hope one of you has a brilliant idea of what to do because I’m feeling like any good idea must make a strong statement while being compassionate and respectful and that is a tall order.


Finding Clarke in All Places

When I went to Clarke University to teach nursing I felt I found my soul. I was able to let go and be the person I imagined I was born to be and not the one forged by 20 years of federal rules and regulations. As I taught nursing I learned how to be a better nurse. When I left the spiritual safety of a Catholic university I feared I would regress or in some way have my faith diminished by not being constantly in the presence of those dedicated to freedom, education, charity, and justice. What I didn’t know is that everywhere I go they are present.

Today I went to the Catholic Worker House to help prepare food. It wasn’t the organized preparation we had in St. Louis for the St. Patrick’s meals, but rather the Zen method of taking whatever has been donated and turning it into a tasty and nutritious meal to take downtown to distribute in the park.

One of my tasks was to find the scissors and in the process found Sr. Mary Dennis. She quickly introduced herself and told me she was from Iowa. As soon as I said I had taught at Clarke she beamed and announced she was a Clarke graduate and a Presentation Sister from Dubuque. We talked about our love for the place and what it means to us and promised to talk more over coffee.

I came home to Knoxville, but Clarke and especially the Sisters that helped me with the transition to higher education continue to touch my life and faith. In every city I’ve lived in since I left Clarke I have run into a Clarke graduate and without exception, the one thing they have in common is their love for the place and the life-changing impact.

catholic-worker-logo-1I feel blessed that God sent a Clarkie to Knoxville to live in the Catholic Worker house, care for those that live there, and provide hope to those that are homeless in Knoxville.
Sr. Mary Dennis and the people of the Catholic Worker reminded me that it is my job to carry with me everything I learned from the BVMs. There will always be reminders along the way that we are a community of love and part of sharing that love is recognizing the dignity of every human being. It is the education we have and share with others that helps us develop our gifts and share them. I learned to be free. I will always be free.


Good Nursing is Prudence

The intellect and not our will must guide our decisions. Yet, it is often our will that gets in the way of sound reasoning. Don’t we all want what we want? Would we not prefer to get our way? I know I would and at times my own will has gotten in the way of hearing what others had to say.

When I joined the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) I wanted to work with the poor and underserved. I had a mental image of what that meant. Simply, it was those in poverty or homeless. It had never occurred to me to consider those in prison or detained by immigration as poor or underserved. Nor did I ever consider the disproportionate impact that disasters have on those that are poor or homeless.

Late in my career, I accepted a job with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) working for Daniel Schneider, who is now the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union and CPAC. I was fascinated by what he described to me. He wanted an office that would address the human services needs of people impacted by disaster and especially those that were poor or marginalized. He wanted the office and programs to be built on the principles of self-determination, self-sufficiency, federalism, flexibility and speed, and support to states. Of equal importance, he wanted a close working relationship with faith-based organizations. I was free to develop it as I saw fit so long as I understood that I was fully responsible for any success or failure. It was an opportunity to combine my work in disaster management and at the same time return to working with the poor and the underserved. I was all in and then I had my first meeting with faith-based groups that worked in disasters – ouch!

The first meeting was eye-opening. It was clear that people were angry and especially the person from the United Methodist Committee on Relief. There was bad blood and before I would ever be able to make progress fences needed to be mended. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. Two amazing organizations stepped forward and offered to help. The first was Catholic Charities, USA that filled me in on what had transpired following Hurricane Katrina. While I had worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response since 2001 I had no interaction with the human services programs. The second organization was the American Red Cross who suggested I let them host meetings on neutral grounds. I was grateful and realized that I needed to do a lot of listening.

While I listened I also knew that good policy had to be evidence-based or adapted from a policy that has historically been effective. It could not be based on emotion or lack intellectual reasoning. I understood that there had been hurt feelings and a lack of listening in the past, but I would not ignore that there were successful programs that could serve as models. While the population served was different the goals and objectives were the same. We needed to get to mutually agreeable principles and we needed to use evidence-based policy.

The stakeholder meetings revealed that health care was largely excluded from the services offered by Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADS) and case managers rarely had health care experience. I wanted the case managers to be nurses, but the VOADS and my contracted faith-based organization wanted them to be lay people. We compromised and had a combination of case managers we trained and nurse case managers. When all the research was completed and the program pilot tested it turned out that what was primarily needed was the lay case manager with nurse case managers to be available for people with complicated medical needs and for consultation. Because I first listened and because we were all willing to follow the evidence we ended up with a program that we could all support. You can learn more about the ACF Disaster Case Management program at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohsepr/response-recovery/disaster-case-management .

I considered the development of the Disaster Case Management program a great professional accomplishment. I had an amazing team, exceptional partners, and political appointees that trusted us to do our jobs and have the best interest of the country in mind. There was mutual respect. However, the sense of professional accomplishment paled in comparison to the change in my spiritual life.

When I was in Baton Rogue with Catholic Charities, USA I was asked to stay with them at the retreat center. They gave me free access to the grounds and the chapel and said I could use it anytime. I hadn’t been to a church of any kind since my twenties and so I was amused. Then I listened as CCUSA had to remind the Catholic sisters that they couldn’t give away all of the food. I watched as CCUSA personnel and volunteers worked with compassion and patience and with their dedication exemplified what it means to serve. I, on the other hand, could only see a mission to be accomplished and my cadre of young officers as tools to accomplish it. While CCUSA saw the humanity in everyone I wasn’t even seeing it in my own people. By the time I left something had changed. I was no longer listening with my ears, but with my heart. The VOADS and the faith-based organizations had a different perspective than the government. It wasn’t about sitreps, or numbers proving the success, but rather compassionate care provided to people that were suffering.  I woke up one day shortly after our time in Baton Rogue and announced I intended to retire. Not long after the project was completed I was working for a small Catholic university where I found what I sought and though I left the university after three years what I found and what they nurtured has never left me.

Following the evidence resulted in a policy that ensured better services to the poor and underserved impacted by a disaster. Letting the spirit transform the knowledge into an accomplishment for good put the program in hands that are filled with compassion. By being open to what was good and just rather than tactically efficient government and faith-based organizations were able to bring the best of what each has to offer to serve those in need.

I am forever grateful to Dan for the opportunity, to the administration at the time for prioritizing the poor, and to Brent whose faith I am sure crafted the principles on which the program was built and through which I found my faith. The experience showed me what I lacked as a human being, what I no longer wanted to be, and a path to a more compassionate existence.

Prudence is the birth mother of all virtue.

compassion


Growing as a Nursing Professor & Administrator in 2018

I love New Year’s resolutions and letting go of the past. Resolutions are a bet with myself that I can make a difference. Starting around Christmas I begin to think about my resolution. This year is different because I have reached a point in life that I realize that my purpose may not be to make the change, but rather educate the one that will be the change. My concern is that I won’t recognize the gifts the person has and know how to nurture their calling. How did my teachers see in me what I couldn’t see in myself in my early twenties?

Nineteen years ago I spent the holidays working a mass migration in Guatemala. It was one of the saddest and most memorable moments in my career as a US Public Health Service nurse and one of the moments that I recognized how much I owed to my nursing professors. They taught us to adapt and use the knowledge and resources we had to provide the best possible care.

They taught us things I thought I didn’t need to know and would never use and of course did need to know and did use. They knew what we didn’t, life is not predictable and if you have a strong foundation you will be able to adapt to any situation.902683_10200964806901714_356566915_o

The beauty of the deer in the field as the fog began to rise was almost enough to momentarily forget that if I turned around there were 500 people that had been rescued from a ship that was helping them flee China for the freedom and promise the United States. The promise engraved on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” had beckoned to them. I still wonder what it must be like to desire freedom and not have it. What must it be like to get on a ship that isn’t seaworthy and risk one’s life for freedom only to have it cut short in Guatemala? 

The feeling of helplessness as we told them they were being returned to China and having young women fall to the floor and cling to our legs asking for us to help them is life-changing. Never again were my views on immigration the same. Never again could I see that promise on the Statue of Liberty as anything other than an oath.

The trip from the air base where they were detained to the airport opened my eyes to the poverty all around. As we were on the bus the women were staring out the window and one commented that “these people should escape to China”. The poverty in Guatemala was so shocking to the Chinese women that they couldn’t imagine why anyone would stay.

Some people come to the U.S. for freedom, others to escape war and torture, and some to escape devastating poverty. All hope for a better life. All seek the promise we offer. This year I hope we live up to that promise and give the Dreamers a path to citizenship. I hope we find a way to open our borders rather than closing them. I pray for all those men and women I could not help and hope that in my lifetime we will recognize that when we turn away the poor, the hungry, the huddled masses yearning to be free we fail to recognize their humanity and we fail in our oath to the world.

In many of my experiences as a nurse, I wanted to reach out and thank those that prepared me. There were so many lessons that were both formal and informal. Lessons that taught me what was excellent work for one may be inadequate for another because they had different abilities, which was especially important as a supervisor of young officers. Or, the unspoken lesson that presentation and professionalism matters. Probably most important was to do with a smile what you know you are going to have to do anyway.

This year my resolution is to take the best of all the professors that taught me and use it to be the best possible professor and administrator. I want to reflect on the influence of others in my life and my successes and use them as a guide in my daily life and interactions with students and faculty. I want to be the example that I had. Each day I hope to reflect on my journey to grow as a nurse, a professor, and an administrator.

Mind

My door is open to any student that wants to learn more than what can be offered in the classroom. Every Wednesday I’m in town we will have coffee and discussion of nurses that have changed their communities, the profession, or inspired others to make the world a better place.

Body

We ask so much of our students we need to be healthy to give them our best. This year I intend to give up the things that raise my stress level or cause me to be sedentary or distracted. When I’m stressed, distracted, or moving too slow I’m not available to others. First on this list is to stop reading tweets from @realDonaldTrump. Life is just too short for that much dishonesty and nastiness. Meat isn’t something I need and I feel better when I don’t eat it. No animal needs to die for me to eat. Television is a time pump and mind-numbing (Lady Vols Basketball being an exception). If the television is on I need to be cleaning, exercising, or otherwise engaged in something that involves moving. Motion is lotion and especially as I get older.

Spirit

Let faith guide my career and my decisions. This may be in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas – faith, hope, love, prudent, just, brave, and temperate. Or, it may be through the acknowledgment that all the wrong karmas made by me were created from beginningless attachment, aversion, and delusion. Born of the body, mouth, and mind. I now repent all of them wholeheartedly.

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. — Albert Einstein


Faith, Feminism, and Head Coverings

As a proud feminist, I believe in equality of all human beings. Equality is fundamental to human dignity. This week I watched with great sadness as men and women alike criticized women for what they did or did not wear.

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 8.20.36 PMI’ve never understood why people get so outraged about what a woman wears on her head. After all, we don’t worry about what men wear. When a man wears a head covering to show respect for God and Judaism we do not question it and know it is done as a sign of respect. And yet, when a woman wears a head covering to show respect for God and Catholicism she is both criticized and praised. However, if she wears a head covering to show respect for God and Islam she is resoundingly criticized.

There are many places where we consider it appropriate to wear a head covering. The most beautiful of head coverings are seen at the Kentucky Derby. People actually enjoy the hats and some of us watch the race just to look for the best hat. Likewise, while a shrinking number, women do still wear hats to church. Certainly, women in the military wear the required cover just as do men.

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 8.21.58 PMWe should ask ourselves two questions.

  • Why do we criticize a woman when she covers her head out of custom or respect for religious preferences and yet we do not do the same with men.
  • Why is it acceptable for a man to cover his head at a holy place within Judaism, a woman to cover her head when in the presence of the Holy Father, and yet inappropriate when in a Muslim country?

Whether male or female covering one’s head to show respect for God should not be criticized. Respect is essential in a civilized society.  While I’m sure most of us question how civilized we have been acting the last few years surely we all recognize that we should do better.

If you call yourself a feminist then you should not criticize any woman because she chooses to show respect for God. Nor should she be criticized because her faith or her respect for the faith of another leads her to cover her head.

Let us all show such respect for others that we are at least willing to try and not offend them when visiting.

“Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” —Hillary Clinton


Compassion Should Guide Our Discussions

This weekend I entered into a twitter conversation with some people that expressed fear of those that are Muslim and spoke in a disparaging way about the Qur’an. It always seems that fear of others leads to the great evils in our society. We then use that fear as justification to attack the other. Some attack physically and other with words. Yet there is something particularly worrisome to me when the words used to attack are from sources meant to be our guides to faith. I’m always struck by people who choose to pick a single verse and interpret it in the most negative possible manner. In truth, Christians also do that with Bible verses. We take them out of the context of the time or the situation and we use them as evidence of our own views most often that the other is wrong.

Rather than approaching  the Bible or the Qu’ran with fear, embrace it with compassion and love.

In my conversations, I always try to remember what imprint I will leave on a person. Even if the person leaves the conversation thinking me a fool, too liberal for my own good, or merely misguided, I hope they also leave the conversation believing me to be compassionate, kind, and patient.  I hope they see my faith and my love for humanity.

Today in Mass we were challenged to remember that the Shephard left his imprint on the sheep and so they will always be able to find him. It is important for us not to fill the air with so much foul discourse that the sheep loose the scent of the Shephard because of our actions.

Can we loose the strident denunciations of the other and be a littler closer to Shephard? – Fr. Brown

I choose not to measure any human being by their neighbor, relative, fellow citizens, or co-religionist. It is your words and your deeds that matter to me. I will always first reach for what is Holy in you.