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.

Women Won the Day, but America Won

Today I was proud to be a woman and proud to be from the South that stood for equality and respect for all people. In the last year, women have found their voices and consistently stood against men who abuse and disrespect them. The country is speaking in many ways on respect: respect for women, respect for standards of decency, respect for those brave enough to say #MeToo. The country also said loudly, if you hold repulsive attitudes toward raping a woman or child you will not be elected by either party. We said, if you think it is funny to touch a woman’s breast without permission or sexually harass her at work or shame her in public we will stand up and stand together. We will use our voice to support those that feel threatened and harassed. We will push you out of your office, your job, and if necessary respectable society.

Respect for all people now requires that we make important decisions and I hope all the passion that went into the election goes into fixing our problems with how we treat women in the workplace. We voted to end sexism but now comes responsibility. We need to work for equal pay. Women that are not financially dependent on men find it easier to stand up and say no more. We must work to reduce violence and ensure that men and women understand what it means to rape and be raped – it is never legitimate. Sexual harassment is never acceptable, but we must define what it means. If you want to reduce sexual harassment you must know that not all people share the same cultural views on hugs or a kiss on the cheek or even a handshake. We must learn cultural sensitivity and expect it. We need to clearly define what is acceptable and unacceptable – it begins with you.

I also believe we need to have a serious discussion about abortion. We cannot let a pedophile almost win a national office because abortion is a litmus test for Democrats and Republicans alike. We need to find a common ground where we all agree that we should work to reduce abortion and explore all the ways to do so. Pro-choice and pro-life should be welcome in both parties if we are to solve this problem.

I love this country and I have always been proud to be from the South and have always believed that Southerns are more patriotic and love the country more than most. Democracy is amazing and especially so when people put aside party loyalty and vote their conscience as did the people of Alabama. We should tip our hats to Republicans today. They put country before party. Thank you Alabama for showing we change the world through our votes and through the exercise of conscience.

Lent Approaches: Should we cast out the unclean or bath them in compassion

Lent is a few days away and the readings on this cold and snowy Sunday were about leprosy. The once dreaded disease is now treatable and there is no longer a need to shun people with leprosy, put them in isolated communities, or have them shout “unclean, unclean.” We like to imagine that times have changed and we would never be so uncaring or inhumane, but are we and should we be?

Racism and bigotry are diseases able to infect the young and the old alike. The virus enters trough the brain and infects the soul. It multiplies until where once existed love there is only hate. I often wonder if it is better to isolate the one that is infected to avoid unintentionally spreading the disease through social media contact or if it is better to engage and see if love and compassion will slow the infection or even cure the illness.

Racism and bigotry are far more dangerous than any disease of the body. It is a disease that kills the soul of the infected and takes away the human dignity of all it touches. We have much work to do to cure this plague on our communities, our country, and even our world.

Lent is a good time to pray, sacrifice, and offer our time to change the policies that support racism and bigotry and to join in solidarity with those that stand for justice.

Reading 1LV 13:1-2, 44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
“If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
which appears to be the sore of leprosy,
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
or to one of the priests among his descendants.
If the man is leprous and unclean,
the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.

“The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”