Sr. Joan Chittister, a Benedictine, has always been known for her social activism – speaking her mind about women’s issues, spirituality, politics. Although she has always been better know nfor spiritual / Catholic teaching – monthly newsletters, themed prayer schedules, calendars of Catholic activities, followed by many women, not just Catholics.
I never got completely away from my Irish Catholic background (though always wishing they would get real and not just punitive), and so would hear about her activities. Always just a little too church-y for me, especially as I’ve gotten more into my own spiritual path, involving Reiki, trust and a certain degree of solitariness.
But now she’s back at what she used to do – speaking up and out on social justice and women’s issues. The event at Xavier University she was in town for on April 4 was a Violence Against Women Symposium, sponsored by the Sisters of Charity’s Office of Peace, Justice & Integrity of Creation, chaired by Sr. Louise Akers – a woman I wish my life had given me more time with. A wide and cosmic thinker, Louise has had her share of being pushed back by her church, but just keeps on coming.
Just so was Sr. Joan that Thursday. Careful not to throw fuel on her misogynistic church’s fires, she none the less did not back down. Her demeanor all the while was charming, very funny – and very supportive of the efforts of her audience (the big room in Cintas was packed). Nicely supportive and still very challenging – along the lines of ‘what are you waiting for? don’t you recognize the hatred of women behind this growing violence? do you think this will go away on its own? who are you waiting for? when are you going to make these changes?’
It clear to me and to a lot of us that the women sitting in the church’s pews do not believe a word said to them, and are going on and making their life choices on their own. At the same time, they are not pushing the church toward the 21st century – or even very far into the 20th.
By working to eliminate violence against women, this audience could bypass dealing with their church, and just go ahead and change society. Which would then impact the church, without their needing to directly attack it. Change, perhaps, by attrition.
I hope the women in those churches on Sunday choose one action or the other – each will lead to a more beautiful future. Sr. Joan and Sr. Louise gave us very clear pictures of our choices and challenges. Thanks!