connecting with strangers

Zachary R. Dehm, a Master of Theological Studies student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, has written a wonderful article in the NCR Young Voices column called Theologians need strangers to help study faith outside of academic footnotes. Zachary admits that he can be shy and introverted, and often dreads the question “what are you studying?” It is much easier to keep your theological ponderings within the safety of academic walls or among a community of like minded souls. And yet, he believes that “theologians need strangers”. They need to welcome the chance conversations of daily life.

Encounter with someone who does not have a studied theological reason for believing or not believing is necessary. It is important to hear the honest, sometimes tension-filled words “I stopped going to church because …” or “I keep going to church in spite of my strong disagreement with …”

I am not a theologian, but I share Zachary’s discomfort. I also share his tendency to be shy and introverted. I have been on many plane trips when seat neighbours asked me what I do, or the purpose of my travels. I hummed and hawed, or made up a simple response to avoid an explanation of my work with the Marianist Lay Communities, a lay organization in the Catholic Church. (A what?)

I still do not feel comfortable telling strangers or acquaintances that I am a writer, dreading the follow up question, “what do you write?”. (Oh, Catholic stuff.)

If I am writing about faith but not willing to share this journey in daily encounters, then why do I write? Who do I write for? I have long been a proponent of taking our faith outside of the church walls. Why, then, do I so often avoid faith conversations with strangers?

One of the big events in our lives these past months has been the sale of hubby’s dental practice. I am asked the same question over and over, “so, what are you going to do with yourself now that you’re retired?”

I am going to spend more glorious time with our grand-babies, I say with all honesty. But, I do not add that I’ll also have more time to write because they do not know that I am a writer. If I tell them, then I have to be willing to enter into a conversation about my writing.

Continue reading “connecting with strangers”

a long sabbatical…..

Dear friends,

Life took many unexpected turns these past months and writing was put on the back burner. The nitty gritty reality of our often messy human existence can force us to choose priorities.

Vatican synods for the Family pale in importance to family matters closer to home and heart.

World and church affairs have little emotional draw when loved ones are hurting.

Decisions of popes and bishops have little meaning in the midst of one’s own personal discernments.

After five months of almost no writing, the desire (and need!) to write has finally returned. So, I’m back. Hopefully it will not be to merely pick up where I left off, but to begin anew.



the lost child of philomena lee

philomena leeAfter too many book-less weeks, I delved into “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” by Martin Sixsmith. I knew that it wouldn’t be a light, escapist read. It chronicles the poignant and heart wrenching story of the forced adoption of a young Irish boy. Philomena, his young unwed mother, was sent to one of many convents in Ireland whose mission was to house “fallen” women until their babies were born. The women repaid the nuns’ “kindness” with up to three years of free labor in their kitchens and laundries. In reality the women were forcibly enslaved in wretched, harsh workhouses.

The story of these asylums makes my Catholic heart shudder in shame. The cruelty of the nuns was grounded in a firm belief in the unredeemable sinfulness of the girls. It also described the power that the church had over the government, a power used to fill the ecclesial coffers. If a family had the money, the young woman’s freedom could be bought after the baby was born. If not, she had to work off the debt.

The young mothers were forced to sign over their babies who were then handed over for adoption by American couples in return for a “donation” to the convent. Philomena’s son was three years old when he was taken from her.

The theology of fear and constant threats of eternal damnation were used to ensure the complicity and silence of the birth mothers. It is the all too familiar strategy used by child abusers in the church. When the truth began to leak out, many records were destroyed by the nuns and church officials. Today, the victims continue to fight for fair and just recompense. Again, an all too familiar story.

This is not an anti-Catholic story like some claim. The church’s actions are indefensible. There are no words to describe the shame of such cruelty and injustice. The church has much to repent in her history. This is a story of sins that must be repented and never repeated.

(This news story just came out today: Irish religious orders confirm they will not pay Magdalene Laundry victims.)