Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I've never met a nun I didn't like...

picture from Unveiled

well, not yet anyway. You want to talk about some of the coolest original feminists, you need to hang out with some nuns. Take Sr. Jeanne. Sr. Jeanne lives across the street from us. We live in an urban "transitional" neighborhood. Sr. Jeanne has lived here since way before it became transitional. She has kicked out crack dealers and pimp houses. She's probably 75-80yrs old. Who knows? She worked for 30 years as a nurse midwife in migrant farming communities in Florida and Texas. Now, she heads up a battered women shelter.

Yesterday as Dearie was walking to work, he rounds the corner at the top of the block and sees Sr. Jeanne with some guy backed up against a car and she is yelling at him, "I saw you with your hands on her!" Dearie looks around. Quickly assesses the situation. A crying hysterical woman sitting on the curb with 2 other women. Police sirens in the distance getting louder. Two men, who later turned out to be other witnesses, on the OPPOSITE side of the street. Dearie walks over to just backup Sr. Jeanne, as if she needed it.

Turns out the man had dragged the woman screaming from the apartment building into the alley behind it. It also turns out he had a knife from her kitchen. Luckily for this woman, Sr. Jeanne was driving by and saw it.

Now yes, I am Catholic. And I'm completely aware how cool it is to beat up the Catholic church right now. And yes, I am fully aware that the rights and powers of women and lay people in general seem to be going backwards at the moment. (I'm Catholic, not an idiot.) But, I am still surprised by how the Catholic church is attacked as being anti-woman. You see, the reality is I learned to be a feminist in Catholic schools. And no, feminism does not need to be directly linked to Pro-Choice. At least it used to be much more than that.

I was having a discussion with a female pastor in Dearie's denomination about how I must have suffered as a girl stifled by the Catholic church. I looked at her puzzled. I asked her how many women in posititions of power she saw in her own church upbringing. The reality is that eventhough denominations are ordaining women, they are still getting the crap jobs and not getting paid near as well as the male pastors. Sure, it is a step in the right direction, but let's not pretend we're there, yet. And the Protestant denominations have all but stripped Christianity of it's women. I began to explain how I was raised by the Catholic church surrounded by women of incredible rebellion, strength and power. Hell, my own patron saint, whom I chose when I was confirmed was none other than Joan of Arc. I was given role models of the likes of Catherine of Sienna, a Doctor of the Church or St Margaret of Antioch who refused the advances of a man by pinning him with her foot to his neck, and said, "Lie still, proud demon, under the foot of a woman." She was later tortured and beheaded for her refusals. Women who spoke directly with God and whose words are still sacred and studied today for they way the contributed significantly to the formulation of Christian teaching. St. Teresa of Avila, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Julian of Norwich. These were women who defied dictators and governments, fought their own church hierarchy, and stood up for justice and women at some of the world's darkest times.

And then there were the women who educated me as a girl. Women who disappointed their families and joined convents so they could be educated and live their own lives of faith and charity. Women who went to and were killed in El Salvador. Women who hung a banner in the front hall of my high school that said "If they can put men on the moon they can put women in the Constitution" Women who led our masses and only brought in the "rent-a-priests" for Consecration and Confession. Women whose mission was to educate and empower us as the leaders of tomorrow. Women who don't just talk about social injustice to women, they pull their car over and stop a man from dragging a woman into the alley and ensure that they have adequate prenatal care even when they have no legal status. No the women of the Catholic church I know, actually "do" feminism they don't just walk around with banners and buttons. So, yes of course the governing body of the Catholic Church has a long long way to go (especially since it seems to be going backwards) but the women of the church have been and continue to be incredible examples of power, wisdom, and faith.

And I'm glad to have Sr. Jeanne across the street so Jellybean can beg to go to her apartment and stare with love and wonder at all of the statues and paintings Sr. Jeanne has of Mother Mary breastfeeding her infant Jesus Now that is power...


Anonymous said...
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stickgirl said...

Loved this post. Made me not so embarassed to be Catholic (lapsed) and proud to be a woman!

You write a good story Cakes, will enjoy keeping up with your blog!