A Chance to Get His Voice Back
This story is about a St. Mary's Health Clinics patient who struggles greatly as a musician when his voice just stops.
This piece originally appeared in the Fall 2011 Possumus.
After his ordeal, getting medical attention and reporting to the authorities, Justin rested a few hours before calling his parents [to tell them about the physical and verbal abuse he endured as a victim of a hate crime].
“At first, I was shocked,” says his mother, Kathy Caron, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Professional Faculty member at St. Catherine University. “Then, I felt sadness. Eventually, I became angry; but I think my anger was more about the larger issues of stigma, marginalization, discrimination, ignorance and violence than it was at his assailants. When I considered the social implications – the injustice – I couldn’t sleep. Sitting at my kitchen table in the middle of the night, I was scared.”
At that point, Kathy realized she could no longer passively support GLBT causes. It was time to get her own skin in the game.
“The best way I can protect my son and other minorities is through education,” she says. “I became a much more vocal ally. I’m now willing to be uncomfortable talking with others and recognizing my own need for growth.”
Step 1 for Kathy was to create awareness of intolerance that leads to violence. She started by sending an email blast about her son’s assault with a link to a local news feature about Augsburg student reaction to the assault.
“I want to share something that has been going on for me and my family. You may have seen this on the news… the unnamed student is Justin. He is doing fine – just very overwhelmed and dealing with a mix of emotions. He is a solid kid and resilient, so this is not going to stop him from openly being who he is. Augsburg continues to impress me in its open support and advocacy of their student body – ALL of them. Justin has chosen great friends, and thanks to his family, friends, and broader community, he feels supported. I plan to do what I can to be a voice for acceptance and tolerance... even when it makes me uncomfortable (as I am in sending you this message). To my GLBT friends, I am so sorry that this crap still happens.”
In Kathy’s work as a counselor and instructor in the Twin Cities Catholic university system, she’s crossed paths many times with CSJs, consociates and volunteers. “I’ve always been impressed with how the CSJs learn individually and as a group about justice issues,” she says. “Through mutual respect, they develop consensus among themselves and then get to work addressing pressing social needs while planting seeds of systemic change.”
When the CSJs invited Kathy to speak about her son’s ordeal at their Province Assembly, she readily accepted. She understood that while not all of the nuns agree on GLBT issues, her words would reach an audience dedicated to ending violence. And when a CSJ Consociate invited her and Justin to speak one evening at Cretin-Derham Hall High School, she accepted that invitation, too, seizing the opportunity for her and her son to educate a large group of parents. “The sisters I know are very loving, compassionate people. They’re also unafraid to speak out and get their hands dirty, if need be, to provide needed programs for all age groups that reach all sorts of people. Rather than screaming, ‘Hey, look at us,’ their ministries tenaciously assert, ‘Look at this problem and what can be done about it.’”
Kathy and son Justin, at his high school graduation.
St. Mary's Health Clinics is Essential
This piece originally appeared in the Summer 2016 Bold Moves for Real Change.
Health care is a basic human right. The patients I have seen at St. Mary's Health Clinics (SMHC) are hardworking patients who deserve to have health care. If we can provide anything that makes their lives a little bit easier, it's important to me to do that. I've been given opportunities in my lifetime, and this is just one small way I can give back to the community and to show that I believe health care is a basic right.
I see several patients each time I volunteer, and I give them some tools, medication, and a listening ear. I hope that better health care for each patient is better health care for their whole family. I see that each of us is highly connected to our community. And the healthier people are, mentally and physically, the healthier our communities are going to be.
If St. Mary's Health Clinics didn't exist, patients would have to use acute care, urgent care, and emergency rooms for their health care. And not only is that not okay for the patient - they are not going to get the best care for their diabetes or high blood pressures in an ER; it is only going to be a quick fix - it is not a good way to use our resources in medicine. Patients who have chronic care need a home base and a clinic that can provide refills and prevent crises. St. Mary's Health Clinics is essential.
Dr. Carla Schwartz