These Ministry Stories feature some of the many ways that the CSJ Community works towards peace.
How I went to jail.
This piece originally appeared in the Fall 2009/Winter 2010 Possumus.
A turning point is the moment when you change and there is no turning back for you. For me it happened when I was watching a documentary about the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. I was working at St. Mary’s Junior College, a good Irish girl from an 80-acre farm in Jessenland Township, near Green Isle, Minnesota.
As a young nun my life was largely about obedience, without a lot of big decisions to make. I worked in occupational therapy as well as a part- time job at the Free Store. But one day I heard a documentary about Nazi prison camps. “And the German people knew what was happening,” was the refrain.
It touched me to the core, because I knew what was going on about two miles from here, the making of cluster bombs, whose only function is to maim and kill. And what had I ever done about that?
I kind of joined the peace movement, hanging around the periphery. But then there was a very big demonstration, and the police went wild. I was standing back, afraid of being arrested. But before the day was over I did get arrested.
I went over to the bus to see if Sister Kate McDonald was there. A woman gave me a note to give her housemate, to bring her ID to her. A policeman told me I was in a prohibited area, and he tore the note to pieces.
He was pushing me, and I saw a policeman pushing Sister Brigid McDonald’s face into the wall. I began moving toward her and the policeman stopped me. He kept walking on my toes, until I lost it, and I stomped on his foot – which was exactly what he wanted me to do. I was charged with interfering with the legal process. It was the most miserable day of my life.
At five o’clock they told me I had better call a lawyer or I would be in jail for five days. But I didn’t know any lawyers. At about 8 o’clock they took me to the courtroom. A peace group got me out on habeas corpus.
I felt a kinship with St. Peter because he also betrayed the peace process by taking up the sword. I was so ashamed. But I’m glad for that awful day. I’m less frightened now. I haven’t been like the German people mentioned in the documentary.
I have learned so many lessons about nonviolence.
One day at the Free Store, a man came in. He was in great distress. I thought maybe we should call the police. But a woman who volunteered with us took the man by the arm and told him, “there’s more good in you than bad.” And the man calmed down and started to weep.
I keep a picture by my bed, of a young girl in Iraq, perhaps five years old. It was taken during the bombardment, and you can see the terror on her face, with the war happening all around her. This picture gets me going every morning.
I turned into an octogenarian last year, so that makes me old. But I can still go to jail. I can still tell the truth about what is happening.
The world itself is at a turning point today. There are powerful people who continue to make money from war, but a lot of other people feel that has to stop. Either we change and learn to live with one another in peace. Or we don’t!
Marguerite Corcoran, CSJ
St. Joseph Workers march to end human trafficking
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.