Celebrating Women: Pat Gaffney on 30 Years with Pax Christi UK

From Pax Christi Peace Stories (March 1, 2019)

Pat Gaffney, Pax Christi UK

Pat Gaffney is graduating/retiring as the General Secretary of Pax Christi UK this year. She wrote the reflection below on her nearly 30 years in that role. I have had the honor of working with Pat since 2016 on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative–though, after meeting we quickly found lots of connections, including that she’s the godmother of the children of my highschool ceramics teacher! Pat and I have spent hours on Skype and even spent a week in London together, Pat’s home town. She is a phenomenal woman and friend. Sharing these stories of women doing gospel work over the long haul is how we extend God’s circle of hospitality and justice. Sign up for more Pax Christi Stories.Rose Berger

FROM PAT GAFFNEY:

1 April 1990: the day my contract with Pax Christi began. 29 years on, I am still here (how did that happen?) but preparing to move on and create space for some new thought and energy. This article takes a long view of our work over this period, of changes within the global and domestic arenas, and in technology. Our movement has undertaken so many challenges with a spirit of ingenuity, flexibility and faithful persistence to Gospel peacemaking.

1990 was a good time to come on board. Talk was of a Peace Dividend. With the Cold War behind us, new opportunities were unfolding for economic and social growth. Spending on defence would decline and investment in arms conversion would follow. The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp had helped to get rid of cruise missiles. Pax Christi’s valiant East-West group, coordinated by Peggy Attlee, having worked towards one Europe, was prepared for the new challenges of creating a common home. In the summer of 1990 our British section of Pax Christi hosted in Clifton Diocese an international ‘route’ for young people, with the theme, Let’s build a Europe of Peace.  Sadly, many of those hopes crashed on 2 August when Iraq invaded Kuwait and what was to become protracted war in the Gulf and Middle East began. Goodbye peace dividend.

patgaffney

As a ‘new’ person four months into the job, the prospect of sliding into war was daunting! Thankfully, friends in the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Christian CND, the National Peace Council (NPC) and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) were ready to create common plans. Could we de-escalate the tension by urging our Government to prevent a full military response from the USA? Setting up communication systems was key. Pax Christi at that time had one temperamental computer, an old but sturdy Adler   typewriter, and a photocopier. My first big purchase was a FAX machine – essential for getting out press  notices, sharing drafts of leaflets, sending letters to Government and so forth. By Spring 1991 we had established the Christian Coalition for Peace in the Gulf and a ‘Call for Action’ supported by church leaders, religious communities and groups around the country. In response to military attacks and then years of sanctions against Iraq, weekly vigils were held nationwide. The NPC ran a conference that became a springboard for much joint work, including the creation of the Peace Education Network (PEN) and a more focused response to the UK’s arms trade to the region – in particular that of British Aerospace.

Continue reading “Celebrating Women: Pat Gaffney on 30 Years with Pax Christi UK”

Working Women in the Bible

“The Bible mentions women who worked in commercial trade (Prov. 31:16a24Acts 16:14), in agriculture (Josh. 15:17-19Ruth 2:8Prov. 31:16b), as millers (Exod. 11:5Matt. 24:41), as shepherds (Gen. 29:9Exod. 2:16), as artisans, especially in textiles (Exod. 26:1 NIVActs 18:3), as perfumers and cooks (1 Sam. 8:13), as midwives (Exod. 1:15ff), as nurses (Gen. 35:8Exod. 2:72 Sam. 4:41 Kings 1:4), as domestic servants (Acts 12:13, etc), and as professional mourners (Jer. 9:17). Women could also be patrons (Acts 16:40Rom. 16:1-2), leaders (Judg. ch 4-5; 2 Sam. 20:16) and ruling queens (1 Kings 10:1ffActs 8:27). One Bible woman even built towns (1 Chron. 7:24). Many women, and men, worked from home, yet the Bible nowhere criticises women who worked outside the home, in the public sphere.”–Marg Mowczko

Guadalupe Ramirez: Our Lady of Guadalupe (video)

A 9-minute video with Sr. Guadalupe Ramirez, MCDP, on Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s part of the Catholic Women Preach video series.

“I have come to the conclusion that whenever I am presented with a new challenge, I want to ask ‘why me?’ I need to change that and ask, ‘Why not me?’ So I ask you, ‘Why not you?’”–Sr. Ramirez, MCDP

MARIA TERESA GASTÓN: Catholic Women Preach

“The reasons for moving made sense – closeness to family and new work, but my heart had not consented.”

(5 minute video)

I’m so grateful for the moments I’ve spent with Maria Teresa Gaston and her son, Martin (former Sojourners intern). And so proud that Maria Teresa participated in the Catholic Women Preach video series.–Rose

FIRST READING: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12
PSALM: Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
SECOND READING: Rom 8:28-30
GOSPEL: Mt 13:44-52

Maria Teresa is an organizational psychologist and ICA certified ToP facilitator specializing in facilitation of collaborative discernment and decision-making. She received a BA in theology from Marquette University, an MA in Hispanic/Latinx theology and ministry through Barry University, and an MA/PhD in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Maria Teresa served for many years in social ministry in Immokalee, Florida and at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She and her spouse, John Witchger, have three sons Felipe, Martin, and Luke and two grandchildren, Micaela and Theo. Maria Teresa lives in Durham, North Carolina where she directs Foundations of Christian Leadership, a formation program for Christian social innovators through Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School.

Podcast: Where’s the Body of Christ when Bodies Go Missing?

Six minutes of truth-telling from the awesome team at Sojourners: Where’s the Body of Christ when Bodies Go Missing? This is the nascent short podcast series that Sojourners is developing called The God Beat.

This story about missing black and Latina girls in the D.C-area speaks to me because of my work on the Donte Manning story (see Who Killed Donte Manning: The Story of an American Neighborhood) and because of Ebony Franklin, who was murdered a few blocks from my house. There are hundreds of unnamed and disappeared girls in our country.

My Sojourners’ colleagues, Dhanya Addanki and Da’Shawn Mosley, get to the root of the Christian question in their podcast.

July 22: Feast Day of Mary of Magdala

marymagdaleneWhile Catholic women have honored Mary Magdalene as the “apostle to the apostles” for generations, Pope Francis elevated her in the Roman calendar of saints in early June.

Today, July 22, 2016, marks the first official “Feast day” of Saint Mary Magdalene in the Roman Catholic calendar.

Today, Catholic women are gathering in Krakow, Poland, at the house where John Paul II lived when he was cardinal to lift up the call for ordination of Catholic women to the priesthood.

According to the international Women’s Ordination Conference:

“Mary Magdalene’s official recognition as an apostle, chosen by Jesus, affirms women’s rightful capacity to act “in persona Christi,” and restores her, often maligned, legacy as someone instrumental to our faith and equal to her male counterparts.

Claims of male clerical superiority based on a physical resemblance to Jesus have never convinced nor served the wider Church.

WOW calls on the Church to rid itself of the sin of sexism and model unconditional equality by opening up all ministries to Catholic women who have the talent and vocation to serve their communities as St. Mary Magdalene did.

WOW also celebrates its 20th anniversary in July and will hold their annual gathering in Krakow ahead of Pope Francis’ visit for World Youth Day. During the past 20 years of campaigning, WOW has worked to challenge all remaining arguments against women’s ordination. The official recognition of Mary Magdalene’s role makes an exclusively male leadership model impossible to uphold and strengthens the case for gender justice.

We are calling on Pope Francis to recognize that a “discipleship of equals” and renewed church will only be possible when women are accepted as equals and are able to participate alongside men.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exodus 38 and All The Naked Ladies

“And he made the basin of bronze, and its pedestal of bronze, from the mirrors of the women assembling, who assembled at the door of the Tent of Meeting.”–Exodus 38:8

all the naked ladies

 

One day ahead of the opening of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, artist Spencer Tunick orchestrated hundreds of women for a public art protest.

The art installation is titled: Everything She Says Means Everything. It involved 100 naked women holding mirrors facing the Quicken Loans Arena, where tomorrow the Republican National Convention will begin.

Tunick described his inspiration for the installation this way:

Republicans, Democrats and all other political parties were welcome to take part reflecting their anger through art against the hateful repressive rhetoric of many in the Republican Party toward women and minorities. Trump and Pence are giving many in America the belief that is OK to hate. Over 1800 women signed up for the 100 spaces to bare all in this heightened arena of politics and protest and this number alone is a testament to their bravery and desire for change. They did not know where they were going to pose when they signed up to be part of this art action, it could have been in the epicenter of the security zone, but they still wanted to participate. Our concept was for 100 women to pose with 100 mirrors. Our location was secret to keep the women safe and would only allow for a small number of participants. But 1800 women would have shown up naked in front on the steps of the convention to make art with what may be the most controversial subject in this presidential race, a woman’s body.

I was struck by how biblical this image is. Women and “mirror play” is central to the survival of the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt. The women’s mirror-play is a way of extending the grand narrative of liberation and shining it into every generation. The midrash says that in slavery the men were beaten down, forbidden to sleep with their wives and families. They lost generative power because of the weight of their oppression. The brief mention of “mirrors,” which the women offer as part of building a basin for the Temple is expanded in the midrashic process to illuminate a backstory of defiance against Pharaoh’s impossible decrees and the liberating energy of multiplying the Israelites.

Avivah Zornberg describes, “Subtly, the midrash yields its meanings. The mirrors are not simply the means by which women adorn themselves, set in motion the processes of desire, procreation, the creation of a nation. A much larger claim is being made: through these mirrors, each woman conceived six hundred thousand babies at a time” (Exodus: The Particulars of Rapture by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg).

When the body politic is so flaccid and desiccated as it is now, producing more death than life, then a generative desire must be cultivated so that the people can remember what it feels like to be alive, to choose life. In Zornberg’s book on Exodus, she says “the mirrors … remain for me the most evocative symbol of redemption.”

From a field in Cleveland at dawn, may this midrash bear fruit.

Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic peace activist and poet.

 

Rose Berger: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.
**
[Originally published Oct. 9. 2013]

Keystone protest @ Environmental Resources Management headquarters, D.C.
Photo by Jay Mullin. Used with permission.

I had fun this summer with a great group of folks who came to be known as the ERM 54 (explanation below). After getting arrested, three court appearances, peeing in a cup, negotiating the D.C. community court system, and promising not to get arrested again before Valentine’s Day, I’m ready for the autumn to begin. But that’s not to say that the summer wasn’t fun!

Here’s an excerpt from my most recent column in Sojourners:

OFFICER MARIO normally worked for Homeland Security. On this Friday night he’d been seconded to the Washington, D.C. Metro police, who had their hands full. Not only did they have the usual “drunk and disorderlies,” but now 54 people who looked like card-carrying members of the AARP were filling up their holding cells. Officer Mario, of retirement age himself, was feeling fortunate. He’d been assigned to the women’s side.

“Ladies, ladies, ladies!” Mario said, sauntering in with a mischievous smile. “This must be my lucky night.”

The evening before, we’d all been at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church running role plays on how to “flash mob” the corporate headquarters of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the firm hired by the U.S. State Department to provide an environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline. To the disbelief and concern of climate scientists, ERM claimed that TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline would not significantly contribute to climate change. ERM was suspected of “misleading disclosures” regarding conflict of interest and material gain from the pipeline’s completion.

Our white-haired mob of mostly grandparents converged on ERM headquarters at noon to shine a light on such shady dealings. While six silver foxes blocked the elevators by chaining their arms together inside a PVC pipe, I watched two D.C. police lift Steve, age 70, and toss him into the crowd behind me. I knew this nonviolent civil disobedience wasn’t going as planned.

For the next hour the police threatened us with felony charges, and we chanted complicated ditties on Big Oil, Mother Earth, and the merits of transparency in a democracy. Then they slipped plastic cuffs over our wrists and charged us with “unlawful entry.” …

Read the whole essay here (Sojourners, November 2013, “Unlawful Entry”).

Binders Full of (Catholic) Women?: Week in Review

CWSBetty Thompson at Solidarity with Sisters sent this roundup about Catholic women and equality in the church sparked by this week at the Synod on the Family in Rome:

10/7/15 – Church-history expert Phyllis Zagano applies current and historical insight to Archbishop Durocher’s call for ordination of women deacons.

10/7/15 – Theologian Mary E. Hunt on “Synod system stacked against women,” with bonus brief canon law lesson.

44 women from around the world speak to the Synod on Family in a new book, Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Voices to the Table. Many perspectives, e.g., Italian historian Lucetta Scaraffia (an appointed non-voting auditor at the Synod) says the absence of women in Church decision-making is like “breathing with only one lung.” Order through publisher Paulist Press, Amazon, etc. NCR reviews book as “compelling, expansive, diverse.” One of the authors is Rhonda Miska, who led us in song at our 2014 Spiritual Leadership conference.

Visitation Sisters in Minneapolis open their doors to welcome neighbors into their contemplative way of life. Part of Global Sisters Report’s 6-part series on contemplative religious life.

Want an evening of spiritual refreshment with people nationwide? By phone or in person, be part of the monthly hour of communal contemplation on Mon., Oct. 12, 7:30pm, with the Women’s Alliance for Theology and Ethics (Silver Spring, MD). For me, it’s like that drink of fresh spring water that Sister Janet Mock described at the LCWR Assembly in August.

Theologian Mary E. Hunt, in Baltimore Sun Op-Ed on Pope Francis’ USA visit, sees “disconnect between the pope’s rhetoric about equality and the…virtually all male-led [institution]…. To be a decision-maker in Catholicism requires ordination.” Also calls for strong Papal action on sex abuse, and an end to the “gay charade” in the Church.

Reflecting on Pope Francis’ visit, St. Joseph Sister Christine Schenk asks “Why wasn’t a woman invited to preside at a papal prayer service? …Our common prayer needs to mirror the whole church, not just those gifted with a Y chromosome.

Powerful Carmelite and Ignatian insight into “Christ Consciousness: Part 1” in video (57:22) with Carmelite Sister Constance Fitzgerald and Jesuit Father Brian McDermott, part of Baltimore Carmel’s day of recollection for its 225th anniversary.

Note from Rose: I’ve issued a challenge for Catholic women to purchase 5 copies of the book Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table and give them to 5 pastors of Catholic parishes. (The first run of this book from Paulist Press sold out almost immediately. So you may have to pre-order it on Amazon.)

Pope Francis: What Is Your Capacity to Cry?

Lachrymae - tear vials
Lachrymae – tear vials

Pope Francis’ press conference on the plane returning from the Philippines was lively as usual. Regarding the Charlie Hebdo murders, he elaborated on the nuances of “freedom of expression” tempered by the virtue of prudence. He also expanded his comments on “responsible parenthood” and what it means for Catholics today. As always, he set the “birth control” issue in the wider context of certain prevailing spirits of the age, in this case Neo-Malthusianism (whaaaa?): population control that is enforced or overly encouraged by governments or corporations.

However, what jumped out to me was his response to a question by La Nacion’s Elisabetta Pique:

Elisabetta Pique (La Nacion): … This was a moving voyage for everyone. We saw people crying the entire time in Tacloban [Philippines site of the Supertyphoon Haiyan], even we journalists cried. Yesterday you said, the world needs to cry. … What was for you the most moving moment, because the mass in Tacloban was such a moment and also yesterday when the little girl started to cry?

Pope Francis: For me the Mass in Tacloban was very moving. Very moving. To see all of God’s people standing still, praying, after this catastrophe, thinking of my sins and those people, it was moving, a very moving moment. In the moment of the mass there, I felt as though I was annihilated (“wiped out”) [devastated], I almost couldn’t speak. …

The other thing is the weeping. One of the things that is lost when there is too much wealth or when values are misunderstood or we have become accustomed to injustice, to this culture of waste, is the capacity to cry.

This is a grace we must ask for. There is a beautiful prayer in the ancient missal, for crying. It went more or less like this: Lord, you who have made it so that Moses with his cane could make water flow from a stone, make it so that from the rock that is my heart, the water of tears may flow.

It’s a beautiful prayer. We Christians must ask for the grace to cry, especially well-to-do Christians. And cry about injustice and cry about sins. Because crying opens you to understand new realities, or new dimensions to realities. This is what the girl said, what I said to her. She was the only one to ask that question to which there is no answer, why do children suffer?

The great Dostoyevsky asked himself this, and he could not answer. Why do children suffer? She, with her weeping, a woman who was weeping. When I say it is important that women be held in higher consideration in the church, it’s not just to give them a function as the secretary of a dicastery, though this could be ok too. No, it’s so that they may tell us how they feel and view reality. Because women view things from a different richness, a larger one.

Another thing I would like to underscore is what I said to the last young man (at the meeting with young people), who truly works well, he gives and gives and gives, he organizes to help the poor. But don’t forget that we too need to be beggars, from them, from the poor. Because the poor evangelize us. If we take the poor away from the Gospel, we cannot understand Jesus’ message. The poor evangelize us. I go to evangelize the poor, yes, but let you be evangelized by them. Because they have values that you do not.”

The prayer Pope Francis refers to is from the Missa ad petendam compunctionem cordis, for begging compunction of the heart, or a Mass for the Gift of Tears (1962 Roman Missal). The prayer says:

Almighty and most merciful God, who, to quench the thirst of your people, drew a fountain of living water out of a rock, draw from our stony hearts tears of compunction, that we may be able to mourn for our sins and win forgiveness for them by your mercy.

But see how he sets this moving and eloquent prayer as a jewel in the crown of justice and compassion!