Do not be lulled into thinking women who are merciful, are the silent sweet types. They are not.
The women honored in our Women Witnesses of Mercy series are not push overs. They are spirited and courageous and possess a kind of holy stubbornness when it comes to justice.
Sr. Dorothy Stang was feisty and energetic and loving — one of the great saints. She remained faithful to the poor, to the ruined Amazon, and so, to the Gospel and the God of justice and compassion. Beautiful stories come down to us. She fed the hungry, built community, lived in destitution. She confronted illegal loggers and corrupt ranchers, the class who stole land from the poor, kept them in misery, and bought off the police, the military and the government. Death threats rained down on Dorothy for years, along with insults and hate mail. Ranchers took aim at the community center for women that she had founded and riddled it with bullets. On one occasion the police arrested her for passing out “subversive” material. It was the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Another time, she escaped by a hairs-breadth an attempt on her life. Yet she carried on and included the ranchers in her prayers for peace. Her defense of the poor was fearless.
Sr. Simone Campbell is another case in point. She has gone nose to nose with her most vocal critics and continues to plod a path to their door to engage them in dialogue. She does not give up when it comes to creating a society that is just for all and especially those who live at the fringe of our economic and social stratosphere.
A constitutive component of Sister Simone’s understanding of and preaching of the Gospel is that everyone — individuals, families, communities, organizations, and governments –must play their part in building a more just society. Her conviction comes straight out of Catholic Social Teaching. In CST we learn that in the image and likeness of a Triune God, the person is not only sacred but also inherently social. Living in community is an essential expression of who we are. But community isn’t something that just happens. Catholic Social Teaching and Scripture proclaim that each person has both the right and the obligation to participate society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, but especially the poor and vulnerable.
Sr. Simone struggles with what it means to carry out the Gospel. In her heartfelt poem, Loaves and Fish she writes:
I always joked
that the miracle of loaves
and fish was: sharing
The women always knew this.
But in this moment of need
and notoriety I ache, tremble
almost weep at folks so
faced with spiritual famine
of epic proportions. My heart
aches with their need.
In April, we will release the next Women Witnesses of Mercy resource on Sr. Dorothy Stang. Another tough, “stubborn” woman witness of mercy, she was murdered for her work defending poor Brazilians and the sacred life of the Amazon where they lived and where so many living creatures depend on its ongoing vibrancy and health.
Please donate $125 or more to FutureChurch’s Women in Church Leadership Campaign and get a poster with all twelve women witnesses of mercy with beautiful original art by Marcy Hall.