Two Roman Catholic Women Priests Reflect on Power: Sixth Sunday of Easter, 5/21/17

For those of us who are used to having some power in our lives-to live more than marginally, to negotiate our worlds, to work, to help others,the experience of powerlessness is a humbling and revealing experience. Aging and illness are two normative times of power loss but hopefully not power outage. And there are other times of crisis and loss and uncertainty in our world and in our private lives where powerlessness overwhelms. I know these experiences all too well lately. A friend recently reminded me as I shared my feelings: “you wrote the book on empowerment-you are not powerless now”. She was referring to a social work approach that I advanced in two texts called “The Empowerment Approach to Social Work Practice: Building the Beloved Community (Columbia University Press,1194 and 2001). I thanked her for being a part of my beloved community and for doing her best to make this community we serve truly beloved-one characterized by compassion, justice, inclusion and basic human needs not found wanting-tall order though that is. It is the same work of faith Christ asks of his followers, and the Law asks of its adherents: tzedakah and chesed, true charity and loving kindness-justice. Unless we hold onto God’s Power we can give up. I see it all around me in those I serve who struggle with issues that would sink the best of us and yet cling to faith. And so I wonder: How can we use those times of powerlessness to return to our true source of power, God’s Holy Spirit and the living Christ within us and all around us?

Here , below, we present the reflections of Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Rev. Chava Redonnet,RCWP who serves the migrant population in New York State and has recently made a trip to Central America. Her reflections on powerlessness are beautiful and right on.

In the readings for the sixth Sunday in Easter we read of the Holy Spirit empowering the Apostles to do some of the things Jesus did: to heal, to preach,to proclaim the Good News. Acts 8:5-8;14-17 shows Philip and Peter and John carrying on powerfully in healing and preaching. And Jesus reminds us in John 14:15-21 that we are in the living Christ and the Living Christ is in us: we are never powerless but need to tap deeply into our Power Source.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers

From Rev. Chava Redonnet, RCWP
Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, May 21, 2017 6th Sunday of Easter

Dear friends,

A few months ago, I visited one of our elders from the nursing home in the hospital. A retired pastor, he was struggling with being on the receiving end of compassion. “I’m no longer one of the people who count,” he told me. He was grieving the loss of his power! He had gone from being a person who “mattered,” a person others listened to, with responsibilities and authority, to being one of hundreds of patients, dependent on others for the most basic tasks.

I was thinking that might not be a bad experience for us pastors to have at the beginning of our ministries, rather than, or as well as, at the end.

My experience these past couple of weeks, visiting Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, then a whirlwind trip to Boston, involved something of that sort of role-reversal. Last night driving home, somewhere between Albany and Syracuse, I realized I felt competent again. Driving in Boston had not been a pleasant experience, and I was coming home minus about half a bumper, with every last nerve-ending frazzled. When at last I was on familiar roads, I began to feel more competent and “myself” than I had felt since leaving the airport in Mexico City, fifteen days before.

Everywhere I went in Mexico and Central America, I was accompanied by people who knew much better than I what they were doing. “Pastora, no!” they would shout. “Chava, watch out!” The first time Tonia’s sister took my hand while crossing the street – as you would with a small child – I realized I needed that. I entered buses confused, not knowing how much money to use, or what to do with it, or what the rules were. I sat in the wrong seat. I dropped my change, not knowing if what I was losing was the equivalent of a few pennies, or a few dollars. I had to have things explained to me, constantly.

But I had people to explain things. I did not have to be afraid of police officers. I had a place to sleep at night, and money to buy food. I had identification. I was a US citizen, thus one of the powerful of the world. Even in my vulnerability, I had layers of protection.

Have you ever thought about what it is like to lack all that? What is it like to live in a country where you don’t understand what’s being said – or how to use the things you encounter, like elevators. How much courage does it take to get through a day when you have no protection but your own wits, and maybe the company of some friends or cousins with as little knowledge of the place you are in as you?

I just want to honor the people who do that. I want to honor their grit and perseverance, the courage they summon each day to keep on going.

Years ago I was praying for a friend. He had just come out to me as gay, after years of close friendship. This was a time in my life when I was “open,” “tolerant,” “accepting” of the gay people in my life and likely thought I was quite progressive for that. But in prayer I received a revelation. God wasn’t tolerating my friend. God was delighting in him. God was rejoicing that he was who he was. God was dancing with joy!

God isn’t tolerating undocumented people, either. God isn’t sympathizing with their plight. God is in there with them, putting one foot in front of the other, keeping on, day after backbreaking day. God is in the voice that whispers inside, “Keep on going, because you count! Your life matters!” God is in that thing inside that fights back, that is in the struggle.

Maybe that’s why I think pastors should experience powerlessness. Senators and congresspeople, too, and judges and lawyers and all of those with voices of authority. We need to know in our bones that being a person that counts is not about titles and authority, but simply about being a person. We need to look at each other like God does – rejoicing, believing, encouraging, celebrating the worth and dignity, the absolute beauty of every person we encounter on this earth. We need to be in awe of each other, aware of the God in ourselves, the God who knows we are each walking around shining like the sun.

Many thanks to Tonia, Ricardo, Simona, Laura, Lizbet, Carlos, Sherlyne, Gustavo, Alfredo, Jose Luis, Enrique, Rosita, Hermana Chebelita and everyone at Shekina for being my teachers, guides, companions and friends on this journey. Thank you for correcting my Spanish and helping me get places on time, for feeding me and driving me, and holding my hand when I crossed the street. Special thanks to Gustavo, my fellow Peregrino Migrante, and to the community of Shekina for being such a shining example of what church can be. May we support each other, encourage each other, believe in each other, as long as we have breath to offer thanks and say “Amen!” Adelante!

Love to all, Chava

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Words used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia.

Oscar Romero Church An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph’s House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620 A member community of the Federation of Christian Ministries

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