Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hearing Voices

Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), an outreach of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., invites College of Saint Benedict alumnae to join the monastic community in deepening relationships that support justice and service in a new location. Volunteers strive to live out the Benedictine Gospel values that were formed during their undergraduate education in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.
This week Erin Carey who serves with the Benedictine sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, blogs.

When I came to work in Erie, I wasn’t sure what my service would be. I was feeling self-conscious about what I had to give. I would always think to myself, “What could I possibly have to offer these people?” At times, I feel like my service doesn’t bear any tangible signs of growth: the refugees have trouble remembering what we learned yesterday or the students at the Art House are not interested in making music. However, earlier in the month one of our women refugees came in glowing with the news that she had passed her driving test. She told me that in her native country, women were not allowed to drive. Later that day, she asked about taking GED classes. Empowerment was pouring out of her.

Another woman and I were talking as I helped her fill out a job application. We talked about education in her home country. She spoke about how she had not had the opportunity to go to school. She gushed about her kids who had just started engineering degrees at a local college and working part time jobs. She said, “Education is very important. Very good. No person can take it away.” She was so pleased to have the opportunity to be in school and repeated often that she was “Thanking God for school!”

Our Group of Sisters and Friends

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. to participate in the Women’s March. As we shuffled down Independence Ave. with thousands of people, the women at St. Benedict's came back to me. The march was important because of the voice it gave to the people like the two women starting to taste empowerment. It gave voice to the people who are pushed down by systems. It gave voice to all people, especially women, who have been held back and are still being held back from embracing fully the empowerment of freedom, education and a space where their voice can be heard. Many people would do a double take of our sign (photo left). Some people would smile and say, “Hey! I know Benedictines in *Insert city name here.” Or “Thank you, sisters!”  We’re all still smiling in this picture. It was taken before getting stuck in the Metro for 2 hours on a broken down train though…still a wonderful trip!

A favorite sign, very simple:
"I'm with her."

I came back to the Mount from the march feeling thankful for all of the people who have drawn empowerment out of me: sisters, professors, teachers, family, co-workers, and friends. They have encouraged me to take my place and use my voice by pointing out my gifts, encouraging me to use them, and suggesting new books to read, ideas to think about and experiences to try.


Back in September, as Mother Theresa was being canonized, one of the sisters gave me a list of her quotes. One in particular stuck with me:


“God has identified...with the hungry, the sick, the naked, the homeless; hunger not only for bread, but for love, for care, to be somebody to someone; nakedness, not for clothing only, but nakedness of that compassion that very few people give to the unknown; homelessness, not only just for a shelter made from stone but for that homelessness that comes from having no one to call your own.”


The refugees, the children at the Art House and the sisters here at the Mount have embraced me and called me their own this year. Having these people claim me and accept me has encouraged me to use my voice. I’ve learned that my service these past few months has only been in part about clothing, feeding and teaching. I’ve learned that service is calling every person my own, and embracing the responsibilities of that, whether it is patience and presence with the refugee or the child or marching for their voices to be heard. It has become about listening to and making space for the people whose voices have been silenced both in my own heart and in the world. It has become about listening to my own voice and remembering that it too has a space to be heard. The more I entrust to other people and make room in my heart for them, the stronger our voices become together.


Erin Carey

1 comment:

  1. Such a beautiful expression of all you have learned, how you are serving, and the potential in all human beings. God bless you in your continued mission!!