TO RCWP USA(March 13/09)
St. Katharine Drexel ( our meditation) Part 1:
Since March 3, we in Canada along with Judy Lee(USA) who first drew our attention to St Katharine Drexel , have had a few diverse conversations regarding this extraordinary American woman canonized Oct, 1, 2000 by John Paul 2.
Our 3 way conversation circled around Judy's own pastoral work and knowledge of Drexel but it was also energized by further considerations of Ruth Mewhort'sstained glasswork of the stand of trees she now calls (Paul's painting). I have kept coming back and back to it, and it has riveted me in ways I could not immeidately explain.
For me,(Michele), Ruth's stained glass artwork has strong aboriginal resonance and I feel a kinship between the omages and Katharine Drexel's pastoral work with Native American's and with the Black people. Perhaps, this resonance that has captivated me so is due to the fact that on our West Coast Islands, most of the land belongs to our first Nation's peoples and the spirits of their ancestors are everywhere in nature.
.As well, during the time of the underground railroad ,many black slaves escaped to these islands off the mainland of Canada. Indeed, I have an uncle on Saltspring Island whose ancestors were amongst these liberated people. I have 4 nieces who are black and my aunt, a Conery, who married Uncle Bob, did so when it was entirely unacceptable to marry interracially. I have another aunt who married a First Nation's man, both of them long since deceased. All of this took place out on these islands where Ruth now a painter on Galilano and a newcomer by the standards of the long living and deceased inhabitants, is picking up on what has long been here and lives in the waters, the rocks and the trees, the animal life; (nitice the whales in the stained glass working of the ocean).
So we will once again send this painting in recognition of the long journeys to freedom of our oppressed peoples Canadian and American, natives , blacks, hispanics and all those poor and dispossessed people of any race , ethnicity or gender--and worlwide, Let us remember Bishop Fresen and the justice understanding she has brought to us from Sout Afirica.
In her real life in the USA, and not imagined from Galiano Island, St. Katharine's young life prepared her for her later life's work. When I read that she was the second daughter of Francis Anthony DRexel and Hanna Langstroth, I find out only thatHannah died just over a month after Katharine's birth. This must have been signifigant in its impact on her father and the two girls who were then cared for by an aunt for 2 years.
Katharine's father re-married and so we now have the name of her step-mother Emma Bouvier Drexel who Katharine cared for in the last 3 years of mother's life until she died of cancer at the age of 21.
Katharine's father died in 1885 when Katharine was now herself 27 years old and a wealthy woman. It would seem that all family events had to transpire until she was free to follow her intensive and undeniable call to serve the aborignals she had already seen so destitute, and then later the blacks whose oppression she grieved and whose freedom she fought for.
She attended to needs , you could say, in Maslow's hierarchy. That is food and clothing came first, then schooling and all along she fought for human rights. She was a prophetic witness and justice worker well ahead of our times, and then dying herself, at the age of 97 but in retirement from her mid- 70;'s on due to debilitating heart illness.Imagine though, what she knew living from 1858 until 1955. Many of us were alive then and listening and dancing to The Platters who Rose says, also inspired her stained glass painting.
I liked the Platters version of "Trees"...
I changed the word "Poems" to paintings.
Paintings are maed by fools like me
But only god can make a tree.
Schmalze...but I like it.
Katharine was a benevolent woman who used her wealth to effect public change on a large scale. She started with the small country schools established on the reserves and pushed forward all the way to founding Xavier Collge, the first institute of highe learning for black people. She was a woman ahead of our later Civil Rights movement bought she fought against racial discrimation such that she could be held alongside the best(Matrin Luther King). Just a little ahead of her time we could say but such a life and what we have lived to see teaches us just who our people are in the Cloud of Witnesses. whether canonized or not
(and we question tne system of canonizastion justifiably)-. Neverhteless, they won by faith. By faith they went as far as they could go in their cirucmstances and time.
It will be the same for us in RCWP. and for other committed changemakers whatever their cause. We too take up a justice issue and stand against discrimination of all kinds but particularly for the ordination of women By this, I mean we stand for major discrimination and not just those little discriminations we feel in our personal rights when we are slighted unintentionally or forgotten by others sometimes.
We have something else in common with St. Katharine Drexel that we might recognize in RCWP .We are sometimes criticized as forgetting women of less privelege and are said to be women of privelege ourselves and here we go again, those uppity white upper class feminists now pushing for this particular change.
But what is benevolence? Few of us are wealthy women and probably none as wealthy as Katharine Drexel was in her time.But what we are doing in this foundational time is to give without holding back what we have of our money, our hospitality, our giftedness to bring forward this very difficult movement. This has no doubt led many of us to adopt a simpler lifestyle already. We are benevolent together in community and not as one alone.
We should resist being pressured to underestimate our empowerment from this nor led to overreach what can be done nor underestimate what we we may eventually accomplish.. We do this by the same faith liverd by St. Katharine Drexel and all in our Cloud of Witnesses and Communion of Saints. We do this..".Yes we can" as Obama would say.. And like him, we cannot do everything all at once. Nor can we address everyone's justice issue and solve their dilemna while at the same time remaining attentive to ours.
The prejudices we must yet come through ourselves will not disappear overnight but in living them through ,the mysteries of changing hearts will be revealed in the People of Godde's quality of faith life.So many of you are describing such experiences already in your communities
We have reason to celebrate and to be joyous and filled with hope and love for how far we have come and for where we are going, for what we can see and not see.
tbc in Part 2 which will include Judy Lee's personal story and knowledge of St.. Katharine Drexel..
Blessings on all,
RCWP/Canada and Europe West