Pre-mass speech at St Joan of Arc Catholic Community
by Sarah Gant (delegate in 2018)
My name is Sarah Gant, and I’ve been attending SJA for the past five years. I was drawn to this parish because of its spirit of inclusivity and its drive to connect the core Gospel values in relevant ways to our world. After the 2016 election, I was dismayed by the rising incidents of hate speech and racist rhetoric in our country, particularly by those in power. As an elementary school teacher in a district with many immigrant students and children of immigrants, I was particularly bothered by the idea of these students receiving the message that they were less than, unwelcome, that their country did not equally belong to them. I felt a desire to advocate for my students and their families beyond the walls of my classroom, which led to my joining the Welcome the Stranger Ministry here at St. Joan of Arc. There I learned more about the SJA sister parish relationship. I was one of nine SJA delegates who traveled Guatemala in August.
Our days in Guatemala were spent in the Sister Parish community, even participating in their women’s aerobics class, where they taught us Zumba, and we taught them the “Chicken Dance.” We were welcomed into parishioners’ homes, some who had previously visited Saint Joan of Arc as past members of South to North delegations. During the week, we had the opportunity to explore greater Guatemala, and were very blessed to have two members of our Sister Parish join us on our travels. In Guatemala City, we visited the Memory Museum, which told the story of the genocide and resistance of the indigenous people of Guatemala from colonization through the recent Civil War and the disappearing of indigenous leaders and entire communities by its government and military. We were all very impacted by our time in this museum, particularly the Guatemalan members of our group who were both visiting this museum for the first time. The same afternoon we visited the museum, I received the unexpected news from home of the death of a family member. As we gathered together that night to reflect upon our day, I was feeling very emotional from both my personal loss and from the frustration of the unearned privilege that came from us so easily being able to visit their museums and learn about their history when so many in their own community have never had the opportunity. The emotions of the night deepened as the Guatemalan members of our delegation shared their experiences during the war. As we embraced through our tears, I was no longer certain if I was crying for my loss or their loss or some combination of the losses we all face together as members of humanity. The lines between us and them had blurred so that I was no longer sure where I left off and they began, and it was at that moment that I truly experienced the power of what it means to be together as sisters in brothers in solidarity.I learned in Guatemala that the people of the community do not need the ideas, manpower, or any sort of “saving” from the people of the United States. Our ten days were spent connecting with inspiring activists, women’s groups, priests, teachers, youth and families, and farmers teaching sustainable agricultural methods, all with a common goal of creating a brighter future for their country. My limited Spanish speaking abilities forced me to listen more than to speak, and what I heard from the people was full of hope and strength. What the people of our Sister Parish truly need is our friendship, love, and solidarity, gifts that we also need from them, and that myself and the other members of our delegation were so blessed to receive during our time in their community.
I encourage you to make this the year that you step out of your comfort zone and try something new. My time involved in faith and justice ministries has not always been comfortable, but I’ve found that it’s usually at these moments when I am feeling the most uncomfortable or defensive that I am doing my greatest learning.
The Memory Museum in Guatemala ended with a mirror that guests walked by that had the quote, “Tu tambien eres protagonista de esta historia” (“You are also a protagonist in this story.”) Participating in the ministries of St. Joan of Arc helps to remind me that we are called to live lives of action as we each play our small part in the story of building the kingdom of God in our world.