St Joan of Arc organized a Sister Parish Sunday mass for November 15, 2020. Watch the video of the service below and/or read the reflection below by Rita and Jeff Nohner that was shared during the service. Thank you to everyone who made this beautiful service possible.
This time of year, St. Joan of Arc is typically buzzing with activity. Walk into the Welcome Center on any given Sunday, and you’ll see people tabling for all kinds of ministries. On one of those Sundays – right about now – you would see the Sister Parish committee hosting our annual craft fair, offering up items like ornaments, advent candles and various textiles made by the members of our craft committee in Tierra Nueva Dos, Guatemala.
But this isn’t a typical year, so there is no craft fair. And that really bums me out. Because the Craft Fair is our chance to chat with you as you browse… about this incredible 25 year relationship of mutuality and prayer, of learning to live the beatitudes. You know, Matthew says “Blessed are the poor of spirit.” Luke says “Blessed are the poor.” What our Sister Parish relationship has taught us is that the poor of spirit have much to learn from those whose lives are different from ours.
Of course, what you see at our annual Craft Fair is just the tip of the iceberg. The true heart of this relationship is delegation travel when we really hear the stories and see the reality of one another’s lives. In doing so, we learn more deeply what it means to be human.
Jeff and I have traveled on delegation to Guatemala multiple times. During those visits, host families have opened their homes to us, sharing their meals and worship with us. We spend time as members of their families, playing Uno with Olga’s kids, making music with Leonel’s family, carrying on deep conversations via Google translate with Estela’s teenagers. It has been so fun to watch those kids grow up. We have learned first-hand the challenges of their daily lives and the resilience and tenacity they bring to bear against them. In short, they become our family and we become theirs.
The South to North delegation visits to Minneapolis are equally important. Jeff & I have been blessed to have delegates stay with us in our home. In hosting, we have had the experience of seeing our lives through their eyes. We have felt the disquiet that comes from confronting our own privilege and considering the costs of our comfort.
Our guests see our world as well. I remember so clearly a visit to the Northside Achievement Zone when we met with a group of young men who had left gang life and dedicated themselves to creating peace in their community. One of our delegates, a mother who had lost her son to gang violence in Guatemala, reached out to them with such tenderness and love. These young men from North Minneapolis connected with these mothers from Guatemala in such a profound way, with such a deep sense of shared loss. As a witness to it, I knew I was outside of it. But it was like watching a ball of light glowing and filling the room. To be there was a gift.
So, as you can see, much of our delegation time is spent “being” rather than “doing.” We listen to one another and share ideas for confronting the injustice that keeps all of us in poverty of one form or another. We share our hopes and dreams and celebrate the successes of our joint projects. But our time together reminds us that these joint projects, while important, are hollow without this sense of shared community.
Stepping into solidarity often means stepping into pain. But it also means stepping into great joy. Living one another’s realities moves the concept of justice from the head to the heart. And so, it is when we return home from our delegations, that our call to action truly begins. A call to advocacy and outreach. Sister Parish offers us the opportunity to become instruments of God’s peace, a need as vital here and now in Minneapolis as it is in Guatemala.
Rita and I are involved in a lot of things at SJA. Why Sister Parish?
Like much of Minnesota, Guatemala is agricultural. The people there make their livelihood off the land. But hey face a lot more challenges that we do. They have a corrupt government with foreign powers bribing their way in to strip the hillsides just to find some gold. They kick people off their land so that they can profit. 10,000 or more people were displaced recently when a volcano erupted, and many people were killed. Just last week, Hurricane Eta made landfall there and killed another 200 people and ravaged the landscape. They suffer from earthquakes, drought, and floods. They live with the daily impact of Global Climate Change.
There’s a Mayan saying someone told us about: Sometimes Mother Earth is like a dog and humans are like fleas. When there are too many, or they are digging too deep, or they’re biting too hard, the dog shakes itself, rolls on the ground and jumps in the river to get rid of us.
Despite the adversity, or maybe because of it, our Guatemalan family is joyful. They have a deep appreciation for what they have. They focus on what’s important. They know that faith and family and community are the most important thing. And that’s what touches us, because that’s what so many of us long for. We’re in a country that feels like a lot of division, and what they have is a lot of connectedness and community.
Many of you have been to the potlucks and gatherings and delegations and have visited with the people who have come here, but not many of you have had a chance to go to Guatemala or be a part of that part of Sister parish.
Well, there are ways you can get involved now. Because the pandemic has cancelled all travel, for the first time anyone can travel on delegation. This weekend, Sister Parish is starting the first virtual delegation where you can meet with and visit with people and organizations in Central America without traveling.
There’s also been a lot of activity in the SP monthly meetings, which are held every first Wed of the month. You’re invited to join in that. You can join the SP bible study, there’s prayer partners, and other programs. Or you can even support SP financially through the Give to the Max Day which just happens to be coming up next week.
If you’d like more information on any of these things, you can look for the Sister Parish page on the website and contact us.
We invite all parishioners to become a partner in this relationship. Bring your talents – of an open heart, a loving spirit and a desire to be a pilgrim.