Reflections on Racism

 

The Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary hosted a supper and discussion on August 24, 2017, fifty years after 1967 events in Detroit.  Racism: Yesterday and Today – and Tomorrow.  A Dialogue of Racism in Our Lives and Society in Light of Our Call to be the Body of Christ.   148 lay people, religious and priests from Archdiocese Detroit gathered at Sacred Heart parish to share their personal experiences along with their hopes of being disciples to bring the light of healing to the sin of racism – the central evil of our society.

Extra tables and chairs needed to be brought in for the overflow of participants.  Tables planned for seating 7 people became tables for 10 and 11.

Linda Franklin, Home Visitor of Mary associate, opened and closed the evening with prayer.   “In many ways, the face of racism looks different today than it did in the past.  Overt racism is easily condemned, but the sin of racism is often with us in subtle forms.  We gathered in the love of God and neighbor to examine racism in our hearts, and in our world systems.  We ask for forgiveness, conversion and greater capacity to recognize your divine image in our neighbor.  Enable us to challenge and uproot racism from our society and ourselves.   Amen.” 

John Thorne, director of Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, moderated the discussion and thoughtful sharing at the tables:  How to raise awareness?  Build bridges?   How to initiate conversation about white privilege?   Make a difference – today, tomorrow, next week?

Here are some of the suggestions made around the tables.  We invite all to consider supporting and implementing these actions, both individually and collectively.

  1. Parish-based discussions on racism and white privilege, perhaps using a book or movie or Bishop Dale Malczyk’s excellent reflection guide: Created in God’s Image.
  2. A parish night of healing on racism.
  3. Inclusion of racism and social reality in homilies.
  4. Support for the courage to speak about racism with neighbors and on the job.
  5. Reach out to expand your circle.  Establish ways to meet someone from a different race, ethnic group – not your own.  Begin talking so to know one another.  Talk from own experiences.   Highlight common interests.  Build friendship.
  6. Field trips:  African-American Museum, Detroit Historical Museum, DIA exhibits,  Holocaust Museum, Arab American National Museum.
  7. Engage persons under age 30 in discussions of racism: college campuses, Sacred Heart Seminary, youth group workshop; ask the youth to come back and share with the adult community.
  8. Raise awareness of the racism’s affect in all social issues such as education, criminal justice, divisions in the church and society.  Racism permeates our institutions.
  9. Stay informed of books, movies, literature on racism.  Read and watch.  Spread the word.
  10. Live and be Christ.  Let our lights shine out to others.

###

Posted in Uncategorized

Two Missing Pieces at Formation House

Dear Associates, Friends, and Benefactors,

In 2011, backed by your support and prayers, the Home Visitors of Mary purchased three acres of farm land two miles from the center of Gwagwalada, near Abudja, capitol of Nigeria.  In July 2012 with only the first floor completed the novitiate moved to the new but partially completed HVM Formation House campus there.   Eleven HVM sisters began living, studying there while ministering at Gwagwalada parishes and bringing religious formation to nearby outstations.

The Formation House also provides on-campus retreats for young adults and services for Fulani children living nearby who do not attend school.   In addition it houses the SHVM Theology Institute which provides religious academic programs accredited through the CIWA (Catholic Institute of West Africa).  

Construction at the Formation House is now mostly complete with class room and meeting spaces, kitchen, dining facilities and bedrooms for the sisters and guests.   

But two pieces are still missing!

  •  The chapel remains incomplete and entirely unusable.  Its outer walls are in place.  But the interior is barren – windowless and with unfinished roof, trim and flooring work still needed.  

Outside View

Unfinished Inside Chapel

Inside Chapel: Work Crew

  • The entry road into the campus remains unpaved.  The road  floods when it rains and becomes impassable dangerous mud – often isolating the sisters until the road dries out.  

Erosion and Flooding Area on Entry Road

Erosion and Flooding Area on entry road

Might you or your group be able to help?  Your generous donation would help complete the Formation House and access road as it was intended to be.   $8,000 U.S. would entirely finish construction of the beautiful chapel. 

 For further information or to discuss chapel-naming privileges, please contact Sr. Rosemarie Abate at telephone: 313-869-2160, email homevisitors@att.net.

Posted in Uncategorized

TED internet presentation by Pope Francis

Let there be no doubt that Pope Francis is a man of the 21st Century.  The Holy Father just released a TED presentation on the internet!

For those who are unfamiliar with it, TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas on various topics of current interest, usually in the form of short, powerful video talks of 18 minutes or less.

Summary of Pope’s TED talk:  A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you, says His Holiness Pope Francis in this searing TED Talk delivered directly from Vatican City. In a hopeful message to people of all faiths, to those who have power as well as those who don’t, the spiritual leader provides illuminating commentary on the world as we currently find it and calls for equality, solidarity and tenderness to prevail. “Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the ‘other’ is not a statistic, or a number,” he says. “We all need each other.”

Click here > Pope Francis TED presentation < and then click again on the play button to to view Pope Francis’ TED video presentation with English subtitles.

Click here > Transcripts <  to view a written transcript of the Pope’s TED presentation.

Supporters of Sisters Home Visitors of Mary will immediately notice the similarity between the message in the Pope’s 2017 TED talk and the core principles that have guided SHVM since its founding in 1949.  Indeed, the lifetime of HVM beliefs voiced in Sr. Mary Finn’s Mosaic magazine interview published just weeks ago are a striking echo of the Pope’s Francis’ remarks:  Hope, Oneness, Service to Others.

Click here > Sr. Mary Finn interview <  to read Sr. Mary Finn’s recent interview in Mosaic magazine.

Click here > TED talk < for an article on how the TED talk by Pope Francis was accomplished.

Posted in Uncategorized

Interview with Sr. Mary Finn

The interview of Sr. Mary Finn below appears in the Spring 2017 issue of Mosaic, the campus magazine of Sacred Heat Major Seminary.  Sr. Mary Finn has taught at the seminary for more than 50  years.  Her interview responses still have the vibrant joy and passion of the young lady who first found her way from the East Side of Detroit to the Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary.

The year is 1934, and Mary Finn comes into the world. What was your family situation like?

My sweet mother, Mary O’Hara, was Chicago-Irish.  My Dad was raised Catholic in the farm country of Northern Ireland.  Daddy was a Detroit streetcar motor man on the Gratiot line in the l930s through the ’50s.  Grandpa O’Hara almost every day during our pre-school years bundled the three little Finn girls, Pat, Marge, and me, into a red wagon to visit our Glenfield-Gratiot neighborhood on the east side of Detroit.  Every storekeeper and front porch family and beer garden patron met and loved Grandpa and the Finn sisters.

So you grew up in a Catholic environment?

Our neighborhood was a 1940s mix of many ethnic and religious cultures. We loved every aspect of neighborhood life at St. David Parish:  the priests and Sisters of St Joseph, daily liturgy, crushes on altar boys at Thursday night holy hours, sleeping through family rosary, sodality dances; and teaching catechism.

I’ve read that you were a pretty good athlete.

In seventh grade, newly-ordained Father Schoenherr [later Bishop] invited me to play and coach the CYO parish girls’ basketball and fast pitch softball team.   If there had been honors for girl players and coaches in those days, I would have received the best!  My batting average in four years of high school was 800! That was reported in the Detroit Times in the spring of 1952.

When did you first feel a call to a religious vocation?

In eighth grade, in 1948, Father Schoenherr gave a retreat on the three encyclicals of Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, Divino Afflante Spiritu, and Mediator Dei. They became the three guiding stars of my young faith and undeveloped vocation.  “Under the influence,” so to speak, of Father Schoenherr, I was receiving my vocation.

What is the charism of the Home Visitors of Mary? Why did you feel moved to enter the community?

Founding of Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary

The Home Visitors o f Mary was founded on November 21, 1949, at an abandoned North End St. George Parish, by Cardinal Edward Mooney and Msgr. John Ryan who was on the faculty of Sacred Heart Seminary, and lay women ministers Mary Schutz and Mary Agnes McGinnis.  We were founded as an urban sisterhood to visit and welcome Black families moving into white Catholic parishes.

When I was in tenth grade, Sister Mary and Sister Mary Agnes gave vocation talk at St. David High School.  Without telling anyone, I knew then:  “That is   who I will be … a Home Visitor … in the body of Christ in the city.”

What happened then?

A few months after high school, on August 15, 19 52, on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, I “set out and traveled” to follow Mary in the Gospel of Luke from the east side to the north end of Detroit [the term for area just north of Grand Boulevard], to 356 Arden Park, where I became a HVM postulant, then novice, then professed sister.

“Under the influence” of Sister Mary and Sister Mary Agnes and each other, we continued to grow in   wisdom and prayer and works of mercy.  But Jesus is the original “home visitor.”

What arc some memorable experiences doing ministry in the inner city?

Every day and every person in our Holy City is a memorable experience.

One of our North End ministries during the late ’60s and early ’70s was the Catholic Center, in an abandoned Jewish grocery store. Each young man who came to the center was my life-teacher.

One young man, Glen, came up missing and was found dead.  I went to “visit” Glen at the funeral home.  That night when I stood before Glen’s casket with Pat and Tyrone, with Ollie called “Chicken” and Eddie called “Preacher,” I saw the Body of Christ under the appearance of the murdered Glen.

That night I prayed and I knew:  In the daily Liturgy, Jesus is lifting up our broken city of Detroit and claiming, “This city is my Body.”  During all of these years, I am looking at the city and I see the Body of Christ.  Detroit is the city of my birth and vocation, and it is daily grace and Eucharist for me.

You have a BA in sociology and two masters degrees, in theology from Marquette and religious anthropology from Duquesne.  Was it typical for HVM sisters to be sent for higher education back in the 1960s?

 After novitiate, every Home Visitor went immediately to Marygrove College not to teach but to “learn and be changed.”

What are the circumstances of you being hired at Sacred Heart in the late 1960s, right after earning your degree from Duquesne?

I was invited by Fr. Ed Farrell, who was on the faculty at Sacred Heart and was confessor at our house to lead his Charles de Foucauld fraternity meeting with the undergraduate seminarians.  I eventually began to teach his spirituality course and gave class retreats and co-taught with Father various parish and diocesan events on prayer.

Fr. Ted Ozog was the rector.  He gave me a room, an office, and courses to teach.  He asked Bishop Schoenherr if I could oversee the seminarians’ apostolic ministry placement ”just for one year” until they found a replacement.  The rest is history!

You are in your fifth decade of pastoral formation of seminarians. Has your formational approach changed through the years?

Yes, every day. I am more changed by them.

We are growing in to a new freedom where we are able to talk   about racism more openly.  The inclusion of so many Chaldean seminarians has changed us.  It has changed   our understanding of the Middle East; we are being changed by Chaldean prayer, liturgy, and family table, especially by enjoying meals in Chaldean homes.

I can’t forget my eighth grade conversation with God, that “I am not a teacher or a nurse.”  During all of these years of being a teacher, Jesus takes me back to happily visit these early discernments.  Every Home Visitor is a teacher and continues to receive the gift of teaching back from each student.

Did you intend to remain at Sacred Heart this long? Were there any times when you almost left?

I continue to “receive my vocation” and appointment from our Home Visitor community and the seminary.  I have never “not wanted” to be here.

For all of these years, I have thoroughly enjoyed my ministry at the seminary. I will stay here as long as the seminarians and lay students can be the “home visitors.” [Sister Finn trains seminarians to go into the homes of neighbors and in nursing homes as ministers of Holy Communion.]

What are some important advisements you have given seminarians through the years?

“Live under the influence” of Jesus.  “Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.”  Often we live under the influence of fear.  But we have a call to live under Jesus. But that does not exclude fear.  Jesus was afraid.

It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, to look at another person, to receive the gift of “looking” and ” receiving.”

An example.  Last week in a suburb after a funeral, I went in to a Rite Aid store.  I came out and a man was getting out of his car next to me.  He was a black man in a white suburb. I purposely made the decision to “look” at him as I was going from the store to the car. It ended up we knew each other from the North End – and we prayed with each other!   “Oh, Jesus, you have got to come on this lady!” he p rayed. Right in front of the Rite Aid.  The parking lot became a “sanctuary.”

Take our Halloween outreach.  It is not about how much candy we give out or how many children come that determines “success.”  It depends on whether or not something deep down within me has been changed about how I see a neighbor.

You have done so much ministry work beyond your duties at the seminary.  Is there one you would like to cite as noteworthy to your vocational calling?

Befriending strangers.  By “looking” at the stranger, like the man at the Rite Aid.

Is this the essence of your spirituality?

The essence of my spirituality is the other person. Jesus and the other person.

Any thoughts about retirement?

I will be eighty-three this year.  I am having too much fun!  I regularly look at the horizon looking for retirement – and I don’t see it yet.  I keep looking.  I don’t see it anywhere!

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED?

I would like on my tombstone: “May she rest in peace ­ after one more stop.”

_______________

Editor’s note:  If you would like to read more about the history of Sisters Home Visitors of Mary, visit the History and Nigeria pages on this web site.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Carry Easter Joy to Others

Carry the Good News of Easter Joy to Others

After telling a class of small children of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene, I told them to draw the Scripture story.  One little boy drew a stick figure and two little circles at the bottom of the page.  I asked hem to explain his drawing.  He said, “Mary was so happy to see Jesus, she jumped out of her shoes.”

This small child caught the message of Easter.

Easter has several favorite Scripture words.

 ~The women hurried away from the tomb half over-joyed and half-fearful; they ran to carry the good news to the disciples. 

 ~On entering the tomb, John saw and believed. 

 ~Jesus greets his disciples with “Peace be with you.”

 ~Even though you do not see Him, you believe and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.

Ponder your Easter words in your heart.  Carry them forth with joy to others.

A happy and Joyous Easter!   

 Sr. Barbara, HVM

Posted in Uncategorized

Injuries to Sr. Elizabeth

March 23, 2017.

We are sorry to inform that Sr. Elizabeth Harris suffered serious bone fractures and other injuries in being struck by a car while crossing a street in Abuja, Nigeria.  After emergency care in Abuja she was transported back to Detroit where she is currently undergoing treatment at Receiving Hospital in Detroit.

Please keep Sr. Elizabeth in your thoughts and prayers.

Posted in Uncategorized

Tea and Art For Gods’ Sake

shvm-father-mechAn overflow audience at Sisters Home Visitors of Mary convent listened in rapt attention to a lively presentation by Father J.J. Mech, Rector of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, on February 19, 2017.   “Art for God’s Sake” was a recurring theme of Father Mech at this SHVM fundraising Tea.  Father Mech is deeply traveled and highly educated in the arts.  He once served as chaplain for the Patron of the Arts for the Vatican.   Father Mech explained how art and prayer are surprisingly intertwined and supportive … both providing a route to better communion with God.

10-img_6679

Father J.J. Mech

12-img_6697

With a little help from a friend!

HVM Sisters Rosemarie Abate and Barbara Dakoske introduced the audience to Home Visitors of Mary missions and needs in Detroit and Nigeria.  All attendees enjoyed tea, snacks and beautiful deserts provided by HVM supporters.

4-img_6668

Sr. Rosemarie Abate

8-img_6675

Sr. Barbara Dakoske

A special treat for all was the unexpected arrival of Mr. Dennis Pillon in a beautiful 1911 Ford Model T.  See photo below.  Mr. Pillon visited from the nearby Ford Piquette Plant and Museum.  The Piquette Plant is the birthplace of the Model T – by far the most influential  car of the 20th century.  The Model T was entirely designed at the Piquette Plant and was first produced there before the much larger Highland Park assembly plant was built.  Check out the Ford Piquette Plant web site for information on public tours of the plant.

1-img_6662

1911 Ford Model T

2-img_6665

Mr. Dennis Pillon

14-img_6677

Audience Front View

15-img_6672

Audience Rear View

16-img_6687

Audience Overflow

tea-service-img_6690

Tea, snack & deserts

20-img_6693

Door prize for lucky attendee

img_6670

Young budding artist #1

img_6701

Young budding artist #2

 

Posted in Uncategorized