by Cathy Jaskey
Cathy is a Loretto Volunteer in DC, serving as staff associate at WATER, the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual.
I have had the great opportunity of working at the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER) with Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu. When asked what I do, I receive a variety of responses from saying the mouthful, “I am a Loretto Volunteer, living in community in DC, and working at the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER).” Often, I receive puzzled looks, “you do what now?” A few times I’ve received only a shrug or feigned interest, but most often I’ve experienced great curiosity and fascination.
The thing is, it’s really hard to describe WATER. I can list some of the things I do in my position: fundraising mailings; thanking donors; contacting publishers; designing WATERwheel print newsletters; creating WATERmark e-newsletters; maintaining archives; scheduling conference calls and upcoming programs; planning and promotion of monthly contemplative prayer/meditation experiences, Feminist Conversations in Religion Teleconferences, and Catholic Lesbian/Queer Women’s Discussions every other month; editing audio recordings of events, updating WATER’s website, blog, twitter, and facebook; editing articles, rituals, chapters, talks, and other writings. Sure, there are a lot of really cool things I work on, but it still doesn’t get to the heart of it.
Instead of trying to define WATER, put it in a box, or conclude what this year has been like (all impossible feats in my eyes) I would just like to share a few hints of qualities that I think have been so special. Mary and Diann are so foundational as to why WATER flows. Their work speaks for itself. They are distinguished “rock stars” in the field, and all year, I have been amazed by their passion, knowledge, and energy. Both Mary and Diann are full of fresh creative ideas and new avenues to boldly push of boundaries. Mary’s writings and teachings challenge systems of power and oppression with unmatched critical insight and active suggestions. Diann’s rituals and therapy sessions build open, much needed spaces to celebrate, name, and claim. Together what they create is so unique.
What is so distinctive to me about WATER is the community. It is connecting to this global family of diverse worldviews coming together to work for social change. Most of WATER’s events are held both in person and over phone as a teleconference. This allows for people all over the world to call-in and come together. For our last teleconference, which was with the phenomenal Margaret Mann, our time-zone span ranged from people calling in from 7 p.m. in Germany and 7 a.m. in Hawaii. It is always a fun surprise to see who will call in. The WATER office itself fosters community. There are often visitors in the office - old friends, clients, or scholars using the many resources in WATER’s significant library. Mary and Diann are such models for hospitality always pausing their busy day to welcome, chat, and share a cup of tea.
I am beginning to understand the saying, “never a dull day in the WATER office.” The variety of the work, Mary and Diann’s inspiring example, and connecting with the WATER community adds to the excitement. I am so happy to be welcomed back to return for a second year next year.
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