By: Teresa Blumenstein
Teresa is from Haddon Township, NJ and graduated from Notre Dame is 2013. This is Teresa's second year with Loretto Volunteers, having served in St. Louis from 2013-2014. This year she is working with Loretto's NGO at the United Nations in New York City.
So far, this year has been a major exercise in gaining perspective. Now in my third term as a professional volunteer, I realize that the interconnectedness of all beings and all of nature is a notion that has been floating around in my head for quite some time. After four months representing the Loretto Community at the United Nations, however, I can honestly say this notion has never felt so concrete. Of course, as you might expect, having concrete ideas in one’s head can weigh heavily on one’s mind. Suddenly, every decision I make, from casting a vote in a US presidential primary to deciding how many squares of toilet paper to use at a given time, has implications beyond reckoning. Suddenly everything I own or consume I do so at the expense of someone else. Suddenly, by virtue of my dependence on, and participation in, massive, unjust systems, my individual capacity to do harm looms larger than my capacity to do good. Suddenly, no amount of knowledge can do more than scratch the surface of an essential understanding of the world. Suddenly, I am small, unsettled and oppressed by the very systems designed to give me power and privilege. I begin to grasp Marianne Williamson’s statement that “our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
But in the midst of all the horrifying truths I encounter on a daily basis, I know that running on fear of my own complicity in injustice is as unsustainable as current global trends in fossil fuel extraction and meat consumption. These past several months, I have found myself turning to the examples of Sally Dunne, Mary Peter Bruce, and so many Loretto women who have spent years (or a lifetime) advocating for the realization of human rights and who have witnessed so many problems grow worse in that time. My admiration for their fortitude in the battle for the silenced serves as my inspiration for my own role in this work. By their example, I have come to understand that what is asked of us as advocates is that we work for the good of those we will never meet, whether they are living now on the opposite side of the globe or their birth is seven generations down the line. We are asked to lay foundations for good in a world we will never see. The necessary global changes for which we fight, but which we can be sure we won’t see in our lifetime, are many, and the concrete victories are small and few. We will not be present to see our names rolling in any credits. This is not our task. We are running a relay race of countless legs and ours is far from the last.
Where, then, can I find the peace of mind to carry on as though what I do matters? My Loretto models remind me that our lives are sacred and the work we do to affirm both our dignity and the dignity of others’ lives is sacred. The pain, frustration, suffering, slowness of our global social progress, and the ostensible futility of our efforts in this sacred work are passing experiences, but good will, and the tireless pursuit of justice and liberation draw us closer to an eternal and universal truth that many refer to as God. Here we find the only rest and comfort in which we truly believe. In sharing the deep pain of another person, there is the greatest joy we can know, the joy of connection with another soul, another piece of truth, another answer to the question of who we are and why we exist. Through greater knowledge of the pains of my world and relationships with those who feel them most acutely, I experience a rich sense of humility and lowliness that leads me to the unity with those whose rights and experiences the dominant narrative has subjugated.
There is no freedom greater than the freedom to pursue the multifaceted truth of the oneness of the natural world and to fight for its reflection in the systems of government, commerce, and community that shape our lives. And with that thought, I realize I have circled back upon the key piece of wisdom that drives the life Loretto: We work for justice and act for peace, because the gospel, which is to say, the truth, urges us.
In Their Own Words
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