Week Two – The Call

Discern Dream Scheme

Diane Greenaway

My why – as an act of discernment.

It may be my “anglo” prairie sensibility, and my pre-Vatican II context, but I have primarily functioned by putting my nose to the grindstone, meeting the demands, surviving and trying to learn from every experience. The shaping of linear functioning was very powerful. I have never heard a “call”, or had a “spiritual experience”, what ever they mean.

I attended a retirement workshop once where the Priest presenter asked us,  “ Do you ever wonder why I do not mention God?” His response was “ If we cannot listen to each other, how will we ever hear the voice of God.” It was an awakening for me. Upon reflection I realized that I have beside me now and had through my entire life many amazing human beings.  Their wisdom and nudging continues to invite me into living with agency, more completely, and more fully as a human being. This is my call, my spiritual experience and my passion. It is what I want for every living being and the cosmos.

So why do I care?  While we now would call it racism, a profound experience that shaped my entire life was in the 3rd grade. I had an exceptionally cruel teacher who violated verbally and with the strap, anyone she perceived as “less than.” Two classmates she relentlessly abused were Victoria who lived in a shelter, and Joseph. Victoria was a Cree Indian girl and Joseph was a Metis boy, which in Canada means he was part French and part Indian. I learned from my mother that people who helped children like Victoria and Joseph were called social workers. I vowed that I would be a social worker. My life’s purpose became to be present to and serve those suffering at the hands of an unjust system. I retired from Social Work after 40 years in the profession thinking, I am sure, “my mission accomplished.”

My second profound experience was post-retirement. I accepted the opportunity to teach in a fledgling Masters in Social Work program at a hard right Anglican/Episcopalian University in Kabale, Uganda. I returned broken. My overwhelming need was to understand how a people lose their sense of agency. I could not look away from the oppressive power of the impact of colonization and the institutional church, regardless of the denomination. Once in Buffalo I started learning about the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. It was used to justify and rationalize European/British thought and behavior toward the West African people, the Atlantic Slave Trade and the Indigenous People and land in the Americas and all colonies and how this way of thinking and behaving is expressed today in secular and legal ways. I no longer think personal transformation, service/charity is enough. My focus is on systemic injustice and systemic change.

So why do I care?  The question that haunts me, brought me to Discern Dream Scheme, and that emerged viscerally in the prayer period yesterday is as follows:

“How is it possible for me to live in the fullness of my humanity, with integrity and still participate in albeit, a progressive rc parish community? How am I not complicit in the racist, misogynistic, homophobic, non- inclusive, non-evolutionary reality of this institution and its use of domination locally and across the globe in ways that disable human beings from living fully and the cosmos from thriving?”

6 thoughts on “

  1. I admire your hard and faithful work of accompaniment, Diane. The phrases that struck me while reading were “God with skin on” and ministry of presence <3

  2. I love these concluding questions. They’re so similar to the questions I’ve been posing to myself the past few years, albeit I’m in a very reactionary traditionalist Diocese, but found hope and comfort frequently in the words of Pope Francis. I look forward to exploring possible answers to these questions with you.

  3. Wow! The journey of listening is never done and there is always more to discover, learn, and be transformed by. One of the things I have tried to grapple with is how privilege can be used to change things. Often times I have been in conversations where privilege is seen as bad and should cause people to feel guilty. I don’t find that healthy and feel that we should challenge folks to think about their privilege and how it grants them access to be able to change things. Perhaps its the social worker in me (we social workers need to stick together). How are we listening and how does listening impact our caring?

  4. Diane, I was moved by your statement: “If we cannot listen to each other, how will we ever hear the voice of God.” Like you, I have blessed to know some amazing human beings who mentored me and brought out the best in me. You ask some tough questions, but I look forward to exploring those together.

  5. I think that the questions which haunt you haunt almost all of us Catholics who have been drawn to this time of discernment. I have thought about leaving several times but the words of one of my fellow reformers, Deb, come to me again and again: If we leave, who will do the work of reform to fix this broken church? So I stay, and I pray, and I speak out, and I use my financial resources to try to turn this 2,000 year old institution in a new direction, the direction that points to justice and inclusivity…and to the Holy Spirit.

  6. I share your deep concern about the ways that institutional Christian religion has gotten tangled up with colonialism. Have you explored any authors or movements focused on disentangling colonialism/Empire from following Christ/the Gospel? What has influenced you, and do you have any resources to recommend?

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