Confusing My Ancestors

“Please write and publish the following by Wednesday, June 3rd”

(^^This line is stressing me out.  I’m already behind and it is so typical that something that I joined that was supposed to life-giving is already feeling like it is depleting me. There is something that is so. . . CATHOLIC. . . about that. So it feels familiar~ha! Just admitting this has relieved my stress.)

I invoke the spirit of my female ancestors. I can imagine the party they have while they look down on me when I am training or preaching or talking to my daughter about how to speak up for herself. I wanted to start with this notion because I think of them often. My Ahmas and Aunties were most likely put on the back burner (or did not even enter into the equation).      

I am a lifelong Catholic. I have been a Community Organizer for close to 13 years for the Gamaliel Network–first with the local affiliate in my hometown of Kansas City (Missouri) and now with Genesis, the local affiliate in Oakland (California). I belong to one of the Genesis congregations, St. John’s Episcopal Church and am on the vestry (parish council). Even though I attend an Episcopal Church, I still hold onto my identity as a Roman Catholic.

The universe has blessed me in that I get to be mom to Caitlyn who is 14 years old.  She is courageous and hardworking and has the kindest heart. I always hoped that I could change the narrative for Chinese girls and I get to pour this hope into Caitlyn everyday. 

Thank God for Community Organizing! In the midst of a pandemic, I find myself so grateful that I am working in a space that feeds my spirit. I am proud of the way that we as organizers create a holy agitation and call people out of the shadows. I remember feeling this happen to me when an organizer (Mary Gonzales) asked me (after I told her a story about feeling so small in my Chinese American family), “What is it going to take for you to be the heroine in your own story?”  This agitation transformed me and this is the (mostly) “good news” that I share with my own leaders and those who I encounter when I’m training.   

In April 2020, I left my husband of 20 years. I took a screenshot of a quote, “If a woman leaves you for herself, she’s gone, she ain’t never coming back.” I feel so grateful to have a “Divorced Mom Club” (terrible name, I know) full of supportive women and to have found ways to create a narrative for our family that isn’t steeped in sadness, tension or secrets.   

My goal for this workshop is to take time for discernment. I turned 50 last year and am definitely clear that I have earned every single one of my years. 

  • I yearn to find ways to build on my ministry of Community Organizing and have found that my work is different lately. The organizing in my city is so rich and steeped with history. 
  • I find myself wanting to minister to the leaders and to the organizers who are witnessing the terrible destruction of human bodies.  I know that organizing does that on some level but I want more.
  • I have gotten few invitations to preach lately and have LOVED the exercise of giving birth to words while thinking about the spiritual care of the humans who are listening to me. I am literally scared to say this outloud so I know the Holy Spirit is at work.


3 thoughts on “Confusing My Ancestors

  1. I’m happy to be in this space reconnecting with you especially in a season of so much transition.

    What is your next opportunity to preach?

  2. Mary, sorry we didn’t get to meet but I hope that you can join us again at some time. I just wanted to offer this verse from Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.” I am sure you are very familiar, but sometimes a reminder doesn’t hurt anyone.

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