Wednesday, 11 March 2015 11:54

A story of sisterhood: how a nun and a dream empowers humanity

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THE SETTING: I am writing this on International Woman’s Day. I am called to lift up my voice for women — all women (whether I know them or not), for today is our day.


I know that you will be reading this article two weeks after it has already been written which I think is perfect. What a great reminder to remember the women in your life, your family, and your community; and to tend to them, for them, and with them, a little more, not only on International Woman’s Day, but in all ways and all days.
So let’s begin. I could tell you 100 stories and more, about the inspiring women who have impacted my life. Yet I will choose one, so you can truly get to know her. My hope is that these words and stories awaken in you a deep calling and connection perhaps, to the women that have touched your own life. May these words invite you to honour, celebrate, share, and gather with the women you love, and the women that matter to you. May you stand up, speak up, and rise up for women, children and girls. Together we can empower women, empower humanity and empower ourselves in the process. And ohhhhh what a wonderful world that will be.
SISTER BREDA NOONAN: I first met Sister Breda in the Philippines where I lived and worked for three years at an agency called “Sabakan” that she helped to create. Sister Breda was a St. Columban Sister, from Ireland. She started the Sabakan ministry for abused women and children in 1996 in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines. I worked with Sister Breda for three years. In many ways, she was my supervisor, trainer, teacher, colleague and friend. Breda truly was the “coolest” nun I had ever met. Breda saw a need in the community to end violence against women and girls. Her focus, faith, determination, love and incredible value of equality and hope carried the agency forward and inspired others to take action and make a difference.
Breda truly embodied Gandhi’s expression: “be the change you want to see in the world”. Breda desired equality and a violence free world and she helped get us there simply being Breda. For example, our weekly staff meetings looked more like “process meetings.”
We would sit in a circle, there would be a candle in the middle and a talking piece (like a bell, feather, or sacred stone). We were not there to talk about our caseloads or work. We were there to talk about ourselves; to check in with how we were truly doing.
This staff meeting was truly a sacred circle where we could share ourselves. It was foreign to me, coming from government and institutions where staff meetings were about “caseloads” and clients and not at all about ourselves. But here in this little room, we all gathered. I doubted at first that anyone would share. Our North American culture likes to keep work life and personal life very private and separate from each other. Yet here in Pagadian City, Philippines, on the other side of the world, it worked. People shared. They were open. They listened to each other. They witnessed each other’s joy and sorrow. This was unlike any team I had ever experienced. This was human. This was right relationships. This was good. Breda helped us remember that we mattered. Breda helped us to see ourselves in the eye of the other. Breda helped us to be brave to share our own stories, so that we can encourage others to do the same. In the process of witnessing someone else’s story we find our own.
My invitation: Breda was 70 plus years old when I met her. Her commitment to women and children not only created Sabakan, but created meaningful relationships in all the villages where she and Sabakan staff worked. Breda worked for Sabakan but even more so, she worked for all of us. She worked for women and children everywhere, and for all the men who love and struggle. I am grateful for her teaching me that who you are matters, that one person can make a difference in the world, and that deep within you is a sacred light and that god and divine call us to move, grow, stretch and transform lives in many ways. Breda taught me that yes one person can make a difference in the world. Whether you desire to create a centre to end violence, or desire to find your own centre within, your life, your power, and your choices matter. 
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Read 4148 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 12:01