We Cannot Limit Our Response
We Cannot Limit Our Response
“Standing with our sisters and brothers who are poor and on the margins of society” are more than words to me as I reflect on the Woman’s Place mission which is “to be a safe place of hospitality and compassion for adult women who experience violence in their lives.” Because of the prevalence of violence in our world today, we cannot limit our response to a fixed time or place. A recent incident that occurred in our neighborhood has reminded me that our vision and mission extends far beyond the walls of Woman’s Place.
Woman’s Place, a sponsored ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, is a safe place where women, some in dire circumstances, seek support and understanding from us on a daily basis. Since I carry this mission with me wherever I go, I have countless opportunities to live it in my daily life and with the people I encounter. Let me tell you about my most recent experience of living the Franciscan Value “to embrace the non-violent aspects of presence found in our ministries and give witness to those lived experiences.”
On a Monday morning I was driving from my home when I witnessed an assault on a woman by her partner in our neighborhood. Needless to say, my first response was one of shock and then, I went immediately into my “compassion mode,” knowing that I had to do something to protect this woman. I jumped out of my car and told the man he had to let her go and stop hurting her. By that time, several other neighbors who had been out walking early in the morning and had also witnessed the situation stopped and tried to help protect her.
Three of the witnesses had immediately called the police. Eighty-three year old Evelyn was the first to call. What a model for us all. Remarkably, everyone (all five of us) remained at the scene of the crime until the police came. We then waited to see if the police would take action. In the meantime, we all signed a paper with our names, addresses and phone numbers and gave it to the police. We were all willing to be available as witnesses. We also wanted to give a clear message to the police, the family and the entire neighborhood that violence will not be tolerated in our area.
As I continued my drive to work, I reflected on the experience. In order to work for non-violence, I have to be prepared to be a witness to it and speak out about the injustice of violence against women and children wherever I may be. I was overwhelmed by the cohesiveness of my neighbors in staying with the situation and communicating to the abuser and the police: “not in our neighborhood will we tolerate this behavior.” To be a witness, one must take a stand. For us, it meant being willing to sign our names, addresses and phone numbers, being ready to testify. I believe we all have a genuine desire for peace in our hearts, our homes, our neighborhoods and in our world.
That morning I arrived at Woman’s Place feeling confident that our Mission statement is strong and that our Franciscan Values are alive and well.
Submitted by Sr. Jeanne Meurer