Passionate and Alive
by Kathleen Bryant, RSC
Borders were definitely not barriers to communication, sharing of passion and collaboration when we came together in Cleveland. Imagine throwing a party and inviting people you had never met from a variety of cultures, languages, countries and backgrounds. What would make that gathering a success? We have the recipe!
After months of planning for the Hemispheric Meeting which took place in Cleveland OH Oct. 24-27thwe were enlivened by what happened among us and between us. There is a vivid account of our gathering on Global Sisters Report.
In our planning we made sure that we included survivors or thrivers who had experienced human trafficking personally. We also made huge efforts to ensure that everything we did was inclusive. The rituals and liturgy were designed to hear different voices, to include different cultural expressions and to make everyone feel at home in the sacred space. We chose a skilled facilitator and a global woman religious, Veronica Brand RSHM, well schooled in the issue of human trafficking to guide us through these days. Veronica was key to our cohesiveness and movement forward.
What were the surprises of grace? What were the 4 takeaways from the experience of the hemispheric meeting?
- Although we had never met most participants before the meeting, there was an instant bond, even at the airport, created by the common mission and passion that we shared. I met sisters who had just arrived at the airport around the same time I did and language was not obstacle to the affection and warmth we exchanged.
- We are people of faith. There was a deep grounding of belief that fueled our songs, rituals and liturgy. We believe that we are partners with God whose will is that each person be free. We began our Welcoming Ritual with the song, Somos El Cuerpo de Cristo!People were invited to pick up one of the percussion instruments and we had quite a lively rendition that immediately sparked a spirit of joy and enthusiasm.
- We were there because of others. Gabriella Bottani, director of Talitha Kum, suggested this hemispheric meeting. It was a Spirit- inspired initiative and so was the ensuing process. We were there because of generous benefactors who helped fund airfares, room and board, and all the other expenses that go into such a meeting. We are grateful for those organizations and religious communities that supported us and we felt their presence in spirit.
- We were deeply moved in our hearts by the stories of two incredible Thrivers/Survivors of human trafficking. The impact of this experience was evident in the shared collective empathy and heartfelt gratitude for these strong advocate leaders, Flor Molina and Marlene Carson. We were determined as a network to be survivor- in Flor and Marlene began the Liturgy, as they broke open the Word, with the stories of their lives, and then we processed to the chapel. We received gratefully their wisdom coming from their leadership and lived experience.
We knew we would hear 8 reports one day about how the different networks were trying to end HT. We hoped that our coming together would create new partnerships and collaboration among us in this hemisphere. We planned and we hoped and all that unfolded went far beyond those plans and hopes.
The energy, joy and bond among us was remarkable. Yes, we had translators and equipment. But we soon discovered sitting at meals and socializing together that there was so much more to communication than language facility. At the evening socials, we experienced song and dance from each culture. Several brought elaborate traditional dress to make the dances vivid and engaging. We reverenced the diverse expressions among us.
The ease with which all of this unfolded was sign of our shared solidarity, deep faith and joy in the expressions we shared. We, the planning committee, wondered if this meeting would work! When every attendee received her visa months previous, it was surely God’s confirmation that all would be well. And we can enthusiastically affirm that all went well, thanks to our donors, teamwork, the spirit of the participants and God’s providence.
Sister Kathleen Bryant RSC is a member of the USCSAHT Board of Directors and served as a member of the Planning Committee for the “Borders Are Not Barriers” meeting.Tags: Alexis, Ohio, Safe Harbor