By Julia Walsh, FSPA and Amy Nee
In a land of concrete and cold stone, restlessness for New Life stirs and shakes.
We fumble through work in an urban landscape. We speak to the oppressed and vulnerable, saying they are empowered to free others; they are powerful and rich beyond measure; they need to contribute to the betterment of the world. Yet, how can this sink in or resonate when they are overwhelmed by their own needs and struggles? We don’t have an answer, yet our voices ache from trying to obey the Spirit, to share convictions, to offer hope and healing.
This paradox mirrors what bruises the world: we who decry it are a part of the system of oppression. We are oppressed by our own participation in the torture, in the violence, in the poverty and discrimination. We are seeped in the things that we despise because we are a part of this world.
Yet we resist. We stutter and whisper “peace” while the world cheers “Fight! Fight!” The chant is global and it’s in the microcosms of high school hallways. We are conflicted by conviction, shadowed by shame. We have been socialized to believe that we are the best, or at least better than those who are different than us. We walk forward and proclaim that we believe in equality and justice in the ways that God has dreamed. Then, haunted by hypocrisy, we cry in confessionals with the realization of our own racist tendencies.
And, we look for cracks in the concrete; in the system, in ourselves, in the land that surrounds a school, broken like a battlefield. We don’t wait for permission and we find our own ways to be generous to the earth and people who we love. We drive through violent neighborhoods and buy seeds at Home Depot, stir up sick soil and pray over the life we try to plant.
Then, we step back and trust that God will guide the seeds to life. God will shed the Light and shower the water. We’ll have the strength to weed and pull out garbage that blows in. Along the way we are awed and surprised with the transformation and affirmation. Others shall be supportive, generous, and we’ll find Jesus hidden under tarps around corners that seem abandoned.
This is the story of the Genesis of the Hales Franciscan High School garden. It is also part of the larger story of the Truth of this earth that has God placed us on together.
(Cross-posted to: http://kairoschicago.blogspot.com/ )
Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her love for God and God’s good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker. She ministers at an inner-city Catholic high school in Chicago.
Amy Nee is a Catholic Worker, a gardener, a volunteer, a care-giver and Sister Julia’s friend.