Wake Reflection for Sister Marita Greenwell, OSU
When Marita first asked me to share today my reply was “no” in an already busy life didn’t feel that I could take the time to prepare, but the Spirit had another plan. The morning after saying “no” I woke with the imperative that I must share my long history with Marita who has been such an advocate for Women. She is often “the other voice of the church” inviting women and men to grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.
In my field we have a term called “Parallel Process”, so today I will share with you some of the Parallel Process” in the history that Marita and I have shared for the past 25 years. At times she has been teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend to me. It’s about walking a parallel path with you for many years. Many times you walked about leading the way, other times you would “slow down” wait for me and we would reflect and share, I know that even though I am one woman telling a part of my story, you have journeyed with many women both women religious and lay women.
Here is a part of my story and your story. I first met Marita in 1978-1979. I was a corporate wife and mother in the years of the women’s movement. At age 40, my life felt as though it was falling apart. I, a Catholic, was facing divorce struggling with my meaning as a woman and facing the responsibilities of raising 3 children. I didn’t have a job (corporate wife’s didn’t work back then), (felt shamed by my Church, (in those times divorced people were sometimes denied Communion) and much alone. It would be almost 10 years before the Catholic Church under the Leadership of Father Joe Mills would begin to recognize the needs of divorced people.
So “feeling all alone” I found a class at Brescia, sponsored by the Contemporary Women’s Program on healing and divorce. Marita, of course, was the teacher and facilitator. There were seven women in the class. We read, cried, studied, told our stories of pain and hurt, and in the process began to heal. She introduced me to some of the very first books by Catholic authors on divorce and healing. She was truly “ahead of her time” a visionary, ministering to those in pain despite the mentality of the Church at that time.
Within the next year Marita and I met again. It was 1980, we were both asked to serve on what would become the Owensboro Area Spouse Abuse Center (OASIS). Marita was chosen because of her work with women through her Contemporary Women’s Program. As she listened to the Women’s stories, she began to hear stories of violence and abuse, never before spoken. Again, it was a struggle for me as I am sure that it was for Marita. We were accused of breaking up marriages. However, within the next five years, the Church would begin to invite us in to educate them on Domestic Violence, If memory serves me right, Marita served on the Board for four to five years. Again, she was “ahead of her time”, and ahead of the Church.
The Parallel Process Continues: Serving both on the Women’s commission for the Diocese of Owensboro for ten years. Marita facilitated the group for Women elected by the Diocese. In those ten years, she never missed a meeting! We began to call her “The Rock”. It was a busy time in the Church. During those ten years, 1986-1996, under Marita’s guidance, we held hearings on the Bishop’s pastoral on Women, and established the first Sexual Abuse Policy for the Diocese. We also sponsored the first Sexual Harassment Policy for the Diocese.
Provided workshops on spouse abuse, and studied “Women in Poverty” quite an accomplishment for a small group of Women. Most were lay women under the guidance of Sr. Marita and her ever-present spirit of mutuality and justice.
As you may have surmised, I was now healing from my divorce, had a job, completed my masters, and continued to raise three wonderful children. As a therapist, I began to pass on my learning and hope to others. I wonder what my life would have been like when in the darkest hours in 1978; I had not enrolled in Marita’s course.
Another wonderful venture The Partnership Group was established by Marita in 1989, and continuing until today. The group has become a wonderful supportive group for couples studying and experiencing partnership in marriage, in the Church Community and in the Global Community. Now in its 14th year, some of the founding members are here today: Carl and Molly, Edna and Jeff, and Marcy Allman. Mother/Daughter workshop marked the presence of 120 mothers and daughters, Marcy Allman and her daughter, Atlanta and my daughter, Lee Ann facilitated.
Then these were the classes for the Dismas House Residents. The focuses of these classes were Women’s self- esteem and Spirituality. Returning to the Contemporary Women’s room as a teacher this time, we explored emotions, violence, and creativity. For these wornen who were “serving time”, Marita’s classes were indeed a breath of fresh air and quite a risk for her, but you know, she is always ready to take the lead when she sees a need. She always desired to bring others closer to themselves and their God.
Years fly by. At the age of 74, Marita invites me to co-facilitate an innovative class called “Aging and Saging. Helping Women tell their life stories. Thereby synthesizing their lives, letting go of more pain, forgiving where appropriate, continue healing and creativity, returning finally home to the self, sharing our wisdom and love in preparation of our final journey. Embracing a truly whole and holy self- created by God, each of us is a gift to the world. We have enjoyed these classes now for seven sessions; we were joined by Mary Sublett on the harp. Finally in 2002, there is Canticle to the Cosmos a wonderful series exploring the human in relationship and partnership to the Cosmos and Mother Earth. She created another visionary class with wonderful discussion, creativity and insight.
For this wonderful journey, I thank you Marita, your visionary approach to God and Spirituality has been central for me in the last 25 years. I know that it has not been without struggle, doubt, fear at times, as well as energy consuming. So, I thank you dear friend, mentor, colleague, teacher, as do so many women and men.
- I thank Brescia and the Ursuline Sisters for providing you with a “home” in which to do your work.
- I thank your friends who have supported you and have been the “wind beneath your wings.”
- I thank you for your courage in listening to your inner voice.
- I thank you for your wisdom in following your inner voice.
- I thank you for sharing in the charisma of Sister Angela Merci.
- I thank you for providing a safe place for others to share their stories.
- I thank you for both your structure and your openness.
- I thank you for your vision.
- I thank you for being “a women’s voice in the church.”
- I thank you for your Partnership between Women Religious and Lay Women.
- I thank you for being “The Rock.”
- I thank you for your creativity.
- I thank you for your intellect and curiosity.
- I thank you for your wonderful spirit.
My life has certainly been blessed by your presence, as have many others.
Margaret Ann Huston
June 23, 2011