on violence

I know I haven't written much here about my ministry experience. This is mostly out of respect for the women I am working with - it's very challenging to find a way to share the experience while respecting their right to confidentiality. But today was one of those days that inspires me to try.

Months ago when I was asked what type of ministry experience I'd like this spring, I answered that I'd like to work with women because, as our Constitutions say:
Because our founder showed particular concern for justice toward women, we commit ourselves to be involved in ministries and action which affect the contemporary situation of women in the church and in society.
I felt like I needed a direct experience trying to live out this passage of our Constitutions as part of my novitiate experience. And so I find myself on Mondays and Tuesdays working with victims of domestic violence, helping them to navigate the court system as they seek to find some protection for themselves and their children.

First of all let me say I am in awe of these women for finding the strength to claim their own power in confronting the oppressive situation of their daily lives. I am also in awe at the people who commit themselves, day in and day out, to helping them do exactly that.

But I am also frustrated. Frustrated at the continued and pervasive existence of violence in our world. From the violence of armed conflict to "solve" international problems, to the violence on our streets, to the institutional violence of our social/government structures, to violence in families.

I am frustrated at the bureaucratic systems that make it so hard for some of these women to be protected. On the one hand I recognize that the work of domestic violence advocates and legislators in the past has provided more resources and made it easier. At least we have laws that protect people from domestic violence on the books. But on the other hand, particularly when these women have faced such daily terror and harassment, the bureaucratic hoops they have to go through seem to be almost too much.

It's easy perhaps to be overwhelmed by the frustration. It's a temptation I suppose to be numbed by the day-in-day-out reality of these stories of violence. It certainly seems as if many of the women have suffered from this numbing effect in their own lives. And yet, here they are seeking to do what they can to protect themselves. That, in itself, is a source of hope and a reason to be doing what I'm doing. Again, as our Constitutions say:
We value the mutuality that empowers people to share in decisions that affect their lives, and we work in a collaborative way to achieve this. Whatever our ministry, we act on the belief that only in freedom can persons assume responsibility for their lives.
And so I pray. For an end to violence. For an end to unjust structures. And for freedom for all people.


Anonymous said...

Sister Susan Rose, please read my weblog about the historical struggle for Justice. You may find it interesting. I have a lay ministry visiting inmates mostly in a local jail, but I have visited a state prison a couple of times. I teach and try to open up the Gospel to these men, some of whom may never have attended Christian worship, not even having heard the Gospel. Some have never seen a bible before attending services as inmates.My primary calling has been for prayer intercession, spiritual warfare and the laying on of hands and that's why my blogger ID is intercessing@gmail.com

Garpu said...

I have a friend who's trying to negotiate the system for domestic violence. She's in no danger anymore, but given the ineffectiveness and flat out lack of care by some law enforcement officers, I have to wonder if anyone who *is* in danger is actually able to get any protection. Advocates and people like you are in a special ministry, I think.

Sr.Nicole Trahan said...

Thank you for sharing your frustrations... I've not worked directly with victims of domestic violence in ministry situations, but personally I've known women who are victims. And the lack of avenues to get out of those situations is very frustrating...
Thank you for the work that you do. It is extremely important. I'm glad reflecting on your constitutions led you to it.

On a different note, do you know when you'll profess vows?

Susan Rose Francois, CSJP said...

Nicole - at this point all I know is sometime after Sept 1.

Our Council is meeting this month so I hope to know more soon!

Hannah said...

Sounds like you are blessing in these families lifes! I hope your work inspires others to do the same!