20 years of marching for peace – McDonald Sisters of Peace

I just got back from the 20 year anniversary of peace vigils happening on the Lake Street Bridge. For 20 years, Women Against Military Madness, Veterans for Peace and the McDonald Sisters from the Congregation of St Joseph’s of Carondelet (CSJ) have been marching the bridge every Wednesday to promote peace. For 20 years! The sisters didn’t start the march but they have certainly been stalwarts!

I have been to the vigil before. Not every week or even every month, but I have been there. Monica (who I was with tonight) has certainly been there more often. I am impressed with the people who have been greater staples in the vigil.

I learned all about the McDonald sisters at The Sisters of Peace play at the History Theater earlier this month. Four McDonald sisters became nuns – out of a family of 11 kids. It was a really interesting show – especially if you happen to have been brought up Catholic in St Paul, especially if you went to Catholic schools run by CSJs, especially if you are a woman. Especially if you have had moments when you haven’t been super proud to be Catholic and you’ve even had people who were kind of nasty because you were, (And to say I’m Catholic by anything but birth and education, is a stretch.) because the works of the McDonald Sisters and the works of many of the CSJs that I have known have been thoughtful, progressive and built of the power of persistence and helping people see things in a new way.

These are women who became sisters. Went to their assigned posts and made the most of them until they found their calling. Their calling was to promote peace and fight against war. This has manifested in vigils, rallies and several arrests at demonstrations.

There is a scene in the play where the youngest (Kate?) talks about why she is becoming a nun. Maybe I’m reading in – or bringing in other stories I’ve heard – but it seemed like the choice was become a nun or have 11 children. And it seems as if you are one of the oldest of 11 and your mom spent much of the next 12 years being pregnant, that you probably feel like you’ve already raised a family.

It makes me appreciate the middle ground we have today. I see how far women’s potential has come with the emergence of birth control, women in the workplace, gender equality – we have a long way to go for real equality but, we’ve come a long way and that’s hopeful!

Also the stories of the sisters bring me back to what I learned in school – do onto others are you would have them do onto you. We didn’t learn about what I’d call fringe issues – we learned to be nice and do our best for those around us. (My kids learned more about fringe issues in school much to my dismay.)  Seeing sisters in action on the stage and on the bridge today reminds me that for many of us doing the right thing is much more important than adherence to rules.

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