by Nora Anderson
I had the privilege of attending an event led by one of America’s most needed Catholic voices, Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby, or “The Nuns on the Bus.” I had the opportunity to speak about community issues with fellow Catholics concerned with the willful ignorance of other Catholics in positions of power who seem to be turning a blind eye to Christ’s greatest commandment—to love your neighbor as yourself. We spoke about a wide array of concerns, ranging from economic inequality to closing generational gaps.
But unlike many community meetings, this one ended with a call to action that spoke to all of us, or at least me. Sr. Simone gave us three commandments for the twenty-first century that will allow us to have open conversations about issues facing our neighbors and ourselves.
1. Holy Curiosity—seek out those who are different from you.
I have a pretty uniform group of friends. Like me, most of my friends are white, college-educated (many in graduate or professional school), upper-middle class, and queer-identified. There are some outliers, but overwhelmingly, the people I spend my time with share similar views and life experiences. We spend our lives in echo chambers, and many times, we aren’t aware of the lives of our neighbors who aren’t like us. Sr. Simone calls us to not only find those who are different than we are, but to listen to them as they share the struggles they face navigating through life.
2. Sacred Gossip – amplify the voices of the oppressed.
Talking about what problems your friends and neighbors are facing isn’t just something to be whispered to your neighbor at the PTA meeting. By interacting with those in our community who are facing poverty, racism, or gender inequality and sharing (with their permission, of course) their struggles with your neighbors humanizes many of the complex issues we are faced with in our society.
3. Pick one issue that speaks to you—and stick with it.
I often feel I am under immense pressure to be actively working in every arena in inequality. It gets exhausting, and then I feel bad for being exhausted, and then I have to take a break, and it all repeats. But we aren’t supposed to be able to fight every inequality present. She echoes Paul’s words from the first letter to the Corinthians; we cannot all be every part of the body of Christ. But even if we are just working as the inner ear bones, we are all still part of the body. Pick one fight to be a part of and stick with it. One person’s talents, concentrated, are much more effective than when they are spread out over many issues. Sister Simone believes she is part of the intestine—she makes the rest of the body uncomfortable, so that a problem can be addressed.