Cooperating with Evil

I woke up this morning and I was still Catholic. I had to ask myself why? Would I belong to a Sorority if a significant number of the leaders had raped children? Would I join a country club if I knew that they raped the children of the members, knew it was happening and covered it up guaranteeing that even more children were raped? Would I give money to a charity that I knew had been abusing and raping children for most of my lifetime?

I bet almost everyone is saying of course not. You and I would stay far away from such organizations. Yet, I find all manner of justifications for staying.

  • I enjoy the sense of community which I share with others who have similar beliefs about social justice. It doesn’t even seem right to use those words in association with the Church today.
  • I find the churches, the art, the music, and the liturgy beautiful. But the beauty on the outside hides an ugly truth.
  • I go for the Eucharist which the Priest brings to life for us, but did God intend it to have such a high price. Would God have created such evil and hold us hostage so that to have access we must go through rapist and those that cover for them?

The truth is I don’t believe in running from evil or abandoning a person that commits an act of evil.

It is true that we are told the number of pedophiles and rapist is small but is 300 small? It isn’t to me. Because of all the secrecy, how do we know it is only 300 hundred in 6 dioceses? After each scandal, there is a promise of transparency that only turns out to be another lie by the Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals. They knew they hadn’t told the whole truth and they knew transparency was one more lie told to the hostages of their faith.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
Maring Luther King, Jr.

I believe faith is a beautiful thing, but I don’t believe it should be a justification for being cooperating in supporting evil. If there were 300 priests in 6 dioceses that were rapists that is about 50 in each. Considering the number it is impossible for me to believe that every Priest, or the vast majority, in those dioceses didn’t know along with all of the United State Council of Catholic Bishops. It is too many for that to have been kept secret.

Some priests are displaying their anger and indignation and telling the people of the Church to do something. I’m curious what they would have us do. Do we get a vote in how the parish is run? Do we get to select our own Priest? Is there any hope that we, especially women, can have a leadership role? Can we vote them all out? Can we fire all of the Bishops?

It seems the only thing we can really do is withhold our money which only hurts the people served by the Church, vote with our feet which leaves those that will turn a blind eye to evil, or stage a protest demanding that the evil is removed. Could we all meet outside the churches and not come in until every last person that raped, covered up rape, or remained silent is no longer a member of the clergy? Could our protest be in the form of prayer vigils outside the parishes across the country? What would happen if a million Catholics marched to the USCCB building and refused to leave until everyone that knew stepped down and voluntarily committed themselves to a life of penance? Would we have the power to end the cycle?

I have no idea who is a good priest and who is raping children or abusing seminarians, but I know who does know – Priest, Bishops, and Cardinals.

If we all walk into Mass this weekend and do nothing we are cooperating with evil. What are we going to do? I for one am not willing to do nothing and I’m not willing to let them steal my faith or my Church from me. I hope one of you has a brilliant idea of what to do because I’m feeling like any good idea must make a strong statement while being compassionate and respectful and that is a tall order.


Rural and First Generation Students

There are many government definitions that are used to describe rural vs. urban areas. Tennessee, for example, has five clear urban centers (red), but in 70 of Tennessee’s 95 counties over 50% of the population is in a rural area. An easier way to see it is to look at a color-coded map with green being the most rural and red being urban. It is clear that much of the state is rural. That means many of the state’s college students come from rural areas.

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In addition to students from rural areas, 25% of students come from low-income and are first-generation college students. What does it mean to be a first-generation college student that is also from a rural area? As I sat in a session on teaching and learning, I could not help but identify with what I was hearing. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I had someone that could routinely answer questions about college issues including study habits, hints on writing, the importance of office hours, and even scholarships. It was also the first time I wasn’t working full-time and going to school so it was probably the combination of the two that made graduate school exciting.

First generation students frequently do not have parents that can explain to them what it is like in a classroom. They may not understand that the money the student must borrow to attend college is worth it if they have a better life growing forward. The data is clear that career options are better, they start off better, and they make more money across their lifespan. If you borrow the price of an expensive car to pay for an education it doesn’t start depreciating the day you drive it off the lot.

The day is gone when the goal of the English and science departments is to weed out students and reduce the numbers. Most faculty now consider it their responsibility to help all students to succeed and recognize their role in lifting students out of poverty through education. Most universities now have early alert programs in place for faculty to notify advisors when students start missing classes or don’t do well on assignments. It is these programs that help with student success.

Yet, what surprised me the most was that those students who get involved early in clubs, Greek life, athletics, or other extracurricular activities are the ones least likely to drop out. It left me with this question, what about the students that must spend much of their free time working? How do they engage with the campus community? What can we do to keep them in school?

What I don’t know sometimes surprises me and every once and a while my own biases shock me. Maybe I had to work so many hours as an undergraduate that I’ve held on to that envy all of these years, but kudos to the fraternities, sororities, athletics, intramural sports, cultural centers, and faith-based groups on campus that reach out and get students involved. Kudos to all of those who made sure a friend graduated. Kudos to every professor that offered a little extra help.

“Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul.” – Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach


Finding Clarke in All Places

When I went to Clarke University to teach nursing I felt I found my soul. I was able to let go and be the person I imagined I was born to be and not the one forged by 20 years of federal rules and regulations. As I taught nursing I learned how to be a better nurse. When I left the spiritual safety of a Catholic university I feared I would regress or in some way have my faith diminished by not being constantly in the presence of those dedicated to freedom, education, charity, and justice. What I didn’t know is that everywhere I go they are present.

Today I went to the Catholic Worker House to help prepare food. It wasn’t the organized preparation we had in St. Louis for the St. Patrick’s meals, but rather the Zen method of taking whatever has been donated and turning it into a tasty and nutritious meal to take downtown to distribute in the park.

One of my tasks was to find the scissors and in the process found Sr. Mary Dennis. She quickly introduced herself and told me she was from Iowa. As soon as I said I had taught at Clarke she beamed and announced she was a Clarke graduate and a Presentation Sister from Dubuque. We talked about our love for the place and what it means to us and promised to talk more over coffee.

I came home to Knoxville, but Clarke and especially the Sisters that helped me with the transition to higher education continue to touch my life and faith. In every city I’ve lived in since I left Clarke I have run into a Clarke graduate and without exception, the one thing they have in common is their love for the place and the life-changing impact.

catholic-worker-logo-1I feel blessed that God sent a Clarkie to Knoxville to live in the Catholic Worker house, care for those that live there, and provide hope to those that are homeless in Knoxville.
Sr. Mary Dennis and the people of the Catholic Worker reminded me that it is my job to carry with me everything I learned from the BVMs. There will always be reminders along the way that we are a community of love and part of sharing that love is recognizing the dignity of every human being. It is the education we have and share with others that helps us develop our gifts and share them. I learned to be free. I will always be free.


When Feminism Meets Southern Lady

It has been a month since I returned home to Tennessee and I quickly remembered what it means to be a Tennessean and why I loved being a Volunteer. People say good morning and actually, mean it. I still remember the psychology professor from New York that told us how it freaked her out when she first came here. In Tennessee, people make eye contact just because it is considered polite to make eye contact when you say hello and to acknowledge even a stranger when you pass them. And, it isn’t uncommon to have a 10-minute conversation in the grocery store with a total stranger. Men still hold the door and will hold it while you climb the steps as if they have all the time in the world. Plumbers, electricians, and all the workers that have been so helpful with the old home I bought quickly treat me with greater caution when I give them the “my daddy taught me…” when it comes to home repairs. The look on their faces say, she may have lost part of the accent, but she didn’t forget how to fix things.

I love being a powerful woman, but I also love wielding the Southern lady.

I learned how much the South has changed. There was a time when a new woman in a university or corporate gym may have been considered a spouse. Yesterday, an older gentleman in the gym assumed I was in a leadership position. I’m sure part of it was the dress I was wearing that clearly gave me away, but still, I remember a time when people would see me in uniform and ask me if I was a stewardess instead of recognizing me as an officer.

I was dressed for success, but a Southern man didn’t assume whose wife I might be and that is progress.

It is nice to see that the Southern ladies have made great progress in the advocacy of women’s rights and equality. After all, a true Southern lady does not stay long in the company of those that cannot respect her. I am grateful to all the female academics, graduate students, and professional women that have worked so hard for equality. I have seen these women every day and they are doing the things that impressed me as a student so many years ago. They take their mission seriously and they take it to the streets. Almost everyone I happen to have met at the university has told me about their work with the homeless, or in an underserved clinic, or with children who were born into poverty, or their mission trips to serve the poor and spread the Word. Yes, it means something to be a Volunteer and that calling to step up lives here.

This leads me to my thought of the day. We can be polite to others and accept the intention of good manners with graciousness. The woman behind the counter that calls me dear is not being disrespectful nor is the plumber that does the same if their intent is to be polite. Communication is not only the words we choose to use, but the tone with which we use them, and the body language when we are talking. Holding a door doesn’t say I am less than a man. In fact, it is meant to show respect even if in doing so it acknowledges a role that is often linked to gender or age.

I’m glad to be home and happy that I am being reminded on a daily basis that there is much to love about the South. It is nice to slow down and remember that I should never be too busy to greet a stranger with kindness and get to know them. I am a feminist, a Christian, and a Southern lady and I love it that in Tennessee I can be all of those things!


Full Circle, Returning Home

Today I came full circle to where my career began. Anyone who has known me any length of time has heard me tell how influential the faculty was in my professional development. They formed my view of how a professional should dress, behave, and handle all manner of clinical issues.

Like all first days, most of it was spent taking care of paperwork, connecting to systems, and being introduced to my new colleagues. I also had the pleasure of meeting students that were either visiting from or getting ready to go abroad to experience healthcare in a different system. Day one and I remembered what this place meant to me. It changes lives and gives students a new view of the world.

After a walk around campus and a trip down to Gus’s for a veggie sub, I took some time to look out the window at the hill to Ayers Hall. As a student, I climbed that hill more times than I can count and there was a time I knew exactly how many steps there were up to the hill. Now I look at it across the treetops with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to all the faculty that guided me and for all those that welcomed me home. I can only pray that I will live up to the standard they set all those years ago.

When I got home from my first day a letter was waiting congratulating me on my tenure being approved by the Board of Trustees. I’m home.

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How many times did I climb that hill for classes and now I see it from my office.


Development of a Tiered Assessment Tool for Disaster Nursing Competencies

I hope all of my nursing friends will take the time to complete this short survey for the Idaho State University School of Nursing.

Society for the Advancement of Disaster Nursing

Researchers with the Idaho State University School of Nursing and the Idaho Public Health Association are interested in developing a disaster nursing competency assessment tool for use with baccalaureate nursing students. We are requesting your assistance with developing a tied competency assessment tool based on the International Council of Nurses and World Health Organization (2009) Framework of Disaster Nursing Competencies. The online survey is anonymous and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.

https://isu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cBcT4WbuuVEIVG5

Please complete the survey by Friday, February 16, 2018, and please forward this email to nurse colleagues who work in disaster health or teach disaster health nursing.

After pilot testing the instrument we will provide survey participant the survey results and a copy of the assessment tool if requested. For more information please contact Dr. Mark Siemon, PhD, RN, PHNA-BC, CPH at siemmark@isu.edu

Thank you for your help with this request.

Mark Siemon

Idaho Public Health…

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Zen and a New Semester of Nursing

IMG_2195Tomorrow is Saturday and I need to finish painting the hall and then I need to get my syllabus revised and my class online. Tonight I only plan to sit. I need to clear my mind of the all the perfects I’m always seeking.

There was a time when I wanted the perfect briefcase or backpack whichever had all of the things I thought would help to organize my coming and going from work. Then I wanted the perfect purse. It had to be the right size so I didn’t try and put the kitchen sink in it and have pockets so I could find the important things among all the junk. There are many other perfect things I looked for wallets, ladders, gardening carts, and notebooks to mention a few. In reality what I’m looking for is something that brings a little order to my life. The search continues.

The theme of order consumes me at the beginning of each semester and it shows in predictable ways. There is almost always, depending on the time of year, either a gardening project or a painting project the week before classes begin that must be finished. One doesn’t need to look very deep to figure out the psychological roots of the behavior. It is all about order and progress. Whether it is gardening or painting there is a clear beginning and end. I can see the beauty that is added to my environment and it calms me. I pick up the brush and my focus is on a straight line, even color, making every stroke the same. The concentration blocks out all other thoughts. I’m present with the brush, the paint, and the straight lines. Nothing else. I begin my semester with a small accomplishment and a calm and centered mind.

Tomorrow I will take this sense of calmness and order and put it into a syllabus knowing that while I will never create the perfect syllabus for my course I will try to make the lines straight for the students, eliminate the junk, add beauty to the content in a way that engages their minds and spirits, and attempt to make all of the pieces blend together so that the individual strokes are invisible. I hope they will use it to create their ideal of a perfect knowledge toolbox. But tonight I sit.

“I forsake all that thing that I can think, and choose to my love that which I cannot think.” – Johnston, The Cloud of Unknowing

Sitting in the darkness I am able to let go of all the junk. My life is clear and calm when I sit and the desire is extinguished. There is no perfection and no frustration. Though I do not know God’s will, I do know that I am to serve, forgive, and be compassionate to others. I am formed moment by moment with each stroke of the brush. If I sit long enough with enough calmness maybe one day all of the brushstrokes that have formed me will be invisible. Tonight I sit so tomorrow I can serve.