by Ross Fewing
Not long after arriving in Fairhaven, Washington, Sr. Teresa Moran, CSJP, wrote her community in New Jersey, US. Her letter dated 23 August 1890 offers points for reflection on nonviolence.
First, nonviolence is a way of life. It grows from our grounding in a tradition and an environment that nourishes and sustains. Sisters Teresa Moran and Stanislaus Tighe came to Fairhaven to meet a need: "The people are very anxious for a hospital" and discovered that "even the Protestants are glad to see the sisters coming."
The sisters begged for funds from the people whom they were building the hospital, meeting them where they lived and worked in the mountains, mines, and logging camps around Bellingham. Asking for money was an opportunity to meet and connect, to offer hope, warmth and to heal the spirit.
One of their means of getting funds was the sale of $10 hospital tickets. The ticket entitled the holder to one year's hospital services, including doctors' services. Later the lumber companies established a sick fund, deducting a dollar a month from their employees and giving it to the hospital for their employees' care.
Recently, on hearing the news that a much loved and respected Sister was retiring as chaplain, a nurse in one of our hospitals said, "She allowed us to be spiritual without being religious." No doubt that is how the miners and loggers felt. Their dignity was acknowledged and respected.
Nonviolence is born from the care and nurture of one's own spirit thereby learning humility. Sister Teresa wrote, "We go to confession to Fr. Boulet. There is no one else . . . living alone for so many years (over 30) has made him a little peculiar in many ways but when one understands him he is very nice – he is French." Nonviolence is the recognition and respect for the dignity of the other even if the other is, well, "a little peculiar."
Nonviolence is born of a healthy sense of self. "Fancy two creatures like us to build a hospital, if it ever succeeds it will be by the visible power of God alone." If one sees oneself as a child of the Creator then, like Sisters Teresa and Stanislaus, we are all God's touch in the world.
"You will hope if God blesses your work to sow the seeds of peace in modern society."