Struggling to speak out against injustice with Saint Mother Theodore Guerin
(Editor’s note: Happy Feast of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin! In today’s blog post we hear from Emily TeKolste, the newest woman to follow in Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s footsteps by entering the Sisters of Providence, the Congregation she founded. The passage from Saint Mother Theodore’s Journals and Letters below speaks to Emily. In what way does Saint Mother Theodore Guerin inspire you?)
Saint Mother Theodore Guerin journeyed home to Indiana after a fundraising trip to France in 1844. Returning from a trip prompted by prejudice and poverty that the sisters were facing in Indiana, Mother Theodore fell ill in New Orleans. She had to rely on the charity of the Ursuline sisters there to nurse her back to health for seven weeks. Despite all the challenges that she had faced and all the challenges that she knew she would be returning to, Mother Theodore responded only in compassion when she saw the selling of slaves at a port in New Orleans, an act considered legal and acceptable at that time.
“The most painful sight I saw in New Orleans was the selling of slaves. Every day in the streets of appointed places, negroes and negresses in holiday attire are exposed for this shameful traffic. This spectacle oppressed my heart. Lo! I said to myself, these Americans, so proud of their liberty, thus make game of the liberty of others. Poor negroes! I would have wished to buy them all that I might say to them, ‘Go! Bless Providence. You are free!’ But such feelings must be concealed from the Louisianians, as this is a point on which they are sensitive.”
In the midst of her own pain and struggles, Mother Theodore still considered the most painful sight to be that of the injustice of owning other human beings. She looked upon her fellow human beings with compassion, saw clearly the results of an unjust structure, and yearned to end the suffering. She also saw clearly the social context which made this possible: “Louisianians are sensitive to being called out on the injustice of slavery.”
Like Mother Theodore, we today struggle to find the ways to speak out against injustice in a society that’s sensitive to the topic. How can we see the world more clearly? How can we respond in compassion?