Women in formation with the Sisters of Providence who helped organize the Gathering in Solidarity at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods last Saturday. From left: Sisters Anna Fan, Dina Bato, Arrianne Whittaker, Hannah Corbin, Joni Luna, Tracey Horan and blog-post-author Emily TeKolste.

Six Sisters of Providence attended the Women’s March on Washington last weekend. I wrote an article about their attendance. It received some backlash, and even more support, when we shared it on social media.

Some commenters were disappointed sisters were attending what they perceived as a pro-abortion rally. The type of public dialog that resulted is precisely why I wrote about the March.

As a typical young American, I have family members from many different political and ideological viewpoints. I know all too well how even within families tensions can run high and assumptions are made about differences. I also know how harmful this is to building relationships, to coming together to achieve our shared goals. Because despite all our differences, there are some goals we share.

It seems that the Spirit has lately been leading me to break down my own walls and seek to build bridges in their place. It seems the Spirit has been leading me to the hard work of listening and bridging that which divides us.

When the organizers for the Women’s March on Washington chose to exclude a self-identified “pro-life feminist” group as a co-sponsor of the March, I was upset. I signed an open letter from a group of young sisters to the March organizers calling for a more genuine exploration of inclusiveness.

A group of Women’s March participants leaving for Washington, D.C., last Friday night. Among them were several Sisters of Providence and Providence Associates.

“If we are protesting divisiveness,” the letter says, “we need to model the uncomfortable but noble effort of unity.”

Similarly, if I allowed the issue of access to abortion to prevent my participation in an event calling for genuine listening and inclusion, that, to me, would be the opposite of inclusion and civility.

I am asking those who chose to condemn my sisters’ participation in the March to try to understand why those sisters were there and to listen to the stories they had to tell.

The only way we can bridge that which divides us is through encounter. We must seek ways of listening to understand rather than listening to respond. That is why I chose to stand up publicly for a culture of civility and inclusion at our own Gathering in Solidarity at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods last Saturday. That is why I refused to let one point of disagreement with March organizers exclude me from participating in standing up for the very foundation of society: civil, respectful discourse. Similarly, that is why I participated in calling to task the organizers for excluding others based on one point of disagreement.

As hard as it is for me to remember sometimes, we are all beloved of God exactly as we are.

As one of our community’s wisdom figures, Sister Nancy Nolan, is often quoted as saying, “Only love transforms.”

Love is getting down into the dirt of everyday life. Inclusion requires joining in the conversation.