When Sr. Elisa and I visit our Ursuline high schools, a popular activity for the students is collecting our nun cards (think baseball cards). Today’s questions from students at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula in the Bronx came in response to info on Sr. Mary Dostal’s nun card. Sr. Mary is co-director of Angela’s Piazza in Billings, Montana.

M. DostalDostal CardWho is Dan Berrigan and why do you admire him?  Dan Berrigan is a Jesuit priest in his 80’s who is a poet, writer, and peace activist in the New York City area. I admire him because since the Vietnam War he hasn’t only been a voice against resolving international disputes through war, but has on several occasions engaged in non-violent protests, been arrested, and sent to jail. He doesn’t just talk against the injustice of war, but puts his body on the line. His poetry leads me to a deeper understanding of the mystery of death, evil, injustice and where or how we can find God in the midst of the struggle for justice. Dan Berrigan’s writings help me see God in all situations. I think his life also is a call to each of us to discern how to be engaged in the struggle for justice. I don’t think we can just admire someone from afar. Through his writings and his life, Dan Berrigan has linked working for justice with the Gospel, with Jesus’ call to bring about the Kingdom.

How do you plan to make your dream a reality? I’ve participated in at least 8 workshops in the last 15 years on classism and racism given by people of color. This has deepened my awareness of how our society has structural injustice. I’ve taken these ideas and joined with others in the local community to address specific issues. We need to find organizations that are addressing these issues locally, such as police profiling or the causes of the high drop out rate in high school of Native American students (I live in Montana and they are the largest minority group). Another way is to attend social events and encourage others to attend when there is a celebration of a different racial group. For example, I go to powwows, but many Caucasians in this area have never gone and tell me that they are afraid. So I invite them to come with me. When we experience how another celebrates, for example, we begin to undersand a little more about them. In the various workshops I’ve attended it has been said that until I invite someone different from myself into my home, I still have barriers to understanding them. Another way that I’m involved is in my present ministry at Angela’s Piazza. I work with low income women, the majority Native American, and some high school drop outs. Through our groups, I believe the women are finding their own voice and growing in assertiveness. As a result, a few have gotten their GED’s, a couple are going to college, and several have moved into the workplace. Through this ministry, I believe this also ends racism and classism as women get educated, grow in self-confidence and self-assurance.