Love, the driving force: a journey of discernment

Chronicling my formation with the Loretto Sisters (IBVM)


Leave a comment

Friday Afternoon in the Park

The sun shone bright and hot on Friday. After a busy week caught up at the UN, I took advantage of the weather to explore Central Park. I’ve been really craving green spaces lately. Last week’s trip to the Botanical Gardens seemed to spark a desire for green, natural and fresh spaces. Big, open spaces. So I went to the Park.

I found just what I desired. Especially when I reached the Sheep’s Meadow. Turns out I wasn’t the only one seeking a big open space and green to stretch out on.

After getting lost for awhile in The Ramble, I wound up at Turtle Pond. I didn’t spot any turtles but the cherry blossoms made up for it.

And then I spotted this creature.

Bethesda Terrace was a hub of dog walkers, young families, buskers, and even…

models. I was thrilled to witness a photo shoot for some magazine taking place on the steps and under the archways of the terrace. Gorgeous gowns.

Since I am now cosmopolitan New Yorker, I decided to do as the locals do.

My second-to-last stop was to check out the boat races but only a few were out on the water.

Next to the boats is this statue of Hans-Christian Anderson, beautifully dedicated to the children who lost their parents because of 9/11.

A touching way to end my first visit to Central Park.

 


1 Comment

Immersed in the UN

United Nations Headquarters in New York City

After a busy two weeks of finishing up papers and wrapping up my first semester at Regis College, and celebrating Holy Week and Easter with the IBVM community, I’ve now embarked on the next stage of my formation of my second year of novitiate. This time from New York City.

I am here for the next three months on an immersion experience to learn about the work of our IBVM non-governmental organization at the United Nations (IBVM UN NGO). I’m working with our UN representative to find out how the IBVM engages the world at the UN and contributes to its aims.

The past few days have been eye-opening and so enjoyable. I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about the activities of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at the UN, and how NGOs work with this body. I’ve attended a couple of NGO committee meetings – one on social development/social protection and the other on global citizenship. It has been incredible to meet people of different backgrounds who are coming together to work on a shared cause.

Quite a bit of the UN system is familiar to me, having worked for several years on the children’s rights file (including National Child Day) for the Canadian federal government. I know a lot of the lingo and the mechanisms for achieving the work. But a big difference I’ve noticed already is the challenge of working together as a collective of different organizations as a coalition rather than departments of one federal government (though there were times it was challenging to work together as diverse departments!). To me, it seems much harder as a group of NGOs to come together to determine a mandate, a direction, and steps for taking action. In the government, generally the mandate and direction is set for you in some way – usually determined by the Minister or the Cabinet, informed by the directives set by international organizations (in the case of children’s rights). But in this instance, the international organization (the UN) provides directives for engaging in its processes but the specific mandate of each group is determined by that group, which is informed by a number of factors, including the work of other groups/coalitions (there are over 5000 NGOs at the UN!). Although it can be overwhelmingly bureaucratic, I find the process fascinating.

The results are important too, of course. But oftentimes, in an institutional setting, focusing on the results isn’t always the best way to go. Institutions work slowly. They take two steps forward then one step back. There is a lot of waiting and frustration involved. I got a taste of that on Wednesday at a meeting I attended: we were talking about how to get a particular concept on the social development agenda and it seemed that the best strategy was an incremental approach of inserting basic wording into a resolution, and then feeding that resolution into various meetings and assemblies over the next year or so. And then the real work could be built up from there. There are very few issues that advance quickly in large institutions and I was reminded of the patience and dedication required when trying to make changes at the systems level. It’s definitely not as fulfilling or as gratifying as changes that take place on local levels.

After only a few days, I can feel my policy instincts revving up again after laying dormant for the past year and half. The adrenaline is starting to surge through my bloodstream. I’m excited to be here and to contribute to the aims of our NGO in any way that I can. I’m also approaching this time here with all of the treasures I accumulated from my time in Manila and all of the experiences and encounters I had there.

I come now with a firsthand perspective of the poverty, environmental degradation, political corruption, and social stagnation that hinders developing countries. And I come with personal stories that fuel my desire to move this work forward. I come with the stories of my boys at the center for street children, and the stories of the caregivers and the children of the Virlanie Foundation, and the stories of the men and women I met in the neighbourhood where I lived. In the work I did prior to entering the IBVM, I didn’t have that personal experience to drive my work. I loved it and I did it with a love for the theoretical people in need. Now I will do it with a deep and profound love for the real people I have met who are in need and who will benefit so much from systemic change.

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You


Leave a comment

What a wonderful town!

New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town!
The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down
The people ride in a hole in the ground,
New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town! 

I’m still riding the high from 4 glorious days in The Big Apple. What a city! It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I met up with Sr. Cecilia O’Dwyer, who heads the IBVM NGO, and Sr. Elena Cerdeiras, who was visiting from the Spanish Province, and we explored the city together.

DSCN0503DSCN0511DSCN0528DSCN0568

DSCN0542

We spent an incredible day at the United Nations at the Commission on the Status of Women. We sat in on the General Assembly and listened to a number of countries give statements on women’s rights. We also attended the DPI (Department of Public Information) briefing on sustainable infrastructure and women’s empowerment. I had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the UN buildings as well and have the chance to peek in on meeting rooms like the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. Since I studied International Relations in university, it was a real thrill to see the workings of the UN in person. We also went to a special 20th anniversary celebration event of the Working Group on Girls, a coalition of civil society organizations devoted to giving girls a voice at the UN. Hosted by a group of teenaged girls, we were entertained with a video presentation and then we heard the keynote speaker, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, speak about her work for girls in Liberia. It was an inspiring talk and wonderful to see young girls so passionate about human rights.

DSCN0671DSCN0729DSCN0736DSCN0769

The rest of the weekend was a heady blur of sightseeing, delicious meals, and burgeoning friendship. We travelled up and down Manhattan and saw so many places that I had dreamed of seeing: the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, St. Patrick’s Basilica, the main branch of the New York Public Library, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial, the Washington Square Arch, the Brooklyn Bridge, the High Line Park, and more. And we got to walk through so many great neighbourhoods.

DSCN0585DSCN0605

Plus, we visited an excellent exhibit on Thomas Merton at Columbia University. It felt so intimate to see his handwritten drafts of poems and manuscripts and letters to friends. Not to mention his paintings and photographs. The exhibit has rekindled my interest in his life and work – I’ll have to dust off my copies of his journals and get reading!

I really feel very privileged to have visited New York – such a unique and exciting city. It truly is a place where dreams can come true.


Leave a comment

New York, New York

In two short sleeps, I will be making my way across the skies to New York City. I can’t wait! For years I have dreamed of visiting iconic New York. Home of television, movies, art, theatre, music – culture and cuisine and people – so many millions of people. I have longed to visit for such a long time and I always figured I would go when the time was right. And happily, the time is now!

I am flying out on Wednesday afternoon to arrive in time to attend a civil society briefing at the United Nations on Thursday morning. One of the IBVM sisters (an Irish woman who is part of the Spanish Province) heads the IBVM UN NGO and she has graciously arranged for me to visit the UN and learn about the work the IBVMs are doing. The timing is fantastic. Right now the UN is hosting the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (March 9 – 20) so there will be workshops and events to participate in and learn from. It’s going to be incredible. And I’ll take a tour of the UN itself.

I’m also hoping to do as much sightseeing as I can cram into a couple of days. I’m planning to go see the Thomas Merton Exhibit at Columbia University (I love Thomas Merton), and I have tickets to take a tour of Rockefeller Centre (would have loved to go on an NBC Studio Tour if it was up and running), and then I will just walk and walk and walk. And walk. And take in as much as I can.