Remembering Joanne Welter
Joanne was one of the first people I met starting out in Tucson. She was social justice minister at St. Cyril Catholic Church at the time. Initially we didn't hit it off. I found her prickly about details I thought inconsequential and she thought I was skating over important specifics. Like what was possible in her parish, how hard to push and how much obeisance to pay to reigning authorities (bishops and pastors).
I had to take her seriously if I wanted a relationship between St. Cyril and what was to become Pima County Interfaith Council because she was the gatekeeper. And vice versa. So in a sense, early on, we were stuck with eachother, institutionally speaking.
Our plot thickened when she moved downtown to a diocesan position comparable to her role at St. Cyril. There she assumed responsibility for the Campaign for Human Development (CHD). For Industrial Areas Foundation organizers trying to build new broad based organizations, CHD monies were pretty much make or break. That put Joanne in a power position. And of course she knew it.
In Sometimes David Wins I highlight a few of Joanne's key contritubutions to the organizing. What I don't get in to is the deeper level of our relationship which blossomed over the many years, growing into real friendship.
It was at that level I remember her so affectionately. She operated very much like the woman religious she never finally resolved to become. That left her betwixt and between; her deep faith on the one hand and the institutional Church on the other. Mostly what troubled her was the role of women in the Church and the propensity of the all male clergy to function as lord and master of all they surveyed. So we talked a lot about our mutual faith struggles and what they had to do with our lives and what we were trying to accomplish in the world.
At the memorial mass prominent among shared remembrances was Joanne's steadfast commitment to migrants and border issues. That was where her investment of time, energy and money ran deepest. There her enthusiasm was infectious and influential.
It may be a stretch to say I loved her like the sister I never had but that's what comes to mind now that she's gone. Truly blessed by our relationship.
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