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.
Of course, I'm always looking for evidence that the main argument of my new book is right on but, holy smokes, EBC/Rev Brawley/IAF have a story to tell and retell that is drop-dead amazing even to someone like myself steeped in decades of citizen organizing work. Like David v. Goliath, the Nehemiah story just doesn't get old. In fact, as the years pass, it just gets better.
Yes, Sometimes David Wins big!
Trials and Tribulations of Travel
For most of my career as a professional organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) my home base was Oracle, AZ. There was a big upside to this, personally and vocationally, but severe stresses along the way.
I was logging 30,000 highway miles a year and several times that in the air. I was fine with it for many years, even energized - but as time passed, the rigors of the lifestyle took a serious toll.
What Comes Around...Again
Marge, Heather and Day Creamer schooled me in what was an emergent force in American political and social life - Women's Liberation. From Marge I got an intimate education in how it all fit together. In my life the transformation was profound and irreparable. A door I passed through that I couldn't back out of and didn't want to. I look back on it as a gift of great and lasting value.
Heather's critique of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), where she trained for a time before striking out on her own with the Midwest Academy, was trenchant - perhaps deeper than any other delivered over the years. Not bitter, just centered, sharp-eyed and relentless. Of course, it was focused on male patterned acculturation and its attendant perversions. You know what I mean; unwanted sexual allusions and innuendos, assumptions about qualities of leaders, and pretense to never showing weakness, that kind of thing. Alinsky was there with it, Chambers too, and no doubt many of the rest of us.
So here we are again. Fifty years later with many of the same battles still raging, the losses and wins mounting up, no final resolution in sight. And it comes down to the same challenges posed in 1969. As Joe Hill put it so memorably: "Don't mourn, organize." Or as Heather Booth might have put it even better as imagined in my mind's eye: "Be tender with each other have a cry but when you're finished with that stand up and fight back."
Who Matters in a Life?
If you look carefully at Linda Victoria's brilliant collage to the left you'll spot this priest in more than one place. Msgr Arsenio Carrillo was a towering figure in the life of Tucson families and continues as a prime inspiration for the future. I write about him in Sometimes David Wins. Book writing encourages a deeper reflection about who really matters in a life. Msgr Carrillo was one of those - not just for me, but for countless others.