Springfield has been home to me since I moved here from Michigan to join the Dominican Sisters in 1954. It seemed like a modest, mid-American city that expanded over time in both its geographical size and the social concern of its residents for issues of justice and peace.
When I “came home to roost” last summer, I found the social action groups to have multiplied. It seems that many Springfield residents have sought out training to become as proficient as possible in naming issues, challenging injustices, nurturing commitment to causes, leading community actions, celebrating victories — in short, creating a core of solid goodness in the heart of the USA.
It is the goal of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good to support these efforts. It is our desire to assist young people in their organizing efforts so that they might find in FCCG’s partnership of churches, religious groups, health and welfare providers and workers’ unions a way forward for their own life of community service.
FCCG training comes principally from the Gamaliel Foundation, a national network of community organizations. The Dominican Sisters of Springfield were founding members and have continued to send representatives to the board meetings. Last July I was given the privilege of being the Dominican representative. One of the trainings provided by Gamaliel is an annual gathering of women from across the country to meet in a safe, creative environment for learning skills to affect change in their communities and congregations. (The 25th anniversary NTASOKE Training in 2018 will be held September 20–22 at Clarkston, Michigan).
One Saturday in April I attended a pre-NTASOKE gathering. There I met Lisa Crites, founder of Crossroads Transitional Living Program and wife of the pastor at Word and Spirit Worship Center, which was host to the gathering. During our one-to-one sharing I explained to Lisa that the Dominican Sisters had called me to Springfield to join two other sisters (Sister Beth Murphy and Sister Lori Kirchman) in forming a household of women — young women wishing to establish community — and the three of us who have had many years of practicing that style of life. The collaboration has been named Cor Unum, or one heart. Our desire is to support young women who want to discover their spiritual depth, learn how to change the world, and be of service. I attended NTASOKE with the hope of meeting one or two young women who might be interested in joining us in the house being rehabbed for us in Enos Park.
Lisa gave me much encouragement and shared that for her Crossroads program she also was trying to secure a large house in that section of Springfield. She was concerned about the young women who “age-out” of foster care when they reach the age of 18. She hopes to provide a safe place for them to live as they secure jobs, education or skill training, and enough savings to support an independent life. It quickly became clear to us that collaboration was the best move forward. Already our relationship has been encouraging to us as we work toward our goals. Later we may find that the women who join us might help each other.
Just such collaboration is the key to rising out of the dire consequences of unjust systems that neglect — and even abuse — people who are poor and disadvantaged.
If you or someone you know might benefit from the national NTOSAKE training in September, contact Shelly Heideman, FCCG Executive Director, at 717-1525 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sister Mary Clare Fichtner, OP, is the Dominican representative for FCCG and resides at Sacred Heart Convent in Springfield. This article first appeared in the Springfield State Journal-Register, July 21, 2018.