The following was published by Global Sisters Report in a series by guest writers who are Catholic sisters, called The Life. This excerpt was written by Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU. An educator, she ministered in rural Mississippi and for the last 42 years has been with the people in the coastal region and the Central Sierra of Peru. Her ministry has been with circles and communities of women around issues of empowerment, nonviolence and leadership. She has served as facilitator for various religious communities in Central and South America and the Caribbean and currently represents her congregation as mission promoter with parents and teachers at Santa Angela Merici School, founded by the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville in 1965 in Carmen de la Legua, Peru.
My encounter with the “Universe Story” happened years ago while reading Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. And then, in the last several years, I had become more acquainted with Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, and my fascination with the connections in the unfolding of this great mystery of becoming found a new place in my thoughts and reflections.
However, it was Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer that put a totally different perspective on my relationship with the part of the universe that touches my life daily and invites me to a communion of being. The concern is no longer for “the environment” in the abstract. No, now I have been introduced to pecans and strawberries, asters and goldenrod, maple sugar, and sweetgrass. They have come alive within the Indigenous communities of which they form a part of life. And their personalities are both challenging and enriching.
Personalities, yes. Because nothing is just an “other.” All life is connected, an affirmation I have always believed but that now has an enormously different ring to it.
As I have come to better understand the lessons we need to learn from Indigenous communities, my spirit aches to know, to touch, to feel, and to share their wisdom without invading their space or letting curiosity be the mover. The traditions and customs and wisdom expressed in Braiding Sweetgrass are foreign to anyone like me who has grown up and lived most of my life in the city. Still, I am assured that even I can grow into caring and tenderness, wisdom and communion as I let my imagination and my heart embrace the wisdom of the Quechuas and the Aymaras, the Asháninkas and the Shipibo, Peruvian Indigenous communities.
None of these communities are part of the book, of course, but one could easily liken their stories to that of the Potawatomi or the Nanabozho Indigenous communities encountered in Braiding Sweetgrass.
My imagination has at times been an obstacle to my ability to put ideas into words and words into projects. But I have been encouraged by Braiding Sweetgrass. I still need to carve out time to get to know the wild and the beautiful growth that is in the patch of earth in my back patio. My priorities need to change. I know that. But as I touch, feel, water and care for the unruly and the tame in my backyard, I am amazed and delighted with their friendship and personalities. They continue to invite me, challenge me, and comfort me as I seek out the unfathomable mystery of the universe and her story.
These recent adventures I share with the school community of which I am a part. Pure invitations, but that is how curiosity moves us and others into an experience that ultimately leads us to create a more caring and loving community of life.