On Tuesday, February 23, from 7 to 9 pm in New York and 6 to 8 pm in Guatemala, 35 Sisters, Companions, Associates and friends gathered for a dialog on the effect of water in our lives. An excerpt from a water blessing video filmed at Lake Atitlán gave us a sense of the Mayan reverence for water as a source of energy and strength. Karin Baten led us in prayers drawn from liturgical texts and scripture about water while Eva Carillo lit candles floating in a bowl of water, surrounded by colors and symbols of Mayan heritage. Osmar Bulux introduced us to a second video of a village in Guatemala where the people would walk an hour to draw water from a polluted river that made many children sick. A charity, Operation Blessing, installed a well in the town and changed everyone’s lives. Bringing water to communities in Guatemala was one of the missions of the late Sr. Bobbie Ford.

In small groups we reflected on symbols and images that water brings to mind; the ways we have been healed, blessed, or challenged by water; and how we see God present in the many changing forms of water. Bill Hurley related the joy he felt when, as Director of Development for the Sisters of Charity, he saw water projects come to fruition in Guatemala. Many of us found peace and serenity in water: sitting by a lake, river, or ocean or the simple pleasure of a warm shower after a difficult day at work. Jesus taught near water, walked on water and is a source of living water. Water can strengthen and heal us, but it has a destructive side: we shared stories of hurricanes, floods, and snowstorms. Lack of water is a serious problem in Guatemala. Sr. Manuela related how her family would rise at 4 am to get water. Lucía Mejía observed that a river she crosses on her way to work is much lower now than when she was a child.

We returned to a large group to share how our discussions inspired, challenged, surprised, or gladdened us. While water is an essential part of life, the ways in which humans have mismanaged water, through pollution, waste, and inequitable access causes anger and frustration, but also inspires us to work for a better world. Sr. Carol DeAngelo pointed out the many ways that the Sisters of Charity have worked to improve the quality of water in the Hudson Valley and around the world. Helen Mack shared her frustration with corruption that exacerbates the situation in Guatemala. Sr. Ellen Rose O’Connell observed how we really need to listen to each other: the problems regarding water in the Hudson Valley are different from the problems now plaguing Texas, which are different from the problems in Guatemala. Only by deeply listening to each other can we understand the nuances and complexities of each problem. And only after understanding a problem can we begin to solve it. Grateful for the sharing and listening, may our future dialogs continue to bring deeper understanding. Please join us in April!

by Lisa Shay, Associate