Today I find myself wondering if our faith is sufficient for tackling the hard questions that face us on a daily basis: questions about war, suffering, hunger, climate change, racial injustice, housing, immigration, refugees. At times it seems that there is no hope. As I reflect on these and other issues we face daily, I can’t help but be grateful for heroes and heroines that I have had the opportunity to meet. They continue to inspire me.
Two such people are Rose Marie and Vincent Harding. What a blessing for us to live in Denver, Colorado, where Rose Marie and Vincent spent much of their later years. The first time we met these two giants (first paradox…Vincent and Rose Marie were rather small in physical stature) was in the late 1990’s when we invited Vincent to speak at a gathering of the Catholic Volunteer Network. In his firm but gentle way, Vincent asked what the goal was for his talk. The way he posed questions, and his listening presence immediately prepared us for a profound relationship, even though our encounters were few. Vincent and Rose Marie were a force, in the gentlest way (second paradox). There was no question that they worked together to educate, to address social justice, to remember all who had gone before them, to keep alive The Movement beyond the 60’s and beyond Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to enter into relationship with others in a profound way that allowed for transformation.
I recently read a short article about Rose Marie Freeney Harding describing her as a mystic. I could picture her sitting in the living room of our volunteer house, reminiscing about their Mennonite House of the 1960’s. I remember feeling a sense of awe, though I could not then name the reason (mysticism). She and Vincent had opened the House in response to the needs of the people who were part of the Civil Rights Movement at the time. It was an “interracial social service project tied to the freedom movement, where most of the volunteers were white and the directors were Black, and everybody lived together in the same house.”1 They were consciously and intentionally having interracial conversations, something that was very rare at the time.
We are grateful for the way Rose Marie and Vincent paved the way for today’s intentional conversations. Many are engaged in dialogue with each other. Ever so slowly, language is evolving. Ever so slowly, institutions are changing. Ever so slowly, there is a deepening awareness of the human dignity of each and every person. But sadly, at the same time, radical movements are becoming more entrenched in their belief systems. Conversations are halted by ideological differences. Division is becoming more the norm than the exception.
I have found myself often wondering, “What would Vincent and Rose Marie say to us about the division we experience in our country if they were alive today?” Perhaps I have found two answers to that question. One is the beckoning I feel to read the book: Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering. Rachel E. Harding finished the book for her mother and a quote from it captured me: “There is no end to grace. And we are all instruments of grace. The more we give it, the more we share it, the more we use it, the more God makes. There is no scarcity of love. There is plenty. And always more.” 2
The second answer is a “yes” to be involved, to bring hope, to believe in the goodness of humanity, to enter into dialogue, perhaps most especially with those of differing opinions.
As we search for healing in our nation, there is enough. Enough grace. Enough of us to respond. Enough courage. Enough collaboration. Enough inspiration. Enough humility. Enough zeal. Enough people like Rose Marie and Vincent Harding to make it happen. (And isn’t it providential that they are their own kind of “Vincentian!” St. Vincent DePaul and St. Louise DeMarillac would, indeed, be inspired.)
Mary Frances Jaster
Misevi Representative to North American Social Justice Committee
2 Rachel E. Harding, “Daughter’s Précis,” foreword to Remnants, by Rosemarie Freeney Harding, [ix]. Rosemarie Freeney Harding with Rachel Elizabeth Harding, Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015)