At our October board meeting, Mary’s Pence board and staff watched Radical Grace, a film about three nuns working for social justice. It’s hard to say what was more inspiring, the women on the screen or the women in the room watching the film. One of our board members, Sister of St. Francis Robbie Pentecost, had just returned from touring three states with the Nuns on the Bus. Every single woman in the room was a social justice activist, overlapping passions for peace, equality, economic justice, immigration reform, among other justice issues.
Radical Grace follows the stories of Dominican Sister Jean Hughes, who worked with formerly incarcerated felons on Chicago’s West Side, Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell, who led a cross-country Nuns on the Bus tour focusing on economic inequality, and Sister of St. Joseph Christine Schenk, an activist for women’s full equality in the Catholic Church.
The work of the three nuns is so inclusive, so engaging, and so determined to build community and create social change that the film appeals to a wide audience. Its message is for everyone, not just for Catholics. The story of Sister Jean Hughes in particular is a reflection on compassion in action. “My goal is to try to love people as unconditionally as I can,” she said, “So that they have that experience at least once in their life.”
Caring for those most in need and striving for equality are values and actions that people all over the world value, so it’s no surprise that so many people are inspired by the compassion and the activism of the nuns.
Filming for Radical Grace began around the same time that the Vatican opened its investigation of American Catholic women religious and accused them of promoting “radical feminism.” When Sister Simone Campbell saw that censure from the Vatican placed American nuns in the spotlight, her reaction was, “This is a moment of opportunity. How do we use it for mission?” This speaks volumes to the spirit of the nuns. No matter what happens, good or bad, they find a way to use it to support their mission of creating a more just world.
Sister Christine Schenk’s response to the Vatican censure was to look right at the camera and say, “If the radical notion that women are equal is a sin, then I’m guilty as charged.”
Who among us can’t say the same?
Radical Grace certainly resounds with the radical spirits of Mary’s Pence board, staff, and supporters. There’s a special energy in a room when the women on and off screen are passionate about social justice, about equality and about caring deeply for their neighbors, across all borders and boundaries.
Radical Grace resonates strongly with Mary’s Pence because we were founded by a group of religious and lay women, and have been funding social justice initiatives across the Americas ever since.
That’s why we’re partnering with the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, St. Catherine University Campus Ministry, and several other local organizations to host the premiere of Radical Grace in the Twin Cities. If you live near the Twin Cities, we invite you to attend our free screening of the film on Wednesday, November 18, 7-9 pm at St. Catherine University, Jeanne d’Arc Auditorium. If you live elsewhere, you can visit Radical Grace Film to look for a screening in your area.
Written by Taylor Harwood, 2015-2016 St. Joseph Worker