By Sister Jackie Goodin
After I finished reading the Madeline series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans at age 5 or so (you can read about the influence those books had on me in my previous blog), I began to read the daily newspaper. Of course, I started with the comics, as any young reader would, dependent a bit on the pictures to learn the words.
But then, I just got into reading the newspaper! I was born and raised in the newspaper town of St. Louis, Missouri. Truly, I could hardly wait to get home from school to read the afternoon edition.
Even when I was in Tanzania from 2010 to 2014, I would scan the makeshift wooden vendor table in the center of town for the English language weekly paper to learn about the politics and happenings in the country. Then, when I returned there in Fall 2016, I was gifted with an e-version of the Washington Post to keep up with the national election and the World Series. That was heaven! I only had to worry about keeping the reader charged up to get me through the entire paper.
And now, my friends have offered to bury me (when it’s my time and not a moment before) with a cup of coffee and that day’s edition.
Since becoming a Sister with the Congregation of St. Joseph (or CSJs), how I read the paper has changed a great deal. In the years immediately following Vatican II, many religious congregations returned to their foundation to learn again the spirit for the future of their mission. Our CSJ sisters from across the globe did just that with the help of a French Jesuit, Marius Nepper, who described the spirit and spirituality of Sisters of St. Joseph wherever we live and serve as being with “eyes open, ears attentive, spirit alert, and sleeves rolled up.” This explanation is us as daughters of St. Joseph, without a doubt. Now, I read the paper in this light. Eyes open. Ears attentive. Spirit alert. Sleeves rolled up.
So, one morning when I open a recent weekday edition of The Plain Dealer, the main newspaper in Cleveland, I pay attention as I read:
Family Holds Tearful Goodbye as Dad is Deported to Mexico is the first headline with an accompanying photo of a 10 year-old son hugging him in the airport. I wonder, what is my involvement in immigration reform? How can I offer more to immigrants so there will be no more family separations?
Move to Repeal ACA Expires. I wonder, how am I giving voice for those who will most likely lose Medicaid coverage? Do I really act as though I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege?
Ex-Officer Won’t Face Third Trial. I am so glad I have joined our local CSJ anti-racism team to better understand the impact of racism and white privilege in our U.S. society—and to be a part of the change I/we want to see.
Changing Climate Spells End for Ancient Way of Life. I remember what I learned and experienced during my Tanzania years of the beauty of the African peoples, their joys, their struggles. I anguish about Earth’s prognosis in terms of climate change, which is not good, and I resolve again to advocate for the signing of the Paris Climate Accord of 2015.
Fentanyl Claims Life of 10-Year-Old Boy. I roll up my sleeves above my elbows in my ministry as a Clinical Social Worker, especially to support those moving towards recovery from addictions.
Even the death notices get my close scrutiny. I am so reminded of the goodness of the human spirit as I read of the many charities which will benefit from memorial gifts. I think, too, of my own family and promise to keep working for healing wherever healing is needed.
A Heavy Volume for Library: Needing to Ask for Tax Increase. Recalling my years as a professional librarian, wanting to help libraries is a no-brainer for me. Yet, I promise to do my homework in preparation for local elections this fall by studying the candidates and issues.
Class Helps Community Agriculture Buyers Cope with Seasonal Abundance. While I’m not signing up for any abundance of kale, I am very aware of “food deserts” in our city and the efforts to bring healthy, fresh foods to many folks who live in poverty. I wonder about my neighbors who rely on food pantries and hot meals at local sites. Do I have a neighbor on my block who needs me to bring fresh fruits and veggies from our well-stocked refrigerator?
Not too much to be said for the sports pages from me, I admit—other than to enjoy when our local teams work hard for a win.
And finally, I do laugh at the funnies. I laugh because I see myself in the cartoons. You just have to laugh sometimes, right?
Reading the paper, I see pictures of war and its refugees; I listen to the cries of the hungry and struggling; I renew a personal commitment to being a witness of God’s unifying Love; I participate in justice-making locally and globally. And the daily newspaper helps me stay informed and motivated. I cannot not read the reality. Every edition helps me to commit to being a better global citizen, a more tender-hearted CSJ for the Sisters that I live with, and a more caring neighbor in my city. Thank God for newspapers!
Are you reading (in whatever newspaper format you enjoy most) with eyes open, ears attentive, spirit alert, and sleeves rolled up? How might our communities be better if we all read as a “daughter (or son) of St. Joseph?
About the Author
Sister Jackie Goodin worked as a librarian at the Cleveland Public Library for 10 years prior to joining the Congregation of St. Joseph (and is still a pretty good whiz at book trivia!) Since receiving her Masters in Social Work from Case Western Reserve University, she has held several positions as a Clinical Social Worker. She is a darn good cookie baker, and loves to read detective stories from around the world.