Notes from WATERtea:
with Rosemary Ganley
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
The video recording is available here.
Rosemary Ganley is a feminist of deep spiritual roots and abiding commitment to global social justice. She engages in teaching, writing, and activism in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
Rosemary and her late husband John spent three years with their three young sons working in Jamaica and later founding the Canadian-based development organization “Jamaican Self Help.” She wrote a book about it called Jamaica Journal: The Story of a Grassroots Canadian Aid Organization (here on Amazon), which shows the care and consciousness with which they did international work. Her service on Prime Minister Trudeau’s 19-person Gender Equality Advisory Council for the G7 meetings in Quebec was a highpoint of her activism.
Not only a citizen of the world, but also a committed and proud citizen of the unique and exemplary city of Peterborough, Rosemary chronicles the social justice efforts and just plain goodness of people in her weekly columns in the local newspaper. Word is beginning to seep out that Trent University, an institution of higher education in Peterborough, will bestow an honorary doctorate on her in June of this year. Congratulations soon to be Doctor Ganley. Well deserved.
This summary is offered in the style in which Rosemary Ganley writes: 650 words, serious issues, a touch of humor, and a good send off.
Mary Yelenick of Pax Christi and Mary E. Hunt of WATER engaged Rosemary Ganley in spirited conversation.
Mary Yelenick proposed that the book title “Gleanings” might as well be “Gleamings” because the ideas sparkle. She asked Rosemary what got her started in this kind of writing. Rosemary described her commitments to the liberal arts and humanities, the need for critical thinking and strong civil society leaders. Current acts of sedition occurring in Canada were top of mind. She spoke of Jim Bolton, one of her high school students, who asked if she ever wrote the kinds of things she was asking of her students. Off she went.
Rosemary looks for and finds goodness in every circumstance, focusing on local places like the 360 Clinic or the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough. She inserts religious and moral values without spouting scripture, writing as a critical thinker and a person of faith about her pilgrimages, women priests, and the Vatican’s Synod. Women and other marginalized people are her priority concerns. Mary Hunt pointed out that she focuses on very specific people, like a mayor in a town in Ukraine whom she heard speak at a conference, to keep it all real.
Rosemary observed that a good idea can be explained in three minutes. Fuzzier notions can take an hour. Maybe this is the difference between punchy columns and boring books.
Mary Yelenick lifted up Rosemary’s insight that “breakdown gives a chance for breakthroughs.” Given how much breakdown there is of late there will be lots of breakthroughs. Rosemary puts it all in the category of grace by which she means gifts, thank yous, and other surprising happenings. She declared that true feminists are past rivalries. Dire times call for us to raise one another up. Endurance, stick-to-itiveness and praise win the day. Rosemary feels an impulse to thank, and then acts on it. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gets a thanks when merited. Now there is a good practice.
Participants joined in the conversation starting with a request for more information on grace. Rosemary put sense of humor, open-mindedness, and a sense of joy in that category. Small group actions with wide impacts as examples of grace are “engaging the opportunities.” Mary Yelenick offered a model for how social change happens and how long the process can be.
Rosemary mentioned that many local people could relate to her humorous column on technological challenges. One participant observed that Rosemary’s writings for ordinary folks stimulate hopes and offer challenges with or without religious language. Rosemary referenced Anne Lamott’s trio of essential prayers, “help, thank you, and wow,” as enough for a good day.
The columnist encouraged participants to write down their ideas and send them somewhere, like to their local papers’ Letters to the Editor. A participant recalled Rosemary telling her to do just that when Catholic bishops were unable to hear women’s voices; go to the far corners of Earth instead was Rosemary’s sage advice.
The Chat held rich ideas:
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on her weekly mailing list for hot-off-the-press columns that are otherwise behind a paywall protecting the newspaper that pays her the princely sum of $50 for her 650 words.
- Consider “Codger Power” with Bill McKibben and Akaya Windwood
- “Is 80 the new 60?”
- Suggested topics for Rosemary Ganley to consider:
–Youth Climate Action Councils in each municipality
–The growth of militarism and how women fight against war
Conversation continued after dismissal with concerns about the long-term impact of Covid living, especially on young people. We agreed that humor helps when dealing with serious issues. But we all sounded chastened by the two years of restricted living we do not hope to repeat.
The take-away from this meeting was that wisdom can be embodied and shared. Rosemary Ganley does both with style.