Follow Up to WATERtea

“Finding Your Voice and Then Using It”

with Rosemary Ganley

Tuesday, March 23, 2021, 2pm ET

On her book Positive Community: Columns from the Peterborough Examiner 2015-2018 (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018)

Welcome one and all to WATER’s March 2021 tea with Rosemary Ganley who needs no introduction to this group. We rejoice in this time together on these beautiful spring days in Washington with cherry blossoms ready to burst.

WATER programs are aimed at supporting and igniting social change. Whether in theology, ethics, or ritual, our efforts are geared to bring together solid academic/scholarly data with the activist commitments of our Alliance. Rosemary Ganley is the epitome of this work—a woman of complex faith, direct action, and enviable prose.

Mary E. Hunt’s Introduction of Rosemary B. Ganley (our own RBG)

The B stands for Burns, as Rosemary says, “the Irish Burns of my illiterate ancestors who escaped the famine to settle on farms in eastern Ontario…” She is a feminist first and foremost, whose long career includes teaching, writing, and activism.

She and her husband John founded the development agency “Jamaican Self Help” in 1980 during their years living with their three sons in Jamaica. She wrote a book about it called Jamaica Journal: The Story of a Grassroots Canadian Aid Organization (here on Amazon), which shows the care with which they did international work. They also worked in Tanzania for several years, again learning how to be global citizens with deep roots in Canada.

The Fourth UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 was clearly a lifechanging experience for Rosemary. She took a great deal of global experience to that setting, and she met women with whom to deepen her feminist analysis of the world’s problems.

I first came to know her writing from 2001-2006 in the late great Catholic New Times, a wonderful progressive publication that we in the US came to reply on for international perspectives and progressive ideas. Little did I imagine we would became friends through the Women-Church Convergence and WATER.

Rosemary’s writing has been in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto STAR, and as we will hear today, The Peterborough Examiner, as well as in The Green Teacher, and Conscience magazine of Catholics for Choice for which she has long been a Canadian leader.

She was inducted into the Peterborough Pathway of Fame in 2011 and received the YMCA Peace Medal in 2018, for reasons we can all applaud. In 2018 she served on Prime Minister Trudeau’s 19- person Gender Equality Advisory Council for the G7 meetings in Quebec. And this season alone she has been involved in several Canadian women’s events that have garnered large audiences and plenty of intersectional justice-making.

What we said about the book on our website:

“Regular newspaper columnist Rosemary Ganley is a renaissance woman—writer, speaker, activist, spiritual sage, bicycle rider, intellectual. It is hard to read about her loss of a child and edifying to glimpse her mother. It is challenging to see the Camino de Santiago through her eyes and comforting to know Canada is a stalwart neighbor despite US recalcitrance. WATER awaits the next volume, 2019-2021, as Peterborough continues to get its regular reading treat.”

We at WATER are delighted to have Rosemary with us as a speaker today, and again in April when she will lead our meditation group of which she has been a member for some years. I welcome Rosemary B. Ganley on the week of her 84th birthday which will be on the 25th. Let our time together be a lovely beginning of that celebration, appropriately with people from around the world. Tell that to your eight grandchildren and thank them for sharing you with us.

Rosemary Ganley

  • Land acknowledgement of being a settler on traditional territory of Mississauga Anishinaabic people
  • What WATER does: Jamaican term, “bigging up” – when someone praises another – “big up” other women in the struggle for justice
  • Mary Oliver poem, (Excerpted from “Sometimes,” from Red Bird, Boston: Beacon Press, 2009, p. 37)“Instructions for living a life:
    Pay attention.
    Be astonished.
    Tell about it.”

    • Feminists struggle to assert autonomy of each of us, listen to our own souls
      • Listen to other women’s stories, but not imitative process, it’s inspiring/motivating
    • Sankofah bird:
      • Mythic bird from Ghana
      • Introduced by first black Canadian to serve in House of Commons, Jean Augustine
      • This bird picks up a seed/egg, twists its neck around, and puts it on its back
        • What Christian women are doing today
          • rescuing what’s worthy in our traditions
          • being strengthened by it
          • carrying history and critique of much of what goes on today
        • Wrote “The Pope Gives Us Whiplash” article
          • Had just written article praising Pope’s visit to Iraq
          • Then he signed the statement about not blessing same-sex relationships
          • People listening to ecclesial authority
          • Many people have written against the statement
            • Some of these words might save a life
            • Sometimes all we have is our reputation, to use our good name
            • To say things to religious powers who appropriate power and holiness
          • How Rosemary got started writing:
            • When teacher, high school boys complaining about having to write so much – challenged: “you give us grief about writing, but do you write?”
            • Took that to heart
            • Retired; went to global conference; came home and self-published Reports from The Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women: Beijing, 1995
              • International Women’s Day 2021, Federal Minister of Women’s Affairs – Afghan refugee, 35 – is carrying that book
            • WATER bringing about connections with spiritually-minded women
              • Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite: “public theologian”
              • Elizabeth Ursic: theology and the arts
              • Jann Aldredge-Clanton and Kendra Weddle: evangelical feminist pastors
            • Period while working with Catholic New Times, wrote Jamaican Journal: The Story of a Grassroots Canadian Aid Organization, story of Jamaican Self-Help organization started with husband
              • Also self-published through Amazon
            • Now writing for The Peterborough Examiner
              • Topics writes on: basic annual income, community bike programs, women in fitness class, communal meditation, walking The Camino, CBC (public broadcasting), Russian art, resisting Trumpism, etc.
                • Got ideas from WATER community
              • Formula: use a joke or personal anecdote, then move into more serious topic, keeping it local, bringing in names, then move global and substantial, then sign off cheerfully
                • “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” – Wendell Berry
              • Religious content in secular paper
                • Has editor who knows people need something deeper
                • Doesn’t use “God,” or “Jesus,” etc., but recognizes goodness
              • Sustainable Development Goals of the UN
                • Facing climate crisis, follow UN’s developments as citizens of the world
                • Growing number of publicly proclaimed feminists

    Q&A, Conversation

    • Rita Mary: Glad Rosemary is doing what she’s doing with her work and writing, now motivated to do some writing herself
    • Rosemary: lifting the “should” from women, choosing to do what to do
      • What to do with rejection: have a sense of humour
        • Article got 800 views while an article got 2200 – have to be happy with the 800
        • Paraphrased quote: “I have no enemies, I have adversaries.” -Daniel Berrigan
      • Keeping things civil: get comfortable saying, “Thanks for correcting me,” “I hadn’t thought about that,” “I was wrong,” “I’ve changed my mind”
        • Mark Carney, Values
      • Sara: remembered the death of Rosemary’s daughter, and Rosemary didn’t wear black to the funeral – brought that attitude to the tragedy
      • Rosemary: during that tragedy, was learning how to behave from the community, lots of teachers and students offering sorrow
        • Learning best habits from each other
        • Christian Family Movement came and brought pills and liquor and she “took it all” for a month, numbing
      • Mary Hunt: who gives the titles to these articles?
        • Rosemary: I try to offer, giving some wit or alliteration, but there’s a night editor who has the final say
      • Veronica: remembering adventure in Toronto when Pope visiting; a lesson in how a small group of people could wind up having a very large voice, presenting an alternative voice
        • Rosemary: While John Paul visiting in 2002 for a youth conference, hosted an alternative conference with funding from Catholics for Choice in an Anglican Church downtown
          • Attracted media
          • “Two is sisterhood and three is a group”
        • Betsy: graciousness of Rosemary and beauty of her soul to stretch the imagination through articles
          • “Melinda, Malala, and Me” about being on Prime Minister’s task force
          • Rosemary also ran for local political office
          • Lifts our souls and challenges us to ask the right questions and to persevere
          • “Her resistance is irresistible”
        • Rosemary: called to Trudeau’s taskforce in 2018 through connection with Maryam Monsef [an Afghan refugee who came to Peterborough as an eleven-year-old, now is 35 and an elected Member of Parliament who is Minister of Gender Equality]
          • Asked him “What do you want of me?” He responded, “Your voice, your experience, and your grassroots connections.”
          • Told him, “I’m a member of Catholics for Choice.” Trudeau: “You must have had your dust-ups…I am too!”
          • Also on the committee:
            • Melinda Gates (“I agree to disagree” with her over some church issues)
            • and Malala Yousafzai and Winnie Byanyima
          • On bus with Winnie to meet G7 leaders; Winnie prays with women over the PA
        • Cynthia: In US, lots of prejudice towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
          • Member of majority Black church
            • How to call into community of Asian Americans – how do I voice this, how to not assume someone else’s issue but give them a chance to have a voice
          • Rosemary: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” -St. Francis of Assisi
            • Actions of comfort to AAPI community, and solidarity
            • Write in to Letters to the editor, most read part of the newspaper, sign with whatever credentials have
          • Mary Yelenick, in the chat: “Also, it is helpful for white people to acknowledge that racism is a problem OF white people — and that statements by white people to POC directly can be very helpful.”
        • Mary Ellen: Thanks to Rosemary, at Catholics for Women’s Equality gathering, advice given: “You have to go out.”
          • Calls from the crossroads
          • Reach through the press, Facebook, getting the word out
          • Rosemary: favour from the Church for shutting us out: had to find other avenues and how to get around their roadblocks
        • Mary Yelenick: appreciates Rosemary’s humility: has had many remarkable experiences and comes at it from “I met this person,” “let me share what others have taught me,” makes foreign experiences local and relatable
          • Gets “jolts of joy” from Rosemary
          • Rosemary: lets spread those jolts of joy
            • Don’t add to the complaining and despairing in these challenging times
          • Rosemary: In 2004, big flood in Peterborough that flooded many basement apartments
            • Gathered to think up ideas for fundraiser
            • Mayor had just watched movie Calendar Girls
              • Make 18 month calendar with women from the town – stripped to the waist
              • Rosemary’s: “You stand for global awareness,” so they give her a globe as a prop
            • Sold out, raises $100,000 and gives back directly to those who need it to recover from the flood
            • Early training in resisting the disapproval of some clergy authority

    On the Pope’s statement not blessing same-sex relationships

    • Sheila: Ireland has passed laws allowing same-sex marriage, so when the statement came out, already past that and come to terms with it
    • Mary: The only reason I deal with it in the public sphere is because young people kill themselves when they see statements like this
      • I call this theological pornography because it does what porn does—objectifies people, focuses inordinately on sex, and leads to violence
      • We don’t have a choice but to speak out about it
    • Sheila: Took so long for this to be an open conversation in Ireland, but at least now because it’s open secular question, able to be challenged
    • Mary: animosity towards religion – to go from a thoroughly religious culture to the opposite
      • Which misses out on opportunity to use religion for good
    • Sheila: To be Catholic in Ireland is not a good thing, a difficult space to be seen differently while acknowledging the horrible, damaging past
    • Carolyn: Seems like there’s much more negative response to the statement, positive response to same-sex relationships, than before
    • Mary: Catholic Church has shot itself in the foot, probably will back-pedal, letting themselves off the hook, since so many people have spoken against it
    • Sheila: People making arguments about being able to bless other silly things like weeds, etc, but the important thing is that the language of the statement is violent, destructive, and goes against God
      • God is bigger than that statement, but for those who read that and don’t have a good theological basis or support they say, “maybe we are wrong, maybe we will go to hell”
    • Mary Yelenick: doesn’t make sense politically either – lost goodwill with many people and didn’t increase his right-wing support
    • Sheila: brings his credibility into question
    • Rosemary: calls for sexual issues advisory council made of only women
    • Sheila: the theology isn’t good, even if the scientific and social evidence is there
    • Mary Hunt: Methodological issue of the Church on sexuality
      • The social politics and science isn’t there either – Catholic Church has brought in good secular information for past issues – but there isn’t anything secular on sexuality that has been accepted as evidence

    Mary E. Hunt

    Thanks to Rosemary Ganley for sharing Positive Community: Columns from the Peterborough Examiner 2015-2018 (on Amazon here). You invite us into something more. We are adjourned for today with gratitude to all and wishing you health and safety, and to Rosemary a very Happy Birthday.