At the 2012 Women as Global Leaders Conference, held March 13-15 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, four papers were presented by six women from the College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph. The theme of the conference was “Creating a Sustainable Future for the World.”
The My Page essayist and My Thoughts writers were among the 14 students and four administrators attending from CSB. The Sister Nancy Hynes Institute for Women’s Leadership at the college helped them prepare for and organize the trip.
By Liz Beaty
For The Visitor
In March 2012, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the United Arab Emirates with the College of St. Benedict in order to attend the fourth Women as Global Leaders Conference at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. In addition, we traveled to Dubai and Sharjah before the conference to visit the American University of Sharjah, where our school’s president sits on their board of trustees. This experience has opened my eyes to a unique culture and inspired me to use my power and skills as a woman to work toward a better future.
My preconceived biases untrue
One of the main aspects of this trip that helped me grow as a person was the interaction with the Emiratis, particularly the women. Before it, I had many preconceived biases about Islam and Muslim women. I thought women there were disadvantaged because of their religion and restrictions placed on them. I believed they were all forced to wear the head-coverings and abayas; and in the midst of the political issues and terrorism involving the Middle East today, I did fear I would be targeted while in the country.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. The people there are so kind, warm and welcoming. Speaking with the female university students at the conference, I realized the differences I thought existed were minimal compared to the similarities I found; they have the same thoughts, ideas and goals as I do.
Almost all of them were unconcerned about getting married. They would rather earn a degree and work toward the career they want. The abayas, covered in lace and embellishments, are truly a fashion statement and it would be the most horrific ordeal should someone you know wear the same abaya as you.
They know the obstacles they face; they know people will disregard them because of their gender, just as I know I will also face these challenges. But their passion is visible and I can tell from talking to them that they want to change the world, just as I do. They were an inspiration to me and I know by staying in touch with them I will continue to be inspired by them.
This conference showed the power of women and the absolute need to empower them. I attended a workshop on sustainability; part of this involved 45 minutes of brainstorming different projects that would be sustainable economically, environmentally, socially and culturally. The 30 or more women in the room came up with over 100 ideas for each category. We then had the opportunity to create action plans on how to carry out these ideas.
However, there are millions of young women all over the world with similar, ingenious ideas who will never have the opportunity to share these ideas with the world because of their gender. How terribly sad is that? By empowering women and making them equal, they could share their ideas with the world, and then we would have twice the brainpower working to transform the world.
And if we have that, I think we can all agree, the world would change for the better.
Liz Beaty, in the class of 2013, is the student director of CSB’s Sister Nancy Hynes Institute for Women’s Leadership. With Carrie Vandelac, Beaty presented “Lighting the Flame: Creating and Sustaining a Women’s Leadership Program on Campus.” Vandelac (CSB, 2011) is an executive assistant in the CSB Institutional Advancement office.
By Chelsea Gerads
For The Visitor
I play Veronica in “Journey with Jesus to Calvary,” a play put on by the parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi.
Veronica is the woman who sees Jesus and wipes away his blood and sweat that is all over him. Although she could have gotten into big trouble, she did not care because Jesus was suffering, and she felt the need to comfort him.
Besides Veronica, there are many others in this play who reenact the journey that Jesus had to take — Jesus, Mary, Peter, Judas, Pontius Pilate, Simon of Cyrene, Barabbas, John and the Roman centurion who nailed him to the cross. Even the donkey that Jesus rode into town on Palm Sunday gets some words of dialogue.
Veronica inspires me because she went against the beliefs of the time and put herself in harm’s way just to comfort someone else.
Last year I also played Veronica; this year I am better at the role because I am beginning to understand the way she felt when she saw Jesus. She inspires me to be a better woman and to go against social norms and make sure everything I do is for a reason.
The real Veronica was able to break down a barrier that restrained women from doing things they wanted to. She did things that maybe many women at the time wanted to, but did not want to get into trouble for doing them. She knew it was not only the women at the time thinking, “What is she doing?” but instead it was everyone around her.
A new light on the crucifixion
Through acting in the play I have grown closer to Jesus — I get to see, rather than hear, what he went through, his feelings and emotions. In a way I go through them also. With the people around him as well, I have a greater understanding of why Jesus sacrificed himself for us. People who see and hear Mary, Judas, John, Peter — and all the other people who were there at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus — would see his sacrifice in a different light.
When Pontius Pilate talks about his thoughts and his guilt as the one who takes responsibility for condemning Jesus to death, I feel a sense of guilt and responsibility come over me also. I know that I, too, am responsible for his death, just not in the same way as Pontius Pilate is.
While performing this play, I have learned to connect better with people. I still get little butterflies but not nearly as badly as I used to.Anyone who comes to see this play will be affected by it — as I was — and will gain a greater understanding of Jesus and his journey to Calvary. Gerads is a senior at Holdingford High School in Holdingford.
By Cody Fischer
For The Visitor
Just before sunrise, my mosquito net overhead comes into focus after the sudden awakening — the voice of the imam crackles from the battered speaker atop the minaret of the mosque next door. My host-brothers slide on their sandals and shuffle out to morning prayer — it is dawn in Dakar.
Growing up in rural southern Minnesota, I never imagined I would live in francophone West Africa as a religious minority, speaking another language and expanding my cultural horizons.
But there I was: an example of living in a world increasingly shaped by globalization, multiculturalism and interconnectedness. I lived in Dakar three years ago, but these dynamics are just as striking as I walk through the halls of the French high school I work in today.
At a crossroads of cultures
As a Fulbright high school English teaching assistant, I work at Lycée Aristide Maillol in Perpignan, France. Located on the border of Spain and the Mediterranean Sea, Perpignan is a crossroads of cultural traditions of French, Mediterranean, Catalan, Roma, North African and West African.
My students come from low-income and wealthy families; first-, second- and third-generation immigrant parents; ethnic groups that have assimilated and those maintaining cultural independence despite having lived in France for centuries. At Lycée Maillol, the economic, racial and cultural tensions openly debated by news outlets simmer just under the surface.
Teachers at Lycée Maillol don’t have a primary classroom; instead they rotate between classrooms and join the chaos in the narrow hallways, bumping up against the crowd of unsupervised teenagers, in a secular space where culturally Catholic and culturally Muslim students mingle.
Though my students’ lives seem strikingly local — most have not traveled beyond 100 miles — the mix of French, Arabic and Catalan (a local language) heard in hallways, or the neighboring McDonald’s, shows their world is unquestionably global.
These children of poverty and privilege, of immigrants and locals, are not unlike those in Minnesota schools where English, Spanish and Somali banter blends in the hallways. They face the challenge of earning a high school degree while navigating cultural rules from home, from outside the home and from their peers, a dynamic mix of the two. In a shrinking world where values and ideas meet, clash and merge at an accelerating rate, the cultural dexterity these students demonstrate daily is something to admire and cultivate.
My Benedictine education
I applied to the Fulbright program to develop these skills as much as I came to teach English, and am only capable of doing either because of the Benedictine education I received at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, infused with Catholic social teaching, which challenged me to articulate my values and put them into practice. Their commitment to international education, service and the common good helped me discover a world beyond Minnesota and equipped me with tools to learn, grow and succeed.
In an economy and society increasingly defined by connectivity, the ability to bridge cultural and linguistic divides — to comprehend, respect and communicate — is becoming a necessity. Though few of my students consider themselves exceptional, their mastery of intercultural gymnastics is just that. Their ability to recognize each other’s human dignity and build community serves as an inspiration to us all.
Fischer served as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and worked at NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. He also was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Senegal, sponsored by the Great River Rotary Club of Sauk Rapids.
Photo courtesy of Cody FischerBefore his current Fulbright teaching position in France, Fischer worked with students in Senegal as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.
By Michael Gottwalt
For The Visitor
To me, achieving the Ad Altare Dei emblem goes beyond knowing the basics of the Catholic Church; the program is about deepening personal faith and applying faith to daily life. I now realize that principles of scouting and Catholic faith tradition actually have a lot in common.
For example, a Scout follows 12 points of Scout Law: to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. These are all important qualities to have if we truly live the Gospel. Boy Scouting is about community and service — we experience these things not only in a troop but also in our parish.
Hard work and dedication
Earning our Ad Altare Dei emblem was a long process. Ten of us began instruction with three religious emblems counselors last June, and we finished our program in January in order to be ready for our annual Scout Mass in February. I had no idea it would take so much hard work and dedication. Every step took lots of discussion and thought. While working on Ad Altare Dei, my group met once a month to talk about each of the sacraments, to study Scripture, to pray and to do service in our parishes.
We studied some of the sacraments with area priests: Father Alan Wielinski, our pastor of St. Peter and St. Paul Parishes, Father Matthew Kuhn, Father Scott Pogatschnik and Father Roger Botz. All of us really liked having personal time with the priests.
Father Kuhn explained the sacrament of holy orders, how the life of a priest is dedicated to Christ and that a priest must always be ready to perform the sacraments when he is needed. He was profound and thoughtful but also shared funny stories of his life as a seminarian. I had no idea priests had so much in common with us, like their own athletic sports and activities.
I was the oldest in our group of Scouts, and I am preparing for confirmation right now, so this experience had extra meaning for me. I feel more confident in my beliefs.
And I’m proud to be part of the first group in many years of Scouts in Troop 106 to earn this award. I think some Scouts might get discouraged from earning Ad Altare Dei because of how much work is involved. I myself was a little discouraged at first. But now that I have received the award, I am glad I stayed committed. I am thankful to my instructors in Ad Altare Dei, to the priests and presenters who were gracious enough to take time to be with us and to my friends in the troop. Every Scout who started the award completed it, which shows we were dedicated and wanted to deepen our faith. Receiving Ad Altare Dei has given me a great sense of accomplishment as a Boy Scout and as a Catholic.
Gottwalt is a junior at Tech High School, St. Cloud, and a member of St. Peter Parish, St. Cloud.