by Lynn M. Levo, CSJ, Ph.D. with Ann L. Thompson
Psychologist Sister Lynn M. Levo has been busy. Of late, much of her work has focused on helping her Albany community and her clients find hope in these uniquely challenging times. She shares her insights below.
My understanding of hope is based on theological and psychological understandings. Connecting the two is exciting and helpful. I have been exploring hope and changes in religious life, and most recently in relationship to COVID-19, our political reality and the many losses we are facing today. It is clear that hope matters now and that it begins with naming reality honestly, followed by a call to action. We will not be hopeful unless we name what it is like for ourselves and for those around us. It is a call to transformation, to creating a different world going forward.
Hope requires us to acknowledge the tremendous suffering of COVID, the unnecessary loss of life, the loss of connection with people we care about and the loss of touch. Many are touch-deprived, a basic need for us as humans. Because of the need for safety, rituals around death and saying goodbye and the celebrations of jubilees, birthdays and daily Mass have not been possible. We can’t underestimate the impact of the loss of ritual, of our inability to share our daily life and our very personal experiences of suffering and loss.
Sometimes I hear people say, “I want to win the lottery!” What is this really about? Hearing this, I think of the work on hope by theologian and author Jurgen Moltmann. He says hope is awakening in us a thirst and a hunger for the fullness of life. When we are dissatisfied with who we are, we are moved to create a future in which more life will enter the life we actually have. For Moltmann, hope is divinely inspired dissatisfaction.
For our congregation, our dissatisfaction is reflected in our desire to right relationships by acknowledging the crises of the earth and global warming, our recognition of and our complicity in
systems of oppression, and our desire to walk with women and others who desire to speak their truth. This is our shared impulse for the fullness of life and our dissatisfaction with what we see. Yes, divinely inspired dissatisfaction.
Psychology points us to understanding and embracing these fundamental human longings:
Each day we can choose what is personally fulfilling and how we can be of service to others — elements critical to purpose. Even in the midst of COVID, we have choices. Saying “There’s nothing I can do here” enables hopelessness. Realizing the choices we do have helps us live fully and gratefully in the present. Today’s choice may simply mean putting on a mask.
Even though we are separated because of COVID, knowing that we are loved, remembering the presence of a loved one, a mentor, a friend and a caring community help foster a sense of connection and trust and openness that are critical to being human. People who are isolated find it difficult to hope.
A personal understanding of how to care for oneself and live a balanced life even in the midst of COVID is fundamental to psychology’s focus on resilience. Being resilient is about caring
for oneself physically, emotionally, relationally and psychologically. During this anxious time for many, knowing how to soothe and relax are critical elements of self-care and resilience.
Those of us with a spiritual life, the gift of faith, are fortunate to have a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves. Leaning into our belief in and connection with a loving and faithful God helps. We are learning that our prayer needs to include our feelings. Although we may pray the Psalms, many of which are laments, God longs to hear what it is like for me/for us, which means talking to God about what I/we feel, trusting that God will hear us and is caring for us. These choices likely will require a shift in perspective, being open to what is and living in the present. It includes doing our own inner work and reaching out to others.
This article appeared in the 2021 issue of Carondelet Magazine.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are heartbroken by the recent events in Afghanistan.
Like people around the world, we are watching the unfolding events there with great sadness. We are also challenged by Pope Francis in his address to the 6th International Forum on Migration and Peace: “We have a duty toward our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice, of civility and of solidarity.”
The United States has a clear duty of justice to those who risked their lives over the last 20 years as translators, interpreters and in other roles to assist the U.S. military in their efforts. We made promises to those workers that we must now honor. We urge our government to find ways to protect these vulnerable Afghans.
We also have a duty of solidarity with the women of Afghanistan, who in recent years have achieved some of the rights for education and professional development that should be afforded to all people. We urge our government and the international community to do all in its power to protect these rights for all Afghans.
Our charism calls us to love God and love the Dear Neighbor without distinction. We will not distinguish people by religion, color, gender or creed when they cry out for mercy. Let us all respond to our Dear Neighbors with love in this challenging time.
As a congregation, we have made a commitment to “deepen awareness of our complicity and work toward dismantling interlocking systems of oppression.” One such system of oppression is the existing immigration system in the United States. Our dear neighbors who are seeking asylum and better opportunities in the United States face a byzantine process that results in many living in constant fear of deportation and unable to access social safety net programs.
DREAMers are undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children (the term comes from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act, which never passed Congress). The United States is frequently the only home they have known. DREAMers are critical members of our community. They serve in our military. They are teachers and students. They are health care providers and front-line workers. They are our neighbors. Together with their families, they make our nation a better place.
More than 650,000 DREAMers have already benefitted from the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy, a program created by executive order that has allowed them to apply for driver’s licenses, social security numbers and work permits. Tens of thousands of DREAMers have pending applications for DACA, but that program remains in jeopardy as it is being fought in the courts.
Please take a moment to use our tool below and tell your elected members of Congress that these young people are essential members of our communities. They deserve a permanent solution and a road to citizenship now.
As Sisters of St. Joseph, love of God and our dear neighbors guides all our actions. Our love for our immigrant neighbors compels us to work for better systems to protect them. In particular, we support the measures in President Biden’s Build Back Better plan that would create a pathway to citizenship for some immigrant workers, and we encourage everyone to contact their elected officials to ensure they are passed.
The Build Back Better legislative package, which will most likely be considered through the reconciliation process requiring 51 votes rather than 60 votes in the Senate, has $1.2 billion in funding to establish and implement a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers; farmworkers; people with DACA, TPS and DED; and their families. During August and September, while this legislation is being considered, we must watch closely and advocate strongly that this pathway to citizenship and the necessary $1.2 billion in funding not be stripped out of the bill.
Six million immigrant workers in our communities are at the frontlines, keeping us all healthy and fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. While they make up only 17% of about 156 million working people, immigrants are disproportionately represented in COVID-19 front-line occupations and essential industries, including being childcare workers, healthcare workers, custodial staff, school employees and farmworkers, to name a few examples. Immigrants, including 131,000 people with TPS and 200,000 people with DACA, are serving on the frontlines.
We are asking our congressional representatives to secure a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers, farmworkers, people with DACA, TPS, and DED, and their families immediately as part of any recovery package being passed in reconciliation. Use the tool below to take action with us.
Join us for this month of education, engagement, action and prayer as we examine the crisis that plastics are creating for our environment. Every day in July, we invite you to join us in an action–either a short educational piece or an activity to complete. You won’t need more than five minutes for each, and we hope it will inspire deeper ecological awareness and conversion.
You can find the calendar of actions on our Plastic Free July webpage.
We will be posting about the daily calls to action on our social media accounts and using the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly. Some of our daily posts will feature videos of sisters and associates who have made changes in their plastic consumption. If you use Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, you can help this online campaign reach more people by liking, commenting and sharing our posts.