Interview with Sister Mary White, OSB

In our past two newsletters we have included information about Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Today we reflect on the Sisters’ similar efforts through an interview with Sister Mary White, OSB.

Tell us about the Sisters providing sanctuary to a family fleeing violence.

In 2008, we began communications with a family in need, fleeing from violence in Central America. Most of this work had to be very confidential because of the violence the family was subjected to back home.   The family wound up staying within the building that is now the Maple Tree Childcare Center for five to six months and members of the family stay in touch with us to this day (the most recent letter arrived just three months ago). The Sisters also arranged for the children to attend Catholic schools. The family ended their stay when they moved into an apartment on the East Side of St. Paul. The children wound up going on to college.

How did you come to know about the family?

We learned of this family through my brother who also does work in social justice. We have both been influenced and even sensitized to do this work through our mother and have worked in social justice for much of our lives. This particular work felt like what Harriet Tubman did with the Underground Railroad, providing freedom and shelter from oppression.

What other social justice work have you done?

I worked for two to three years [c. 1994-1996] providing instruction on Centering Prayer Meditation at the Stillwater Prison. At this time, I was supervising the Benedictine Meditation Center and provided outreach to the Ramsey County Department of Corrections. Six of us joined in with corrections volunteers to provide guidance in meditation techniques to prison residents.

How was this effort received by the residents?

They were hungry for prayer and that was very satisfying. It was right to bring this service to residents as they are a vulnerable population, subject to violence and stress. Here are quotes from some of the residents about their experiences.

The reason I attend, God Of My Understanding is the peace I receive from the group.  I enjoy the centering prayer, the calmness that I received and the joy that comes over me in the group.

The meditation and reflection is where I find relief, peace and total relaxation unattainable anywhere else in this facility. – Ronaldo

Interview with Sister Mary White
Interview with Sister Mary White
Sister Mary White, OSB with Women Religious for Social Justice.

Yes, I have been using centering prayer and I believe that it is helping in many areas of my life.  I hope to get out and set time aside for this same prayer, meditation and Bible study
– Isaac

I really enjoyed being able to share my story with others and also hearing how others feel.  I enjoyed the positive sharing amongst the men and Sister Mary.  I also liked the meditation.  I was able to relax and spend some time in prayer.  God bless you! – Richard

 This group has helped me to grow on a level of spiritual calmness.  It has provided me with opportunities to learn new things and challenge my thought process. Importantly, it has taught me that everyone’s opinion is valid and its okay to both listen and be heard but be respectful.  It has taught me to appreciate and value quietness. – Rico

How did you prepare for this work?

These are two highlights from the work I have done. From very young my mother had me paying attention to those in school who were sitting alone, marginalized. I never forgot that lesson. I went on to make that a career in Social Work and continued in volunteering as a Board member for places like Harriet Tubman Shelter Shelter. For worker justice (something Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for), I helped in the founding of the Labor and Religion Network (now CTUL) which is still going strong today. As Benedictines, we treat all our guests as Christ and He is love. I think Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says it best:

“Love is the most durable power in the world. This creative force, so beautifully exemplified in the life of our Christ, is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security.”-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.