As an ordained Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, I am grateful for the role that Marsha played in my formation. During the practicum years, Marsha was my supervisor. Her gentle but firm probing allowed me to come into contact with parts of myself that I had not encountered before. Marsha became my Spiritual Director and assisted me through the challenges of balancing my personal life with my Diaconate journey. I know that for the rest of our lives there will be a special bond that will continue between us.
A little over a year ago Marsha offered a program to a diverse group of women that centred around readings from a book called "Midwives of an Unnamed Future." Each week we would read a passage, then, in answer to Marsha's questions, a discussion of what we found of particular interest. Marsha is adept at posing insightful questions in a manner that encourages people to speak out and leave behind shyness. The topics reached into our personal histories, spiritual beliefs, hopes and fears. Each week one of the women would present her personal story through treasures she had kept close to her. Although we were meant to look at just the moments that defined us, or led us to growth, we all presented a fairly complete personal history. It simply poured out, sometimes with tears, sometimes with nostalgia but always in an atmosphere of support, respect and caring. By the end of our course, I knew that I had experienced a rare opportunity to explore my inner self and celebrate the women with whom I shared this wonderful experience.
When we met, I was seeking someone who could help me find my way out of a spiritual wasteland. I felt lost, uncertain where to turn, and unable to trust my own inner voice. Over time, you showed me a different way to perceive life in all its mysteries. What I had seen as nothing more than a barren spiritual dessert or bleak wilderness, you showed how it could be so much more. I have been learning how the deepest spiritual growth is possible in the most unexpected places and relationships, and even in the darkest moments of our lives. Today, whether the day is uneventful or challenging, or whether it is simply filled with joy, I know there is always more to discover. Not in desperation or in a great rush, today I search with more patience and a gentler acceptance.
I have had telephone conversations with Marsha for months now. I look forward to them as a "retreat", a planned time to quiet myself, to talk, to listen and share wisdom, extensive experience and education and her calm presence.
Marsha has a rare quality of being able to be both firm and gently, passionately and deeply listening. She shares her courage to face challenges along with a wholehearted, compassionate presence. This encourages one to open to difficulties, see them in a new light, and find fresh insight and energy to find a healthy path through the mysteries, challenges, beauty... the joys and sorrows of life. And very importantly,to see connectedness.
I have known Marsha for over fifty years. The nature of our relationship has transformed over the years. For the past twenty plus years, we have been engaged in an onging deep "learning conversation" from the edges of our respective professional fields and from the edges in the difference in our ages. Marsha has shared with me her wisdom, gleaned from an active and reflective life. At the deepest level, she has been a kind of "anum cara" ... a soul friend...to me. I pay attention to how Marsha lives her life and approaches her work. She is a conscious, wise "older woman": an elder who has gone before me, mapping the territory of conscious womanhood and what that means in the context of our times, publically and privately. Her quality of faithful, creative listening and her capacity for reflecting, more faithfully, more of who I am as a woman today...listening to and trusting the voice of the "more than": the Mystery.