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Heroines and heroes

Jonathan Kozol is an extraordinary observer. Mostly he observes children – their struggles, their triumphs and their ordinary resurrections. He also observes the priest, Mother Martha of St. Ann’s in the South Bronx. He observes Mother Martha responding to one crisis after another: “there is no distance. Everything is present. Almost everything is urgent” (page 257). He watches her hearing the cries of her people, and then wondering -- who does she cry to?

“There are all kinds of heroines and heroes in the ordinary world. The ones I like to spend my time with are the preachers and the teachers who take on the hardest, messiest, and most exhausting work and still come out of it somehow with souls intact and particles of merriment still percolating in their personalities. I don’t know how they do it. I don’t have an idea in the world of where they find the sources of their energy and joy” (page 257).

One of the great privileges of being a bishop is to see what Kozol describes in the Diocese of Newark among our priests and deacons. Kozol doesn’t know how they do it. I think I do. He is brilliantly describing the essence of faith and commitment.

That’s what I see all around me. Every day. Faith in the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It is an enormous gift.


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