Rehearsing Possibilities - Conspire Theatre
by Mai Thao Xiong, Mary's Pence Communications Intern
Katherine Craft and Michelle Dalenburg, Conspire Theatre, lead a workshop.
Women in the criminal justice system have a history of drug use, are likely to be clinically depressed, usually have low self esteem, and have fewer job skills than men, according to research by Urban Institute. Because of this, post-released women struggle more than men to regain a normal life. In Texas alone, more than 12,000 women are incarcerated. "Programs to help these women did not exist here," Katherine Craft, of Austin, Texas and founder of Conspire Theatre stated.
Katherine had an interest in starting a program to mitigate the effects of trauma, foster healing and community, and focus on future success for incarcerated women. She has a Master's Degree in Applied Drama from Goldsmith's College, University of London where she first worked with incarcerated women. In 2009, she returned to Texas and founded Conspire Theatre. The unique theatre-based, non-profit organization provides weekly classes for women in Travis County jail. Because these women faced interpersonal trauma, it is hard for them to open up. "At first I was worried that they wouldn't take instructions from us."
Katherine recalled the experience of Rosa Cervantes. "Rosa was very suspicious of us," Katherine stated, "I remember she was not into it at all." Conspire works with a diverse group of women, all with interpersonal trauma. Trauma affects both the mind and the body. Of the women participating in Conspire Theatre's program in 2012, 94 percent of attendees did not graduate from college, 38 percent did not complete high school, 79 percent were mothers, and 4 percent were pregnant. "Most of these women come in hating other women," Katherine stated. For some of them, Conspire is the first time they have a positive experience and connection with other women. Katherine said, "I was surprised at how quickly and willing they were to join in. Through silly games and activities, these women connect with each other. They are always excited and happy to see us."
This year, Mary's Pence is proud to fund Conspire Theatre's project, Rehearsing Possibilities. Rehearsing Possibilities is a program that connects the body and the mind. It focuses on play, joy, exploring, and creativity. The women play silly games and do creative activities during workshops. The idea is to get them to rehearse who they are and to find a connection.
Rosa found a connection with poetry, and over time, she began to open up. She said it was great to just let go and get into it. Not only did she find a community of women, she became a leader of it too. She eagerly participated in activities and urged others to do the same. At that time, classes were only available to women with minimum security, but Rosa proposed that classes be offered to women with maximum security because she believed they needed it more. And that is what happened.
Now Conspire Theatre serves both women in minimum and maximum security. The work involves 10 - 15 staff, teachers, and volunteers. Sustaining funds for Conspire is difficult. "We have our own lives too and when a small organization works around volunteers, sometimes we can't run workshops." Katherine stated. "When we miss a week, the women wonder where we went!" Conspire is more than an organization to these women, it is a community. Women here struggle to let go of their sorrow and anger, but they eventually learn to. "Conspire reaches down inside us and pulls talent from us we never even imagined we had," Rosa said.
Currently, Conspire wants to move from a volunteer structure to a consistent wage structure. In this way, Conspire can continue to help these women. Mary's Pence has partnered with Conspire Theatre in support of service that helps women build future possibilities and relationships. Conspire recently held a fundraiser campaign and reached their goal of $5,000, but supporters are welcome anytime.
More information can be found on their website www.conspiretheatre.org.
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|Issues of Justice|
Honoring Hildegard: A Woman of Brilliant Intelligence
by Aimee Cabrera, Mary's Pence Volunteer Writer
On Sunday, October 7, Pope Benedict XVI named St. Hildegard of Bingen as a Doctor of the Church, a title bestowed upon saints of 'eminent learning' and 'great sanctity' whose work has been deemed to be of universal importance to the Church. They are rare -- only 35 Doctors of the Church have been named since the title was first used in 1298. Hildegard of Bingen joins Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Therese of Lisieux as the only women to hold the title.
Born around 1098 in what is now Germany, St. Hildegard was a woman of strong faith, strong will, and many talents. She was a mystic, prophet, and philosopher who wrote three volumes describing and interpreting her spiritual visions and revelations from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes considered to be Germany's first female physician, Hildegard was a skilled healer who wrote several texts on herbalism, medicine, and the natural sciences. She was also a composer and poet--her liturgical works comprise one of the largest surviving bodies of work of medieval music.
Scholars differ on the age at which she was dedicated to God's service; most agree that it was between the ages of eight and 14, though she began having visions at the age of three. She was eventually named magistra of her community of nuns and founded two monasteries in her lifetime, one over the express objections of the abbot of her monastery -- she circumvented him and received direct approval from the Archbishop of Mainz. Though women religious were expected to remain cloistered and were banned from Scriptural interpretation, Hildegard embarked on preaching tours, kept up vigorous correspondence, and freely offered her prayers counsel to the monastic leaders, both male and female, who sought her advice.
During the ceremony in which he named her a Doctor of the Church, Pope Benedict called St. Hildegard a "woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity, and recognized spiritual authority." She was also a proud and courageous voice of faith at a time when women had little or no chance to speak out. St. Hildegard serves as an important reminder of the significant contributions of women to the Church and the necessity of letting their voices be heard.
Ritual to Honor Hildegard of Bingen by Diann L. Neu of WATER
The Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
is a feminist educational center and network of justice-seekers. WATER offers fresh insights and abundant opportunities for all who thirst to engage in theological, ethical, and liturgical work developed by women.
Diann Neu, co-founder of WATER and a feminist liturgist, has created this ritual
to honor Hildegard of Bingen. Diann served on the Mary's Pence board from 2005-2010. You can visit the WATER website to access the Hildegard Ritual.
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|Mary's Pence News|
Featured Video: Grannie for Mary's Pence
Check out this wonderful video featuring "Grannie," a very special friend of a Mary's Pence board member! Grannie is looking for an alternative to Peter's Pence so she can make financial contributions that support women across the Americas. Watch the video
to see what she discovers.
Mary's Pence at the Call To Action Conference
Join Mary's Pence board members and staff at the Call To Action Conference in Louisville, November 9-11.
We are honored to host a workshop at this year's Call to Action Conference! Our workshop, The New Dynamics of Solidarity: Stories and Strategies of Women in Latin America will feature a panel of speakers from the Mary's Pence ESPERA Program who are traveling from Central America to share their stories with us. Gilda Larios, Eva Martinez, and Sr. Peggy O'Neill will share their years of experience working to improve the lives of women in Latin America.
We will also be hosting a Wine and Cheese Reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 10 at the Galt House Hotel. If you are attending Call to Action, please stop by the Mary's Pence table for more information about these events or just to say "hello." If you plan to attend the reception, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org to help with planning. We'd love to see you and we welcome you to bring a friend!
Giving Tree: Support Women in Latin America
We believe Christmas is a wonderful time to move beyond our immediate community and share generously with families from other parts of the world. Including Mary's Pence on your parish Giving Tree allows you to support positive social change and improve the lives of women and their families in Latin America. Giving Tree Gifts will go to support women's income-generating initiatives through Mary's Pence ESPERA Community Lending Pools.
Mary's Pence offers beautiful Giving Tree tags that can be used within your Giving Tree tradition. We can also provide a sample requests to your Giving Tree committee and sample text for church bulletins. Share this material with the Christmas Giving Tree committee in your church or faith community.
How to Include Mary's Pence on your Christmas Giving Tree:
- Complete this form or email email@example.com and let us know how many Giving Tree Tags you will need. We can also send along supporting materials such as Mary's Pence bookmarks and newsletters.
- Use this description for Mary's Pence ESPERA community lending pools to highlight Mary's Pence in your bulletin or Giving Tree materials. Be sure to share why it is important to support women and to support social justice in Latin America.
- Place the tags for Mary's Pence on the Giving Tree, and have individuals send their donations directly to Mary's Pence, as indicated on the tags.
For more information, contact the Mary's Pence office at 651-788-9869 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Mary's Pence - Who Are We?
We are a small organization with a big vision. We want women in the Americas living in poverty to have a say and a hand in how poverty can be alleviated and social equity achieved. Therefore we invest in local women who are creating models to increase women's economic status and improve their status in their community. We look for models that foster women working together, to learn from each other, support each other, and explore new ideas. We fund women in North, Central and South America.
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Letter to the Monk Guibert
Just as a mirror, which reflects all things, is set in its own container, so too the rational soul is placed in the fragile container of the body.
In this way, the body is governed in its earthly life by the soul, and the soul contemplates heavenly things through faith.
St. Hildegard of Bingen, 1175, mystic, prophet, poet and philosopher
Photo: Anita Ritenour