I was on my way to Dearborn, Michigan for the weekend church appeal, but little did I imagine that it would be my turn to be one of those drivers selected for a “random” road inspection.
Under no time pressure, I was driving within the speed limit and expected to arrive in Dearborn around lunch time. It is here that there is the largest mosque in the United States as well as the second largest Islamic Center outside of the Middle East. Suddenly, while still someway outside of Dearborn, I heard the police siren and my plans were destined to change drastically.
I knew that I wasn’t speeding so I wondered what I had done to attract the attention of the police! The officer asked for the car registration papers and my driver’s license.
With an innocent look and an inquisitive mind, I asked the officer what was wrong. He simply told me to wait. But I asked him over and over again “What have I done”? Waiting anxiously for a response I recalled the entrance antiphon from that Sunday’s readings. It was from Psalm 70: O God come to my assistance; O lord, make haste to help me, You are my rescuer, my help. O Lord, do not delay:
Even though I was only sitting there for some 20 minutes, it seemed like an eternity. When the officer returned he told me to get out of the car. “Mama Mia” the next thing I saw was two more police cars arriving and a sniffer dog descending on the scene. I felt very vulnerable as I got out of the car for the police dog bounded past me into the car and started sniffing around!
I did not know what was going on or what to expect. Right in front of me were three state troopers with a dog searching my car. Many thoughts went through my mind. Did they think I was carrying drugs or illegal fire arms? Did they think I was involved in moving illegal migrants? ‘Remain without prejudice’ was my emergency reflection.
I introduced myself to the three officers and told them that I am a Missionary Religious on my way for church appeals. I even showed them the brochures and the poster that I prepared for the week-end.
• Building peace in the midst of violence: I felt that my human rights as a person had just been violated on the road for a random inspection. But I tried to consider the fact that these officers were doing their job and trying to protect all citizens for safety and security, just like a random inspection at the airport or places where securities are of high risk.
• Walking in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized: I thought of the many people in different parts of the world who are in living in the margins at the edge of the society.
• Recognizing the dignity and place of women in a society where they are exploited and their person is denied: I felt that my dignity and integrity was being denied as they stopped me and refused to answer my questions. I finally dialogued with those men as they themselves might do in their own families with their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.
Just like what Barbara Marx Hubbard, one of the key speakers of the recent LCWR (Leadership Conference for Women Religious) General Assembly at St. Louis, MO pointed out: Crises are potential signals driving the world toward more co-creative, co-evolving humanity, where people become more fully aware of their potential for healing and evolving the world in new ways, new forms and ever expanding relationships.”
I told the officers that I would be writing an article about this episode. Later, I asked if I could get their names, and other information. I then asked them if could I take a photograph of them – a Kodak moment, as we call in the Philippines. They were smiling by that time. They obliged and requested to have the sniffer dog included in the picture as well. By the way, the picture came out great!
As I shared my sense of mission with the three men, I was able to become more aware of the living God who invited me and us to proclaim the Good news of faith, love, peace, forgiveness and joy. I also believe that God allowed me to finally touch their heart as they offered me an apology. As I continued my journey to Dearborn, Michigan, I was still shaking. But when I arrived at my hostess’ home I asked for a big hug. She was worried about me being late, and gave me two hugs. Later I shared this scary but also somewhat humorous story with the parishioners of my visiting parish. I learned that the Lord gives us diverse opportunities to share our faith, and also NEVER to speed in Ohio. The pastor of St. Joseph and St. Martha Parish, Fr. Terry Kerner, was also very welcoming. I thanked him for his sense of humor, his welcoming heart and his spiritual mind. His parishioners also shared their sense of joy and good spirit, their generosity and kindness.
I expressed my deep gratitude to them. May God bless them abundantly. I end this reflection as I affirmed and resonate with Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF reflection on six tools for navigating the shifts occurring in the world and the church:
• Use of the prophetic voice
• Solidarity with the marginalized
• Nonviolent responses and
• Capacity to live in joyful hope.
Sister Virgie is the Columban Sisters’ Coordinator for Area of US and responsible for Mission Promotion