Starting Point
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Issue Date:  August 26, 2005

Starting Point


In the Midwest, late summer is the time for state and county fairs. In Adrian, Mich., where I live, everyone goes to the Lenawee County Fair. Each year, large crowds enjoy the 4-H tents where prize pigs and goats are exhibited, the booths where handicrafts are displayed and, of course, the midway with hawkers calling their wares, the noise of the amusement rides and the aroma of cooking hot dogs and cotton candy.

Visitors are often surprised to find in one of the permanent fair buildings along with exhibits by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, displays by military recruiters, and booths advertising insurance, house siding and farm machinery, a small booth staffed by a group of us Dominican Sisters.

Except for some handicrafts made by women from Africa, Haiti and Nicaragua, places where we minister, the booth offers little for sale. There are free handouts, of course, along with brochures and buttons bearing the Dominican Sisters’ vision statement: “Seek truth; make peace; reverence life.”

The main purpose of the booth is to describe the 100 plus years of Dominican presence in the community and the sisters’ continuing support for the dignity of life, which includes unpopular positions on the war in Iraq and the death penalty.

Some visitors to the booth ask about favorite sisters or reminisce about Catholic school experiences. Others question the sisters’ political positions. They ask: “Don’t you love your country?” or “Aren’t you putting our soldiers’ lives in danger?”

I think it’s good to listen to the questions, try to understand the feelings behind them, and then answer simply and honestly, always respectful of the questioner. It’s a reminder that Jesus spent his public life talking to people and listening to them in the synagogue, at the well in Samaria and along the Sea of Galilee.

Fairs are good. They are places to meet and talk and learn, places where if we look closely we will discover traces of God in our midst.

Lois Spear is a retired Dominican Sister who lives in Adrian, Mich. Look for her in the sisters’ booth at the Lenawee County Fair.

National Catholic Reporter, August 26, 2005

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