Helene Swanson shares her experience walking across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment

Month: June, 2014

URGENT – Help (wo)maning the table at the National NOW Conference

Dearest Friends,

I am assured by my dear friend MonaLisa Wallace, who sits on the National Board of NOW that we at Katrina’s Dream have a table at the upcoming National 2014 Conference of NOW taking place this weekend in Albuquerque, NW. At the table we will promote the Pilgrimage across the USA for the ERA. We need at least two people who can (wo)man the table. We cannot afford to put you up nor cover your expenses. The conference is at the Hyatt.

1132 - ERA YES - GGB 3-8-14 Mona Lisa Wallace Speaking 1of6MonaLisa Wallace addresses thelaunch of the pilgrimage at the BridgeWalk on March 8, 2014.

Photo Credit: Katharine Whipple.


This is an exciting opportunity to help move our mutual cause(s) forward and promote the passage of the ERA.

I am close to Phoenix so I will have internet access over the next few days so share this with those that you know who you think can help man the table at the NOW conference ask them to call me at (415) 233-2049 or email me at I also ask that you also text MonaLisa at (415) 516-5472 and email her at as she prepares to promote our work at the conference.

Thank you so much everyone for moving our country forward. Here is to Equality 4 All. Hip Hip Hurray!

Love and Light in Christ,
Sister Helene


“Lady of Walsingham, I lift up Godfather Bob”

Lady of Wallingsham_2Helene Swanson and the Rev. Robert T. Coolidge at the Chapel of the Lady of Walsingham, Trinity Church Seneca Falls, NY on July 29, 2012 on her first pilgrimage to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment following morning prayer lead by Rev. Coolidge.  Photo Credit: William Swanson

Dearest Family and Friends,

It was on the 10th anniversary of the blessing of my marriage to my beloved William G. Swanson that I learnt that Godfather Bob, former archivist of The Monticello Association and Katrina’s Dream board member, co-founder and LBGTQ Liason, was in the hospital with a broken hip, not serious as things go but definitely difficult on an older gent. His support was instrumental in the founding of Integrity.  

Godfather Bob is more commonly known as the Rev. Robert T. Coolidge. I cannot express adequately how much he means to me personally. He was always there for my late husband and was one of the few that stepped up to the plate to support me in those early days of widowhood. It was his kind words and the time we spent together at Squam Lake watching the PBS documentary  series “The American Experience – The Abolitionists” that encouraged me to take up this pilgrimage and continue with the ministry of Katrina’s Dream.

An Important Message video  –

It is believed that he is also the first person to serve a woman priest in the roadside service following the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven.  I invite you to watch the above video of William and Godfather Bob at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.  Godfather Bob has done many things to support a number of causes.  He is a wonderful human being. Godfather Bob has a special place in my heart and I ask everyone to pray for his well being. Thank you all so much, Love and Light in Christ, Hélène de Boissière-Swanson

Prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham

O blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Walsingham, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon us, our parish, our country, our homes, and our families, and upon all who greatly hope and trust in your prayers, (especially…The Rev. Robert T. Coolidge) By you it was that Jesus, our Savior and hope, was given to the world; and he has given you to us that we may hope still more. Plead for us your children, whom you did receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of your Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we all may be made worthy to see and praise God, together with you in our heavenly home. Amen.

Our Lady of Walsingham, Pray for us.

10437422_10203884931994126_8519895456230106258_nThe sky above the desert of Wikiup, Arizona.  Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Listen to The Night

10460279_10203806671157654_8458505907542338961_nThe Desert Floor   Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

As I walk through Nevada on my Pilgrimage for the ERA this past May of 2014, I recall the time in my childhood when my family left Jersey City, NJ. I thought we were headed to the west coast, but somehow we wound up in Vegas. My second day there I walked the south end of The Strip to Caesar’s Palace in the midst of a heat wave looking for my parents who had not made it back to the hotel the night before. The bellhops took care of me. I will never forget how kindly they tended to my needs.

Vegas was an eye opener for a New Yorker. It was the first time I was in a predominantly white neighborhood: culture shock! The police used the blacks of North Las Vegas as target practice. You did not win there and think you could really walk away with your winnings, and the dazzlingly lights of the Strip hid the underbelly that walked the streets. It was the wild, wild, west.

I thought I had street savvy, but I had a lot to adjust to, so many learning curves! I was cornered in the gym at Garside Junior High by “mean girls” for not having a real New York accent. I worked hard on changing my enunciation since it was a matter of survival. Even now, at times, my old accent emerges during Mass. I so desperately wanted to fit in that I joined every school club so that I could appear in every yearbook shot. I started to make friends, “geeks,” and it was a grand time. I became “besties” with friends who moved onto our block we were quite the gang. One turned me on to the Beatles, of whom I’d never heard. Another turned me on Led Zepplin. I discovered the desert. I loved exploring the ravines and trying to catch the lizards. I got adept at getting them but they had their ways too: “Just lose your tail and you’re free!” I learned Nevada history, and its heritage of working for the abolition of slavery, a heritage to take pride in. I regard that as a heritage to build upon by ratifying the ERA.

My mum had another horrible accident, and poverty struck again. A classmate’s mother took me in while my mother recuperated at the hospital for the next few months. I had to give up a lot of things. I was made to feel shame and disgrace for not being like this woman’s perfect daughter. I was forced to go to a Billy Graham event. It was so much fun! Everyone was celebrating Jesus, money poured into the baskets, people bought me things to take home. And again my mind was blown away, another culture shock event. Yet, it was here that I embraced, “If ye have the faith of a mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible unto you.” I have held on to that scripture through thick and thin: applying the concept of faith to faith in one’s self, God in one’s life. I picked up the Bible convinced there were a lot of good things in this book. Now all I had to do was figure out what they were trying to say.

So here it is many years later, I don’t forget all the good times, all the bad times, the ‘tween times. So I have learned that money is simply a tool, not to be worshiped. It is this planet we are to care for, to love. It is God that we place first and foremost and all else will fall into place.

So as ya’ all know, my journey on this pilgrimage through Nevada started off with a longing. I hung out with Jocelyn Diaz and Janette Dean of Carson City and with the help of Jeff Munson I am forever grateful for his piece covering our event. They brought all their energy and their passion to the cause of Equality for all. I made my way to Dayton then on to Fallon to enjoy Easter with the Wilson – Dolan – Viney Family of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Fallon, NV. They shared who the family was, a notable family who took in a young orphaned Wavonka, a Piute Indian, who kept the prophecy of the White Buffalo alive and revived Ghost Dancing. I owe so much to Deacon Nancy Janess, who insured that my replacement shoes made it safely to Tonapah. Nancy made arrangements for me to get rest at a local motel. Shoes courtesy of Rev. Esther Gardner were shipped to Mother Joan Laliberte who is holding down the fort figuratively at St. Marks in the gold mining of Tonapah, where the idea of a woman priest is challenging to the locals. In Beatty I thought of dropping by my friends at Spicer Mining/Boiling Pot Ranch, it has been so many years, since dear old Jim passed on and my speaking with Elsie his bereaved widow, but had too much fun at Bailey’s Hot Springs and fear of a bygone era got the best of me.

10322772_699206536787173_7548589466597417124_nSwanson meets up with folks at the Nye County Democratic Party Headquarters  Photo Credit: Cles Saunders

My soon to be new found friends Jannis and Cles Saunders, Margery and Robert Hanson, and Harvey Kulkin in Pahrump, beckoned me on, I had to “put a dime on it.” Folks in Pahrump were stirring the pot and had big dreams. They worked hard organizing The Rally 4 Rights Event at the Henderson Convention Center. And it was a blast, it felt like a private party, I met Chris Hyepock, a would-be contender for Govenor of Nevada and a number of other folks who were equally inspirational. Most importantly, I witnessed the beginnings of a core group dedicated to ratifying the ERA.

10329083_701740453200448_1742512088299426984_n-1Swanson speaks at the Rally 4 Rights, Henderson Convention Center  Photo Credit: Cles Saunders

In Vegas, I stayed with a woman whose pain, her suffering, her desire to break the bonds of generational dysfunction; I did not want to leave, but I spent more days than I should have. She did the best she could, all things considered, her partner drove me to Bishop Dan’ Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada office off of Eastern Blvd., where I received a blessing, which I sure could use. The weekend before she accompanied me the Rally 4 Rights sponsored by and co-organized by the Progressive Democrats of Nevada. They worked so hard to pull it all together. I was impressed: not bad for introducing a delicate subject to a state going through growing pains.

BD and Helene Swanson ERABishop Dan Edwards of the Diocese of Nevada blesses Helene Swanson  Photo Credit: Debbie Rivera

I marveled at how Vegas had grown. I joined the folks at Grace of the Desert Episcopal Church on Memorial Day weekend recalling that this church was the last place my beloved William received Holy Communion. It was a time of contemplation. Each day I walked a few miles toward The Strip taking the bus back so as to cross Vegas without costing a destitute family more than what they could afford. But it was time to move on. On my last day I had her drop me off at Ceasar’s Palace where I had walked to the day before, we hugged goodbye and I assured her little one that I would be a part of his life for years to come.

It was the 10th Anniversary of our civil marriage, which took place on my 10 minute break at the Marin County Public Defender’s Office. I knew that night as I know now that my beloved waits patiently for me to attend to affairs here, that he whispers in God’s ear from time to time and that I am loved and to be strong. I left Las Vegas, carrying on with bringing the message of Christ to the world.

PR - St. Christopher'sCoffee hour with the congregation of St. Christopher’s, Boulder City, NV  Photo Credit: Jean Zaebst

I was warmly received by the folks at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, in Boulder City, NV. I felt renewed and inspired by Father Jim’s homily, I learned to count 100 blessings before calling it a day, like my Jewish friends.

On the side of the road I met a Native American/Indian sage who instructed me to listen to the night when he and I exchanged stories. Inspired by his words I wrote the following poem.

Listen To The Night

Reaching out I listen to the night
In the darkness I find the light
My soul soars to new heights
As I listen, listen to the night

10336628_10203730839581912_5721231683729469461_nSwanson rests at Eldorado Canyon, Nevada off of Route 95  Photo Credit: Indian Sage

I passed through Searchlight en route to my lovely new friend Leah and her husband Manuel who hosted me. I recuperated from a couple of days on the desert without adequate food and water. They introduced me to their congregation who embraced me as one of their own, and invited me to participate in their parish’s vestry meeting. The Church of the Holy Spirit is the last church on the Southern boundary of the Diocese of Nevada and it’s in Bullhead City.

10450439_751285814916181_1209077369275064654_nVestry Meeting of Church of the Holy Spirit, Bullhead City, AZ.Photo Credit:

Battleborn, Nevada, I have faith in you. You have given me so much. You shaped my very being. So much so, that I have faith that you will be the state that sets the nation on fire when it comes to passing the Equal Rights Amendment. You moved the United States in the abolition of slavery. You again will move this nation forward. I have faith in your people. I love your spirit, I love your people, the folks that come far and wide in search of their dreams. I love your desert, your mountains and lakes, your past and where you will take us. Stand strong, stand bold, lead this nation, and remember you will always have a place in my heart.

10410619_10203713092778253_8305650813600272893_nHoover Dam, Boulder City, NV  Photo Credit:  Helene Swanson