deboissiere

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

Tag: #pilgrimage4ERA

Next steps… the ERA March and Rally to the US Capitol

Dearest Friends,

Bishop Joe Morris Doss celebrates the Eucharist at the Blessing of the ERA Walkers at St. Stephen and The Incarnation, Washington DC

On Women’s Equality Day, August 26, 2015, Bishop Joe Morris Doss celebrates the Eucharist at the Blessing of the ERA Walkers at St. Stephen and The Incarnation, Washington DC.  Photo Credit: Everett Barnes

I was deeply moved by the commitment of those whom made the August 26, 2015 – Women’s Equality Day – Blessing, March, and Rally a smashing success, for photo’s Click Here. I was touched by all the lovely tokens of affection, gifts, and awards bestowed on me.  I simply did not expect that.  When I heard US Senator Cardin’s and US Representative Speier’s statements I was moved to tears.  It went to the core of why I have walked so many miles.  So my prepared speech went right out the window and the story of my father whom I have rarely spoken of and how he was treated as a coloured man in this country and called a “nigger” a word I own not with pride but with a sad and heavy heart. And what I felt called to speak to is a country so divided by classism, racism, and sexism, a country whose people would so greatly benefit by passage of the Equal Rights Amendment into the US Constitution.

Equal Rights Amendment Rally at the US Capitol

Equal Rights Amendment Rally at the Upper Senate Park Area 2 at the US Capitol. From left to right William Van Horn (Staffer Senator Cardin’s Office) Charles Clymer, Joz Wang, Sarah Kurtz, Taylor Neuville, Helene de Boissiere-Swanson, Dr. E. Faye Williams, Molly Fishmen (Staffer Representative Speier) Ellen Davis, Alli McCracken, and Cathy.

Stories I heard all my life swirling about in my head; instructions to never saying anything about my father being black; how I became my mother’s memory after a red brick fell nine stories landing smack in the center of her head; and then as a child of 12 going out to work selling newspapers door to door in Las Vegas to put food on the table, all those stories and more swelled up from deep within as I listened to one impassioned speaker after another.  And I whom spent a lifetime having been instructed to never cry in public and “keep a stiff upper lip” cried. I cried thinking of Katrina and the trust she put in me, and her stories, stories that she too had kept to herself. And I thought of my beloved husband William too. And I called upon a black woman who served several years in a federal penitentiary to read the Presiding Bishop’s Statement.

Many of you have asked what’s next? First off I will not be taking a break I am only going to come on stronger now.  The pilgrimage is a benchmark in the ministry of Katrina’s Dream to promote th passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  And just like many doubted that I would make it all the way across the US and many have doubted that the Equal Rights Amendment hasn’t a chance in their lifetime – I know just like I knew that I would make it to DC, I know we are not that long off from the ratification of three more states. Ladies and Gents we are going to come on stronger than ever. The Time in NOW!

Swanson heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge them to move it out of committee

Helene Swanson heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirkson Bldg at the US Capitol to urge them to move it out of committee.

So another part of what I have planned next is contacting each and every single US legislator and asking that they co-sponsor S.J. Res. 15 and H.J. Res 51 over the weeks ahead targeting the chair of the Judiciary and several other senators of key importance.  And those that have co-sponsored ask that put on their website  under Women’s Issues  that they have co-sponsored the “ERA Three State Resolution” to demonstrate their support for women’s rights.

This coming September 13th @ 9pm EST Tammy and Cathy are holding their monthly ERA Action National Call and I am hoping that many of you will call in so that we can go over the strategy for the upcoming weekly calls out to our legislators. The call in number is (605) 562-3140 and meeting code number is 787085#

And many of you have asked if I will be writing a book… the answer is yes. The book will be one of my spiritual journey and the difficult decisions I faced in the waked of my late husbands passing and how a simple statements less than two days after my husband’s death at the local church we attended “Don’t worry you find another man, you are young yet”, to surviving a 60 mph sand storm by hiding in a drain ditch brought me closer to the beauty of our earth, and how connecting with a large number of women and human rights activists across the country with each lovingly embracing me in my darkest moments, uplifting me, guiding me, every step of the way.  And praying, indeed praying to God every day to help me walk through aches, pain, and fever; and thirst and hunger when my money ran out months ago, having left with only $200 to my name as I would not – could not – go back to living the life as an oppressed woman in these United States.

 

Next the herstoric March to the US Capitol has morphed into an annual event. Yes that is correct – the pilgrimage which ended in an amazing march with a dedicated core group of human rights activists and rally to the US Capitol has turned into an annual event to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  So please continue to invite your friends to our Facebook event page…https://www.facebook.com/events/1564990420427752/

Finally and most importantly, I want to thank all of you for making this amazing journey with me.  The love and care shown was emboldening and while most would think I might be tired and want a break I am more energized than ever.  So let’s do this… let’s pass the ERA!

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere-Swanson

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Hold The Date! Women’s Equality Day – ERA March to the US Capitol – August 26, 2015

July 12, 2015

Dearest Family and Friends,

The last month has been a whirlwind. I am on my second excursion since leaving San Francisco last year on March 8, 2014, on my pilgrimage to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. On this excursion I will have made three stops.

The first leg of this excursion was to attend the 2015 national annual conference for the National Organization for Women in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I met a number of empowered women who are making a difference. I ask that you take a moment to check out the videos of a few of the women that I met. They are truly inspiring!

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 2015 Annual Conference for the National Organization for Women. Photo Credit: Eleanor Smeal

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 2015 Annual Conference for the National Organization for Women. Photo Credit: Eleanor Smeal

Then I headed off to the 79th General Convention where I learnt that many having been following my pilgrimage and the growing ministry of Katrina’s Dream. I had the pleasure of chatting with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the Episcopal Women’s Caucus Breakfast where the article I wrote about my pilgrimage was the centerpiece of their special edition of Rauch for General Convention. I was blessed to be present volunteering as a page when the House of Deputies when Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry was confirmed. Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina is the first African American to be elected Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. Then a day later I was again blessed with the opportunity to discuss my pilgrimage with Bishop Curry and ask for his support.

Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo Credit: Katrina’s Dream supporter.

Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo Credit: Katrina’s Dream supporter.

I am currently in Phoenix to compete in the Pundit Competition at the Netroots Nation Summit. On that note, everyone please pray for me as I hope to inspire others to join us in getting the word out on the Women’s Equality Day – ERA March to the Capitol event.

Immediately following this conference, I will return to the Carolina to continue walking to the US Capitol to promote the passage of the ERA.

Graphic of Women’s Right Organization’s across the United States who are actively working on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and support Helene Swanson’s Pilgrimage across the USA for the ERA.

Graphic of Women’s Right Organization’s across the United States who are actively working on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and support Helene Swanson’s Pilgrimage across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment.

This ERA March & Rally will culminate my one-year+ pilgrimage covering the 15 states that have yet to ratify the ERA. I left from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on March 8th 2014 – in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of passing the ERA, and to unite many individual factions to make the ERA a reality.   I began my trek in honor of my late mother-in-law, the Rev. Katrina Martha Van Alstyne Welles Swanson, an impassioned ERA promoter who was one of the Philadelphia Eleven – the first group of women “irregularly” ordained as Episcopal priests. It was her dream to see women in America receive equal protections under the law, a dream so many Americans of all faiths and backgrounds share.

The Equal Rights Amendment will empower women and provide protection for the LBGTQ community!

The March on August 26, 2015 – Women’s Equality Day will start at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. following a 8 a.m. blessing of the walkers. Many will accompany me for the final four miles of this 7,000-mile spiritual pilgrimage to the U.S. Capitol to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The four-mile route passing the White House and on to the National Mall where top feminists and human rights activists will hold a press conference, and then speakers will rally for the ERA.

Those walking in solidarity represent a number of organizations from across the country including: Equal Rights Alliance, ERA Action, ERA Coalition, ERA Minnesota, Katrina’s Dream, National NOW, Unite Women, We Are Woman US, Women-Matter and many more. They have nourished me as I made my way across the U.S. Along this journey I stopped to meet with dozens of congressional district offices, and leaders from these organizations above joined me via conference call to senators and representatives, asking that they co-sponsor the “The 3-State Strategy” joint resolutions in Congress (SJRes.15/HJRes51)

In addition to the blessing, march, press conference & rally that day, there are several satellite events planned in other locations in the United States and around the world through our new Sisters in Solidarity program.

I ask you to please help to build a national and global presence in support of the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by:

  • Joining the Facebook Online Event to demonstrate your support, Inviting your friends, and sharing the event everywhere; and
  • Forwarding this email to all your friends and asking them to join in spirit; and
  • Holding a Sister in Solidarity satellite

Most importantly it is your prayers and support that make possible the ministry of Katrina’s Dream. Thank you so much. Good luck, Good Health, and God Bless Always!

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere-Swanson

Miracles Happen After Hard Work by Mother Alla (Philadelphia Eleven)

Mother Alla at Bear Haven in Rosa Mystica.

Mother Alla at Bear Haven in Rosa Mystica.

As I was en route to Springfield, IL, to call upon the Illinois General Assembly to Vote YES so that Illinois could be the first state in the 21st Century to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, dearest Mother Alla, the Rev. Alla Bozarth sent me this beautiful poem she wrote to be share will all of you.

Knowing that Rep. Lou Lang will be pushing it forward this coming 2015 Legislative Session.  We shall not give up, we shall not give in.  United We Stand… All coming to the table… One Nation Indivisible.

Check out her blog from time to time http://allabozarthwordsandimages.blogspot.com/

Miracles Happen After Hard Work

Miracles happen—

the French took charge and cast out the Nazis

from the City of Lights, when the Occupying Germans feared

the approach of the Allies and tried to force a 9pm curfew

on the citizens of Paris.

 

Occupation, if it is benign, is one thing, but a curfew is an outrage.

The police took over a building opposite the Cathedral of Notre Dame

and then the women and children came out and started hurling their rocks

and the men shot tanks with small guns, and de Gaulle begged Eisenhower

to bring in the Allies, which he had formerly refused to do.

 

Impressed with the suddenly aggressive valor of the French,

the General agreed to follow a band of French troops into Paris,

and when they arrived, a Victory Parade was already underway

as the Liberation of Paris had officially happened the day before.

 

A distant humming reached the ears of the Americans,

a strange sound rising to a low murmur as they came nearer,

then erupting into an overwhelming roar of jubilation.

The people of Paris rushed on foot to greet them, women kissed them,

some offered wine to the soldiers, they climbed up onto the tanks,

hailing the Liberation of the City of Lights in the summer of 1944.

 

On the same day, August 26, twenty-four years before,

the Women’s Suffrage Amendment was written into the Constitution

of the United States, a victory for humanity created by the relentless

courage, effort and suffering of American women for generations.

 

By virtue of those heroic Suffragists, on June 4, 1919,

the Nineteenth Amendment had been passed by both

the House and Senate of Congress,

but it needed to be ratified by state legislatures.

 

Over a year later, on August 18th the deciding state

was Tennessee, the 36th state to cast its vote in favor,

and the deciding vote was cast by Harry Burn,

at twenty-four the youngest state legislator.

 

Mother Alla celebrates Mass.

Mother Alla celebrates Mass.

 

That morning he’d opened his mail and read a letter

from his mother, in which she said she’d been watching

to see him declare his inclination toward Suffrage for Women,

but so far she saw nothing. She ended her message,

“Don’t forget to be a good boy . . .  and vote for suffrage.”

 

Supporters of suffrage wore yellow roses and filled the balcony

while opponents wore red roses on the main floor.

Harry Burn walked in wearing red, but when he voted,

he said “Aye.”

 

All the women in the balcony threw down

their flowers, and on that day,

there was a beautiful storm of yellow roses

raining all over the representatives

of the state of Tennessee.

 

Alla Renée Bozarth

 

From Purgatory Papers, copyright 2014.

All rights reserved.

Immediately after the Philadelphia Ordinations, this picture was taken with the red doors of the Church of the Advocate opened wide to welcome and host the historic event. The Rector, the Rev. Paul Washington, understood that the risks were great, both to himself and to the church, which at the time was dependent on diocesan funding to meet its expenses. Counter-clockwise from upper right are my husband and priest presenter, the Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell, Dorothy Huyck, naturalist, feminist and historian, and her daughter Heather Huyck, who was writing her University of Minnesota American Studies doctoral dissertation on the History of Women's Ordination in the Episcopal Church. I, deacon of the Diocese of Oregon since September 8, 1971 and, as of that day on the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha, July 29, 1974 in hot Philadelphia, priest as well, though I had transferred to the Diocese of Minnesota for the years I served there. I do not know the identity of the woman on my left who was so gloriously harmonious with the colors of the occasion. She was observing the process, and I pulled her into the picture. I am sorry not to know her name. If anyone recognizes her, please let me know about her! - Mother Alla

Immediately after the Philadelphia Ordinations, this picture was taken with the red doors of the Church of the Advocate opened wide to welcome and host the historic event. The Rector, the Rev. Paul Washington, understood that the risks were great, both to himself and to the church, which at the time was dependent on diocesan funding to meet its expenses. Counter-clockwise from upper right are my husband and priest presenter, the Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell, Dorothy Huyck, naturalist, feminist and historian, and her daughter Heather Huyck, who was writing her University of Minnesota American Studies doctoral dissertation on the History of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church. I, deacon of the Diocese of Oregon since September 8, 1971 and, as of that day on the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha, July 29, 1974 in hot Philadelphia, priest as well, though I had transferred to the Diocese of Minnesota for the years I served there. I do not know the identity of the woman on my left who was so gloriously harmonious with the colors of the occasion. She was observing the process, and I pulled her into the picture. I am sorry not to know her name. If anyone recognizes her, please let me know about her! – Mother Alla

 

 

 

From the Welles-Swanson Family to Yours – Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

16186_10151117525046517_1384929001_nGo to the below link for the Welles-SwansonThanksgiving Stuffing Recipe Message

http://us9.campaign-archive1.com/?u=99af35c31ac02e4f3044f42a6&id=ec3d713975

Embracing Everyone Everywhere – God’s Inclusive Love in Joplin, MO

It seems like there are not enough hours in the day but in God’s Time where we all live in peace and harmony there is Eternity. Eternity, a concept that Einstein attempted to define which his Theory of Relativity, a concept as a young scientist I pondered when I worked at the Mercury Test Site in 1978 under the Department of Energy and Reynold’s Electrical Engineering Company’s Summer Science Student Program, a concept I play with when I find my asking if not now God, then when? When will we on this ball of dust lay down the sword and pick up the plough and plant seeds of Love and Light in Christ.

Helene's FeetHelene Swanson’s Feet. Photo Credit:  Captured by Helene Swanson from News Broadcast footage

Ahh… but there I go again getting lost in thought as I often do. This is post on God’s Inclusive Love that I promised myself I would write weeks ago as I left Joplin, MO. So guess I should stay on track as the trains that whistle by remind me that I to must stay on track. For several days now I have been thinking of that last night in Joplin, MO. I have been juggling my understanding of inter-faith relationships, ethnicity, individual background, culturation, nurture versus nature, and just how closely the treatment of our friends who are LBGTQ mirrors the treatment of women around the globe.

Not being a learned theologian but working on it I regularly turn to my dear friend, Spiritual Director and fellow Katrina’s Dream board member, Rev. Kathryn A. Piccard. She is always there to help me along as I come to understand scripture and just how inclusive it is. I had been experimenting with my “talk” since leaving the Oklahoma City, which surprisingly and to my delight had a LBGTQ neighborhood. Upon arrival in Tulsa, OK I met a Martin and Juantia Mayberry, who were initially thrilled to meet a fellow Christian on a pilgrimage, but upon learning I had no desire to promote homosexuality as a sin but instead felt that God made everyone just they way they are imperfect perfect – in short unique – they decided I was misled Christian and challenged my belief system. (We are friends on Facebook and I enjoy thier posts as we move forward by dialoguing). So natural as I often do it was a call to Rev. Kathryn for a review of scripture and God Inclusive Love. Kathryn patiently went over the scripture again and shot off an email to me of her Sermon on the Ethopian Eunuch, little did I know just how important this sermon was going to be in the days ahead in Joplin, MO.

10703956_10204515748724150_7234191634138676432_oMartin Mayberry, Helene Swanson and Juanita Mayberry enjoy a moment at Starbucks in Tulsa, OK.

I had a great time in Joplin, I met amazing people, like Seattle Charlie the worlds most literate hobo, and Elisabeth Earhart who opened up her heart to me, and I met a group of young men at McDonald’s who recognized me from a the local news broadcast in which Reporter Felicia Lawrence interviewed me regarding my quest for Equality for All. I felt a little bit like Socrates speaking to these young people as they hovered around me asking one question after another, “Why are you walking? … Do you believe in Jesus?” Where do you sleep? What is the Equal Rights Amendment?” And then the zinger, “Wait, are you saying that you believe that God is ok with Gays?” We spoke for several hours. And dear Connor Badgley the first lad to approach me concerned for my well being who continually texted his pastor begging that he help me with lodging for the night. So out came Kathryn’s sermon – they listened intensely – the whole restaurant hovered around me. As I was finishing up reading her sermon Pastor Joe came in and announced that he and his wife had reserved a room for me at the local Motel 6. I gladly accepted this most generous offer, as I had not showered in about week and half. I said my good-byes having fronded many on Facebook urging they to say in touch. I must admit I felt horrible getting in car I smelt so terrible. But it didn’t’ seem to phase dear Pastor Joe who said he had a gift for me and presented me a cupcake from the dinner he attended where Sarah Palin had spoken. I asked what he thought of Kathryn’s sermon and invited them to check out the Just Words? and he said it had given him much to think about and that he was going to give this week’s sermon considerable thought –I was floored.

10709629_775657585809475_1244850499_o-1Allen Mitchell, Helene Swanson, Tyler Sprouls take a moment at McDonald’s where Helene spoke to a group of youths regarding the Pilgriamge for the Equal Rights Amendment and God’s Inclusive Love.  Photo Credit” PIlgrimage Supporter

When we arrived at the motel and the lads were taking my things upstairs for me. I asked Pastor Joe for a blessing for the pilgrimage for the Equal Rights Amendment. The lads stopped dead in their tracts to hear his response and as he laid his hands on me to bless me they turned their backs and I noticed their steps were a little more spirited.

Indeed, God works in mysterious ways.

“Hello I’m Elisabeth Earhart… I was raped”

Elisabeth Earhart

It is not often that I am awestruck. But I just had my socks blown off by a quiet spoken woman. We met over a cup of coffee at the McDonald’s on Main Street here in Joplin, MO. I had engaged her as she had a bright red T-shirt, which had caught my eye. There was an immediate connection. But somehow I think Elisabeth connects with a lot of folks she is a woman on a mission, she believes that prayer is a choice and that the concept of quiet time at school as a time to pray or reflect if one does not want to pray.

Whether you agree with Elisabeth on quiet time as reflection for prayer is neither here nor there. After all life has put on her table she is still a loving and compassionate Christian. I invite you to watch this video where she shares her life and how being raped affected her and the family discord that ensued. Please see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6rtlMNF-iQ&feature=youtu.be

Oklahoma – “All Er Nothing”

Oklahoma is simply amazing.  What I have come to know of the folks of Oklahoma is that they stand for progress. I was so warmly received by the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, and the congregation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral that it has renewed my spirits.

As many of you know the incident that resulted in the loss of my iphone in Salt Lake City hit me hard.  And it was a most difficult personal journey coming to terms with all that I came to understand about just how hard it is on women here in the USA, in particular women who are homeless and my brothers and sister in the African American community. I promise to share more on this later.  For now I must focus on the pilgrimage.

The Very Rev. Justin Lindstrom and The Rev. Canon Susan Colley Joplin pulled off an amazing Women’s Equality Day Vigil in less than 48 hours notice.  State Senator Connie Johnson her passion and commitment to serve all moved me beyond words and Margaret Cox a die-hard activist who has lead the way on many social justice issue here is most impressive, in particular her commitment to abolish the Death Penalty. I thought of my beloved William when she spoke of her work. Especially when Organist H. Scott Raab played the National Anthem. Dean Lindstrom’s sermon brought home just how important it is that everyone come together to move our nation forward in passing the Equal Rights Amendment. I invite you to watch the service on our YouTube Channel.

photo 2

But for now I need to concentrate on my upcoming meeting with Senators Coburn and Inhofe.  So, I am asking that everyone put the word out that I need folks to join me at my meeting with Senator Coburn this coming August 29, 2014  and my meeting with Senator Inhofe the following Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 9:00 am to discuss their co-sponsoring of SJ Res. 10 and SJ Res. 15.  My personal preference is SJ Res 15, which is the “Three State Strategy”.  I will also be asking that they work on moving our US Congress to back CEDAW.

Please give me a hollar at (415) 233-2048 or shoot me an email at helene@katrinasdream.org.

Finally I hope you enjoy this music video from the production of Oklahoma, “All Er Nothing”

With you it’s all er nuthin’.

All fer you and nuthin’ fer me!

But if a wife is wise, she’s gotta realize

That men like you are wild and free.

So I ain’t gonna fuss, ain’t gonna frown,

Have your fun, go out on the town,

Stay up late and don’t come home till three.

And go right off to sleep if you’re sleepy,

There’s no use waitin’ up fer me!

Let’s help ‘Annie’ and “Will” move all of Oklahoma into the 21st Century – Where Men and Women are Equal

A Cloud of Witnesses

So here I am in Salt Lake City, capital of the third non-ERA ratifying state of the 15 non-ratifiers I’ll pass through before I reach Washington, D.C., next March 8, 2015, on my coast-to-coast pilgrimage to press for full equality for women. My heart leaped up at the warmth of the reception I received in Nevada and Arizona before I got here. Women in those states are on the move along with the men who support them. And outposts of my beloved Episcopal Church in Nevada and Arizona were, for the most part, incredibly supportive.

Utah is Mormon country, and top officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as the church is formally known) are vigorously opposed to admitting women to the priesthood, a role to which virtually all male Mormon adults are ordained. In fact, the church recently publicly excommunicated a woman, a lifelong and dedicated Mormon who urged them to reexamine the policy. Whether that second-classing of women spills over into Utah’s secular politics remains to be seen. I will be seeing Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah’s senior senator, a Republican, at his office here next Tuesday, the 40th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Eleven. I’ll be pressing him to support the ERA amendment in the U.S. Senate. We’ll see how it goes.

On a side note, my iPhone was stolen five days ago, forcing me to learn just how dependent I’ve become on this kind of link to the wider world. Hey, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews didn’t need an iPhone to feel awe-struck at how great a cloud of witnesses surrounds us as we move through this pilgrimage of life. I need to remind myself of that. The cloud of witnesses surrounds me too, whether I can phone them up or not.

This post was penned by William R. MacKaye, fellow Board Member of http://www.KatrinasDream.org.

“See Ya Tomorrow!”

When I embarked on this Pilgrimage for the ERA I knew it would be difficult.  Difficult is an understatement!  As I slowly make my way from the Golden Gate bridge to Washington D.C.  I pray for those whom I care for and those I have met in the course of day to day affairs.  My dear friend, the Rev. Kathryn Piccard, has taught me to pray for those who have harmed me in some way, shape or form.She advises me to pray honestly, even explicitly, for these people, every time I think of them, for up to two weeks. But if others around, I have to do it silently! And it helps.

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This pilgrimage is testing every aspect of my being and my faith in God.  And it is affirming my faith in God as well.  As a person who believes in the law of attraction I put my focus on accentuating the positive in all my relationships. My time in Arizona is a testament to my beliefs and my evolving relationship with God and her people.  I had always believed that I understood and had compassion for those who live alternative lifestyles, in particular, the causation of those who live outdoors un-housed.  My time in Phoenix has given me the gift of walking in the shoes of the economically disadvantaged and sharing the pain of my Hispanic friends who are treated differently because of the color of their skin.

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I thought that it would be easy when I arrived in Phoenix. Easy like it was when I was going through Nevada.  It wasn’t.  I arrived late Sunday afternoon and made my way over to the Cathedral just in time for Compline. I was deeply moved by the service and thought I would wait ’til the following day to reach out to folks at the diocese. A big mistake, most of the folks at the Diocese of Arizona were leaving on vacation since it was the week of July 4th, 2014, so I was left in a lurch. Fortunately, a young man with some mental health challenges befriended me. He showed me around and suggested that I go to Grace Lutheran Church for clothing and food. So I did. I wound up sticking around and volunteering all week. I grew close to community of the Respite Cooling Center. I came in every morning around 7:30 am and helped out all day until 5:00pm. It was a deeply moving experience. I observed first hand in a way I had not done before, as a homeless person with no place to go and insufficient monies due to budget constraints to get a hotel room or a decent bite to eat. It was humbling. The volunteers and those they serve at the center became “family” taking me in.

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“Shorty,” a Latino born and raised in Tuscon shared his story with me. Reared by his grandparents and uncle, he took to becoming a young gangster by the age of eight, dropping out of school. At the age of 11 he married a young Mexican girl he snuck across the border. By 15 he was a father of three. At 19 he killed a man in a bar room brawl in self-defense. He fled the country to live in Mexico but being a devout Roman Catholic came back and turned himself in. The judge who sentenced him said had he not fled he would only be giving him seven years but he was to be an example, so he got the maximum: 25 years. He served the full 25 years, day by day.  While in prison he was cornered in the bathroom where his jaw was broken and he subsequently lost all his teeth. Upon release, not having a proper education and being illiterate and a convicted felon he was unable to find gainful employment. He has lived the last 15 years on the streets of Phoenix. He never developed a relationship with his children although his daughter lived in the area. Shorty took me in. He shared his campsite with me. At the end of each day we headed over to the public library where I worked on reaching out to various organizations in anticipation of my meeting with Senator McCain. Shorty worked on word puzzles attempting to sound out the words he was searching for to increase his vocabulary, a hobby he picked up in prison. Shorty is also known as “Pa” by a number of the younger folks who go to the Grace Lutheran Summer Respite Cooling Center. One young couple who stayed at Shorty camp during the dust and rain storms of monsoon season is expecting their first child together. The young lady grew up in foster care having been taken away from her mother as one of her mothers many boyfriends had molested her.  Her foster mother saw her as “Cinderella” and she was put to work taking care of the other foster kids who the woman was receiving a good amount of money from the state to house. She said she would clean up after everyone and each night go out to wander the streets.  As long as she was back by morning no one cared that she was gone all night. Her partner arrived in Phoenix a few months ago from the Midwest. He deals with his childhood traumas by doing a drug called spice, an easily acquired street drug in the same family of bath salts. One night he begged her to hit him over and over again, claiming that would teach him a lesson. That it would help him to not to spend the little money they had on drugs. It was a difficult night for all. Shorty would shake his head, the young man begging over and over to be hit, and the young woman complying with her punches. I prayed for this family, my Phoenix Street family. I was quickly bought into the fold and asked to volunteer being a friend of Shorty. Each day the program director gathered us together to go over what we needed to concentrate on. We discuss what went wrong the day before and how to best prevent it from happening again. Occasionally, when there was a problem such as someone being too intoxicated or being too argumentative Carlos, the program director would address the issue immediately. He would clearly state that they would have to leave, but only for the day. Always saying, “See ya tomorrow.” At the end of each day when it was time to clean-up the bathrooms, wipe off the table and chairs, vacumn, we all pitched in, and no one had to ask to do anything. We all just worked together in quiet. And when we were done putting things up, again Carlos would say, “See ya tomorrow!”

1044721_10204022357149669_9137618215313784476_n I met the other volunteers. One husband and wife came in every day. He ran the movies while she prepared the food. He also fixes everyone’s electronic gadgets, being a retired computer programmer for a banking institution and former professional baseball player. Their tireless dedication was truly an inspiration. Another took her day off from the local military base to serve in the kitchen, and yet another came to lead the prayer service. And even more to staff the clothing room.

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I could see myself serving this community for the rest of my life. It was hard leaving them to prepare for my meeting at Senator McCain’s office with other concerned Arizona voters organizing for the ERA. But I had to move on. I will carry the promise of another day to serve God and her people as we say at Grace Lutheran “See ya Tomorrow.”

“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 Youtube.com video  –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy2ND155uyg

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