Feast of St. Brigit (Brigit’s Table Grace). For those of us who have been followers of Mary’s Pence for some time, its genesis story has taken on the qualities of a myth: A group of women gathered in an upper room, sparked by injustice, enflamed by the spirit of the times, and fueled by a mystical experience. Thank God for the passion of those pioneering women, who hungered for justice and set a table where they and others could be fed for 25 years and counting.
As was so often the case with women’s movements, they had first asked for their rightful place at a table that was already set. They knew there was room, that there was enough to go around. Only this time when they were offered crumbs, they knew it was time to set their own table.
The creation of a fund for and by Catholic women was well within their grasp. Each of them had experience in a different aspect of the work, had done fundraising and administration and ministry. As women of their time, they had trained as lawyers, economists, and theologians. They were among the Marys—and Marthas—who had kept the faith going for millennia. The only part that didn’t come easily was serving women first.
But they were ready. And willing to take what they had always done and transform it as part of a movement to improve the lives of people everywhere. So weavers became preachers, factory workers became community organizers, mothers became health care promotoras, bakers became bankers.
This fund for change not only established parity between women and men, but between women themselves. Everyone came to be fed. Academics and addicts, housewives and homeless, writers and waiters, all acknowledged their common need, their right, their obligation to share a table.
Twenty-five years later, Mary’s Pence remains the table where women come to find companeras, sister friends, for the work of transformation in a world that still hungers for justice. And like an altar table, this one also recognizes how our faith compels us–we are taken, blessed and broken for each other.
In the coming months, we hope you will join us as we recall our story, and remember some of the women (and men) who have made a difference in the world through Mary’s Pence, whether a grantee working to improve her community, a donor wanting to directly support projects that are small and local, or staff and board members bringing the two together.