Brigid Kennedy: Friend, Co-Worker, Inspiration

Each day, people of faith are inspired and strengthened by the spiritual presence of others. Here is one such story.
brigid kennedyBrigid Kennedy, Co-Director of the
Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown HIV/AIDS Ministry and an Ursuline Associate, offers her “witness” to living the Gospel through the charism of St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline Sisters:
I have been around Ursuline Sisters my whole life. My Aunt Betty Kerrigan (an Ursuline Sister), family friends, at St. Rose and at Ursuline High School. I learned to try to live values like charity, service and justice.
I had Sr. Pauline Dalpe as a teacher in 3rd grade, and we boycotted Nestle for unscrupulous business practices with infant formula and Third World mothers. I’m not sure how the rest of the 8-year-olds felt, but I was pretty sure that writing letters and giving up Nestle Crunch was pretty important stuff.
And of course I was raised Catholic; it was in my bones, almost genetic, and cultural in an everywhere-ness kind of way. But somehow, for me, those two streams, service and faith, didn’t really converge.
And then I began working in AIDS Ministry, and everything changed. Not long after I started as a volunteer, I remember asking Sr. Kathleen Minchin for something to read about service having a spiritual dimension, and I wasn’t even sure what words to use. I didn’t know then that I was being called and feeling being called to live the Gospel. And that it would change everything.
I have worked and sometimes lived with the community for over 16 years, much of my adult life. And I have been transformed by those experiences. As for living the Gospel, in some ways I have it easy, because the poor and the sick are always right in front of me at work, and I go home to children who’ve been wounded in terrible ways. But I often fail. I let doing the work get in the way of connecting with the people the work is supposed to help. I let ego or comfort or fear keep me from being open to loss and pain. Sometimes it’s just as simple as not being present to the ones I’m with. I’ve got to recommit to it every day sometimes many times in a day. So what the community gives me and many other Associates is the support to keep doing the hard work of the Gospel, the context to explore and articulate it, and the shelter in which to be vulnerable and transformed by it.
Recently, Jesuit Fr. James Martin offered as an evening reflection the following questions: What have I done for the poor? What am I doing for the poor? What am I going to do for the poor? 20 years of AIDS Ministry and so many other examples from this community answer the first two questions well. The third question, what will you do for the poor, is for the Ursuline Sisters to answer in the coming days. The Associates are along for the ride. And I am confident, to borrow from St. Angela, that we can all be ready for big surprises.