FSPA sisters and affiliates embrace virtual fall gathering

Affiliation Fall Gathering zoom call screenshot

By Beth Allen, director of affiliation

Antonina Olszewski, director of Ascension Health Wisconsin's spiritual services, presented "Embracing Humility: Encountering the 'Other'" at the first-ever FSPA Virtual Affiliation Fall Gathering on Oct. 10.

The objectives of Antonina's presentation included establishing a shared understanding of and responses to stereotypes, biases and microaggressions as well as "next steps" for expanding inclusivity in one's social circle.

Numerous sisters and affiliates reached out to me after the event to express gratitude for the opportunity to celebrate FSPA affiliation virtually (which made attendance easier for some), the "compelling speaker" and "thought-provoking presentation."

Several attendees dug even deeper into their own experience and share their thoughts here.

Madalene Buelow, affiliate
Hope, light and joy ... words that Antonina Olszewski chose to use as she presented "Embracing Humility: Encountering the 'Other'" at our fall affiliation gathering. I was impressed with those words. It's been hard since March to even believe in them due to the pandemic and the social unrest in our country.

Antonina has hope that by sharing our stories and looking into ourselves we can uncover our biases and begin to shed light on them, that we can become more joyful and less fearful of the "other."

Before the presentation, I did take a look at myself and wondered about the internal/personal biases I hold. Immediately I thought of my bias against the improper use of our English language and how it affects my relationship with people. Interestingly enough, Antonina has the same bias and shared that it is coming to grips with our personal stories, our family stories, that guides us in understanding our biases. She identified mine as “classist.” I get that. My work is to figure out why this bias affects me and how a deeper relationship with a person might help me mitigate the bias. Knowing why and how a person may be different from me makes the difference. Aha!

It all goes back to how important building relationships with people is. Such a Franciscan way of thought. We as affiliates have known this all along, but do we practice it outside our familiar community? It's time to practice it with the "other." Antonina closed with three more words: pray, learn and engage. My prayer is that we continue this journey of inclusion, equity and justice with prayer, learning about ourselves and others and engaging in the important conversations.

I am ever grateful for the 15 years I have been affiliated with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Peace and all good!

Mary Ellen Dunford, affiliate
I appreciated the speaker and the topic for the fall gathering. Antonia Olszewski was genuine with a calm and gentle presence. The topic was relevant and essential for our current times. I thought the program aligned with FSPA values and mission with an emphasis on the attitude of humility, respect and hospitality toward others. We were invited to "give grace" to others who disagree with us or commit microaggressions against us. In order to embrace humility, it is necessary to understand the other's story and history. Giving grace allows this to happen.

The presentation invited me to pause and evaluate my own stereotypes, biases and microaggressions. I am now very aware of the microaggressions against individuals and groups who share differing political views on social media. Much of this comes from friends and relatives as well as the media and advertisements. It was helpful to identify these posts and tweets for what they are and to curb my temptation to counter with my own microaggressions rather than to "give grace." With the quote from Mathew 23:26, "clean our own dish, before others ...," I am reminded to challenge my own biases and stereotypes before I judge others. "Giving grace" to others will be the first step I take as I invite others into an open and honest conversation to understand our differences.

My thanks to Beth Allen for choosing this timely topic and wonderful speaker!

Sister Lucy Slinger
WOW! Antonina Olszewski is truly an outstanding teacher on the behaviors of stereotyping, bias and microaggression. each playing a part in our daily actions. I hope that everyone who believes in the dignity and goodness of every other person takes the time to watch her insightful presentation about reframing the way we move through life by embracing cultural humility. The questions she asked us to reflect on led us to the heartfelt desire to be different and invite us to the "social friendship" that Pope Francis calls us to in "Fratelli Tutti," his latest encyclical.

Editor's Note: All sisters and affiliates are invited to view Antonina's presentation, available on the sister and affiliate intranet, my.fspa.org.


Also in the December 2020 e-edition of Presence: 
FSPA called to envision the future with new formation team
Access to healthy food and white privilege
Finding great hope in "Fratelli Tutti"
Hope for the world radiates from Villa St. Joseph

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