Two women who changed my life.
Carol and Suzanne, at first glance, couldn’t be more different. Carol is an Epsicopal reverend, who grew up in upstate New York as an only child. From the palpit, she has described her family as loving and quiet. Suzanne is a Catholic nun, who grew up in Los Angeles in a large Lebanese family. She was the only girl out of 5 children. She describes herself as a tomboy and often time says that there was never a dull moment in her house.
Personality wise, they also vary. Carol is a woman of careful word choice, not because she doesn’t want to offend, but because she wants to use the least words possible to get her point across. When she delivers a sermon, she crafts exactly what she wants to say and delivers it with 100% certainty in a matter-a-fact nature. She doesn’t sugar coat anything. She not only knows to be true what she says, but she makes certain that you will know it to be true by the time she is done. She has even used divine intervention to convert some LA Dodgers fans into NY Yankees fans by saying that the Yankees will bring you closer to God ;p.
Suzanne however, has a different style. Having the pleasure of knowing her now for 6 years, it is her presence that draws you in. She is bubbly, gregarious and never at a loss for something to say. Nothing about her is quiet. For those of you who know my father, Joe C., she is a female version of him. Everyone at work is greeted in the morning when she walks through the door with a “Hello, my love!” You also never have to ask if Suzanne is in the office because if you don’t hear her, you know that she isn’t there. She also has a passion about her work that can not be tested, if you don’t believe me ask Sacramento. As soon as she learns about something that is injust, she is on the phone using the greatest gift God gave her: vocal chords.
So, now we are at the point, where you are saying okay I get why they are different, but how do they come together? Great question. Here is the answer:
When I first moved to California 6 and a half years ago, Joe and I were in search of a church. Being from Pittsburgh, my idea of a church was Dolores Mission, a church fashioned by Fr. Greg Boyle that serves the troubled community surrounding it. However, when Joe told me that we were going to try out a church in Beverly Hills that his family minister recommended, I almost gauged. Church in Beverly Hills, really? Here is what I knew to be true about Beverly Hills:
1. Wyonna Ryder had just been picked up for shop lifting at the Sac’s 5th Ave.
2. Pretty Women was filmed at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
3. I ate a slice of pizza that costs me $6 dollars, which you couldn’t have paid me a million dollars to eat if I was in NY.
Because of the above reasons, I was adamant that God lived lots of places, but Beverly Hills was NOT one of them. However, I am willing to try anything so I agreed to give All Saints a shot. The first time we went, I was not particularly taken probably my cynicism overrode anything else that was happening. However, when we went back for the second time, I looked in the bulletin and I found an announcement about Get On The Bus. When I read it, I knew that even if we didn’t continue to attend All Saints I had to be at the meeting.
When I went to the meeting that day, I was greeted by the loving arms of Sr. Suzanne, who also looked like she was not at home in Beverly Hills. She told stories about the people in prison that she had ministered to for the past 35 years. Instead of pointing out mistakes, she talked about the people for who they were. She poignantly gave everyone a sense of who the children of the incarcerated were and what struggles they faced trying to see their parents. By the end of the presentation, there was not a dry eye in the room.
I was so struck by what she had to say because at that time, my father was in prison. This was a secret that I carried with me especially in the confines of this new Beverly Hills church. When I told her my story, she embraced me and we exchanged numbers and the rest is history. Suzanne continues to be there to embrace me as a friend, a mentor and a boss.
Now, how does Carol fall into this? She has been in a way a beacon for me. Although we don’t have daily personal interaction, Carol seems to be there for me at all the times when I most need her. She knows Joe and I by name and when she asks us how we are, she truly wants to know the answer. When things have been tough for me over the past few years with my family situation, Carol has constantly checked in with me and prayed for me. Carol is responsible for a lot of things in our life, one of the many was selecting a church for us to get married in in Pittsburgh.
For those of you who don’t know, Carol was the first woman ever to be ordained in the Episcopal church. She has had to crawl her way up the ladder and she has always stood at the face of adversity. I think this is part of what makes Carol who she is. She is an advocate for the poor, the weary, the friendless, the incarcerated and every other disinfranchised group you can think of. Unlike most ministers, not only does she preach about these people, but she structures her church to be about ministry with these people. Carol is constantly calling for people to get out of the pews and become one of Jesus’s disciples. I believe that her support of Get On The Bus has led me here for a reason. Carol will be moving on and retiring from All Saints tomorrow, but her legacy will always stay with me.
I want to say thank you to these two great women for changing my life. Without both of you, I would never be the Maria who I am today. I would also like to take a minute to say thank you to my wonderful parents, the Homer family, Phillip, and Tommy and Erin for your kind donations! I am overjoyed and gracious by the gifts of all of you to support this wonderful cause.