“Once my eyes were opened, I was really changed.”
Inspiring Catholics come in all ages, all colors and genders. But inspiring people all have something very important in common: their hearts’ openness to better understanding our ever-changing Church and world, and their courage to follow the spirit as a guide toward peace and justice-minded activism.
Pat McSweeney of Taunton, MA, has kept her heart open to change throughout her life. Growing up in the 40s and 50s, the Catholic church and her Catholic school were central in her life. “We went to confession every Saturday! That was one thing that was very good about our generation—the examination of conscience. We learned early on that our conscience was a very important guide.”
Pat spent most of her life working with high school students as an English teacher in Massachusetts. When the sex abuse scandal broke, she actively stood with the victims of clerical sexual abuse. Pat lost her trust in the hierarchical church, “the bishops who looked the other way should be in prison,” she said, but she didn’t lose her faith.
Pat’s life has spanned several countries (Spain, Germany and Japan) and brought her into the company of many different people, whose perspectives helped open her eyes to our world.
In her early life, Pat followed the mainstream news, and she knew only what was popular about figures at the time like Mark Twain and Helen Keller, who were known for their literary and personal achievements, but not for their outspoken criticism of the US government and war. At the time she wasn’t aware of Dorothy Day either, who at the time was making strides with the Catholic Worker Movement.
“We didn’t talk too much about Catholic Social Teaching, but people were good and kind to each other,” she said. “All our lives we’ve been fed propaganda by people who make money on armaments.” Thus, those who opposed war were not mainstream.
“I didn’t quite ‘get it’ until the 1980s. Even when Americans started criticizing the government in the Vietnam era. It wasn’t until the civil war in El Salvador when the 4 women religious [Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Ita Ford and Dorothy Kazel] were killed that my eyes were really opened to what my country as an empire is doing around the world [the women were killed by Latin American soldiers trained at the US Army school in Georgia, WHINSEC, formerly known as School of Americas.]
“It turned my insides all upside down and inside out. It’s like an eye test to see if you’re colorblind. . . they say find your number in the maze of dots and then suddenly when you see that number you can’t stop seeing it. I began to see so clearly how I, and so many of us, are victims of US war propaganda.”
Pat became involved in the Movement to close the School of Americas, began by Fr. Roy Bourgeois, and attended the days action in Ft. Benning, Georgia for many years. Within the Movement to close the School of Americas, Pat met prominent anti-nuclear and anti-militarization activists including Megan Rice, S.H.C.J., with whom she became close friends. Pat has accompanied Megan to her trials and remained friends over many years.
“It’s been my good fortune to be meeting and being friends with some really remarkable people. They really live this kind of thing every minute of every day, I sort of go on with an ordinary American life. My life has been really enriched doing these kinds of things,” Pat said.
“You dip in your toe and the next thing I know you’re in over your head, with really wonderful people.”
A member of Call To Action for many years, Pat regularly attends the annual national conference and actively participates in local CTA initiatives. She enjoys the conferences, as the people she meets are so like-minded. “I’ve gone most of the years since the events are so inspiring and energizing, and everyone I’ve met there feel like they are long time friends and we are on the same wave length about the church and the world.”