Monday, September 25, 2023

Loving God and neighbor without distinction: A pontifical institute of women religious of the Roman Catholic Church

Year of PeaceYOP columns

Nov. 18, 2016: What is community? Who is my neighbor? by Sister Mary Jo Thummel

Sister Mary Jo Thummel
Sister Mary Jo Thummel

When I pondered the theme of the Year of Peace columns, which is basically “building community,” many thoughts swirled around in my mind.

“What is community?” I asked myself. I sought my answer through definitions.

There were many different definitions and most of them had to do with having something in common, but that didn’t satisfy my wonderings. Next I sought the root definition of the word and found such words as: commonness, everybody, fellowship, courtesy, affability, union, the whole, total, the universe, the world.

That led me to the further question of how I build community and this led me to my poetic heart, which expresses the deepest truth of who I am.

So I offer to the ponderings of my heart in poetic form.


There I saw you in the gutter lying
bruised and broken and almost dying.

Too whole was I your hurt to know
I could not stop and mercy show.

Again I came and heard your pain-filled sighs
stooped and saw your sad and hurt-filled eyes.

More broken then — I sympathized
and thanked the Lord It wasn’t I.

A third time did I journey down
a stranger in my skin I found.

Mirrored there in you was me
no longer could distinction be.

In reaching out to you I found
the reaching had been turned around.

Your brokenness I knew as mine
the crushedness of a common wine.

In our dying sifted together
made we one with one another.

Though I the minister be
I know that you are healing me.

I give you of my bread and wine
and know in you, I will find mine.

One without distinction we
living as we are to be.

No longer can I pass you by
It is within your life I lie.

We are broken all together
And give out to one another.


How do I build community? By realizing that I am no different than any of my sisters and brothers all over the world. Underneath everything, we face many of the same struggles, joys, sorrows, questions, strengths and weaknesses. I think building community means building bridges and reaching out to one another.

I invite you to ponder what building community means to you.


— Sister Mary Jo Thummel is a Sister of St. Joseph presently serving on the Leadership Council for the congregation in Concordia.











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