Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: A sense of place

Derek Jensen
Wikimedia Commons

“We are marked by our place, our homes. They shape us.” So said Constance Fitzgerald, OCD, in a conversation with M. Shawn Copeland. The places we inhabit form us, offering shelter and stability.

This experience of security satisfies our longing to be known and taken care of. The hometown of a woman named Ruthie Lemming, Starhill, Louisiana, was such a place for her. According to RuthAnne Irvine, Ruthie was a beloved schoolteacher, a lifelong resident of Starhill. She loved the idea of a rooted life there. She was unfortunately diagnosed with terminal cancer in February 2010 and after this was assisted and loved by the people of her hometown, a small place, until she passed away in 2011. Ruthie’s brother Rod wrote a story about her life in which he points out one important difference between the two of them: Ruthie stayed.

Her brother, bullied in elementary school, couldn’t wait to leave, and Ruthie and her father both found this idea peculiar and misguided. I, too, left my hometown in northern Kentucky, not because I was mistreated, but out of a desire for adventure. My family of origin wonders still why I left; I, however, continue to feel connected to my hometown. I am rooted in my place of birth by memories of important life events and family gatherings, being loved and learning to love there.

One of the communities I’m a member of, the Marianist Visitation State Community (MVSC), also provides a home for me. This safe harbor is a circle of people, not a physical place. This group has formed me and is not only a refuge but a venue for being honest about issues of importance, working out differences of opinion, and challenging one another. It’s of vital importance to me.

A group of people being required to relinquish their homes because of their dwindling numbers are women religious. At the LCWR conference, Fitzgerald and Copeland explored the idea that, in giving up their motherhouses, ministries, and institutions which are dear to them, the sisters are being called to a new place and a deeper identification with the dispossessed, the poor throughout the Earth. This is a process of purification which reminds all of us that we’re called to a deep unification with the marginalized, the homeless, migrants, and African Americans.

Choosing to be part of such a welcoming community as Ruthie Leming’s Starhill, a religious order, or a group such as MVSC is not a possibility for many of Earth’s inhabitants. Due to fires, floods, war, and climate change, their land is failing hundreds of millions of people from Central America to Sudan, and they are forced to choose between flight and death. Commenting on one such devastating disaster, NPR’s Diaa Hadid on August 29, 2022, describes men on a rocky outcrop during the monsoon rains in Islamabad crying for help, only to have the gushing waters wash them away. The mass migration which is a result of such disasters means the homes on which people depended are no longer there for them. Climate change ensures this will continue to happen. It’s difficult for us who have never experienced it to comprehend such overwhelming disaster.

Many other groups who are victims of poverty don’t have a home in our world. While catastrophes or necessity can drive some from their homes, we must be careful not to equate their suffering with the pain of those of us blessed with prosperity who have not only a home but the opportunity to choose whether we remain in the place where we were born. Forced displacement causes profound fear and anguish for many of the world’s peoples.

Some, like Ruthie Leming, are known and cared for all their lives in the place of their birth; others have their homes ripped from them by catastrophe; still others like the sisters are required to give up the places they love; another group of people chooses to leave their home and finds a sense of community in unexpected places. Because all humanity is connected, justice requires us to stand with the dispossessed, doing all we can to ease the burdens of those whose lives are ruined by displacement, disaster, or poverty. Let us work together to help them find a new place to belong.

Music: "There's A Place" by The Beatles