On Wednesday, April 26, juniors and seniors gathered in the gym to hear from Marie Dennis, a lay woman who has dedicated her life to nonviolence and just peace, and Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM, from Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, VA, who has dedicated his life to social change as well.
The pair have a friendship that goes back decades. Both are founding members of the Assisi Community in DC, an intentional Catholic community of lay and religious dedicated to a simple life and social change. Theology teachers Toni Buranen and Michael Mothes, both who have known Dennis and Nangle for years, brought them to speak to the two classes about what it means to have a holy friendship.
"I hope our Visi students will take away an example of a beautiful friendship rooted in community," said Mothes. "A friendship where two individuals support each other and challenge each other to be themselves and to be that well."
Nangle shared a story from his ministry in South America, where he worked to ensure young women who were domestic servants each realized "she had a unique personality and gifts that would contribute to the whole."
Dennis added, "This is the foundation of friendship - to know your own self-worth ... Each friendship we bring our best selves and the fullness of who we are."
Dennis and Nangle recognized similar values in each other when they met. "As we worked together, we realized there was one thing we wanted to do together," shared Nangle - and that was the founding of the Assisi Community.
"Joe brought to our friendship and community all of his years of experience - the lens of the domestic workers, and I brought to our friendship my experience as a mom, someone who worked on a farm, someone who as a White middle class woman was seeking to change policies," said Dennis. "We saw a common commitment to making the world a better place in an engaged and active way."
They believe there are three important qualities to holy friendship: 1) Friends should be able to encourage and challenge each other to stay true to any commitments made; 2) The theme of radical equality: each of us is an equal participant in the friendship (for Dennis, this is especially powerful because her friendship with Nangle is one between a religious and a lay, and a man and a woman); and 3) As in the Les Miserables song, to love another person is to see the face of God.
They encouraged the juniors and seniors to think about that in their own friendships.