Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 8, 2003
Spirituality transcends culture
Sister takes native voice to Catholic school staff
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Christ set the example, says Sister Jose Hobday, of how we must recognize the special virtues within all of us and disregard cultural differences.
"If, as Christians, we can remember the kingdom of God is within us and all around us, then the difference we make doesn't have to be glorious or well known - even appreciated," she said.
"The greatest influences in life don't always come from glitz and superstars. They come from the goodness of people."
Hobday is a Native American and a Franciscan sister and educator who was shaped by her father's teachings rooted in Native American spirituality.
Speaking to some 3,000 staff and teachers of Edmonton Catholic Schools Dec. 2 at the annual Faith Development Day, the 74-year-old acclaimed author of books on simple living regaled the audience with humorous stories of her childhood.
"When we look at cultural awareness, we have to transcend the differences of viewpoint and see if we can find a way that is so inclusive so as not to exclude anyone.
"We would actually learn how to walk joyfully and in peace in our own lives. Then we are available to the reality of everybody's worth," she said.
"The truth is you are always doing something that is making a difference in someone else's life."
Hobday's mother was full-blooded Seneca Iroquois from Buffalo, N.Y., raised in native traditions. Her father was half-Seminole from Florida, raised by his father - a hard-shelled, Southern Baptist minister.
"There was no smoking, no drinking, no dancing, no gambling - and when he was 17, my dad wanted to take a girl to a square-dance. His dad told him it was the devil's workshop and he told him to sit and read the Gospel instead."
But her father happened to love the Gospel. He loved Scripture - he was a man of the Word.
So he sat in anger to read and he told Hobday that act of obedience was one of the greatest graces of his life because while he was reading the Gospels, he understood that Jesus hung around with a lot of people who did what the Baptists were forbidden to do, she quipped.
"So my dad, at 17, began a 10-year search exploring all Christian dimensions to see who could live with the most joy. At 27, he became a Catholic."
Hobday said her mother was sent to Carlyle Indian School (in Pennsylvania) at 14 after the death of her parents. Her mother was eventually adopted by a Lutheran family who baptized her in their front yard so that 'her little pagan spirits could not get into their home.
"My mother always said, 'They baptized me Lutheran, but I stood Seneca.'"
Six years after her parents were married, Hobday's mother decided to become a Christian and a Catholic.
"When people asked her why, she said, 'because Catholicism was the closest religion to my own native religion. All I had to do was move over a little bit. I have two great worlds instead of one.'"
Raised in southwestern United States, Hobday said she never worshipped in a Catholic church unless it was in a basement, a roller skating rink or a funeral parlour. She learned very early the Catholic Church was the people. Because of this, Hobday said, we have to come to terms with culture.
"When we think about culture, I don't want us to think about rituals, dances, clothing, food, music, or where we live. Culture is beyond all of that. Culture is how we interpret behaviour.
"My mother said, 'I don't think they like Indians here.'"
- Sr. Jose Hobday
"In many cultures, the interpretation of behaviour starts with the tribe - the community. Then the individual finds his or her place in that."
"When we look at cultures, we have to remember Jesus tried to break that down. We know that from the stories in the Gospel - the accounts of his life. He didn't care if it was a tax collector hiding in a tree, Jesus would have supper with him."
With Christ and culture, greatness and expansiveness - outer space as well as inner space - must be recognized. The world, the country, the neighbourhood - all the way down to the little home - must be considered.
But if there is an attitude that speaks of behaviour awareness and consciousness of world, then we can meet the cultural demands that surround us, Hobday said.
"Growing up, I was fairly light (skinned). My mother looked like what everybody thought a stereotype Indian should look like. She had bronze coloured skin. Daddy was darker. They both had black hair, but he had green eyes. I have green eyes. My eight brothers all had brown eyes.
"When I was a little girl, my mom and I went to town and sat in a restaurant on a hot day. She asked for a cup of coffee and I was going to have a glass of milk. The waitress looked at my mother and then she looked at me. Then she left and returned with only the milk.
"We each had a glass of water, but only I got our order. I told the waitress she forgot my mother's coffee. She looked at me, and the manager looked at me, and she never brought the coffee."
Hobday asked the audience to imagine this little girl sitting across from this beautiful woman who looked like Our Lady of Guadalupe to her, but because the waitress had a racist image of who she could serve, her mother never got her coffee.
"My mother said, 'I don't think they like Indians here, honey. We'd better go.' I was so enraged I got up and threw the water and milk all over the restaurant as far as I could scatter it. They weren't going to forget we were there."
Her mother, the waitress and the manager just stood and watched her.
But then her mother told her furious daughter she was just as ignorant as the waitress and manager.
"She took me to a medicine man to deal with the anger and bitterness in my heart. He taught me they will always win if you let them get to your heart. You have to stay pure in your heart.
"It's all about the understanding you get when you need it."