The St. John’s Orphanage for Boys in the early 1900’s. In the 1912 fire, five Sisters
saved all but three of the boys who perished in the fire.
(Photo: Archives of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word).
Compassion and Creativity
By Sister Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI
The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word came to San Antonio in 1869 at the request of the mayor’s urgent plea for health care. https://www.amormeus.org/en/who-are-we/#qs-timeline. The Sisters, responding to that call, had no idea that patients would die leaving behind orphaned children in need of their care. Soon, people of San Antonio started bringing more children who needed care, some with no parents, others whose parents were not capable of caring for them, or were desperately poor.
While the Sisters were healing and feeding the physical bodies of the orphans, they recognized that art, music, drama and dance helped with their healing and served as nourishment for the spirit. The Sisters started including music in celebrations, dance and drama in schools, and promoted the arts in a beautiful chapel. The Sisters Heritage Center has a section on Music and Arts. https://www.ccviheritage.org/the-exhibit/music-and-art/
Inscribed on the pavement in front of the old Bexar County Court House in downtown San Antonio is a description of drama and dance that was regularly performed in the public square in 1843. Parts of the Americas settled by the Spaniards had dynamic traditions of arts, which contrasted with Puritanical areas of the North East.
UIW carries forward this love of the arts through the Theatre Arts Department http://www.uiw.edu/hass/theatre/ by delighting audiences and winning several Globe Awards. The Music Department http://www.uiw.edu/music/ has a community of musicians including music therapists, music educators, composers, and performers. The Art Department “works with the Mission of UIW, using a global perspective to accord respect to all. The program fosters in students the need for active involvement in community service that will benefit humanity. Art opens hearts and minds to the creative forces present in the world, and leads students to effective ways of working toward social justice.” http://www.uiw.edu/hass/art/
As the University celebrates San Antonio’s Tricentennial, we look back on the challenges the Sisters faced. In the 1800's, when people were suffering, the Sisters compassionately and creatively responded. Education in Theatre Arts can be explored as a pathway to empathy. Theatre Arts promote imagination and creativity. In theatre, one does the impossible, one creates out of nothing, one is not confined by limits. UIW students, faculty, staff and alumni respond in the same compassionate and creative ways in the face of challenges presented today.
An example is the passionate care for foster children shown by students and faculty of the UIW Theatre Arts Department. Shannon Ivey (UIW BA, 2000) and Shelly Chance (UIW BA, 1999), concerned about social justice issues, formally founded “Theatre for Change” in 2013 that has focused on adoption, childhood cancer, the foster system, and immigration http://www.theatreforchange.org/ Ivey is a faculty member at Texas Lutheran University and a mother of three children, two of whom are from the Texas Foster System. She is grateful to have a son through the foster care system. While Ivey and Chance were students at UIW, they were in contact with Margaret Mitchell, a Theatre Arts professor who was an early recipient of the UIW Edward Zlotkowski Faculty Service Learning Award a year after it was instituted in 2003. She is also grateful to have a son through the foster care system. http://uiw.edu/eccl/Faculty-Resources/facultyservicelearningawards.html
Chance invited Renee Garvens, who works with foster children in the Roy Mass Youth Alternatives program, http://www.rmya.org/ to speak to the China Grove Lions Club to which Chance belongs. With the support of the Lions Club, Chance got initial funds to do interior decoration for houses for foster children making them feel more like homes.
Their work is featured in (re)Formation, a new documentary film tracing their concern for foster children. The film points out “There are 2.5 churches for every foster child in South Texas Region 8 foster system.” Why is there not more compassionate care? The film begins remembering Martin Luther who about 500 years ago said that Christianity is always in need of reform. What reform is needed today? A recent Texas Public Radio story http://tpr.org/post/filmmaker-calls-new-reformation on the film asks why don’t Christians get out of church buildings into the streets and help people more. See a trailer of the film https://vimeo.com/241027881
The film was shown Monday, February 19, 2018 from 6:30 - 8:15 pm, in the UIW Mabee Library Auditorium. Tommy Calvert, Bexar County Commissioner, Precinct 4, shared an introduction on the importance of service. After the film, there was a discussion with Ivey, Chance, Garvens, and Mitchell. The presentation was part of the UIW Service Learning Showcase exploring the value of civic engagement in education. http://uiw.edu/eccl/Faculty-Resources/facultyservicelearningshowcase.htm
Remember to SAVE THE DATE for the Incarnate Word Tricentennial Festival. Come and enjoy music, art, and drama at the free Tricentennial Festival, “Mi Casa Es Su Casa,” Sunday, April 15, 2018. For more information visit: https://sa300ccvi.org/festival/
Below are important links to Incarnate Word events and information:
Cover photo caption: The St. John’s Orphanage for Boys in the early 1900’s. In the 1912 fire, five Sisters saved all but three of the boys who perished in the fire. Four of the Sisters also perished in the fire. (Photo: Archives of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word).