Sisters’ video campaign seeks to bridge divisions through listening

Quad Cities-area teens take a break from filming one of three videos in the "Listen Up" campaign sponsored by the Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. This one was filmed at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa. (Provided photo)

ROCK ISLAND — Listening can be an act of peacemaking and that concept is at the heart of a new video campaign sponsored by the Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley, which includes the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. It will debut during National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14.

The three 60-second videos that are part of the “Listen Up” campaign show vignettes of discriminatory and potentially violent situations sparked by ignorance and fear. The situations are resolved by listening.

People will be able to view the spots at an open house on Saturday, March 9, at the Humility of Mary Center, 820 W. Central Park Ave., in Davenport, Iowa. It will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. and start with a short prayer service.

There will also be an opportunity to learn more about the religious communities involved and their ministries by visiting tables and displays and talking to the Sisters. Refreshments will be available and children will have their own activities.

After that, the videos may be viewed on social media and will be shown at movie theaters in the Quad Cities area throughout the month of March.

TAKING THE FIRST STEP

The project was a natural for the Rock Island Benedictines since the first word in the Rule of St. Benedict is “listen.”

“It seems like we are in an especially polarized period in our lives right now,” said Sister Sandra Brunenn, OSB, prioress of St. Mary Monastery. “People have very, very strong perspectives and opinions and many of these opinions and perspectives are contradictory to what their neighbors might be thinking. So there’s a lot of division and distancing and judging and a lack of communication.”

“It’s important to have that stance, of truly listening to the other person with respect in order to come to the whole truth. We don’t do that these days,” said Sister Sandra Brunenn, prioress.

A first step in terms of building relationships, she explained, is to listen to all perspectives.

“It’s important to have that stance, of truly listening to the other person with respect in order to come to the whole truth. We don’t do that these days,” Sister Sandra told The Catholic Post, adding that listening is something everyone can do.

“It’s a call you and I can both say ‘yes’ to and have it engage us in a personal way,” she said.

That’s the hope for the “Listen Up” campaign.

The videos were created in collaboration with the Azubuike African American Council on the Arts, which is based in Davenport, Iowa. The council seeks to “reconcile the racial divides that exist in our community by giving at-risk youth a voice” not only to express themselves but to be heard.

Azubuike directed and produced the spots using local teenage and adult actors and filming in Davenport locations.

In one of the videos, a girl wearing a hijab — a head covering worn by some Muslim women — is visiting an art museum. Students see her and start making fun, but one person comes up to her and strikes up a conversation.

“I hope that (the campaign) stirs peoples’ awareness to stop and think about their own patterns of listening,” Sister Sandra said. “I hope maybe it will wake people up and call attention to the value of listening and maybe examine our conscience about how we practice that value in our daily relationships.”

In addition to the Benedictine Sisters, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, and the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa, who are hosting the open house on March 9, the Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley include the Sisters of St. Francis, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Sisters of the Presentation, all of Dubuque, Iowa; the Trappistine Sisters of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey; the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin; and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

To see the videos, follow Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery on Facebook.

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