Coffee and Conversation

Stopping for Tea (2004)

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I am reading my journals of previous years. I came across an interesting question in my journal of 2011:

“Which Biblical people and saints would I like to meet at Starbucks for coffee and conversation?”

I don’t recall what prompted me to ask that question then. My response in 2011 included: the prophet Isaiah, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, Martha of Bethany, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Vatican II scholar Yves Congar, Joan of Arc, and the first U.S.-born canonized saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton. Many of these were reflections of my pastoral theology studies at the time.

How does this list change now four years later? Do some of the people remain on the list? What would I like to talk about with them? Do we meet at Juan Valdez for Colombian coffee or, perhaps, at an English tea shop?

Influenced by Kathy Coffey’s Hidden Women of the Gospels (Orbis, 2003), I would like to meet three women in particular: Peter’s mother-in-law whom Jesus healed (Mark 1:29-31), Martha of Bethany (Luke 10:38-42), and the wife of Cleopas, the disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-42). I would ask each of them to tell me her side of the story of when she encountered Jesus. How would the details of the story be different if she had told the story instead of evangelists Mark and Luke? How did her life change as a result of this encounter?

Breakfast Room in Bogota (2013)

I would also like to meet three women who were witnesses to the Gospel in more recent times: Mev Puleo, Ann Manganaro, and Dorothy Stang.

Mev Puleo (who died in 1996 at the age of 32) was an advocate, educator, and photojournalist. I would ask her to talk about her love for the people of Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, and Haiti. I would want to hear about the ways she used photography and interviews to draw attention to the struggles and aspirations of the poor.

The second woman, Ann Mangano (d. 1973) also died at an early age – 46. Ann was a Sister of Loretto who co-founded a shelter for women and children in St. Louis. I would ask her to talk about her struggle with breast cancer and her decision to work in El Salvador, despite her own struggle with her health. What I did not know until I looked online for images of Ann Mangano is that the images of Ann in El Salvador were made by Mev Puleo! I think I would enjoy coffee with both Ann and Mev together.

Finally, there’s Dorothy Stang (d. 2005), a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who was an advocate for landless farmers in the regions of the Amazon. She was shot to death on her way to a meeting of these farmers. I would like to hear her describe the connection she saw between defending the rights of the poor in the Amazon regions and protecting the ecological balance of the rain forest. I would want to get her perspective on the courage she showed in giving her life for the people and the environment of the Amazon.

How would you answer the question: “Whom would I like to meet for coffee and conversation?”

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