Meet our new Resident Director – Kate Macan!

Image

Greetings Cortinians and Happy Summer!

My name is Kate Macan and as a former Cortinian and a Creighton grad, I feel blessed and honored to be a new member of your community.  While at Creighton, I studied theology and Spanish and minored in Justice and Peace Studies.  I was abroad for a semester in the DR, passed many wonderful hours facilitating ESL courses in the Omaha community and spent my mornings on Carter Lake with the Crew team. 

Following my graduation, I volunteered with Cap Corps Midwest in Managua, Nicaragua from 2009-2011.  I worked with underprivileged youth in an inner-city neighborhood teaching English courses, facilitating retreats and after school activities.  Most recently, I was working on a master’s degree in theological studies at the University of Notre Dame. 

I very much look forward to the conversations we will have this year, as we consider issues of power, privilege, and injustice.  I look forward to being a resource for you in your journey at Creighton and beyond. 

Be well.  I’ll be seeing you soon!

-Kate

Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Challenge”

letterVictor

 

Dear Future Cortinian,

You are about to embark on a new chapter in your life that will forever change the way you view things and people in the world.  You are going to meet people who have different values than the ones you believe in. As a result you will be challenged. Many people don’t like to be challenged, mainly because most of us don’t like to think that we could be “wrong” or that we could be the “bad guy” in someone else’s eyes. The think to keep in mind though, is that it’s not about being right or wrong. It is about making the effort to get to know the other person, and hearing their story to understand where they are coming from and why they hold the values that they hold. In doing this you will open yourself up, and consequently open upother people to a whole new world of new experiences, new life lessons, and new friendships. Remember to just keep an open mind and to make yourself vulnerable. When people see your vulnerability, they are seeing the truest manifestation of yourself. Most importantly, remember to love, and love deeply. Never let a moment pass you by that allows you to tell someone how you feel about them. You’ll be amazed by the warmth in your heart that you’ll feel throughout the year. Your face will hurt from smiling so much and sometimes your eyes will hurt from crying with and for others. All of this will lead you to understand that you have acquired a new family in your life. Good luck with this coming year! Welcome!

Much love,

Victor Diaz

Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Who am I and whom shall I become?”

letterAM

My dearest Cortinian,

“Who am I? And whom shall I become?” This is a question that has come to the hearts and minds of every single person I know. We are on a constant quest to know the path in which we belong, but thankfully God doesn’t tell us. He instead guides us, and lets us go on a journey that sometimes seems fruitless but shall become fruitful. So although you may think you joined Cortina because of your friend, your parents, or to boost your resume; in all actuality you were meant to be here. God, or whomever you believe in sent you here. You belong. I unfortunately am not a poet, so that’s the end of my eloquent speaking, of the words in my heart. Now I will speak simply and honestly. Enjoy your journey! There will be hard days and easy days. Through it all remember you are strong. Going to your service site will almost always brighten your day, it is an escape, and a time to give of oneself. Go to Community Time, someone worked hard to put it together, by someone I mean a fellow Cortinian, show them you care and attend. It is a time to share with your fellow Cortinians or just a time to listen. Don’t miss a retreat. It is a time to think; nothing else, but peace and quiet to think about that question of “who am I and whom shall I become?” Remember we all make mistakes, and that’s the beauty of it, we all are flawed. Take care of yourself, college is hard yet wonderful, “you can do it!, si se puede!” You are loved my dear and you deserve love! Seek guidance when needed, listen, be patient, and show the love you receive by loving others.

Sincerely,

AM – a fellow Cortinian

Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Embrace”

letterembrace

 

To a Future Young Cortinian,

I’m not going to write you a letter assuming your year, your gender, your past. I am not going to tell you what you ought to do. I am merely giving advice I wish someone would have told me and my advice, in general, for anything, anytime, is to embrace it.

Embrace your friends and family. Embrace them so warmly that their loveliness joins yours. Embrace their thoughts and ambitions because it will fire yours. Embrace their hardships and sorrows, their triumphs and celebrations because they deserve it.

Embrace the situations you’re in for; you will learn and grow. Embrace the good. Embrace the bad. You need to know both before you can understand. Embrace the challenge. You do not need to be afraid. Embrace all that is around you. Especially embrace yourself. Embrace your best qualities, they should not go unrecognized. Embrace your faults because that will make them falter. Embrace your wisdom, your shortcomings, your fears, your humor, embrace all of you. Appreciate all of you. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve come from, what others have done to you. You are you and there’s no one else like you. Embrace yourself because you deserve it. You deserve it like the opportunities you encounter, the friends you make, the family you love. Trials and tribulations may come, but you will survive, no, thrive because you embrace challenge. You challenge hardships. So like I said, there is nothing to fear. We’re all here to grow, to learn, to love. If you embrace anyone here, they will embrace you back, and invite you for another.

Cortina is a place to test yourself, but you will only get out of the community what you put in, which is why I say embrace it all.

X

Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Vocation”

kristinletter

 

Dear Future Cortinian,

Welcome to the family! Your year will be full of ups, downs, and all sorts of experiences. A comforting fact is that you are a part of the Cortina family and support system. The key to making your college experience great is to have an open-mind and be flexible. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. I’ve survived my freshman year and you will too! I came into college hoping to become successful, and I had my heart set on majoring in biology to become a doctor. Now I’m still pre-med, but I’m majoring in Theology, something I’m actually passionate about. Through service, I realized that success is not being the smartest or getting a high-paying job. Success is doing something you’re passionate about. Wherever I am led on this path of life, I will be flexible and keep an open-mind. Maybe I am meant to be a doctor, maybe I’m not. I will let myself be vulnerable and listen to my heart. My prayer is that you will do the same. Sometimes all you need is a little patience and a whole lot of faith. Best of luck!

Love,

Kristin

Letters to a Future Young Cortinian: “Growth”

erikaletter

Dear Future Young Cortinian,

To explain my experience in Cortina, I can use the Cortina symbol of a tree to represent what I have learned this year. I think one of the most important factors for experiencing growth is the need for strong roots, as the symbol reveals the tree’s roots to us. Cortina has given me a wonderfully positive community (or soil) to grow from. I have developed a strongly connected network of friends who appreciate who I am and deeply care for me. They make me feel safe and grounded. The trunk of the tree represents the growth I have been able to produce from this positive community. I feel that I have become more patient, more self-aware, and more vulnerable, just as a tree is vulnerable to its surroundings as it reaches out. The leaves of the tree represent how I have been able to reach out to other people, giving a part of myself to them. From serving others at my service site, to listen to other people’s stories, I have been able to share the nutrients I have gained just from being with others. While each part of the tree represents a stage in my Cortina experience, they are all necessary to creating a better community for myself and others.

Sincerely,

Erika Bowman

JPS Seminar Series: “Nervous Conditions”

Thank you all for your participation in discussion over the Nervous Conditions presentation during Community Time last week. Our group wanted to provide a little bit of information and a couple resources in order to keep the discussion going. During this semester, because of the Nervous Conditions novel as well as a supplemental book called Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan Johnson, we discussed multiple topics but mostly focused on racism, sexism, gender inequality, and educational advantage. In Nervous Conditions especially, we found that gender inequality was a profound theme because the main character constantly felt the struggle of trying to get one leg up in the world, despite being a woman in a male dominant society. We also talked about the fact that many of us don’t even realize that we are privileged, and the effects that that has on us and the rest of the world.

A bit about the Rhodesian culture and government at the time:

“The colonial education system in the then Rhodesia did not have a specific policy for the education of women and girls.  Policies were race specific and gender neutral.  There were two systems of education namely the European Division and the African Division.  The European Division of education was non-fee paying, compulsory and of higher quality.  It was meant for white, coloured and Asian children while the African Division of education, which was neither free nor compulsory and had inadequate provisions was meant for black children” (Chabaya, Dudhlanga 2013).

In case any of you are further interested in learning more about either book that we read, here are some links regarding both the authors, the books, and other writings that they have produced:

Privelege, Power, and Difference

http://www.agjohnson.us

http://www.agjohnson.us/glad/what-is-a-system-of-privilege/

 

Nervous Conditions

http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum211/dangarembga.htm

http://postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/tsitsi-dangarembga/

 

Here is a link to the TED Talk that we showed during our presentation:

 

 

JPS Seminar Series: “Female Chauvinist Pigs”

This post is the first from the six Justice and Peace Studies seminar classes. Each class has spent the semester reading a different book that focuses on a certain social issue or topic. After the groups did a presentation on their book during Sunday Community Time, members of the class were asked to complete a follow-up blog.

Feminism has definitely evolved since it first came about in the 20th century. It first focused on various issues such as voting rights, equality in the workplace, and the rights to our own bodies. Nowadays being a woman has changed into something that our sisters of the original feminist movement would shudder to see.

In Ariel Levy’s book “Female Chauvinist Pigs,” she suggests women are oppressing their own gender by displaying themselves sexually. She uses examples such as women’s clothing, their involvement with “Girls Gone Wild,” “Playboy,” and even sexually driven parties. Women are not only participating in these activities and events, but they are running the show as well as employees and CEOs of companies that “sell sex.”

Levy argues that these aspects are holding women back, but is this just a new way of women taking more control over themselves? Some argue that women’s increased sexual behavior is a path to empowerment and true self-expression. Levy generalizes that women want to be sexy in order to feel worthwhile, but it is possible that some women dress and act sexy for their own desires. It may make them happy, and criticizing their pursuit of happiness could be the greatest form of oppression.

 

 

This video shows the way the world would be if the roles of men and women were reversed. It seems so strange that people would be saying these types of things to anyone, but it’s true that women get treated the way the man in this video was treated. Men analyze our bodies and clothes, we’re treated as if our opinions don’t matter, and sometimes we are outright dominated by men. This video serves as a wakeup call; if it’s strange to see a man treated like this, why is it any better when a woman is treated this way?

 

 

This short video shows us what women went through in the past and what they are still going through in the present in certain countries. In the United States, for example, women have come a long way. Women and young girls are more respected and most of them live their age accordingly. However, it is important to keep in mind the countries where girls and women are mistreated. The question to ask here is:  Is it really men’s fault for disrespecting the other gender, or the women’s fault for not defending themselves?

Share your thoughts below.

an open letter to my students who live in a scary world

Hello there Cortina-folk.

THANK YOU for the rich discussion tonight. I think that these are issues near and dear to each one of us in different ways and I think it is important to acknowledge the frustration and fear that we might feel when we talk about them.

Mostly I want to acknowledge these feelings because there are very legitimate things to fear in our world. It is not productive to have these conversations pretending that this is not the case.

In our short lives, many of us have already felt the pain of violence & stereotyping. I think that the question we have to ask coming out of tonight is:

How do I love a scary world? Or, as Jesus put it, “love my enemies”?
(These could be physical enemies or people who pose a threat to my way of seeing the world).

The difficulty that Alex so aptly and practically brought up tonight is that there is a reality to danger. But the difficulty of always feeling this danger is that if we live in fear, we always feel the need to protect ourselves. If we always need to protect ourselves, there is no openness to anyone who is a stranger or who doesn’t live within the space of our daily interaction. If there is no openness to the stranger, there is no openness to the truth of anyone’s life that is not our own or those close to us. And often this proliferates what Jordan named for us: Confirmation bias. It is nice to have our biases confirmed; it makes us feel ideologically safer and in turn, physically safer.

Though this might be discouraging, do not lose heart! I don’t have to throw caution to the wind to love my enemy (or neighbor who I don’t know). I don’t have to leave my door unlocked at all times or run at 2am or wander aimlessly about an area I know nothing about and pretend like there is nothing dangerous about that. In fact, loving my enemies should be much more intentional than that.

Sometimes we have to start small and recognize our own biases and decide to not look everywhere to confirm them. Even that small act is an act of love. It is an act of hospitality to make room for the fact that someone may not be just who you think they are. This doesn’t mean you will get to know every person you have preconceived ideas about  or that you will invite every person you are scared of into your home, but it does allow you to engage your mind in a way that allows you to not be paralyzed by fear. Fear doesn’t allow your mind to expand, it makes it contract, shut down. FIGHT OR FLIGHT! We can’t fight or flee our whole lives. That is not conducive to living, but neither is only finding comfortable spaces where our ideas about what is good, normal, safe, or acceptable are consistently re-affirmed.

A brilliant man named Parker Palmer runs something called The Center for Courage and Renewal. In his book, To Know as We Are Known, he wrote these words that will challenge me until the day I die (and you’ll see him quoted elsewhere in my writing for this blog):

Hospitality is a central virtue of the biblical tradition itself, where God is always using the stranger to introduce us to strangeness of truth. To be inhospitable to strangers or strange ideas, however unsettling they may be, is to be hostile to the possibility of truth; hospitality is not only an ethical virtue but an epistemological one as well. Hospitality is not an end in itself. It is offered for the sake of what it can allow, permit, encourage, and yield. A learning space needs to be hospitable not to make learning painless, but to make the painful things possible, things without which no learning can occur—things like exposing ignorance, testing tentative hypotheses, challenging false or partial information, and mutual criticism of thought. Each of these is essential to obedience to truth. But none of them can happen in an atmosphere where people feel threatened and judged. 

How is our lack of hospitality a judgment that disallows real learning about each other and about the world? AHH. It is scary for me to think about how I do this to people all the time. Read Palmer’s passage again. You’ll see something new every time.

Yet again though, this is hard a hard truth because fear is deeply ingrained in us. For many of us it might take years of counseling to trust anyone again, to be “hospitable to the stranger” (even in our minds!). Here is my admonition:

do that work.

It is worth it. Do any work that you can to open yourself up. In opening up, we are able to not only give, but also receive love in a more full, abundant way.

It takes practice to make that space, and I am still learning to do so as well. It is equally important that we don’t assume everyone wants to get to know us or be our friends or have our “hospitality” forced on them. There is a balance. And it is hard. Have grace with yourselves, and others. That is loving ourselves and loving our enemies. And both of those seem important. If we can’t love ourselves through the scary things we see inside of our own hearts and minds, how will we do that for and with anyone whose heart and mind we don’t have direct access to?

Anyway, I just felt overwhelmed by your good questions and engagement today and I wanted to say “Thank you.” I would love to talk to any of you that would like to dig further into this & I would welcome any ideas you have about continuing one of many of the rich conversations that were begun tonight.

With gratitude,
Annie

Social Justice Song of the Week: “Spring to Come” by The John Butler Trio

To all of our excitement, yesterday was the first day of spring, and it sure felt like it. I could not even believe how nice it was yesterday. Without a doubt, it was one of the nicest days of 2014 so far.

What’s the point of spring? According to the dictionary on my computer, one of the definitions of the word “spring” is to “bring about the escape or release of (a prisoner).” Personally, I kind of like this definition. We all know about the reference of “new beginnings” that comes with spring, but I think this definition provides a new and unique, but still similar perspective. To be honest, after these Omaha winters, I practically feel like a prisoner, and days like today, when I can walk down the mall without a coat, I feel like I’ve just made bail.

This week’s song is “Spring to Come” by The John Butler Trio. As always, please listen and then reflect before reading what I have to say about the song.

 

 

I think all of us can relate to waiting for spring to come. As I have mentioned, the winter here can be unbearable, and it is incredibly refreshing to have a new beginning. Personally, I find solace in the very end of the song. Butler sings, “Out of the darkness, only light can come. After a lonely long night comes the sun.” I think that this is what spring is all about. After being prisoners to darkness, winter, loneliness, schoolwork, or whatever it might be, there’s always tomorrow. I think that this is an important thing to keep in mind. No matter how bad things might get, we always have hope for tomorrow.

With regard to Cortina, I think that we can find a lot of truth in this song. If not from this song, we can at least take truths from the idea of spring. I know that sometimes it might be hard for us to make it to our service sites every week because we are often prisoners to our schoolwork. However, this is a time of new beginnings and releasing ourselves from those kinds of binds. Perhaps it is good to take a break, become rejuvenated by your service in the community, and then come back to start anew on your schoolwork.

Furthermore, looking at the aspect of loneliness, I think it is important that we work this spring to establish even stronger relationships in the community. In The Cortina Community, and everywhere for that matter, nobody should have to deal with a “lonely long night” that Butler describes. With the end of the semester approaching, please make an effort to reach out to fellow Cortinians, people at your service site, and people all around campus. I will try to do the same, but we all must hold each other to this standard. I hope we can all start anew this spring and remember that “out of the darkness, only light can come.”

-Ben Feiten