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March 3, 2013

Praying for civil resolution to debate over gun control

TERRE HAUTE — Guns are lively ammunition for passionate debate these days. It seems that weekly we learn of a tragedy where someone showed reckless disregard for his or her own life, or for the lives of others. Typically, one camp deplores the use and availability of lethal weapons. The other side, just as passionately, defends our right to own whatever type of lethal weapon we choose. All too often, emotions race beyond reason and cloud logical, intelligent conversation.

We hear some people say they have a right, an entitlement, to have their weapon of choice, no matter how brutal it could be, or how much harm it could cause. We hear others say every gun ought to be removed from society beyond typical hunting rifles and handguns for personal protection. Are not all guns capable of assault? Some do it harder, faster and more aggressive than others.

One member of our Congregation, Sister Patricia Linehan, has personal experience with what assault weapons can do. She served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years, Navy Nurse Corps, with a good part of that time as a charge nurse in neurosurgical units. She also served on the Admiral’s Staff at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where she was head of education and training. This is what she says:

“Probably no one else in this Congregation has the in-your-face, up-front-and-personal, firsthand experience as I, of the results of assault rifle violence. I, personally, have removed shrapnel and tissue and sown up and dressed the wounds of hundreds of young men, and assisted in pre-op and operating rooms to put them back together, piece by piece. Nothing justifies these types of weapons, short of war or imminent invasion and then it’s a forced bad choice.”

So where is the humanity in all of this passionate discussion? Where is the concern about and respect for how we treat one another in our neighborhoods, our schools, in our families and in our halls of government, in our discussions? Why does the conversation about the presence of high-powered guns cause such turmoil? Have we lost the ability to have reasonable discussion, to live as reasonable people? Have we lost the ability to show respect to one another?

We believe, however, that we can lock away some of our most high-powered guns and remove one element of temptation from those who might be inclined to launch an attack. A handgun in the hands of an attacker can do much less harm in a few seconds than an automatic assault rifle.

As members of the Sisters of Providence leadership team, we hope and pray that our governmental leaders will find a way to resolve the gun-control debate to benefit all humanity, not special-interest groups. Just as all of us have a right to bear arms, we also have a right to live safely in our homes, our schools, our places of work, worship and play.

Our Litany of Non-Violence is a prayer that was written in 1992 by a group of sisters at the first Sisters of Providence International Justice Network Gathering. It is probably the prayer we share most often with visitors and groups, and it is recited often at many of our gatherings. One line of that prayer is this: “Grant us the desire, and the courage, to risk speaking and acting for the common good.”  

We need that grace among us now as we try to reach a healthy, civil conclusion in our gun-control debate. We pray that accessibility to assault weapons can be tempered and that we can all live safely and more humanely. We pray that the process will refocus an intentional effort of respect toward one another.

See the entire Litany of Non-Violence at www. in the Spirituality and Prayer section under Peace and Justice. Spanish and Mandarin versions are also available.

— Sister Denise Wilkinson, General Superior

— Sister Lisa Stallings, Vicar

— Sister Jenny Howard, General Officer

— Sister Mary Beth Klingel, General Officer

— Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, General Officer

Sisters of Providence

St. Mary-of-the-Woods


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