If I had to count on my hands the number of time I have heard: “But this is a CATHOLIC school” in response to different socially liberal initiatives at PC, I would have to grow five new sets of hands. Many students often get upset when the typical Catholic status quo is questioned at PC and I, being a fully disclosed social liberal, even have to say that this is warranted. PC is a Catholic school and I have to accept and respect the fact that it has the right to refuse certain events on campus. However, even though I am a practicing Catholic, I also believe in the institution of gay marriage, the freedom to divorce, and even the opportunity for women to become priests. Yet, I also am a sister, a daughter, a friend, a student, an employee, a Modern Family fan, a traveler, a Mid-Atlantic enthusiast, and a lover of Adele’s music. So yes, even though I am a faith-filled Catholic, I am also many other things. Just as I chose PC because I loved that I could actively practice my faith, I also chose it for its Social Work program, its sense of community, and even its fabulous gym. People often claim that PC is too homogenous and then some of us get upset with each other when we try to break the mold, perhaps even cause some controversy. And so, I am afraid that too many students are afraid to pursue avenues that are perhaps too different from the norm.
Nevertheless, this past week, a group of PC students did actually succeed in breaking the PC mold. These students put on the annual production of the “Vagina Monologues.” Although the show is not supported or funded by the college, it has become a tradition for students to put the show on and raise money for “V-Day,” a catalyst movement that encourages donations for women’s organizations as well as awareness about the realities of sexual violence. This year, the PC students donated the proceeds from the performances, held at the Avon Theatre, to the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island as well as the V-Day Organization. The actual performance comprises various stories that women experience with their vaginas. These stories range in context from childbirth, to sexual pleasure, to rape. In essence, the performance explores all facets of female sexuality as well as female biological capacities. It investigates the entire scope of the female reproductive system in a way that validates and sympathizes with the characters as well as educates the audience about the realities that cannot be silenced, concerning the positive and negative experiences that women have with their vaginas. Of course, the title alone, as well as some of the stories in the performance, do inspire some controversy, but that is to expected with any kind of work at the intersection of social activism and art.
And, no, this article is not a plea for PC to change its rule and host the Monologues. It is instead intended to praise the sheer courage of the students who focused on a part of their identities that does not exactly coincide with the conservatism that accompanies the identity of being students of a Catholic institution. Instead of waiting for approval from the school or simply giving up because of the difficulty involved in hosting a production that is not sponsored by PC, these young women decided to do something different: they rolled up their sleeves and made their own rules. Too often, PC students forget that the college does not have to be their only avenue for personal fulfillment or change. Although it is more convenient and, perhaps, more comforting to attend an institution that jives with all of our personal beliefs, it is unfortunately impossible for any organization to completely understand the wholes of any of our identities. So, although I believe it is our place to challenge our school to be better, it is also our responsibility to develop parts of ourselves that are outside of the PC mold. I am very proud to be a friar, but it is not my only identity. Being a PC student is not my only interest. This is why the organizers and performers of the Vagina Monologues deserve a huge “kudos” for their work on a piece of art that is not part of PC. They are fulfilling themselves as people and, perhaps most importantly, seeking to educate and raise money for a cause that speaks to them. They set an excellent example of putting the motto of PC into work: “transform yourself, transform society.”
You may never agree with the production of the Vagina Monologues. You may never believe in anything that challenges the social Catholic constructs of our school. This is just fine. I respect you, just as I expect that you should respect me. We are all different and we all can learn from each other: I fully believe that. However, no matter what you believe, it may be prudent to look to the group of PC students who put on the Monologues as an example. They cared about something and put into action a plan that both fulfilled their interests and helped a cause in which they believe. And while they did it without the approval of their school, they did it with focused eyes, open hearts, and hands stretched out to vulnerability. They took a chance and stayed true to themselves. So, no matter what your interest, remember to stay true to yourself. Challenge when necessary, listen, learn, talk, do not wait, be courageous, and be you.
After all, your own monologue is still a work in progress. It is not going to write itself, you know.