Inviting Conversion, Practicing Resurrection

Inviting Conversion, Practicing Resurrection

A Lenten Reflection from Deacon Steve Przedpelski, Executive Director

The first woman I met doing street outreach with Franciscan Peacemakers was laying on the street, choking on her vomit. I kept clearing her throat as she continued vomiting until I could get her turned over so that she would stop choking. She lapsed in and out of consciousness, not understanding what was happening. Paramedics arrived, calmed her down and took her to an ER. During this ordeal, I learned her name was Lynn. 

  I went to the hospital to check on Lynn. I introduced myself, and we talked a bit. I gave Lynn my card and left. Over the next few years, I reflected on the experience and the meaning of the word love and wondered what I have gotten myself into believing that I could somehow help to change another person’s life circumstances.

 But undaunted, I tried to be there for her, though often, I was helpless watching Lynn fall deeper in her drug use, appearing to not care about what happened to her while engaging in prostitution. During periods of recovery, she would confide in me stories about pimps who sold her to men against her will for sex and how she used drugs to make herself feel less attractive, hoping the pimps would leave her alone. Instead, they’d beat her for using drugs, isolate her until she was clean and then force her back into street prostitution.

  Each year, the Lenten season is a moment in time where we are invited to reflect not on changing other people, but to attend to our own conversion. My 28 years with Franciscan Peacemakers have been 28 years of Lent, 28 years of being called to conversion, 28 years of learning a deeper understanding of love.

  Over the 13 years that I knew Lynn,  I saw her in her most difficult moments but also witnessed glimpses of her enjoying periods of improved health and well-being as she lived a life of recovery. During recovery, Lynn fell in love with the rituals of Holy Week and allowed me to wash her feet on Holy Thursday for many years. She would describe those intimate moments of feeling God’s love for her and would tell me how grateful she was for the day we met.

  On Good Friday, 2012, I received word that Lynn took her life. Earlier that day, I preached about the promise of resurrection. I cried quite a while that Good Friday because my friend Lynn had died. In spite of Lynn’s death, I believe that God’s power, working through our hands, is stronger than death.  And so we keep on showing up with faith that our simple acts of love can truly create ripples of change in our community. This, I believe, is the practice of resurrection.

  Each day I honor Lynn with a prayer, “Be with me today”.  And often, the memory of those good periods of her life in recovery will buoy my spirit as we encounter more women lost in the cycle of exploitation, abuse and addiction. May you, too, be comforted by the presence of those who help you to believe in God’s transformative power.  We are grateful to each of you who support our work - together, let’s continue inviting ourselves to conversion and practicing resurrection.