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Holy Names associate stirs awareness of water issues

Experiencing spirituality as a process of discernment rather than rote answers, Sally Duffy said her pilgrimage as an associate of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary has led to a commitment to draw others into evaluating at a personal level the connection between spirituality and issues about sharing the earth’s water resources.

She agrees with actor and environmental activist Robert Redford that “water is the sleeping giant of the 21st century and we all need to wake up.”

Sally Duffy
Sally Duffy

Along with friends at Sabbath Space, a center for Holy Names Sisters dedicated to offer education on global environmental priorities, she is taking on the challenge of waking up the Spokane community to the global water crisis in conjunction with Earth Day activities this month.

Committed to educate and work collaboratively with others, such as Spokane’s Faith and Environment Network, the Earth Ministry in Seattle and local environmental organizations, Sabbath Space is distributing and presenting showings of the award-winning documentary. “Flow,” which investigates the world water crisis and the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply. “Flow” was shown last December at the United Nations as part of the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

Sally said that the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) are providing the documentary to local organizations and asking them to share it with their members and the community to begin dialogue. The film will also be shown at 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 20, at Salem Lutheran Church, 1428 W. Broadway.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 22 the Holy Names Sisters will convene a community dialogue at the Convent of the Holy Names for a response to the film and discussions about accountability, responsibility and opportunities to explore local water issues and how the community can help solve the global water crisis.

While reinforcing the message that water rights are a broader issue, Sally acknowledges that it’s a challenge in a region that has a current abundance of water.

According to statistics reported in the film, of the six billion people on earth, 1.1 billion do not have access to safe, clean drinking water; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate 51 known water contaminants; the water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than war, and water is a $400 billion global industry, third behind electricity and oil.
Some experts warn that the water crisis will be the most significant political and environmental issue of the 21st century with the potential of inciting “water wars” throughout the world, Sally explained.
“Many developing countries are already experiencing life-threatening water shortages and subsequent violent outbreaks,” she said.

Sally was drawn to Sabbath Space because it not only provides solitude and prayer, but also advocates for awareness about the issues of humanity, especially those affecting women and children.  She is impressed by how the international Holy Names congregation evaluates social issues.

“When we took on the issue of water we went through a long process of discernment and wanted to educate ourselves on how we could increase awareness and advocate locally, nationally and internationally,” she said.

The nurturing and welcoming environment at SNJM’s Sabbath Space in North Spokane, a gathering space and private retreat center for prayerful reflection and education, has been a second home for Sally for the past five years as a SNJM associate and a member of the ministry team.

Sabbath Space’s serene, modest rooms create a haven for those seeking to renew and confirm their spirituality, she said. In that context, Sally and all at Sabbath Space have made a commitment to address critical social issues like the global water crisis.

Sally is a voice for the SNJM commitment to social issues and particularly to water issues.
Her dedication to SNJM started when she was a child growing up near Gonzaga University and a student at St. Aloysius Catholic School. Her mother developed a relationship with the SNJM’s through the Parent Teacher Association. Sally has carried on that family connection as an SNJM associate for more than 20 years.

While her life experience has included working in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds, her transition to a broader and personal commitment to her spirituality guided her to Sabbath Space.
“Life is in being around people who are deep in both their commitment to their faith, but also to issues that impact the world,” said Sally, who has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in language and literature at Eastern Washington University.

She taught at the college level for five years including Gonzaga University where she became reacquainted with SNJM. She also worked for Washington Mutual as a member of the management team and as the development director at the Cheney Cowles Museum, now the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Globally, the SNJM congregation is affiliated with the nongovernmental organization (NGO) UNANIMA International, a coalition of 16 congregations of women religious and their partners in missions on all continents that work with the United Nations on behalf of welfare of the planet to ensure that people care for and safeguard the planet.

“Internationally water access is a huge issue, but we need to step up the visibility of this issue locally and educate people, especially younger people, about water rights, access and risk,” Sally said. “Water is the essence of life.”

Her commitment to global water and social issues has personal, as well as international implications.

In March her granddaughter made a presentation to her seventh grade class on the impact of bottled water on the environment, complete with distributing bookmarks focusing on alternatives.
In May Sally will join Jo Ann Showalter, a member of the Sisters of Providence, as part of a delegation attending the Commission on Sustainable Development at the United Nations.
Sally pointed out that spiritual journeys are lifelong and complex.  She is grateful that her path has come to the door of Sabbath Space and that she is surrounded by women who care for their community and world.

“There are no black-and-white answers any more.  Spirituality is always a process of discernment and knowing that if you believe in something it calls you to act.”

For information, call 325-8642.