In a year, maybe the number of volunteers in communities like Terre Haute will increase.
Women and minority folks could lead that surge, but also anyone concerned about making sure people feel included in their town, state and, yes, nation.
Sister Tracey Horan hopes that is one positive outcome of the Women's March on Washington, Chicago, Indianapolis and other American locations, including the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods campus of the Sisters of Providence congregation. The marches are scheduled, not coincidentally on Saturday, Jan. 21, the day after president-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.
"I've seen the power of community organizing and have seen what people accomplish together," Horan said. If participants in the Women's March returned to their hometowns determined to "get involved, that would be an amazing ripple factor."
The idea mushroomed from social media postings in the wake of the electoral victory by Trump, whose campaign rhetoric often disparaged large segments of the population, including women, minorities, immigrants, veterans and others. Nearly two months later, Washington is preparing for an influx of more than 100,000 marchers while the late-night inauguration festivities are wrapping up. Satellite marches are planned in other cities, including Evansville, Indianapolis, Lafayette and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Horan, a third-year novice with the Sisters of Providence at The Woods, works as a community organizer with the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network as her ministry. The nonpartisan, multi-cultural, interfaith group helps low- and moderate-income people become leaders in local service groups, and connects those groups with civic leaders and public officials.
Horan serves as a point person for the Women's March at The Woods next Saturday. That "gathering of solidarity" begins at 10 a.m. No RSVP is necessary, Horan said, and anyone can attend. "It's called the 'Women's March,' but it's really open to anyone, so allies are welcome." In fact, the congregation chose the day to hang permanently outside the Church of the Immaculate Conception a new banner that reads, "All Are Welcome."
"It seemed like the perfect time for that," Horan said of the banner's debut.
In essence, that phrase, "All Are Welcome," has become a central theme of the nationwide event.
"There's a real clarity for the need of inclusivity," Horan said.
The local gathering will reflect that characteristic. Among its participants will be "women who have dedicated their lives to inclusivity and change and women's rights," Horan said.
On the national level, the march project has sparked debate, from outside and within, over its focus, purpose and a growing number of causes attached. The organizing group's website explains in its mission statement, "The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us." It emphasizes nonviolence.
Its appeal shows up in the numbers of people registered to attend the D.C. march — more than 100,000, according to the Washington Post.
Through her work with Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, Horan collaborates with people from more than 30 different faith congregations and partner organizations. Its priorities include helping residents get jobs with "family-sustaining wages" to close the income inequality gap between the wealthy and poor, as well as keeping together families of immigrants and nonviolent offenders.
Her ministry in that role involves "people from different backgrounds working together toward racial and economic equality," she said. Those values, Horan explained, are rooted in her Christian faith. The Sisters of Providence foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, "was very aware of how women were treated as less than, and she was able to offer a different perspective."
The cross-section of people expected to march the day after the inauguration follows a tumultuous political year, when Trump prevailed over Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state seeking to become the first woman president. "It's been a difficult year," Horan said, with a lot of people she's worked with feeling marginalized.
By contrast, the march, she hopes, will unify people and serve as "an opportunity to propel us forward," she said.
"This is really an important moment for all of us to stand together and say what unites us," Horan continued, "rather than what divides us."
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org