Yesterday was a Saint's Day. For many, it meant wearing green, pretending to be Irish, and looking for leprechauns in the pint of green beer. Here in New York, with our hotel a half-block form the parade, there was MUCH leprechaun searching happening. But the saint proper was forgotten. Patrick's primary reference was found on shamrock bobbles and pub signs.
Other saints who are commemorated on 17 march were entirely forgotten to history; like the hermitress Wihtburh of Dereham, or Agricola of Chalon-sur-Saône, or Gertrude of Nevilles (patron saint of cats, apparently) - there are others.
There are modern day saints likewise overlooked in the green-tinted melée. They will likely be forgotten in history, because they tend to be unknown now. But they do the work of God, for the people of God, as fiercely as those whose feast days are celebrated (in whatever capacity!)
Some of these saints are the ones hosting the sessions here at UNCSW. They are the boots-on-ground, dirty-hands, day-in-day-out activists who put their resolve into practical ways to help build up their communities, by working for equal rights.
This year, with the focus being on the empowerment of women and girls who live in rural areas, they are highlighting the work in areas where woman are disproportionately impacted. These include the impacts of climate change, the realities of farming, food security, and food sovereignty in the 2018 reality. It's the people working for gender equality in all levels of government and decision-making structures; those who are passionate about rights for indigenous people; those who refuse to turn a blind eye to human trafficking and modern-day slavery, in all its forms; those who are working against domestic violence and abuse of labour, especially in communities where stigma is high and resources are low; those who think that a woman's rural address should not mean lesser access to education, or transportation, or sexual and reproductive health care and rights, or employment options.
Many of these saints are active around the world, and it's important to remember that they are active here at home, too. They are advocating in the isolated and remote communities of the far north. They are identifying the concerns in our farming communities. They are recognising the deficiencies in all our rural spaces.
The saints are here; it's up to us to seek them out, and thank them. It's up to us to acknowledge the work that they are doing for the benefit of others. It's up to support their efforts, to partner with them to make gender equality a reality.
It's up to us to make sure these saints are not forgotten. Maybe it's up to us to collaborate with existing saints. Maybe it's up to us, when we see work that can be done, to begin those saintly activities.
After all: the saints themselves may be forgotten to history, but the good work is never forgotten by the people who benefit - nor by God.