Carrying The Torch

In January, I was nominated to be one of the Torchbearers for the Olympic Torch Relay when it came to San Francisco. The theme for the relay in San Francisco was sustainability and caring for our Mother Earth. Part of the nomination process included writing an essay about how I have been involved in caring for the environment and ways I had contributed to helping people. I wrote:

What sustains me on my personal journey for excellence is my faith that God has created all people and all of creation out of love. In this love I am called to respond by being the best person God has created me to be, using my gifts and talents to create a world that reflects love, peace and hope.

My personal journey includes that I am a Catholic Sister. I belong to the order of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity. My calling and experiences have compelled me to work for the communities I am part of, the country I live in, and the world, to promote each person being treated with respect and dignity.

As I carried the Olympic Torch, I also carried with me the many communities I work with, such as the Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Habitat for Humanity, and the international mission work I've done in Chiapas, Mexico, and Tanzania. People coming together can do so much to make our communities (and our world) places of compassion and justice.

Additionally, I try to live as "simply and as green" as possible, through recycling, not using bottled water, and using alternative methods of transportation. The Christian community of the Sisters of St. Francis to which I belong works to protect our environment through a variety of efforts: particularly in water conservation, the conservation of wildlife and the wetlands, as well as efforts to bring about peace in our world. I spoke about these themes whenever there were opportunities in the Olympic process.

Some of the torchbearers shared together that we were grateful for the protestors supporting the people of Tibet. One of the 80 torchbearers in San Francisco dropped out citing privacy concerns. But, as I told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I'm praying and hoping that we can respect one another and do it peacefully," and added that that protesters denouncing China's human rights record should realise that "there are torchbearers who have similar sentiments."

We thought the protestors who climbed the Golden Gate Bridge were quite clever and very brave! That act got a lot of attention and was visually amazing, and did not hurt anyone while at the same time it got the message around the world. We also felt the candlelight vigils were another peaceful way to send a message of peace and justice and dignity. However, some family and friends reported that there were a number of the protestors who were "looking for a war," and getting very angry at those who had a different view.

I am honored to have carried the Olympic Torch and found it a true gift as a Franciscan Sister to represent those who follow St. Francis - the one for whom the city of San Francisco was named. St. Francis was a man of peace, a person who respected all people, and who honored all creation. As a Franciscan Sister, I also strive to be a woman of peace, a person who respects others, and who honors all creation. This is what the Olympic Spirit is about: peace, respect, and honor.

Sr. Patricia Rayburn, OSF, lives in Redwood City, CA, and carried the Olympic torch for a block along the Marina in San Francisco looking toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

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