Olivia Bardo is a poet and baker of bread. She was born and raised along the fringes of the Appalachian Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania, instilling in her a love for painting and storytelling. Olivia studied English, politics, and gender studies at Messiah University and had the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University. Her senior thesis investigated the intersections of self-advocacy and poetic voice within early 20th century women’s magazines.
Olivia served as editor-in-chief of her campus literary journal and as a student fellow in the Center for Public Humanities, a humanities-based social justice initiative. During her time with the center, Olivia advocated for voting rights and researched the rich history of Harrisburg, Penn., and its residents. She also volunteered at Poetry-in-Place workshops, assisting middle school students as they composed poems. She realized her calling to pursue social justice through reading the works of Edwidge Danticat.
Olivia learned of Sojourners through many thoughtful conversations with professors and community leaders dedicated to the common good. In joining Sojourners, Olivia is thrilled to continue carrying out conversations and action that lead to social change.
In her spare time, you may find Olivia with a cup of tea visiting art museums, wandering poetry stacks, and foraging fields of blueberries and wildflowers.
Posts By This Author
Poet Maggie Smith Finds Beauty After Divorce
OUT OF DARKNESS, the Lord lit a flame — then shaped humans by the glow and placed them in a garden, charging them to tend it and make it beautiful. In her new memoir, poet Maggie Smith promises that this is possible: You Could Make This Place Beautiful.
Smith explores her rise to fame after the publication of “Good Bones,” deemed the “official poem of 2016” by Public Radio International and the source of her memoir title. In the poem she writes, “Life is short and the world / is at least half terrible, and for every kind / stranger, there is one who would break you, / though I keep this from my children. I am trying / to sell them the world. Any decent realtor, / walking you through a real shithole, chirps on / about good bones: This place could be beautiful, / right? You could make this place beautiful.”
According to Smith, her rise in popularity contributed to the end of her marriage. In her memoir, she shares how she forged her way back to herself. She realized her marriage was structured around patriarchal gender roles: She’d spent years of her adult life with a man who saw her writing as an activity for her “spare time,” outside of housework and child care. At the end of her marriage, Smith asked, “What do I have now? What do I have to hold on to?” She goes on, “When I looked down, I saw the pen in my hand.”
‘Barbie’ Is Greta Gerwig’s Genesis Story
In the beginning, Ruth Handler created Barbieland. And Ruth said, “Let there be pink,” and there was pink.
Puberty Is Spiritual in ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.’
Children are already exploring sexuality and religious skepticism in complex and important ways — so our films and books should, too.
Loving the Yeast of These
WHEN I FINISHED reading Kendall Vanderslice’s By Bread Alone, I went into my kitchen and measured out flour, water, yeast, and salt. I kneaded the dough, let it rise and fall then rise again. Soon, three golden loaves were ready for me to bring to my pastor and his family. Bread connects us to each other and to Jesus. As Vanderslice details in her book, bread is central to the Christian story.
Vanderslice, who holds a master’s in gastronomy from Boston University and a master’s in theological studies from Duke Divinity School, is a professional baker and practical theologian. She seeks to create an eternal communion, much like the “taste of bread lingering on our tongues.”
I Needed a Tiny Shell to Play Me ‘Amazing Grace’ With Curly Pasta
I went to the theater alone, feeling small and bereft. At the urging of a friend, I went to see Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. I felt my smallness increase as the theater darkened. Then suddenly, there was Marcel, a one-inch-tall shell, blinking back at me. Marcel is soft-spoken, inquisitive, and wears pink shoes.
Meeting God in the Metaverse
IN THE DARKNESS, I heard a voice calling my name: “Hi, Olivia.” I couldn’t control my arms and legs enough to acknowledge the voice. Again: “Hi, Olivia.” At this point I was feeling sheepish. Finally, the voice said to me, “Olivia, I think you’re muted. If you want, you can turn your mic on.”
The voice was that of Steven Roberts, who serves as Life.Church’s online host team pastor. I was attending my first church service in the metaverse.
The darkness faded, and I saw the words “Life.Church” written on the face of a computer-simulated grey, black, and white building. I (or rather my avatar) walked through the building doors into a lobby with welcome signs and informational graphics about the mission and history of Life.Church. There was even a game room with a playable pool table and dartboard. I directed my avatar to the sanctuary.
Life.Church is a multicampus church in the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. Led by Craig Groeschel and based in Edmond, Okla., it has 44 physical locations in the U.S. and has now ventured into the metaverse.
Florence + the Machine Calls Us to Rage — And Dance
It feels as if there’s an incantation around Dance Fever. Florence Welch leads us through the complexities of finding beauty and purpose amid suffering and evil. The 14 tracks take us on a mythic journey that lingers on the pain.
The 94-Year-Old Who Taught Me To Swim
Lessons on life, staying afloat, and 10 articles our editors are reading this week.
When Injustice Spreads Like Mint
March is the most underrated month. In it, winter makes room for spring in a million miraculous ways. These changes are imperceptible unless you slow down and pay attention.
30 Bible Verses About Rest for When You Feel Overwhelmed
In Genesis 2, after spending six days forming the earth, God rests “from all the work,” setting a sacred precedent. In Exodus 20:8-10, God instructs the Israelites to embrace patterns of rest. In Matthew 8:23-26, Jesus rests in a boat during a torrential downpour, despite tides rising and crashing against the boat’s hull, threatening to capsize the passengers. We can take comfort in this: If the son of God needed to take a break every now and then, so do we.
10 Christian Women Shaping the Church in 2022
For the past six years, Sojourners has celebrated Women’s History Month by sharing a list of Christian women who are bringing us hope and inspiring us to action. This year’s group includes pastors and poets, abolitionists and mothers, liturgists and storytellers; women who question authority, disrupt unjust systems, set boundaries, reimagine what’s possible, and pray.
Vignettes of Joy Amid Brokenness
IN OCEAN VUONG'S latest collection Time Is a Mother, the T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet reaches for depths of what was lost.
We encounter Vuong submerged in profound and compounding grief after the death of his mother. The book’s epigraph from César Vallejo reads, “Forgive me, Lord: I’ve died so little,” touching on the guilt that can accompany those left behind after a death. These poems hold the tension between looking back and moving forward, with the awareness of someone acquainted with feelings “that made death so large it was indistinguishable / from air,” as Vuong writes in “Not Even.” Those grieving search for comfort, while also examining life before loss—sometimes recognizing that grief was always present.
Time Is a Mother is full of questions that reckon with these past experiences. One of the first poems asks, “How else do we return to ourselves but to fold / The page so it points to the good part.” Other verses ask, “What if it wasn’t the crash that made us, but the debris?” and “How come the past tense is always longer?”
On 2/22/22, A Look at The Spirituality of Numbers
Today is a day for magical thinking. The date — 2/22/22 — is a palindrome: Whether you read it forward or backward, the date is identical. Because the day also falls on a Tuesday, particularly enthusiastic followers of palindrome dates have been calling today “Twosday.”
If Night Has To Become Day: What Our Fellows Are Reading
My favorite place in the Sojourners’ Fellowship house is the chair by the window. Each morning, I tiptoe through the dark house, flip on a lamp, and turn on the kettle. I center myself in the lingering darkness of the previous night.
‘Don't Look Up’ Shows Us How (Not) To Pray
In the new apocalyptic movie, religious expression reveals what really matters to people when the world is ending. As a planet-killing comet comes hurtling toward Earth, some characters, like Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), a Ph.D candidate studying astronomy at Michigan State, and her professor, Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) take action; others turn toward denial. But all of them, at some point in the movie, pray. How they pray on their final days on Earth says a lot about what they value.
What We Read When the Earth Shakes
Novelist Edwidge Danticat expressed a similar sentiment in Create Dangerously, her 2010 memoir about making art in exile. Reflecting on the aftermath of the earthquake that had struck her home country of Haiti that year, she wrote, “I did what I always do when my own words fail me. I read.” We share this human practice of story sharing and story seeking. Danticat writes of her “desire to tell some of [her] stories in a collaged manner, to merge [her] own narratives with the oral and written narratives of others.” Through the transformative power of creating and remembering, we connect to the threads of humanity, discovering the woven patterns that are formed through our stories.
24 Christmas Quotes About Faith and Justice
At its core, the Christmas story is radical. Christ enters the world in the form of a marginalized infant — a story about finding hope amid brokenness by pushing forward into the darkness. We cannot find the true light of Christmas without understanding what it means to be in the dark, opening our eyes to the injustices in our neighborhoods.
The ‘Yassification’ of Christ
“Yassification” is a recent meme spreading across social media. To “yassify” something is to heavily edit the original image with multiple filters until the figure is blurred, airbrushed, and entirely unrecognizable. Many of these images come from Twitter user “@YassifyBot,” who primarily yassifies famous paintings, actors, and politicians. Religious leaders, however, are not immune from yassification: Pope Francis, Martin Luther, and Joan of Arc have all been yassified. Anyone can be yassified these days — even Jesus.
24 Quotes on Giving Thanks, Justice, and Radical Gratitude
Gratitude is far more radical than slapping a #blessed hashtag on a social media post. When we give thanks, we are invited to build a beloved community that aligns with our enduring moral values of justice, peace, and love for our neighbors.