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Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, is the United Nations representative for the Dominican Sisters Conference. At the UN, she focuses on world issues important to Dominicans, such as homelessness, the rights of women and girls, protection of the Amazon region, and the digital divide. Her work involves connecting with the wider Dominican Family, whose members serve on every continent and work with local people so as to understand issues from the viewpoint of those most affected by the issues.
This podcast is brought to you by one of our sponsors, the Sisters of the Precious Blood, Dayton, Ohio. I'm Sister Maxine, and my guest is Sister Durstyne Farnan. representative to the United Nations for the Dominican Sisters Conference, an organization of Dominicans across the country. At the UN, where the world's nations work together on global problems and solutions, Sister Durstyne--or Sister Dusty, as she is known--gives voice to the Dominican perspective on issues such as homelessness, the rights of women and girls, and the impact of mining and deforestation in the Amazon region. Sister Dusty, your work at the United Nations seems like a natural extension of your earlier work in peace and justice. But the seeds of your commitment to peace and justice took root much sooner than that. Did your parents influence or encourage you in that regard?
My mother was a psychiatric nurse, and my father owned a bar. So I guess you would say my father was quite the listener where he worked. But my mom always tried to teach us about difference. And when we were children, we had foster children in our home. By "difference," I mean these little children weren't even able to know how to use a fork and a spoon or how to use the toilet. And one of the young girls was Native American; they had been living in the car for several months. And this young child was also burned in a fire, and her name was Karen. My mother taught us how to care for Karen and talk with her and get her wig and get her little dusters for her head. So I guess in a way, you know, I would say mental health was also another way in which my parents introduced all of us children to, and as a result, all of my siblings are involved in healthcare or in childcare of some form or another. So I guess that would be one way in which I entered into the whole arena of justice and peace, and worked in mental health myself, as well as overseas, for many years.
Your parents sound like a wonderful, and an unusual combination.
Unusual in a way because my father didn't even get to finish high school. And my mother went on to college, which was so different. And they're from different parts of the world. My father was, as my grandmother would say, a damn Yankee from Indiana, and my mom was from the South, from Atlanta, Georgia.
How did they meet?
My father was a bellhop in a little hotel in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And it just so happened that my grandmother, her mother decided she was going to start selling encyclopedias. That was another era for sure. But my mother accompanied her to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and my father was the bellhop and that was the beginning. My father went on to the war, and when he came home, they got married then.
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This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.