For years, San Francisco Presentation Associate Pat Diaz has been calling attention to the problem of oil wells that cause environmental damage and related health issues in her Los Angeles neighborhood. The Associated Press covered her story in January.1 Soon after, the city council voted to address the issue: “The council directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance to prohibit oil and gas drilling in Los Angeles, change zoning laws to make drilling illegal and study how to legally phase out existing wells. The council also created a jobs program to transition oil and gas workers to other industries.”2
Last December Pat was asked about her ministry in terms how she saw it as expressing the image of Nano. Writing for the association newsletter, she said:
As a new associate (for only two years), I found the request difficult to understand, since I always related the term ‘ministry’ as pertaining to religious life or its related activities. I was fortunate to be educated by Presentation Sisters in high school (Our Lady of Loretto ‘74) and took to heart what I thought was the school’s motto, “deeds not words.” Those words only affirmed my then community activism, which had been instilled by my mother at an early age, that it was everyone’s obligation to give back, and to speak up, for those who could not speak for themselves. I always admired my English teacher, Sister Janet Harris’s “side job” of social work with the local gang members and was amazed at her dedication and lack of fear. She was my inspiration to do all I could in my own way.
Since then, I have always been an activist on social justice issues, throughout my life, but now have narrowed down my efforts to three specific ones where I can directly see the fruits of my work: affordable housing, the LA Catholic Worker and Environmental Injustice; oil drilling in low income and economically depressed areas in my city (closing the Allen Co Oil Site – two blocks from my home).
Upon joining the Loretto Friends of the Presentation Sisters committee, and reading the associate informational pamphlet, I was astounded to “discover” Nano Nagle and to learn about her life and her motto. This discovery came at a perfect time in my life as I was searching for a more meaningful relationship with God and my faith. I felt I was neglecting both because I was spending so much time on organizing, attending meetings, and speaking out for justice.
Becoming an associate has helped me reconcile my volunteer work and activism with God and faith. Meditating on the request to speak of my “ministry,” I slowly have come to realize that what I do is indeed a form of ministry – and not the traditional format of my previous thinking – I could not see the forest for the trees. I have found fellowship through the Spiritual Reading Circle and felt comfortable to speak, with longer term associates, for guidance on helping to see and understand what was evident to them. In my own way I was sharing in Nano’s charism — in my commitment and passion in working for justice.
We are proud of Pat and her commitment to the health of both the natural environment and the people who live in Los Angeles. May her success inspire others to a lifetime of “deeds, not words.”