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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 3, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 14
The Sisters of the Mother House of Washington to hold AIDS remembrance vigil tonight
Section One
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The Sisters of the Mother House of Washington to hold AIDS remembrance vigil tonight

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The Sisters of the Mother House of Washington are hosting an AIDS remembrance vigil on April 3 in front of the Washington State Convention & Trade Center (7th Ave. & E. Pike St.) at 7:30 p.m.

According to Doug Vitaly - known as Novice Sister Mary Stonewallcraft, the organizer behind this vigil, the vigil is being held in front of the Washington State Convention purposefully, 'because a convention drawing large numbers of people that day will give our vigil significant exposure.'

'We will be reaching outside of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in an effort to reach people whose communities are less aware of the impact of HIV/AIDS,' he told Seattle Gay News.

When Novice Sister Mary Stonewallcraft, who is 21, was a child, a family friend died from complications of AIDS.

'I remember not understanding what was happening and asking why he looked so sad and upset,' Stonewallcraft told SGN. 'At the time I couldn't completely comprehend what was going on like I do now, and remember being very upset when he passed. It is very emotional for me and I don't bring it up often.'

Even though he is just starting out in the community, he says he is here to stay, although he doesn't refer to himself as an activist.

'I wouldn't call myself an activist,' he chuckles. 'I like to think of myself as someone who is giving themselves in the most selfless way to help those in need which is my true passion,' he said. 'As long as I can spend the rest of my life helping people then I will be one happy person!'

'I do the work that I do because I am passionate about helping the LGBTQI community and those in need,' he said. 'When I see homeless Queer youth I can't help but tear up and offer to help them in any way that I can; I try to hand out some food at least once a week because I know what it is like to go hungry. I think some people can push the notion of homeless people and others in need out of their minds easily, but that's something I absolutely can't do and I, for one, am thankful because it leads me to do more.'

'I'm always trying to think of ways I can help our community in any way that I can and my only obstacle is time,' Stonewallcraft continued. 'I am currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in psychology so I can go on to graduate school so I can counsel youth who are struggling with their identity and accepting who they are. When I'm not at work, doing academics, or my political work, I'm usually formulating my next idea to help my community.'

In many ways, he finds the work fulfilling that he does with the Sisters of the Mother House of Washington, an organization he has been a part of since Pride weekend of last year.

'That was when I met my Big Sister, Angela Merici, and it was the first time I had ever seen a Sister in person before and I was so captivated by her uniform that I couldn't stop myself from speaking with her and inquiring about the order,' he recalled. 'I instantly fell in love with the message of selfless community service and giving support to other LGBTQI causes. Almost a year later I am now a Novice, the third highest level in our order before becoming Fully Professed, and what I intend to do is offer myself wholly to our community to help with whatever need they have.'

One of the things that stands out most about Sister Mary Stonewallcraft is an undeniable understanding of LGBTQ history. For someone being as young as he is most of the major historical things that make up our young history didn't happen in his lifetime.

'I am extremely passionate about LGBTQI history because I believe it is imperative to understand and appreciate where we came from and the sacrifices that the previous LGBTQI generations made so people could one day hold their partner's hand in public proudly and have no hesitation,' he said. 'LGBTQI history is often put on the back burner and is sometimes difficult to obtain, which only adds to the lack of opportunity it creates for young LGBTQI people to educate themselves on their history, but also prevents them from learning of many of the issues our community was fighting in 1967 and are still fighting in 2015.'

'I believe for our LGBTQI youth to be successful, not just in their lives but also successful in giving back to the community, they must have a strong background in their community's history, because that will give them the knowledge to think critically on what our community is facing today and how we can overcome the adversity,' he said. 'There are many lessons to be learned from our history that are applicable today that we can use!'

'The other day I went to Lifelong AIDS Alliance Thrift Store and found Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement,' Stonewallcraft said. 'I picked it up and started looking through it and immediately started learning things from our history that has dirt routinely thrown on it, stuff that I had never heard of once. Resources on Gay history are hard to find and when I do find them they typically aren't very long and the book I found has a complete history from 1967 to 1992 with so much detail. I am so excited to have found it and will be using it as a reference in my academic papers for school because I find it to be such a remarkable resource.'

On May 2, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sister Mary Stonewallcraft will host a food collection drive in front of the Trader Joe's (1700 E. Madison St.) benefitting homeless Queer youth at Youth Care.

'Even the smallest donation puts food into the mouth of a kid in need, so please consider giving anything you can,' he said.

And if you are unable to make it in person, donations are accepted electronically at http://www.seattlesisters.org .

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The Sisters of the Mother House of Washington to hold AIDS remembrance vigil tonight
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