“You need to call on the sisterhood,” my priest Clarke French told me not long ago when I had hit a particularly rough patch.
“Call on the sisterhood.” It was as if my priest had told me to invoke a Saint for intercession. And in a way, he had. Perhaps not a Saint, but rather the saints.
Clarke was reminding me of the special bond shared between women through our collective experience: by the very nature of us being women, we have lived many of the same struggles. And in that shared struggle there is a deep well of wisdom to draw from.
This is not to say that we are all exactly the same. We aren’t. Our socio-economic backgrounds, race, ethnicity, childhood, faith, and any other number of factors make up our individual selves. But even when we add up all these variables we share the greatest common denominator in that we are all women.
Growing up, there were times I didn’t have a lot of female friends. When I was younger, I often found it hard to relate to other girls. I was more interested in what the boys were doing. They made me feel tough, and I liked that. When the onset of puberty made those friendships more complicated, I often felt isolated, frustrated, and alone.
In the mid-90’s, years of political unrest in Haiti had taken their toll on our class size. At its smallest, there were 4 girls in my grade at Quisqueya Christian School. A dynamic like this is hard to manage for the most mature of us; at the height of adolescence, it was downright brutal.
We were all nice girls, and we all liked each other well enough. The bonds we created have stuck with us all these years even if we aren’t the best at staying in touch. But at the time, it was rough on the best of the days.
Even so, when I look back with the guiding benefit of my adult experience, I can see the sisterhood waiting in the wings, watching over me and the other girls. The adult women in our lives—mothers, teachers, aunties—understood better than we ever could how hard life was for us right then, and together they formed a safety net so tight that we couldn’t possibly fall through.
In college, I had a large sisterhood through my sorority, Kappa Delta, where I learned valuable social skills and was, for the first time, exposed to an incredible range of strong women who possessed many different beliefs and ideas. Within that group, two women, in particular, became lifelong sister-friends.
The sisterhood also manifested itself through professors, classmates, and mentors. Many of those relationships have continued to deepen over the past 20 years.
When I had the great privilege of taking on the mantel of motherhood—first with Daniela, then in a shared way with Noely, and most recently with Luis—the sisterhood came behind me, shoring me up.
I remember one day in particular with Daniela. She had been with us only a few days. It was Friday and she had been expecting to start school that day, eager to meet other children. We all got dressed up, packed a lunch and walked to school only to be turned away by the principal who insisted it would be better to start on Monday. Daniela was devastated. Her father had to go to work, and she and I spent the entire day on the sofa in tears.
After several hours of her sobbing, I called up a friend—a mother herself—and said, “Help.” Within moments she had organized a pizza party and movie night at her house and instructed her children to give us a warm welcome. I don’t think she’ll ever know how much that night meant to me.
When Noely joined us, she was surrounded by a cluster of aunties who loved on her, guided her, and cheered her on. I was reminded at each turn that they had our back. And they still do.
And when Luis was born, one woman after another came to celebrate the miracle of his birth. For, after 12 years of my struggle with infertility, his presence still feels nothing short of miraculous. But even miracles can be daunting. I have seen the sisterhood step forward time and again, even through the forced distance of the pandemic. A silent nod, an offer to hold my son, a text, a gesture, a meal.
Like the biblical saints, the great host of witnesses that form the sisterhood is all around me, even when I don’t see it. There is something holy in the bond of women.
So, when Clarke told me to call on the sisterhood, though I had never heard that exact turn of phrase, I knew instinctively what he meant and why he wanted me to do it.
I had fallen out of touch with my sister-friends, creating distance with them because I didn’t want to burden them with my problems. Some had their own joys to celebrate, others were walking a hard road. And in neither case did I want to set my troubles down in the middle of their path.
When I finally mustered the courage to call on the sisterhood, I was witness once more to the holy bonds between women and reminded how privileged I am to have so many of them in my life.