Julie Walsh is a married, stay-at-home-mother to four young children. Before her oldest was born in 2010, she worked for five years at the Maryland Catholic Conference as Associate Director for Social Concerns and three years in the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Inspector General. 

Julie holds a degree in political science and German from Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg. She and her family are parishioners of St. Peter the Apostle Church in Libertytown.

 

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As I think you know, Abigail, I admire you very much! I remain in awe of your ability to live out your convictions and to pass that quality on to your children. I find your example to be so encouraging; thank you for sharing your passions and your efforts with us!

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Thank you! Interesting to know that you, having studied that point in history, have had some similar thoughts to my own. I agree, too, with your point on checks and balances. I think we have a well-crafted, if sometimes clunky system of governance. Hopefully it will continue to serve us well.

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The Space Between

Remembering Cardinal Keeler



Cardinal William H. Keeler speaks to the media prior to leaving Baltimore for Rome to participate in the papal conclave in 2005. (CR File)


I had planned to write on another topic today, but when I woke to see the news of Cardinal Keeler’s passing, all I could think about was him, so I thought I’d share those thoughts instead.

I am not someone who knew Cardinal Keeler well; like many hundreds if not thousands of others, I am someone who simply encountered the cardinal, who met him and watched him and who feels blessed to have done so. But though I have no intimate or profound experiences to relate, I can tell you about the love and light I felt when I was around Cardinal Keeler, and which I feel now as I remember him.

I grew up in the Archdiocese of Baltimore – I was ten when Keeler was installed as Archbishop and nearly thirty when he retired – so to me, the cardinal looms large as a representation of bishops, and of the Archdiocese, and indeed of the Church itself.

But not just because of his position.

Cardinal Keeler was one of those rare individuals who made everyone feel like they counted. He connected with people. He was funny and clever and he had this sparkle in his eye that made you feel like you were in on the joke. The cardinal exuded love and warmth and an intangible quality that must have had something to do with the light of Christ. You just felt lucky to be around him.

I first met Cardinal Keeler when I participated in the Archdiocese’s High School Leadership Institute (High LI). Somehow I ended up with the job of introducing His Eminence to the crowd and sitting with him (moderating, perhaps?) as he answered questions. I remember that he anticipated my nerves and set me at ease.

Years later, when I was working at the Maryland Catholic Conference, my colleagues and I loved answering the phone when he called. He’d stop and inquire about you before asking to be passed along to the person he needed. He was always kind. He was always gentle. And yet Cardinal Keeler was also sharp – purposeful and firm.

I saw Cardinal Keeler at countless events – in parishes, at my college, in the Statehouse, at meetings and dinners – and he seemed to bring life to each of them. That’s not a super unusual quality for well-known people to have – I’ve shared spaces with lots of “important” people and they often cause excitement when they walk into a room. But (and this is kind of hard to explain), I found that when Cardinal Keeler was in a group of people, he didn’t just cause excitement; he also altered the group’s dynamic. His wake wasn’t flat; he left you feeling more loving and committed for having been near him.

When I worked for the Conference, we were often reminded that for some people, we would be The Church to them, we would be Christ to them. We would speak to a legislator or an advocate or a hurting parishioner, and we had the weighty responsibility of conveying – in our honesty and kindness and clarity and mercy – God’s love to them.

From everything I saw of Cardinal Keeler, he lived out this responsibility beautifully. From his leadership in the Archdiocese and the brotherhood of bishops, to his work as a bridge-builder between Christians and Jews, to his everyday interactions with his flock, Cardinal Keeler was a man who – with gentleness and wit – lovingly conveyed the love and light of Christ.

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.


 

March 23, 2017 04:18
By Julie Walsh


Politicians Are People Too (Why we should welcome the #bipartisanroadtrip)


Other than the BBC Dad story (which makes me laugh to the point of tears pretty much every time I watch it), my favorite story of the week is of the #bipartisanroadtrip – a two-day drive undertaken by Texas Congressmen Will Hurd (a Republican) and Beto O’Rourke (a Democrat). The two men, who don’t seem to have had much of a relationship before the trip, decided to team up to get to Washington in time for some votes after their flights were canceled due to our winter storm.

During the trip, the congressmen talked policy, fielded some calls, uploaded videos to Facebook (of course) – and generally just got to know one another. And… whaddya know? It turns out that they kind of like each other. These two politicians from opposite sides of the aisle found some common ground; they built up some good will.

Moreover, because Hurd and O’Rourke broadcast their trip on social media, they were able to bring other Americans along with them on their journey. Not just their literal journey, their tens of hours together in a car – their journey toward a friendly, productive working relationship.

Man, do we need these kinds of stories right now, or what?

I’m a dreamer and an idealist, so it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in this sort of thing. Indeed, during the election I nursed this fantasy of a Congressional exchange program, wherein Congressmen from opposing parties would be paired with colleagues whose districts are dramatically different from their own. I love the idea of an urban Congressman sitting down to a backyard barbecue on some ranch in Montana, a western Congressman attending a church service in inner-city Baltimore, a wealthy suburbanite Congressman visiting a VFW in the rust belt, etc. (Let’s call this idea #347 for me to fund and promote when I win the lottery.)

But I can be practical too, and I know that with the way politics works these days, any politician who tries to reach out to the other side risks being swatted down by his own. These are divided, partisan times. And politicians can be victims of that paradigm just as they are perpetrators of it.

What a terrible shame that is.

When I was a kid, my Granddad was a local elected official. He served for something like 15 years, a Republican in a Democrat’s state, and get this – he made lots of friends on both sides of the aisle. I don’t mean the kind of “friends” who pay for influence. I mean that Granddad – a good, kind man who loves people – became known as a good, kind politician who loved people. And so people (including politicians) loved him.

Years later, when I was lobbying the state legislature, I encountered many of the same politicians who had interacted with my Granddad when he was in office. Each time, the discovery of their relationship was such a gift to me. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I had someone tell me, “I just love your grandfather. I didn’t always agree with him, but I loved working with him and I really respect him.” Their respect for Granddad had nothing to do with his (sometimes stubborn!) policy positions; it had everything to do with how he treated other people.

During the 2016 primary campaign, I could see how pained Granddad was at the tone of the thing. “I wish someone would tell people that politicians aren’t all bad,” he sighed. I agreed, but the wish just seemed futile.

Which brings me back to the #bipartisanroadtrip. This story may seem a little too silly or idealistic or naïve; it may remain in the news cycle for approximately fifteen more minutes. It may cost Congressmen Hurd and O’Rourke, politically. But I’m so glad they undertook it.

We voters need to see politicians as human, as real people with friends and family, eclectic tastes in music, maybe a deep love for coffee. But more than that: We voters need to give politicians the space to see each other as human. We need to support them in their efforts to get to know one another, to consider different perspectives, to talk policy, not shout it. We should allow them to be something as simple as . . . friends.

As far as I’m concerned, a caffeine- and social media- fueled road trip isn’t such a bad way to start.



 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls
 

March 16, 2017 02:10
By Julie Walsh


Happiness isn’t everything (Part Two)


The other day I wrote a piece on happiness, on how transient and subjective it is, and how it therefore makes a poor measure for determining the worth of a thing.

(In that case, I was mostly referring to the ‘thing’ of reproductive technologies – efforts that aim to make people happy by making them parents, or by producing for them children who are healthier or otherwise more desirable than they might have been.)

Of course, there are countless such ‘things’ in life, and it can be dangerous to allow their potential for making us happy to overshadow their worth on other counts. When we do that, we run the risk of hurting others to help ourselves, or even harming our own long-term interests in favor of the short-term.

But I think there’s a more important tendency to think about here. As bad as it can be to use happiness to measure the worth of a thing, it’s much worse (and it can be more consequential) to use happiness to measure the worth of a life.

We see this happen all the time: People advocate for abortion because they think death is better than the unhappiness of poverty and single parenthood. Parents choose abortion because they think death is better than the unhappiness of disability. Teens and adults choose suicide because they think death is better than the unhappiness they’re struggling through. People advocate for physician-assisted suicide because they think a swift death is better than the unhappiness of a lingering decline.

But worth isn’t as tidy as that.

There’s so much more to life than happiness. There’s the good we can do, the witness we can be, the lessons we can learn, the impact we can have on others. There are glimpses of beauty on gray days. There are small, silly joys in dark times and there are hard truths that steel us for the work ahead. There is mercy to be given and received.

You can pursue happiness your whole life – pleasurable things, delicious food, attractive company, exciting experiences, exotic surroundings – and wind up hollow and disappointed in the end. You can live a charmed, healthy life and still miss out on so much.

Alternately, you can live a life of service and sacrifice – experiencing plentiful hardship and little happiness as we would think of it – and wind up satisfied. (Think of the lives of so many of the saints.) You can live through illness and injury and still love your life.

That last point was pounded home to me by a recent Catholic Review article on Maryland’s physician-assisted suicide legislation. The article describes the testimony of a woman named Sheryl Grossman, who has a rare condition that has inhibited her growth and made her prone to cancer.

Ms. Grossman “recounted how as she was undergoing treatment at a Baltimore hospital for her seventh cancer, a lymphoma that had metastasized, a physician who was a department head entered her room.

‘She said, ‘You know, you don’t have to do this anymore . . . You have been through so much. You can stop at any time; it’s OK. We can simply turn off the machines or increase your pain meds. It won’t take long; you’re 37 pounds.””

Ms. Grossman objected. “I gave my last conscious energy to trying to scream, ‘No,’ and to trying to get her out of my room… I love my life.”

Whether we’re talking about the beginning of life or its end, we have to dispose of the shallow notion that what really matters in life is happiness (and health). Life is so much bigger than that. The human mind and soul are so much more capable than a simple happiness measure can gauge.

The other day I argued that “Happiness is like a cloud at sunset: bright and colorful for a moment. It is constantly changing form. It swells with beauty, increases in wonder – and then dissipates into the dark night.” That is indeed how I see happiness (and that sunset) – as beautiful and worthwhile. But I see beauty and worth in that dark night too. I see them in the fog, in the drizzle, in the downpour. I see them in the storm, and I wonder at its anguish.


 


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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook pageYou can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.

 

March 09, 2017 05:41
By Julie Walsh


Happiness isn’t everything


A couple of weeks ago, The Economist published a commentary called “Sex and science.” Its print edition carried the subtitle, “Ways of making babies without sex are multiplying. History suggests that they should be embraced.”

I’m a big fan of The Economist. I love the breadth of issues it covers, I love its wit, I love pondering the questions its articles and commentaries bring to my mind. But I found this particular piece to be so unsatisfying.

To be sure, I was always going to disagree with the conclusions of a commentary bearing the subtitle “Ways of making babies without sex are multiplying. History suggests that they should be embraced.” But more than that, I think “Sex and science” fell flat. It offered up a complex, even mind-bending set of possibilities and considerations and then answered them not with an elegant argument, but with a simplistic, “Happy parents and healthy children make a pretty good rule for thinking about any reproductive technology.”

Happiness and health: the only measures that matter, apparently.

“Sex and science” advocates for research into the next generation of human reproductive technologies. It embraces the now-familiar earlier generations (artificial insemination by donor and in vitro fertilization) and seems to look forward to the day when children can also be routinely created from the genes of one parent (cloning) or three (mitochondrial transplantation.) Or from two parents, but with gene editing to avoid disease or advantage certain characteristics, or to allow gay couples to produce children related to both parents.

The article casually mentions ethical concerns about such practices and the research required to make them possible, but doesn’t attempt to answer the concerns with much more than a “disgust is not a good guide to policy.” That and “the test of happy parents and healthy children is the right one.”

I spent a good week feeling very disappointed in The Economist, frustrated that it would be so sloppy as to skip over a whole field of ethical concerns only to land on the squishy, transient good of “happiness.” But then I had to acknowledge to myself that this is a much wider trap, one into which most of us (including me!) fall at some point or another. (And into which many of us fall over and over again.)

How many times do we think of our children’s futures and say that we “just want them to be happy”? How often do we rank our own happiness – as temporary as it might be – over any other consideration? How willing are we to brush away nagging questions about the right and the good and the responsible when they risk getting in the way of something that we think will make us happy?

Happiness comes and goes throughout our lives. (Health does too, for that matter.) And though we pursue it in big ways (a spouse, a child, a job, a house) and small (food, clothing, entertainment), happiness is too elusive to be captured for long. Ultimately the goals we seek – the ones we’re just sure will make us happy – can only ever get us part of the way there.

Parenthood is a good and beautiful thing, but contrary to the offhand promises of “Sex and Science,” it is no guarantor of happiness. Ask the postpartum mother struggling with depression. Ask the parents dealing with a teenage rebellion. Ask the grandparents whose children have cut them out of their grandchildren’s lives.

I don’t mean to suggest that happiness (or parenthood) isn’t worth pursuing, that it doesn’t add to our lives, or that it can’t go right alongside the beautiful and good. I only mean to say that happiness is too fickle and subjective a quality to be used as a measure.

Happiness is like a cloud at sunset: bright and colorful for a moment. It is constantly changing form. It swells with beauty, increases in wonder – and then dissipates into the dark night.

(Come back tomorrow for more thoughts on this subject.)



 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls
 

March 07, 2017 12:39
By Julie Walsh