Last winter I was guided to an amazing woman, Hilary Scarsella. We became acquainted through working on Mennonite Monologues, a story-telling venture administered through the Mennonite Church USA’s Women in Leadership Project. Through working with each other and having the pleasure of a face-to-face lunch date, we realized we had a lot in common including our deep interest in sexual abuse and spirituality, particularly looking at where healing could be brought in.
Hilary has been a supporter from day one, and our relationship clearly grew into much more than just mere support. This past summer she partnered with Our Stories Untold at Mennonite Church USA Convention in Phoenix, and ever since she’s been spreading the word about OSU’s work at churches and church related events. I believe it’s high-time she is publicly recognized as a vital component to the success of Our Stories Untold, and an active contributing partner to the work that is done both here on the blog and out in the broader world.
Hilary has contributed numerous blog posts to OSU, including an awesome post this past Monday on the interaction between the Samaritan woman and Jesus and how it relates to sexual abuse. You can see all of Hilary’s work on Our Stories Untold here. Definitely expect more to come from Hilary, especially pieces articulating the intersection of theology and abuse, and how Christians (and all people) can positively respond.
Below I have posted a questionnaire about Hilary’s interests and other work involvements so you can get to know her better. Please help me welcome Hilary as an official partner of the Our Stories Untold community!
Who is Hilary Jerome Scarsella?
Name: Hilary Jerome Scarsella
Family: Married to Sam Jerome Scarsella and surrounded by oodles of loving and wonderful members of our cherished extended family. We are the human companions to the most fabulous pup in the world (feel free to argue if you like). Her name is Maggie.
Home state: Indiana
Education: BA in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Indiana University in Bloomington IN, 2007. MDiv from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Theology, Ethics and Peace Studies, 2012.
Interests: Creativity, music, rituals of healing, the writings of the medieval Christian women mystics, feminist theology, inter-religious dialogue, Tibetan Buddhism (I used to work at a monastery run by the Dalai Lama’s brother – fantastic experience), contemplation.
Community: Sam and I are members of the Prairie Wolf Collective, a group of neighbors and friends sharing living space and common vision. The wider communities of Elkhart, Goshen, and South Bend, Indiana are the places where I am rooted and formed.
Favorite food: Ice cream, hands down.
Ultimate joy: How can I pick one?! Laughing around the table for hours with extended family over a delicious meal. Singing with my love as he plays the guitar. Digging in the dirt during planting season. Painting with my hands. Doing just about anything with my smarty-pants two-year old niece.
Ultimate past-times: 1) Dancing, dancing, dancing! 2) Spending time with friends 3) Reading soul-satisfying books 4) Cooking nourishing food 5) Playing or strolling outdoors 6) Drinking hot cups of tea (even in the summer!) 7) Photography 8) Any good reason to laugh
Ultimate desire: To live in a way that both encourages and embodies healing – healing within myself, healing between others, and healing for the many broken systems of the world that cause bodies and spirits to ache. Working to heal the often distraught relationship of church, theology, and spirituality to the reality of sexualized violence is of particular importance to me.
Lowest slump: In a period of 6 months, during the time at which I was becoming aware that I had been sexually abused as a child, I was raped on three separate occasions by three different people who I cared about and who I believed cared about me. During that period, I was in a relationship with a fourth person who was verbally and emotionally abusive. For a long time afterward, every moment of my waking hours was wracked with overwhelming fear and anxiety as I struggled to cope with the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome and maintain the outward appearance of keeping it together. My sleeping hours were filled with one nightmare after the next. There was no rest. There was little hope.
Proudest moment: Every moment that I pause to remember what I (and countless others) have survived and every moment I recommit to the process of healing in my own life and in the broader world.
Brag-worthy accolades: When I was in 6th grade I won first place competing against 12th graders at a state competition for violin!
Award for Theological Excellence, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Award for Best Academic Achievement in Religious Studies, Indiana University
Awarded honors for MDiv thesis on sexualized violence and the Lord’s Supper, The Lord’s Supper: A ritual of harm or healing, available through the library of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Editor & writer for a set of worship resources produced by Mennonite Church USA’s Women in Leadership Project, titled Do you see this women? Undoing patriarchy and moving toward right relationships, available through the Women in Leadership Project website.
Co-editor for Breath of hope: Addressing sexualized violence in the peace movement and the world
Ultimate quote: Rather than writing it out, here is a link to the song. Because of the way this song breathes new life into a saying and a tradition that has at times felt SO burdensome to me, it has gotten me through many difficult nights.
Mennonite Church USA – Co-coordinator of the Women in Leadership Project
Christian Peacemaker Teams – Reservist, formerly with the team in the Kurdish region of Iraq and currently providing support from the United States
Center for Community Justice – Board member for this great organization that promotes and facilitates restorative justice