ONE Member of the Month: Cathy Schwinden

Cathy Schwinden
Cathy Schwinden meeting with Senator Heidi Heitkamp in February.

Congratulations to Cathy Schwinden, our ONE Member of the Month for June! An active member of ONE for years, Cathy enjoys her memorable visits to Washington, D.C., where she inspires others with her enthusiasm and love for making a positive difference in the world.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, and received my BA in French, history and secondary education from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., and my MS in educational administration from North Dakota State University. I was a teacher and administrator in the Fargo Catholic Schools for 35 years before taking my current position as social justice coordinator for Nativity Catholic Church in Fargo. I have been married for 41 years and have three adult children and three grandchildren.

I began my social activism as a Vietnam War protestor and an Equal Rights Amendment proponent in the 1970s. My interest in women’s history and peace studies impacted my teaching, as did the “global perspective” that foreign language teachers have.

How long have you been involved with ONE? What prompted your involvement?

I became involved in ONE about five years ago when I attended a “meet and greet” hosted by ONE in Fargo. I had recently worked on an interfaith event on the Millennial Development Goals and was anxious to continue to respond to the needs of others well beyond our own community and to do that with other faith-motivated people. The mission of ONE and the enthusiasm of its members were irresistible!

Is there a community of ONE members in North Dakota? What are they like?

North Dakota is a small state in population, around 800,000, but large geographically. We do not have a cohesive ONE group. However, because we are a small state, our Congressional delegation and leaders in the state are much more accessible. State Senator Tim Mathern and Congressman Cramer’s State Office Director, Lisa Gibbens, were enormously helpful in gaining the Congressman’s sponsorship of Electrify Africa.

What has been your favorite experience with ONE?

My opportunities to attend ONE’s gatherings in Washington, D.C., have been my favorites. To be with so many committed, young people is exhilarating! If I were looking for another “encore career” I think I would want to be a lobbyist, as I felt so well-prepared for our days on the Hill that I thoroughly enjoyed each visit!

What is the most challenging thing about being an activist for ONE and our issues?

It is very challenging to work in a bipartisan or nonpartisan way. However, it is obvious how much that approach is needed today.

What are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about the power of one – that one individual can make a difference in this world. One man’s vote changed the Constitution in 1920 to ratify the 19th Amendment for women’s suffrage.

I am also passionate about the power of ONE – engaging so many young people, working with a diverse group of people, using the structures and institutions that already exist, and especially building community. We can do so much more together than on our own, we are in this life together and we need each other.

Who inspires you?

I am a huge admirer of Pope Francis. The Pope’s understanding of the world and vision for the Church is totally supportive of ONE’s mission – valuing every life, sharing and caring for the resources of this world, reaching out to the most vulnerable, the marginalized and the poor.

Do you have any advice for other ONE members?

I don’t really have great words of wisdom or advice to give, but I would like to thank the members of ONE for their dedication, persistence and sometimes even sacrifices. Mother Teresa said that God didn’t call her to be successful but rather to be faithful. Don’t ever give up hope, even in the face of setbacks, that we can create a more just, loving and peaceful world.

Big thank you to Cathy for all the incredible work that she does for ONE!