I received an email from Jonna Sotelo, a real estate agent that had come across what we were doing, and referred me to her sister, Nicole, for a possible interview in Chicago.
"I would have to say that my passion for justice and struggle came from him," Nicole proclaims in the Starbucks on North Michigan Avenue where we met.
Nicole's passion for religion can be accredited to her
mother's deep spirituality, whose faith trickled down and was instilled within her
One of her
first experiences that sparked her
passion for religion happened in third grade, when a priest came into her
class to ask if anyone wanted to be an alter server in the church.
Nicole thought to herself that she
would love to be an alter server, but the priest chose only boys.
It was the first time that she
had been discriminated within her
faith based on her
gender, and the fire inside her
When it came time to go to college, Nicole ended up moving from Arizona to Massachusetts to attend Wellesley, an all women's school with notable alumni including Hilary Rodham Clinton and Madeline Albright.
The school has a legacy for women that have pursued their passion, and was the place where Nicole
discovered and developed her
went into the undergraduate program wanting to become a teacher, but after going through some courses she
realized that obtaining a little more "life experience" might be in order before devoting herself to the profession.
majored in English literature and Religion, and as graduation approached Nicole
was forced to face the inevitable question, "What do I want to do with my life?"
Out of interest, she
enrolled in a course called "New Testament Studies," in which she
realized that she
loved learning about the New Testament from both a historical and social perspective.
The course had such an impact that she
decided to double major in English Literature as well as Religion, and Nicole's passion moved her
closer to answering the question.
Once out of school and faced with the heavy burden of paying back student loans, she worked at Bank of America for one year in San Francisco to relieve the financial obligation.
The following year she worked at NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, in Washington, D.C..
love for education came back and she
felt the urge to go to graduate school.
Wanting to go to a divinity school, she
applied to four schools, and was accepted to all four.
Two of those schools (Yale and Harvard) offered full tuition scholarships, and she
eventually went with Harvard
because of their Women and Religion Center.
She spent three years at Harvard expanding her educational horizons, and upon graduation she started to work on pursuing her passion of addressing the need for justice within the Catholic Church.
wanted to fight for women's equality while helping women that have been abused.
decided to do this in a number of ways, one being in the form of a book that was released in November for Christian women that have been abused in domestic violence situations, and the other was joining the non-profit organization Call to Action.
But there was one minor setback to her
desire to make a difference, and that came in the form of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer that had developed on her
right leg at the young age of 27.
The phone call came when Nicole
was about to go down to Mexico, but the doctor told her
needed to drop everything and have surgery.
had gone to Mexico, the cancer could have spread to a lymph node and she
could have been facing a death sentence today.
Fortunately, the doctors did catch the cancer in time and Nicole
started the process of rehabilitating.
leg had been in a cast for so long, she
even had to learn how to walk again.
And this long, unexpected journey all came at a time where she had just graduated from Harvard, was diligently working on a book to address the key issue on the abuse of women, and was looking forward to joining a meaningful non-profit organization dedicated to activating justice in society and within the church.
Regardless of the unfortunate situation, Nicole
faced it just like she
has facedother topics which society avoids addressing.
Topics such as domestic abuse, justice and war and has gone on with her
was able to start working for "Call to Action," a few months later.
wears many hats within the organization including Church Reform Organizer and Media Relations Coordinator.
is also actively involved in a group made up of young adults ages 20-30 who have the common goal of bringing justice not only within the Catholic church, but society as well.
As we neared the end of our interview, almost on cue as she
was delivering her
last words about letting your voice be known, the song playing at Starbucks
coincidentally switched to Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up, Stand Up For Your Rights."
The song was representative of Nicole
and all the positive energy and passion she
has put into her
Here are a few quotes about what Nicole had to say in her
mission to make a difference, the importance of using your voice, and passion.
Nicole Sotelo- A Passion for Justice
motivation to continue her
quest to make a difference in the Catholic Churchâ€¦
"I believe that if the Catholic Church becomes more just, then it will influence society to become more just themselves."
On the advice that she
gives to students:
One of the things that Nicole
stressed to us in the interview is that everyone has a voice, and encouraged everyone to use that voice to provoke positive change.
is using her
voice to address the suffering of women's equality, rights for gay people, and the awareness of women's abuse in war.
Again, stressing the importance of making your voice heard, she
offered a way that this could happen.
One way is to call the White House comment line, because they do keep track of the calls coming in.
wanted us to post their number, just in case any of you wanted to voice your opinion.
whipped out her
little black book and flipped to the politics page, where she
gave us the number to dial.
started talking about a small success story that happened in the spring of 2006, where one of two bishops in the U.S. still refused to let girls serve as alter servers, even though the Pope allowed women to serve.
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