Blog by Sister Develyn Angels and Edited by Sister Donatella Soul
Ever have a Facebook Memory pop up in your feed and you think, "Wow, time sure does fly by"? I had that response recently when I scrolled down to find posts from the past four years of The Purple Party for Youth Rally.
Five years ago I was a Novice Sister with The San Diego Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Novice Sisters are required to complete a Novice Project before they request consideration for elevation to a Fully Professed Sister. When I reached the point in my journey to create a project, I knew I wanted to raise awareness and funds related to something personal and something that became the cornerstone of my Ministry as a Sister.
After three years of living with a misdiagnosis for ulcerative colitis, in 2008 I was diagnosed correctly with Crohn's Disease. I was informed by my doctor that I had suffered from this most of my life based on the severity of the damage to my colon.
Life progressed on and off Crohn's medications, I got divorced, and I developed a massive abscess on my colon which led to a parade of hospital visits. In February 2013, in a final act of desperate advocacy for myself, I put my foot down and demanded to have surgery.
"Stomie" was born on March 9, 2013. Stomie is my ileostomy, the opening in my belly through which the lowest part of my small intestine was brought to form a stoma. My colon had nearly been completely removed. I have under 3" left. To this I attach ileostomy pouches, or, as I call them, "poop bags". Yep, I wear a poop bag.
Post surgery, I felt good. I felt awesome! I had been sick for so long that I had forgotten how it was to feel good. Even better, I was alive! I was relieved my family was visiting me in a hospital room instead of a funeral home. The colon abscess removed by the surgeon was the size of his fist. I would have been days away from death. So began my renewed life and my new normal.
Just two months later, in May of 2013, I began my journey with The San Diego Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, The Asylum of the Tortured Heart. I had a new lease on life and I wanted to bring awareness to conditions like mine that affect health and well-being. So, when the time came to create a Novice Project, I knew I wanted to do something related to Crohn's and digestive disorders.
I ended up speaking with one of the Saints of the House, Saint Shuttabug, Sarah Biggart, so named for her photographs of the San Diego Sisters. Sarah is an osteomate. She wears a pouch and is a manager at Ostomy Secrets.
Sarah and I discussed organizations I might raise money for. She suggested I visit the Youth Rally, Inc. Website.
After reviewing the site I knew I had found my beneficiary. For more than 30 years Youth Rally has sent kids ages 9 through 17 who are living with bladder and digestive issues to a 5-night camp that encourages self-confidence and independent living. They learn self-esteem, comradeship, and how to care for themselves medically. Most importantly, they get to be kids and are surrounded by others who understand what they are going through.
The camp staff, including the counselors and nurses, have the same conditions as the campers and, in some cases, formerly attended the camp.
The hardest part was that first step of sending an email saying, "Hi, I am a Queer Nun and I would like to host a fundraiser for you!"
Happily, the CEO for Youth Rally, Inc., Paul Hastings, is openly gay. He not only knew about The Sisters, he welcomed us into the Youth Rally family! Paul also has Crohn's Disease and had ileostomy surgery in 1979.
That first Purple Party was held at the now defunct Numbers Nightclub and was packed with supporters. They donated money, voted for their favorite decorated bags in the ostomy pouch fashion show, tipped the performers (who donated the tips to the fundraising efforts), bid on auction items, and, best of all, had fun doing it!
They enjoyed the mashed-potato-with-all-the-fixins bar and the decorations, which were created with toilet paper rolls.
I gained a great deal of knowledge, friendships, and working relationships from that first Purple Party, but what touched me the most were the personal stories I heard. Some attendees wore a bag or were dealing with digestive issues, or they knew someone, or they had a relative. It was the first time I shared my complete story. That night, we all realized the truth of the Youth Rally catchphrase, "You are not alone".
There is more to the Purple Party story, but that first year sparked an annual event. The Sisters welcome your attendance at the 2018 Purple Party on Sunday, October 14 at The Rail in Hillcrest. Doors open at 5 PM and the stage entertainment starts at 7 PM. Admission is 10 dollars which is donated to Youth Rally. Your emcee is Brother Love Joy Vey.