Written by London, Ontario’s first Poet Laureate, Penn Kemp, this poem was presented to the University at Brescia’s Dr. Hanycz Leadership Lecture on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021.
What challenges you, my darlings?
What challenge will you accept as
you step into your own sweet life?
Do you choose your own challenge?
Do you allow challenge to choose you?
Lean in to that challenge. Lean in to
your calling, whatever calls your name.
Choosing your challenge is choosing
the calling that lets you know who you
are and who you may become. What calls
you to be the best you can be? What
calls you to act for the sake of all beings?
What challenges you most is what demands
you be the most you can possibly become.
What challenge are you choosing to face,
to head off, to dare become, double dare?
The world is huge and there be dragons.
Challenge your life dragons lurking in dark
corners. Invite them into light for inspection.
Stand in your power to challenge all that
stands between you and your future self.
Your mission, should you choose to accept
is to choose your own challenge. To challenge
your world, your beliefs, all that you know.
Activate that challenge with confidence.
Call on courage to challenge those old fears
that stop you from embracing what is new.
Cultivate the challenge till you feel it fill you.
Accept the challenge to live in joy, in thanks.
Challenge accepted? Long may it feed you,
your friends and family and your community.
Think of your mentors, your mothers or
sisters, all those who have gone before to
seed the garden for your growth to flourish
as flowers in youth and as fruit in age.
Look to the Order of St. Ursula, patron
saint of school girls, and their foundress,
Saint Angela Merici and her companions,
community-minded, in spirit ensouled.
Think of the lineage of Ursuline Sisters,
dedicated to girls’ education, protectors
of the land and of Canada's one women's
university. Committed to community,
they inculcate women’s learning and
leadership. They so encourage you to
actively contribute your gifts and your
yearning toward a new society, the one
that is yours to build, if you choose and
choose wisely. With their backing, you
know you are free to accept a challenge
to be the best of all your possibilities, to
return to the world the flowering of your
gifts, so that their legacy of clarity, calm
and compassion is shared among those of
every colour and creed who so need such
encircling love, strength and wisdom: all
the Ursuline Sisters exemplify in being as
in their teaching. Ursula Major bright in
night sky, points us toward the center of
the North Celestial Pole, Polaris, the light
that guides us on, guides us home. May you
embody their teachings and follow their lead
as you come into your own, an agent for change.