A frontier is a narrow strip of land between two states with an officially delimited crossing area intended for defense. However, during the course of history, and particularly American history, ‘frontier’ has come to indicate a sparsely colonized region situated where lands have yet to be chartered and, therefore, a starting point for further advance in colonization. Hence the expressions “frontier spirit” and “new frontier”.
When speaking of a frontier in the figurative sense we do not deviate far from its literal meaning. There are those who imagine it as a borderline which clearly separates different environments, situations, conceptions and disciplines; a fixed, impassable line that needs to be defended. Others instead conceive of the frontier as a transitional, modifiable zone which, when crossed, allows for more advanced understanding and further knowledge. Only in the latter case can we really talk of “frontier” people, as can be gathered from the many women who are the protagonists of this issue of Women, Church, World. In this issue, we illustrate how several of these pioneers have courageously crossed the borders of different ideologies, religions and cultures in an attempt to build bridges, while constantly searching to establish a dialogue and rekindle lost unity. Others, have chosen to witness the crossing of borders through their courageous deeds, while challenging preconceptions and established customs, without looking for worldly success or popular recognition. These women live without fear and in direct contact with realities well beyond their comfort zones and, in their imitation of the life of Jesus and Mary, teach us how to stay in the most uncomfortable places, where one feels disoriented, often even estranged.
The range of testimonies of these frontier women and the common spiritual disposition they seem to share offer an opportunity for some reflection. They do not remain quiet and defensive, locked up in their homes or certainties; they show instead the same spirit of all those who have a restless heart, those who are content to stay on the threshold, and, in their looking to the horizon, await, longingly, for a visitation. Remaining on the threshold is indeed typical of the believer for whom the borderline, or frontier, becomes the very place where we get to glimpse the mystery, combined with a profound desire to meet the One who cannot as yet be perfectly known. Similarly, frontier women and frontier men of today are those who, while remaining on the threshold, open themselves to the mystery and the unknown, while never losing touch with the unique, inner core of their being.
Francesca Bugliani Knox