Monday, April 14, 2014

You never know who you are going to meet

I am in pretty good space.  I had a great trip to our UN-NGO office on my way to France for the International Center board meeting.  and the planning for our international meeting went well. 

You probably remember me talking about the quote from Ilia Delio from the LCWR last summer, be an open system, slow down- be compassionate and humble, and pay attention to strange attractors.  Well I had two opportunities to pay attention to strange attractors on this trip...remember I am using my own definition of strange attractors not the physics meaning which is too complicated for me to want to pursue...anyhow I only slept about 5 hours on the plane so when I got on the train, I was going to sleep.  A woman ahead of me got up to help me put my suitcase on the rack.. I had to take it right down because I forgot to get something out so she and I spoke and she asked me where I was from.  I said St Louis.  She then introduced the other people that she had acquanted herself with- quite the extrovert.  Anyhow she introduced a young woman who is walking all the way on the St James Compostela trail from Le Puy on a pilgrimage so of course I had to talk with her about my 3 day hike on the Way with Mary Lou and Griselda last summer. Anyhow, I threw my other bag in the
Janneke with Sr. Jeanette
seat next to the young woman, Janneke from the Netherlands and began a long conversation.
 Sleep would have to wait. Jenny and her husband Jackie were frequently in the conversation-   Janneke was going all the way to Le Puy and was staying in a hostel there.  She was getting sicker and sicker with motion sickness.  The bus from Firminy to Le Puy nearly killed her.  It became pretty obvious that she might be too late to get into the hostel so I texted Line at the International Center to see if we could drop her off from the bus the ride went on, I suggested that she was going to be too sick to stay at the hostel and was welcome at the International Center.  She agreed and was most grateful.  The funniest thing was when we got to the IC, she was ok... as soon as she got out of the car she was actually better.  Our conversation about life and our discovery of our path was actually pretty interesting.  There were 3 other sisters at the IC and we all had a light meal and we sent her on her way the next morning.  I think we will be in touch with her as she walks all the way to Santiago in Spain- so this was quite unexpected. 
 Jeanette, Janneke, Line, Sheryl and me

Next day I am doing the filming of the sections I had to reshoot for the walking tour of Le Puy.  I have just about finished and am in the garden of St Gabriel at the bottom of St Michael's.  This woman, Rein, starts talking to me in English and we are talking about her world travels.  She tells me the vaguest version of her life story but it is ultimately about this dream related to volcanoes and how unusual it is that she has ended up in Le Puy.  She ended up her after leaving Brazil, USA and India...she is here to recover her health. I learned that the volcano in Le Puy is connected to the volcano in Iceland- the one that caused all the trouble with airplanes a few years ago. I tell her my sense of the presence of "mystery", the "unity of all things", that I connect with and feel when I am  in Le Puy and have time to connect- the stuff I wrote in my blog last winter.  So here I am sharing stuff that I don't often talk about with people who are complete strangers.  Anyhow, I eventually say it is time to go and she walks me as far as the twisted bridge.

I don't know what to think about these two I put them in context, I understand that previously, my life has been far too full of situations that sapped my time and energy. Travel time was a time to rest and regroup.  So, maybe now I do have time for strangers and maybe they have something to teach me.  I feel like I will be connecting with Jannecke each day as she walks her walk to Santiago and will think of Rein when I see pictures of St Michel.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ignite Conference: I am Not Only My Story: Survivors Speak to Action

We have all heard the phrase, saving the best for last.  That is surely what happened at the Ignite: Sparking Action Against Sex Trafficking conference.  Participants heard from 3 survivors of sex trafficking, all of whom are living proof that there is life after being trafficked.  However, all 3 were very articulate in speaking about the systemic barriers that make that transition very challenging. 

Holly Austin Smith who was lured into sex trafficking as a vulnerable 14 year old middle school Walking Prey she provides ideas on how to address this important subject with these vulnerable youth.  On her website under resources she offers a curricula guidelines for advice on the education of human trafficking and prevention of child sex trafficking.  there are numerous other resources available on her website also, including Holly's sharing of her story. to get to her website, click on this link.
Left to right, Kimberely Ritter, Katie
Rhoades, Holly Austin Smith and
 Christine McDonald
graduate spoke about the need to raise awareness in middle schools about sex trafficking.  With the average age for entry into trafficking in the US being 13 years of age, middle school girls are especially vulnerable.  In her book,

Christine McDonald was trafficked at the age of 15.  She spoke about the need for housing, employment and trauma treatment.  She noted how the stigma of being involved in the sex trade impacts the type of help a person can receive. Her comments on how the legal system, by treating those who are trafficked as criminals instead of victims, really hinders their leaving the life.  Imagine trying to get a job with felony convictions for prostitution. 

Katie Rhoades, who shared her story with us at both the US Federation Event and at the LCWR conference in St Louis, focused on the lack of specialized services.  She shared that no one agency can do everything that is needed for people coming out of trafficked situations.  There is a need for victim specific services but also for better training on the specialized needs of these people along with a deeper understanding of the importance of complex trauma care.

All three emphasized the importance of the community coming together to address barriers to services, to improve collaboration among service providers and to do more to prevent young people from ever being lured into trafficking situations.  There is a need for doers from every walk of life, mental health professionals, attorneys, law enforcement, educators, the health field and the faith community.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ignite- Sparking Action Against Sex Trafficking

Srs Of St Joseph and colleagues at Ignite
The first Exchange Initiative Conference is going on at the Union Station Hotel in St Louis, a hotel that has trained all its staff on how to identify sex trafficking.  There is no shortage of Sisters of St Joseph present.  The Congregation of St Joseph is a silver corporate sponsor and the US Federation is bronze.  We are a sizable group with a notable presence.

I was taped for a TV interview news today which should air tonight and be on our Facebook page tomorrow.  I was able to convey the strong sense that human trafficking is an important issue for sisters and we
Don Gallaway and Farrah Fazal
from KSDK interviewed me at the
Province House
are proud to collaborate with others in this nation-wide effort to stop sex trafficking. 

Congresswoman Ann Wagner
During the interview I was also able to talk about a new effort in which the Sisters of St Joseph will engage.  At the Ignite conference, one of the speakers was Congresswoman Ann Wagner.  She let us know about a bill that she is introducing to address human trafficking.  The bill will be known as the SAVE Act.  This stands for the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation  Act. It would make it a crime to sell or commercially promote an advertisement in reckless disregard of the fact that the advertisement facilitates a crime such as human trafficking or sexual abuse of a minor.  The bill is aimed at closing online classified websites like that makes millions of dollars per year off of selling advertisements to human traffickers. The SAVE Act also contains a limitation of liability provision that would protect innocent actors like Facebook, Google and Twitter, along with telecommunications services providers like Verizon and Comcast.
Representative Ted Poe introduced
another bill, "Justice for Victims of
Trafficking Act"

The Sisters will begin a massive effort to encourage their congressmen and women to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.  It will be an important tool to assist law enforcement in stopping human trafficking. 

Congressman Ted Poe, a very effective speaker, shared his perspective as a prosecutor, a criminal judge and now as a Representative.  His commitment to changing the way people perceive those women and children who are trafficked was greatly appreciated by the participants.  It is clear that he believes the people who need to be stopped and punished are the traffickers and the customers.  Those who are trafficked are victims of crime and need specialized help during their recovery from the trauma they have experienced.  His legislation HR 3530 would do just that.

Tomorrow, I'll update you on some of the other workshops that we attended.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Traveling in France

I am in France for the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Sisters of St Joseph International Center board.  I have spent the night in Lyon at the Motherhouse of the Lyon sisters.  When I went to bed last night, I was very pleased by how much my French had improved since my last trip to France.  This morning I feel like I am starting all over again, struggling for the simplist word or phrase.

At the Lyon house, I was with the leadership team, Catherine from France, Cicely from India, and Maria Elena from Mexico.  Cicely had recently returned from a visit to the Ivory Coast.  They were eagerly awaiting the return of Rita from Egypt.  Conversation about international presence were rich. ( See the global map of the Sisters of St Joseph on the International Center website
View from train to Le Puy

A decorative tree at St Etienne
). Since our first beginnings in France we have spread throughout the world.  It still amazes me to be part of this international web of sisters who share the same charism and commitment to mission.

Cicely was especially interested in how we can make a more powerfu impact at the United Nations through our NGO there.  I was able to share our upcoming plans for the Justice and Peace International Commission meeting in April 2014.  At that meeting, sister-representatives from around the world will begin working with our new Congregations of St Joseph declaration on systemic change for sustainable development.  We will learn how to use the UN tool for monitoring progress on human rights issues, the Universal Periodic Review.  Also, we will meet with the UN representative delegate from our countries to begin an even closer woking relationship.  The soon to be released CSJ-UN-NGO website will give us a vehicle to tell our global story in five languages.

The day is now drawing to a close and I am returning from Le Puy to Lyon.  I had a new experience navigating a shift from the train to the bus (trains don't run as frequently on Sundays).  It was really quite simple but was a little scary for me before I did it.  No problem and no big need to speak French.  However, it is towards the end of the day so I am at my maximum fluency (that is not saying much).    I was able to see the progress being made on the renovations at the International Center and discuss new outreach/marketing plans for the International Center in Canada and the US with the staff, Line and Valerie.  While there I had a brief encounter from two faculty from the school started by the Sisters of St Joseph in Le Puy to explore opportunities for developing a closer working relationship with Sisters of St Joseph schools around the world.

There are so many opportunities for us to explore and live more fully our international connections.  I really look forward to these opportunities to gather with our international sisters

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Announcing National Catholic Sisters Week: to ignite a movement around the lives and the contributions of Catholic sisters by Sr. Joanne Gallagher

Sr Joanne Gallagher
Gathered from various online resources

 “Wherever good things are happening, there are likely to be Sisters involved,” states the proposal from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, calling for a national campaign to boost awareness of women religious. Rosemarie Nassif, SSND is director of The Catholic Sisters Initiative which was launched in February 2013 by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Rosemarie was inspired by her experience as a university president to fold that campaign into the well-established Women’s History Month.  She fashioned a three-year grant to propose a specific plan to raise the visibility of women religious.

This resulted in a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN, which plans to bring national visibility to the contributions of women religious, whose far-reaching work on the frontlines of social change, women’s leadership, healthcare, education and the Church remains relatively unknown. A key initiative of the three-year project will be the launch of National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14, 2014, as part of Women’s History Month.

The ultimate goal is to create “fertile ground” to help more young women consider a call to religious life. “Will this mean that thousands of women will enter religious life? No, probably not,” Sister Rosemarie says. “But we’ve got to offer a chance. Even if women are inspired to live their lives differently outside the convent, the effort will be worthwhile.”

The intent is to ignite a movement around the lives and the contributions of sisters in ways that inspire girls and women to picture themselves among the ranks of these women religious. Molly Dever Hazelton and Mary Soher, OP, were named co-executive directors. Hazelton is a professor of library and information science at St. Catherine’s University; Soher, of Henderson, NV, has been a member of the Adrian Dominicans since 1996.

During its inaugural year, all are encouraged to be part of igniting this movement by announcing National Catholic Sisters Week in schools, parishes, hospitals, and local civic arenas, and more. If you have ideas of ways to promote this week, you are invited to contact Molly Haxelton at or Mary Soher, OP, at  Visit the National Catholic Sisters Week  website at to learn more!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Carondelet Affirmation Ceremony

Gathering at the Holy Family Chapel

The Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet began their affirmation of new congregational leadership with a litany that called on our founders in France and all our congregational leaders since,  to be with us .  The sisters thanked their congregational leadership team completing their term and welcoming the incoming team.  
From left to right, Srs. Catherine
McNamee, Laura Bufano, Francine
Costello, and Susan Hames

In thanking the sister leaders for their service, it was noted that the sister leaders were women of strength and integrity who pushed and pulled us in to newness to reverence the Sacred in all that exists in the web of life, to communion with energy for our mission and to be and act as one for the sake of God’s people, excluding no one.
Called forward to serve are from left to
right, Srs. Mary Ann Leininger, Mary McKay,
and Danielle Bonetti
Quoting from the 2013 Acts of Chapter document, the sisters present reminded the new leadership team what they had committed to be about for these next six year.  “The mystery of transformation moves us from the center where we are comfortable to the margins where we will likely feel frustrated and displaced.  From this vulnerability we can experience true mutual relationships, see with new eyes, and recognize that all aspects of justice and survival within all Creation- nature, humanity, and organizations- intertwine.”

Srs. Mary Ann Leininger, Danielle Bonetti
Mary McKay, Barbara Dreher, Miriam Ukeritis
Left to right: Srs. Barbara Dreher and
Miriam Ukeritis
The leaders were urged by the sisters and those present to “make haste” to practice being and acting as one congregation in service to the cries of a fragile earth and all humankind.”  They were called to act in healthy and just ways within the Earth Community and Church, with each other and the dear neighbor.  All 5 sisters  of the Leadership Team responded, “With God’s grace and your support, yes we are willing.”
Sr. Laura (right) greets a well wisher
Sr. Miriam (left) is congratulated
by Sr. Eileen McCann

Sr. Francine (right) celebrates the
end of her term
Sr. Rosario at the reception

Monday, December 9, 2013

Leadership Development: Striving for Spiritual Intellegence

Musicians provided music that added
 to the prayer and theme of each day
We began Sunday morning singing, "There is a longing in our hearts, O God, for you to reveal yourself to us, there is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God."  This longing for that deep knowing echoed throughout the day as we continued to identify those barriers to effective relating and leading.

Sr. Lynn Levo
There was time to renew old friendships
 and make new friends
Throughout the day there was
time for sharing at our tables.
It was obvious that as we were
getting to know one another better,
the depth of sharing was deepening
Sr. Lynn Levo led us through a day of input and reflection on Spiritually Intelligent Leadership, helping us recognize some of the habits that may be hindering our ability to work effectively  with others and manage our workload so that we do not burn out.  She offered 3 ways to think about flexibility and collaboration and concluding with a reminder that hope matters. Throughout the day you could see the nods as she shared on each topic indicating that she was speaking about issues with which many could identify.

Evening offered a great time to get
to know each other better in an
informal setting.

Sr. Lynn Levo (right) engaged
 in conversation during a break
One of the great joys of this program has been the ability to engage the presenters informally during meals and breaks.  All the presenters are very approachable and available.

And in the evening, the sisters enjoyed playing cards.
Hand and Foot remains the card game
 of choice for Federation gatherings

Sr. Dolores Clerico (left) chats with
 one of the participants

There were many light moments,
such as when during a break, two sisters
got up to entertain us