Thursday, May 17, 2012

Woman of Achievement- Kimberly Ritter

Kimberly Ritter with her award from the Women of Achievement and a statue of St. Joseph from the St. Louis Province

Today, we had a reunion of sorts, as many of our friends from the signing of the ECPAT code at the Millennium Hotel came together at the Women of Achievement Awards Luncheion to honor Kimberly Ritter for her work against human trafficking.  Ten St. Louis women were honored for their dedication to volunteer service amidst a crowd of over 700 well-wishers.

The first person I ran into was Rose Lausch, who was one of the first people that Kim and Kathy McCluskey, CSJ approached about the Millennium Hotel signing the ECPAT code.  Although now working at another hotel, she came to honor Kim at the luncheon.

From across the room I saw Dominic Smart, the General Manager at the St. Louis Millennium Hotel. Dominic told me that he feels "very proud and priveledged to be a part of this auspicious day and was pleased to continue the commitment to make awareness of human trafficking more prevelant across the St. Louis community and the globe." 
Dominic Smart and Kimberly Ritter

Katie Rhodes, the new Social Worker who addressed us so courageously at the US Federation event last summer said of Kim, "her passion has moved our agency (Healing Action Network) forward."  You may recall that Kim is the Vice President of the Board at Healing Action Network because she was so impressed with Katie's vision and drive.  In addition to Katie's work at Healing Action Network, she is also working at a program for autistic adults.

I had a few minutes with Molly Hackett, one of the owners at Nix, the US Federation meeting planners.  She noted that she is "so proud fo the work and fabulous recognition that the Women of Achievement Award has brought to the issue of human trafficking."  She was amazed at the increase in awareness in just one year since our event in St. Louis.  You may recall that when Nix found out that the ECPAT code of conduct did not cover meeting planners, the staff from Nix worked with ECPAT to create one and then became the first agency to sign it.  Molly talked about the commitment of the whole team at Nix to this effort.  She even told me that they had a pre-award party at Nix to honor all the staff for their commitment and work on this issue.

The Sisters of St. Joseph were well represented by Sr. Pat Giljum from the Leadership Team, Sr. Barbara Dreher from the Development Office, Sarah Baker and Jenny Beatrice from the Communication Office (they did all the work to nominate Kim for the award), Sr. Marion Renkin, Motherhouse Administrator, Anna Sandidge, Social Justice Coordinator, and me.

Check out the US Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph Facebook page to hear Kim talk about the work she has done against human trafficking.  Click on "Like" us so that you can continue to learn about the efforts the Sisters of St. Joseph are engaged in to end human trafficking.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The First Egyptian Born Sister of St Joseph

Sister Myriam Zaki
Today, in Lyon France, I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Sr. Myriam, who was the first Egyptian-born woman to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon.  She came by the Motherhouse today to visit with one of the sisters who was in the novitiate with her. 

In 1907, the Lyon sisters went to Egypt and have had a continual presence there.  They work in schools, in the villages with the people doing pastorial work and social work, and doing nursing. Currently there are 16 sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon in Egypt, many are younger members. 
Sr. Myriam shows me a work of Egyptian art that decorates the room where we spoke
I asked what it was like to be a minority population in an Islamic country.  She told me that 10% of the population of Egypt is Christian with a smaller percentage being Catholic.  Although it is not true for all of the society there, great harmony exists among the sisters and Muslims in the areas where they reside.  50% of the students at their school in Minya (not sure I am spelling that correctly) are Islamic.  The sisters are very much appreciated for their work in the schools and in social work. 

I asked Sr. Myriam what she could tell our US sisters about their community life in Egypt.  She said, "We live in small communities of four or five.  For us, our spiritual life is very important.  In Egypt Christians are very fervent. It is an older church.  Our proximity with Islam helps us to be more rooted in Christianity."

I hope you enjoy this brief portrait of Myriam.  I was deeply touched to have the opportunity to meet with her.