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Sisters' Stories

Schneiders to explore meaning of religious life today

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NCR will publish a five-part essay by Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sandra Schneiders, Professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, on this site beginning Jan. 4 and running through Jan. 8.

The essay, titled “Religious Life as Prophetic Life Form” explores the meaning of religious life today and comes during a controversial three-year Vatican study of U.S. women religious congregations.

NCR Editor Tom Fox interviewed Schneiders, asking her about the purpose and timing of her five-part essay.

People of the sun

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Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope. Part 5 of 12

Catholic organizer Melody Gonzalez helped win farm worker-led campaigns to force McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway and other major fast food chains to guarantee fair wages and rights for those who pick the produce these food giants buy. Whole Foods has come aboard, too. The farm worker-led Coalition of Immokalee Workers is poised to move from sector to sector, corporation to corporation, until the human and labor rights of those who toil in the fields are respected. Only then can we truly have a sustainable food system.

By Melody Gonzalez

IMMOKALEE, Fla. -- Farm work is very dignified work, but people are not getting paid what they deserve or being treated like full human beings.

Water is where everything intersects

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Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope. Part 4 of 12

Around the world, water is being turned into a commodity for sale and for profit. But out of necessity and driven by a different vision, a global counter-trend is growing to assure water as a human right and a precious part of nature. The Bolivian organizer Marcela Olivera is part of this movement, and played a key role in the massive protests in 2000 when residents of the city of Cochabamba forced the Bechtel Corporation to give up control of the municipal water system. This would later be repeated in another city in Bolivia and in other cities around the world. Today Marcela helps coordinate a Latin America-wide coalition of citizen's organizations and women's groups who are winning inventive guarantees that household water be free or cheap, accessible, and safe; and that the earth's water be kept pure and flowing.

By Marcela Olivera

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia -- There have been a series of policies implemented in Bolivia intended to privatize our natural resources. One of these directly impacts people's everyday lives; it's the move to privatize water by giving multinational corporations contracts on municipal and on all sources of water supply. In Bolivia there was a huge public outcry against this in 2000 and 2005, and in the end we were able to reverse the policy. Now that's the official, romanticized version of what happened, but nobody sees what's happened since then.

Veteran Catholic peacemaker reaches out to Muslim women

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Veteran Christian Family Movement national leader, long time peace and justice advocate, Reg Weissert continues on her uncommon journey of example.

I ran into her at the November Call to Action annual gathering in Milwaukee and spoke to her about one of her ongoing projects, a Christian/Muslim women’s dialogue group. She initiated it five years ago.

Weissert, who lives in South Bend, Indiana, decided to form the group after recognizing the number of Muslims were growing in the area. She saw the need to build bonds between these more recent arrivals and some of her own Catholic friends.

Five years later, the women's group continues to meet, drawing together some thirty women each month for about two hours of sharing. About two-thirds are Christian and one-third Muslim, she says.

Weissert told me that nearly all the Christian women are Catholics, but they prefer to keep the group open to all Christians and, thus, call it a Christian/Muslim women's group.

A former slave fights slavery

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Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope. Part 3 of 12

Today there are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world, more than at any time in history, including during the transatlantic slave trade. One current slavery system is in Haiti, where roughly 300,000 children suffer in forced servitude in a system known as restavek, literally “to stay with.” Helia Lajeunesse is part of a group of restavek survivors who are raising visibility of the restavek system and fostering opposition to it. Lajeunesse is part of a global movement of people working against all forms of commercialization of human life.

By Helia Lajeunesse

Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- The restavek system is modern slavery. If the child doesn’t work hard enough, they beat him or her. The child can’t eat with the family, and usually just eats scraps. The child sleeps on the floor. They don’t pay the child. They never used to send the child to school. The family views that child as an animal.

The Link to Humanity: Giving as a Way of Life

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Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope. Part 2 of 12

Based in Senegal and Mali, Coumba Touré is an educator, storyteller, writer and children’s book publisher. Coumba’s work is aimed at promoting African values, especially the idea that all humanity is linked. Coumba is also part of a women-led movement to keep alive the gift economy, a fundament of West African and other cultures where profit motives are trumped by the need to care for all, in the knowledge that the community is only as strong as its individual members.

Women religious not complying with Vatican study

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The vast majority of U.S. women religious are not complying with a Vatican request to answer questions in a document of inquiry that is part of a three-year study of the congregations. Leaders of congregations, instead, are leaving questions unanswered or sending in letters or copies of their communities' constitutions.

"There's been almost universal resistance," said one women religious familiar with the responses compiled by the congregation leaders. "We are saying 'enough!' In my 40 years in religious life I have never seen such unanimity."

The deadline for the questionnaires to be filled out and returned to the Vatican-appointed apostolic visitator, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mother Mary Clare Millea, was Nov. 20. On that day, according to an informed source, congregation leaders across the nation sent Millea letters and, in many cases, only partial answers to the questionnaire. Many women, instead of filling out the forms, replied by sending in copies of their Vatican -approved orders' religious constitutions. A religious order's constitution states its rationale, purpose and mission.

First hand account of organizing women in Nigeria

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Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope. Part 1 of 12

By Emem Okon

Port Harcourt, Niger Delta, Ningeria -- I am a community mobilizer with a passion for mobilizing women for action, for peace, and for their rights. I work with Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre in oil-impacted towns and villages -- that is, in areas where oil companies are drilling -- in the Niger Delta.

Then and now: A mission to educate women

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When Trinity’s board appointed me president in the summer of 1989, I asked them what I should know about dealing with our local bishop in Washington (then Cardinal James Hickey). A Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur trustee looked at me with her cool gaze and said simply, “Don’t worry about the bishop. Your job is to fix Trinity. Fix it, or close it.”

One of the oldest Catholic women’s colleges in America, Trinity had suffered steep enrollment declines and mounting financial problems in the 1970s and 1980s. My predecessor was the first lay president, the fifth president (permanent or interim) to come and go in the perilous ’80s. The trustees were skeptical of Trinity’s future; the previous year, placing bets that Trinity might not make it, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur trustees secured a change in Trinity’s bylaws to ensure that they would receive the proceeds from any dissolution of the college’s assets.

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September 12-25, 2014

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