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Sisters' Stories

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.

Image of family life out of sync with reality

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The results of one of the most comprehensive studies of the status of women in the United States were released Oct. 16. The conclusions drawn from the data in “The Shriver Report: A Women’s Nation Changes Everything,” by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, have the potential to change the discussion of public policy on a broad range of issues from the workplace to the family living room.

Thatís nunsense

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Earth and Spirit

The musical “Nunsense” and the comedy “Late Nite Catechism” hit local theaters regularly, poking raucous fun at the experience of growing up Catholic. Dressed in wimples and big rosaries, young thespians lampoon the indulgences, pious devotions and simplistic moral theology of our youth.

Confessing that I’ve made jests myself at the expense of that pre-Vatican II world, I wish to praise a Catholic upbringing and wholeheartedly thank those women religious who played a key role. Sr. Agatha Irene and her ilk may have, with help from the Baltimore Catechism and its hyperactive theological dualism, seeded hang-ups and an aberrant sense of guilt. But her kind also provided rich nourishment for a way of living, a spirituality that I have come to see as the pearl of great price.

Controversial questions stricken from religious study

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U.S. women religious superiors will no longer have to supply to the Vatican some of the most controversial information it had requested as part of a three-year study of religious congregations.

Information no longer being requested as part of the Vatican Apostolic Visitation, which began last January, includes the properties owned by the congregations, their most recent financial audits, ages of the sisters, and the ministries they are involved in.

Word of the change in procedures came in a letter dated Nov. 5 sent to the women religious superiors by Apostolic Visitator Mother Mary Clare Millea.

NCR obtained a copy of the letter.

Millea explained in her letter why she had dropped the request for the information.

Stonehill symposium played role in women religious study

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Speaking publicly for the first time about the apostolic visitation of U.S. women religious communities his congregation is conducting, Cardinal Franc Rodé said that he requested the three-year study to help the sisters and to respond to concerns for their welfare.

“This apostolic visitation hopes to encourage vocations and assure a better future for women religious,” Rodé said in a statement released by the Vatican Nov. 3.

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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