From such small beginnings, the Presentation Sisters spread to many towns in Ireland and around the world. From the earliest times, most new convents developed independently but the particular charism of the foundress has always been a source of life and unity.
Following the Second Vatican Council, many of these autonomous groups of Presentation Sisters came together, in 1976, as the Union of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Union of Presentation Sisters is a Congregation of 1300 women working internationally across seventeen countries.
Union of Presentation Sisters’ website
Examples of the Work of this Ministry
Transforming our World: Africa, India, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand
IPA Engagement in TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD: THE 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Last year IPA applied for and recieved a grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation. Our grant is titled IPAEngagement in TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD: THE 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. Its purpose is capacity building that recognized the significance of our local IPA ministries in co- visioning, co-learning and co-creating the future we want using the Sustainable Development Goals. The grant is being implemented in Africa, India, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand. The project aims at building the capacity of IPA members and their collaborators to develop inclusive participatory processes with the communities they serve and to speak and act in partnership for global justice. Below are descriptions of how each of our IPA countries are working to implement the vision and purpose of our grant.
January 7-12, 2017 Sister Dulcine Crasta, Project Manager, organized a two week training on the SDGs at the Claretian Retreat Centre, Manila, Philippines for the coordinators of the Conrad Hilton Foundation grant. Eighteen participants studied the processes and dynamics of forming a project team, of developing indicators in the light of SDGs, and of planning country specific project activities.
Thailand is a country at the centre of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. With a total area of approximately 198,000 sq. mi, Thailand is the world’s 50th largest country. It is the 20th most populous country in the world, with around 66 million people. In 1999 five Presentation sisters from India, Pakistan and Philippines arrived in Thailand. At present the sisters are engaged in ministry to migrant Indigenous peoples and especially to the tribal children at the mission centre. The sisters also offer outreach programmes in the villages of Fang diocese.
The Conrad Hilton Grant is facilitating the sisters to focus on Sustainable Development Goal 5: gender equality and Goal 13: climate action by offering training with young girls and women from 15 villages on human trafficking. After the training for the young girls, they hope to have the similar training in every village by the girls who attended the training. The sisters in the schools are also planning on doing training on care of Earth. Chitra Verges, PBVM is the national coordinator.
India is a vast South Asian country with history reaching back 5 millennia. By the 2nd millennium, the oldest scriptures associated with Hinduism began to be composed. Social stratification, based on caste, emerged in the first millennium BCE; and Buddhism and Jainism arose. In the medieval era, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived, and Sikhism emerged, all adding to the region’s diverse culture. In the mid-19th century, the subcontinent came under British crown rule followed by a nationalist movement in the late 19th century that used nonviolent resistance to obtain independence in 1947 and became the most populous democracy in the world. In 2015, the Indian economy was the world’s seventh largest. The first
Presentation mission in India began in 1842 when four pioneering sisters came from Ireland to Madras (Chennai). The mission spread to many other states in the Indian sub-continent including Rawalpindi (which was later to become part of Pakistan). In 2015 the India Unit divided into India North Unit and India South India.
The Conrad Hilton Grant will facilitate the sisters in India to implement two national trainings on vision building and strategic thinking for 25 persons from each province, followed by cluster level trainings. These trainings and advocacy work will focus on the Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation, Goal 4: quality education, and Goal 13: climate action. Trained community leaders will organise issue based awareness programs for women, children, youth, staff and parents. Public advocacy events will be organised at the rural local governments (Panchayats & Blocks).
Sisters Libania Fernandes, Asha Jacob, and Pushpa Lalitha are the national coordinators team in North India (pictures at top of the section). Sisters Divya Femandes, Lilly Orathel, Flora Mary Aruldoss, and Nifa Viegas are the national coordinating team in South India (pictured here).
The Republic of Zambia has a population of 14.2 million. For most of the colonial period, Zambia was governed by administrations appointed from United Kingdom. The Republic of Zimbabwe has 16.2 million people. Once the bread basket of the region, since 2000 Zimbabwe has struggled to feed its own people due to severe droughts and the effects of a land reform programme. Presentation sisters first began their mission in Africa in 1949 with the arrival of four sisters from India to Zimbabwe. Sisters arrived in Zambia from England in 1970. The Africa Unit was formed in 2013 when sisters ministering in Zambia and Zimbabwe came together to form one group.
The Conrad Hilton Grant will facilitate the sisters in the Africa Unit to focus on environmental protection. They will put in place some indicators to measure the change for the rights of water, sanitation and energy (Goal 6: clean water and sanitation and Goal 7: affordable and clean energy). These will have a direct effect on women and children and Indigenous people which are two of the IPA focus areas. Sisters Mbololowa Illinanga, Lynette Rodrigues, Ms. Naume Pasipamire, and Sister Judith Habasune are the national coordinating team.
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Pakistan is unique among Muslim countries in that it is the only country to have been created in the name of Islam. Pakistan was created in 1947 as an independent homeland for South Asian Muslims and adopted a constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic. An ethnic civil war in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the new country of Bangladesh. In 1973 Pakistan adopted a new constitution that stipulated that all laws were to conform to the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah. Pakistan has the sixth-largest standing armed forces in the world, is a nuclear power, has a semi-industrialized economy, and is the sixth most populous country with a population exceeding 197 million people. It is ranked among the emerging and growth-leading economies of the world, and is backed by one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing middle classes. The first Presentation sisters arrived in Rawalpindi (which is now in Pakistan) in 1895 from Madras (Chennai) in India. The Sisters opened a school which initially served the children of British and Irish soldiers living there. More schools were later established from there. The sisters are engaged in formal and informal education, medical care, health work and pastoral work. Their schools now cater for pupils of all religions, Christian, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.
The Conrad Hilton Grant will facilitate the Presentation sisters in Pakistan to focus on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good health and well-being, Goal 4: Quality education, Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation, and Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions. The sisters will organize five regional meetings and a national training which will focus on girls’ education, gender equality, and environmental issues. Community leaders will organize awareness campaigns in each area with women, men, youth, children, parents, teachers, collaborative institutions and organizations
The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country in the Western Pacific comprises more than 7,000 islands. The Philippines’ location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons, but also endows it with abundant natural resources and some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. As of 2013, approximately 10 million additional Filipinos lived overseas, comprising one of the world’s largest diaspora. The Philippines became part of the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years. As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, there followed in quick succession the Philippine Revolution, followed by the bloody Philippine–American War of conquest by US military force. After World War II the Philippines was recognized as an independent nation. The first Irish Presentation sisters arrived in 1960 from Kilkenny to Negros Island and assumed the responsibilities of administrating a school and then added a third level college. The sisters established a community on the island of Cebu in 1981. Today the sisters continue in their ministry in schools with attention to environmental education as well as work with the indigenous peoples on a variety of issues, especially land rights, education and health rights.
The Conrad Hilton Grant will facilitate the Presentation sisters in the Philippines to focus on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: quality education. Quality education ensures that girls and boys complete inclusive, equitable and quality education that promotes life-long learning opportunities. Fundamental to this education is mastering the concept, techniques, and practices of systemic change. Vital to systemic change is prioritizing the need to be involved in the public advocacy, especially protecting the right to vote.
Philippines: Microfinance Changing Lives
The Microfinance Grameen Program was founded in 1997 by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, and today is a global leader in developing innovative solutions for the poor. The members of the Presentation Community Center in Himamaylan, Philippines were invited to undergo training for opening microfinance centers, and Mary Jane Verde volunteered to do the training. When she returned, she started training 25 participants. October 6, 1996, the first Grameen center in Himamaylan began with five0 groups. 20 years later the Grameen center is still helping members to achieve financial stability and also help them develop their personal and spiritual lives.
Rice, a staple food of Filipino people, provided the idea for creating a project that would benefit some of our Grameen members. Since members hold their savings in the bank, they were offered the opportunity to withdraw part of it and invest it as capital for a Rice Project. Membership is open for all who want to be part of the rice project provided that he/she contributes a specified amount as investment for the project.
Each member is allowed to have a bag of rice on credit from the project payable in one month. If the member fails to pay his/her account on the maturity date, a penalty of 5% on the existing balance is imposed as additional payment, as agreed on by the body as discipline and to ensure prompt payment. Monthly meetings of the all members are held to discuss the progress of the project and to monitor the on-going business. These meetings develop the harmonious relationships of members and builds a good atmosphere with one another.
A yearly evaluation is conducted every December 31 to distribute the dividends based on his/her performance. This project helps the members not only financially, but also personally. This project offers members dignity in purchasing the rice through credit because they own the capital and in the end, they themselves enjoy the profit. With the rice project the members are assured that they get the good quality rice at the lowest price compared to the market price.
Testimonials of some members
Mrs. Lourdes Librado, 82 years old
Lola (Granny) Lourdes, as called by her friends, is 82 years old and is the oldest member in the Grameen Program. At her age, some people said that she would not be able to pay her loan and were afraid of what may happen because of her age. With the help and trust of her group members, she is now 10 years in the project. She is very dedicated and joins every activity we have. She is the bread winner in the family because her husband is sick and can’t walk. She also cares for her single brother who is paralyzed and lives with her. All of her 10 children have families of their own. Every day she cooks rice cakes and sells them in the market and neighboring places. She also offers (hilot) physical therapy to many. Lola Lourdes enjoys so much being a member and sometimes forgets her age.
Cecille Chavez (Widow)
“It is a great opportunity for me to be a member of Rice Project because I was able to save extra money since our rice is cheaper compared to other rice retailers. The savings I got was used for some educational expenses of my children. I am very happy to attend our monthly meeting and share some stories with my co-members.”
Mrs. Renita Padios
Renita Padios is 19 years in Grameen program. She started by selling rice and charcoal but like other members she did not concentrate on one project alone. At the moment, she has her own sari-sari store and has 2 hectares of sugarcane plantation. She is successful in the Grameen –supported project. With the support of the Grameen Program, she was able to send her children to school until they finished college and are now professionals.
Peru: Peace through Healing
Peru: Peace through Healing
By Eileen Kearney PBVM and Margaret Kehoe PBVM
Eileen and Margaret live as neighbors in a shantytown in Lima, Peru and offer a variety of healing opportunities to adults and children in two holistic centers in the area – Centro Nana Nagle and Corazon de Nana.
Over the 20 years, we have lived inserted with a group of displaced families, who were forced to move from their lands, families and animals in the mountains during the time of the terrorist Shining Path movement in Peru. This group of 25,000 people invaded the Lima rubbish dump in March 1992. The Presentation Sisters joined their struggle in August 1993. We have been living and evolving together with these families ever since.
Looking back, we have been awakened to a new way of being, seeing, and relating to ourselves, to others, and to God. We have experienced the letting go of power and privilege. Actually, since entering religious life in the late sixties, early seventies, all we have known is change. However, the shift in consciousness and the awakening of awareness that we are experiencing now is impacting deeply on our own lives as religious sisters and on the lives of the people with whom we live. We are more consciously aware now as we live on the edge and are pushing into this new consciousness, of the impact that we are making as we co-create with those who have been made poor for too long, the new humanity based on heart centered love, co-creation, and desire for something new.
Our lives have been immersed in the new consciousness and the impulse to evolve is now an energy that fuels our hearts with love and compassion for this new humanity we are co-creating. As we live, change, and evolve in this new consciousness, we are aware of knowing that we are in relationship together. It is not a question of what I can do but of who are we becoming together and how together, we can listen deeply to the heartbeat of love so that something new can emerge.
As religious sisters, we are experiencing our hearts expanding in love, opening to one another as we become conscious of our participation in the new emergent energy field of humanity. We may not have ever met but we know that we know we are all connected in our desire to love and that, as religious, we are able to influence the energy field of humanity and hold and embrace in a very particular way those who have been made poor. We, as sisters, are experiencing that space in our hearts where we can welcome one another, hold one another’s vulnerability in the darkness and rejoice together in the light. From this deep human experience of communion, we are aware of the whole universe consciously expanding and evolving through us in human form. Living out of this heart-centered energy, together, as religious sisters we consciously radiate that heart vibration into the field of creation that has been so unjustly destroyed by power, greed, and the accumulation of wealth.
In Lima, our specific ministry as healers opens our hearts to touch the fragility, vulnerability and pain within ourselves, embrace and hold the vibration of love for those who are struggling. It is an experience of mutual healing. When one person opens her heart to experience healing, she opens the field of humanity to receive that healing. Our experience with energy healing is that what happens amongst us when two or more gather together is happening to all. The words are made flesh as we share together our desire for healing and wholeness. Healing is our mutual awakening to wholeness in love.
The universe is waiting for us to embrace the new and we are experiencing together the new emerging in our midst. We are co-creators consciously choosing to actively participate in this evolutionary moment.
Slovakia: Working toward Eradication of Poverty Nearby
Slovakia: Working toward Eradication of Poverty Nearby
By Anne McNamara, PBVM
Nagle Centre is located in the town of Spišské Podhradie, in the east of Slovakia. The Doors opened on Presentation Day, 2014 to cater to both young and old. The Presentation Sisters in Slovakia, in our own small way, are contributing to the eradication of poverty through education as we serve the Roma people.
The Roma population of our town is about 1,000 out of a total population of over 3,000. They mostly live in the outskirts of the town, in settlements without services or even a footpath or lighting connecting them to the town that is over 3km away. They usually have large families and there is high unemployment and illiteracy. The Nano Nagle Centre provides literacy and numeracy courses for parents and adults and offers special help to older students to help them stay in Vocational School. Both parents and children are extremely enthusiastic about the opportunities available to them in our Centre that is reflected in the high attendance rates. We believe that sound education will help the children and teenagers develop into responsible and productive adults.
Daily we offer a pre-school for 3 to 7 year old to Roma children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn Slovak and prepare for Primary School. We provide a homework club in the afternoon for Roma children aged between 8 and 18, where they can do their homework, and do school projects. We also provide courses in computers, art, personal care, dance, song and music. All children attend religion class once a week provided by the local seminarians. Every day we have different activities, a full educational programme and lots of variety for the children. Our Centre is the only place in the town where Roma children can come.
The interest and willingness of many donors and sponsors support the Centre, and they are a vital part of the building up of this Presentation Ministry into what it is today – a place that provides young and old with an experience of welcome, inclusion and hope.
Vision in Nano Nagle Centre
We offer to all, a place of welcome, opportunity and hope. We grow as a community through education, in the spirit of Nano Nagle, into whole persons, respecting life and all creation. In this way, and in collaboration with others, we aim to build on Earth God´s kingdom of justice, love and peace
Thailand: A Mission for the for Eradication of Poverty
Thailand: A Mission for the for Eradication of Poverty
By Jancy Saleth Selvaraj, PBVM
To mark the UN International Day for Eradication of Poverty we, the Presentation Thai mission community, recall our presence in Thailand. The vision and mission of our community is focused in serving the migrant tribal people from Myanmar. Our service includes spiritual/pastoral care, health and physical wellbeing, and schooling and professional education of their children. A good number of our people do not have citizenship so lack civil protection, job opportunities, free medical treatment and face travel restrictions. Due to poverty some of our people get involved in drug trafficking. In all this, we work in collaboration with PIME Italian priests.
The mission provides board and lodging to school-going children coming from the mountain villages bordering with Myanmar so that they can avail themselves of quality education up to grade 12. Those with initiative are helped to complete a professional course of their choice and secure a good job. Quality education empowers our children to take advantage of the available opportunities in the nearby cities. It helps children get knowledge, information and life skills. This enables them to plan, follow instructions and reach out to access information tools that can improve their livelihood.
We conduct awareness programs on healthy hygienic practices, sex education, balanced diet, seasonal diseases and human trafficking etc. We invite government officials to conduct programs on anti-drugs and the district health team for health checkup. We are also introducing Sustainable Development Goals to our children and people in the villages, awareness programs on their rights and health facilities that are provided by Thai government. The differently challenged people are made aware and encouraged to get support according to their rights and policies. Convinced that a healthy start in life is important to future well-being, the sisters work with parents of children up to two years of age. This outreach program consists of instruction in nutrition, breast feeding and principles of general health and holistic living. Mothers who are not able to nurse their babies are given formula milk for their babies.
They also face a significant challenge with vulnerabilities such as a faltering economic growth, falling agriculturalprices. Agricultural companies make false promises to our people that they would buy their crops and make market, but they fail to keep up to this promise. This leads to frustration and loss of hope in life. Since people are illiterate, the companies take advantage of their rights because there is no proper written document for the agreement. In situations like this, we help them become aware of and demand their rights. In all of this, our goal is to promote human dignity, self-respect and make people realize their worth in the society. Thus, they live a dignified life.
“A quality education grants us the ability to fight the war on ignorance and poverty.” Charles B.Rangel
African Culture’s Influence on Religious Life
Union: African Culture’s Influence on Religious Life
Wisdom gathered from all our African Sisters and compiled by Judith Habasune, PBVM
Community Life and the Vows
‘Ubuntu’ – I am because we are
An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in Africa. He put a basket of fruit near a tree and told them that whoever gets there first wins the sweet fruits. When he gave them the signal to run, they held hands and ran together, then sat in a circle enjoying their treat. When he asked them why they chose to run as a group when they could have had more fruit individually, one child spoke up and said: UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if the rest are sad? Hospitality, relationships, reconciliation, sharing and respect are vital in the African way of living. In our upbringing, we are encouraged to respect others regardless of age/gender. In African community life, everyone is welcomed, the family gathers to listen to each other and at the end of sharing their stories, they are able to reconcile with each other as relationship is of paramount importance. So as we join religious life these values are already innate in us.
The African culture values chastity before and within marriage. Even in the context of polygamy, the value of fidelity/faithfulness is upheld. It also places a lot of importance on virginity (purity of mind and heart), sacredness of the human person for the common good. We used to have perpetual virgins who because of their purity were the custodians of the sacred shrines where they performed the ceremonial rituals for the community. They were respected and provided advisory and spiritual services and were trusted with communal decisions. (E.g. in Zimbabwe the likes of Nehanda who was a national spiritual voice led and advised our fighters in the uprisings for national freedom.) So adopting celibacy for a higher good is supported by African culture.
African culture teaches fear and respect for the Supreme Being and respect for authority that is vested in community leadership. Therefore, obedience is a great value in African life – obedience to the elders. Through the ‘ubuntu’ concept there is community ownership and sharing in African culture. The care of the environment and family property is handed down from one generation to the next.
African Music and Dance Is Prayer
Singing and dancing in the African context bring life and a sense of identity. We sing and dance at every occasion of our life; marriages and weddings, births and deaths, hellos (welcomes) and goodbyes, rites of initiation/ passage, transitions and rituals of thanksgiving. Thus, African music is rich and has rhythm and melody that suits each occasion enabling it to capture the spirit and emotion of every occasion.
Our music connects us with the divine (Supreme Being), with nature, with inner reality/ disposition and through it we express that inner reality and give voice to our prayers, feelings and yearnings. It recollects the senses in private prayer and gives us material that leads us into moments of pondering and meditation that can go on for a long time. After hearing a touching song one finds oneself humming or singing. Our music and dance facilitates lively and inclusive communal prayer, ensuring full participation. Dancing is in a circle that shows we are one and together as a community, we come into the divine presence. The movement comes spontaneously like ululating as a heart response. Through songs, the Holy Spirit carries us along a divine journey.
New Ways of Praying/Spiritual Consciousness Evolving
The new consciousness evolving is honoring the connectedness of all beings. We often pray with nature nowadays and we remind ourselves and one another of the sacredness of trees, of water, of soil and air and fire – all created things. This for us is going back to the wisdom of our ancestors who lived in communion with all beings. We are moving from a structured way of praying, allowing the creativity of individual sisters to emerge in forms of prayer they prepare. We pray to our African ancestors and invite them to be present with us at important events. We cultivate silence, contemplation and stillness as a way of life.
Delhi, India: Education is a Vital Human Right
Every child has a right to an education so that she/he can have better chances in life. Employment opportunities, better health of body, mind and soul will help them make the right decisions that are essential to the life of the world. Early childhood education is an important ingredient for the welfare of a country because education can reduce poverty and boost economic growth. It increases a person’s chances of having a healthy life by reducing maternity deaths and combating diseases like HIV and AIDS. Gender equality is the need of the hour and education can promote this. Educated women tend to be healthier, have fewer children, earn better incomes and provide better health care for themselves, thus building healthy families and communities. Religious bias, terrorism and tolerance can slowly be removed by a growth of a civil society, political stability and democracy.
We have a long way to go. School for life makes sense and this should include visions of life that can be shared by the whole world at large. It is known that education includes development of higher-level skills such as problem solving, project management etc. However, another purpose of life, particularly early in life, is the development of character and ethical behavior. Secondly, let us not differentiate between the education of the so-called developed country and developing country. We fervently believe that what students in impoverished regions need are not more academic skills, but rather life skills that enable them to improve their financial prospects and well-being. However, life skills are equally important for developed countries. Our mission should be to groom students to become worthy citizens of a country with good moral character. Being a Catholic girl’s institution, our aim is the formation of the girls into good citizens of our country, India, loving God and neighbor and enriching society with His love. We are aware of the living presence of Jesus in our teachings. The inspiration derived from Jesus through education can slowly be transformed from the ideal to the real. Keeping the spirit of Christ’s teachings within us, we employ both
scholastic as well as non-scholastic methods to reach out to the students. Education through art helps people to shape the culture of our communities. Dance, music, theatre and visual art enrich the environment. Every child is an artist. The challenge is to remain an artist after one grows up for as Plato said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” May God bless us to continue this great and good work which He has bestowed on us. Let us look each day as a new painting, a new song, a new play, a new dance. May the education we provide our students be transforming life experiences for them. May we revere the education we impart as we mold each child to achieve the best as God had planned for her.
By Regi Joseph, PBVM, Principal of Presentation Convent Senior Secondary School, Delhi
Peshawar, Pakistan: The Tool that Empowers the Poor and Oppressed
Education is the only weapon to fight against poverty, injustice, prejudices and many other social evils. It brings awareness of the world as a common home for all, where peace and respect for all of life is shared. People become connected through knowledge and transform their lives. They develop and mature in their decision-making, advance economically, become stronger in their career and secure a brighter future. Pakistani children are beautiful, dignified, talented, loving and caring. They love school and are interested in education.
St. Michael’s Convent School is an important platform where people interact and connect, making our ministries more attractive and life giving. St. Michael’s Convent School is people centered. Staff and students are closely linked to the school and its history. All staff members are past students of the school as well as parents and grandparents. My school ministry is very fulfilling, rewarding and challenging for me in my day-to-day experiences. From the time the children enter the school at age four, it is gratifying to watch them develop mentally, physically, spiritually and socially.
At St. Michael’s Convent School children have three faith traditions: Christian, Hindu and Muslim. Together we study and celebrate all our religious feasts with dignity, simplicity and respect. National and International Days are recognized and Gospel Values are shared.
St. Michael’s building is very small yet it has an enrolment of 967 students. We are very proud to have a branch primary school which is situated at a distance in a very poor area were 164 students are getting good quality education. The staff and students are supported by our Presentation Society.
For me being a principal is not a job but a service. I enjoy bringing love, hope, faith, respect, care, joy and trust to students, staff, parents and co-workers. Building trust is very important for me. I do all in my power to create a positive and friendly environment. The situation in our country is very sensitive and, as a principal, I need to provide safety and protection. I use my leadership role to listen to and respect the opinions of others.
At times, it is challenging to provide trained and qualified staff to bring quality education to all children. St. Michael’s is a girl’s school, so I am like a mother and a friend to the young girls. They feel comfortable to share their problems with me. At the age of 13 to 17 years, girls are very shy, especially in our culture and do not express feelings openly.
God has blessed me with a very co-operative and supportive staff. Together, we envision a wonderful future for our children. May God bless us all with the courage we need to face the challenges of our time and the openness to bring change for the improvement of our ministries.
By Rozie Younas, PBVM, Principal of St Michael’s Convent School, Peshawar, Pakistan
Delhi, India: Teaching is an Art
Teaching is an art, and teaching well is like fine art that one perfects through experience. Having completed more than 30 years of teaching high school children I can only give thanks to the Almighty for having chosen me for this vocation and for giving me the understanding and patience which I feel is needed while dealing with students of this vulnerable age group. It is a calling and great to walk in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest and the perfect teacher. Having had my school education at Presentation Convent High School, Delhi, I imbibed the values that would take me a long way. They indeed have. This ministry is a serious occupation as I am molding children not only to have a brighter future and career but also to be good human beings who will be an asset to society. The classroom situation goes beyond the textbook and I thoroughly enjoy my interaction with my students, scholastic, co-scholastic and value education. I may be demanding in the scholastic field and to some extent in co-scholastic fields like debates, theatre etc. Since not everyone may possess the same talent, I allow students to take their own time where value education is concerned. One cannot impose values, so it is better to allow them to accept the values at their own pace. I have had many students who have made it big in their life and career; this is the combined effort of our working together. My co- teachers, especially the Arts Group teachers, are known for our teamwork through which we have been able to motivate the students to great heights and enhance their personality by building confidence in them.
There are many incidents of students achieving merits but two of my students always remain in my thoughts. I wonder if they remember me still. I had been their class teacher for two consecutive years, though years apart. One of them was from the slums. She had lost her father when she was very young. Her mother worked as a maid going from house to house cleaning utensils and clothes. I noticed her eagerness to study but there was something that was not allowing her to cope with the others. A little enquiry revealed her background. I quietly did what I thought was needed. I started giving her a little more attention than earlier. A sudden change came over her. She started doing her work regularly and slowly her grades started improving. Being class teacher, I was able to monitor her other subjects too. I now asked her to teach the students who needed help with their studies. Realization dawned on her that she did not have to belong to the lowest bracket. There was no holding her back now. She was one of the toppers in school in the board examination. She went on to do higher studies, and the last I heard of her, she was serving as a lecturer at one of the colleges in Delhi University.
The second student whom I remember so well is because her mother wept and thanked me profusely for what I had done for her daughter though I never went out of my way to do anything especially for her. Coming from one of the most affluent families of Delhi, she perhaps was under the illusion that she could indulge in everything without being taken to task. She came to me in class eleven, a youngster of 16 years. With her came a baggage full of complaints, that she was wild, was disobedient, weak in studies, and worst of all that she was immoral. Well, I must admit that she was a handful; but I just ignored her so much, so that I did not even scold her for the wrongs she did. I think this upset her because she was not getting the attention she was used to. I slowly started talking and giving the class the moral values of respecting one’s body, and keeping it pure and clean. She reacted violently in the
beginning but slowly started nodding her head and agreeing. I never asked her anything and she never told me anything, but a change was seen in her. She was no longer that undisciplined and started taking some interest in her work. By the time she entered class 12, she was a totally changed person. I realized she had tremendous brains and many leadership qualities. In order to bring out the best in her I took permission from the principal for the class to conduct G.K. quizzes for the junior classes with her as the leader. This developed confidence in all of them. She did extremely well in the boards and was admitted into the honorary History class at one of the best colleges of India. It was at this point her mother came to thank me. She went on to complete her Ph.D. in History and is teaching in one of the most prestigious colleges in Delhi.
By Mrs. Thomas, Presentation Convent Senior Secondary School, Delhi
Ireland: Act to Prevent Trafficking
Things have a price and can be for sale but people have a Dignity
that is priceless and worth far more than things”. Pope Francis
Human trafficking is, I believe, the greatest crime against persons and a shocking violation of Human Rights in today’s world. It is a global crime in a globalised and high-tech world, which makes it very difficult to defeat. Human trafficking for sexual exploitation primarily affects women and girls so I am very pleased to be able to support and work with a faith-based anti-trafficking group in Ireland, called A.P.T. (Act to Prevent Trafficking), in keeping with my vision for gender equality and women’s right to a life of dignity. Ireland is a source, destination and transition country for trafficking, with gangs and pimps working covertly and successfully, despite the efforts of many organisations and the police.
I am a member of A.P.T. (email: email@example.com) for the past two years and am amazed at how ignorant I was of the scourge of trafficking before that. A.P.T. was founded ten years ago by religious sisters with the aim of:
- Up-dating ourselves on the issue of trafficking, locally and internationally,
- Creating public awareness of the issue through presentations in schools, parishes and other groups,
- Networking with other similarly committed organisations and action groups in Ireland and in ‘source’ and ‘destination’ countries in relation to the TIP issue,
- Lobbying for just and effective legislation in Ireland on the issue,
- Working for greater awareness in our own congregations and societies.
For our 10th anniversary in 2015, we had three main projects to raise awareness of our work as well as to celebrate.
- We succeeded in developing a Toolkit that can be used for presentations with any group.
- We organised a sponsored Run in the Armagh Diocese with the aim of raising awareness of the activities of trafficking. Fr. Gerry Campbell, a priest of that diocese, very kindly offered to run a marathon around his diocese for A.P.T. We took up the offer so a few of us members went to Armagh on April 15 to help launch the Run with the support and blessing of Archbishop Eamon Martin. Fr. Gerry ran for four days, supported by us (in our cars I might say!) and the Run ended at St. Peter’s Church Drogheda on April 29. I spent two days escorting him and celebrated his successful finish.
- APT organised a very successful concert with the soprano Celine Byrne and friends in the Pavilion Theatre, Dunlaoghaire, Dublin, on October 7, 2015.
A.P.T. (found on Facebook and Twitter) has been advocating the Irish Government to pass the Sexual Offences Bill 2014, which, among other important child protection clauses, includes the criminalising of the purchasers of sex and the decriminalising of the providers, in keeping with the Nordic Model. This passed the Senate after much filibustering and was to come before the Dail (Upper House) for debate and voting in January 2016. However, it was presented on Jan.28 by the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, but was not voted on, due to the dissolution of the parliament that day, for the forthcoming general election. I was present in the public gallery with other interested groups. Therefore, the struggle continues to make this legislation a reality in Ireland.
We ask St. Josephine Bakhita, herself once a slave, to intercede for those who are sexually exploited and to help all who work to achieve their freedom.
By Ann Pender, pbvm
Canada: Freedom Should Come with No Strings Attached
I have a deep empathy for the victims of Human Trafficking. I am not sure when or where I was gifted with a passion to work for the eradication of such an evil. For years, I promoted education on Human Rights through programs with Development and Peace, Oxfam and Kairos. Eventually I put my energy into actions against this modern day slavery.
In Canada, many victims are Indigenous women and young girls. The work for the victims of human trafficking touches on three issues that are priorities for us as Presentation People: Human Rights, Women and Children, and Indigenous People. This work also influences more than half of the SDG’s, whether the trafficking is for forced labor or sexual exploitation.
In 2008, I became the Presentation Sisters’ representative on a newly formed Coalition against Human Trafficking. Sister Clo Martin represents me when I am unable to attend meetings. Clo and I have attended many sessions related to education on this topic. The Coalition is a partnership of more than thirty groups including law enforcement, airport and port authorities, the Association of New Canadians, and Government departments including Social Services and Public Health, Victim Services, policy advisors, youth services, women’s groups and other community-based organizations and faith communities.
Our focus as a Coalition is education and awareness. Whom better than Nano understood that the first step when faced with a gigantic problem is to educate? Within the Presentation Family, I believe that there are many people who understand that “once an educator- always an educator” even if the dimensions of the “classroom” and the “topics” are constantly changing. At an Awareness Workshop on human trafficking, participants were shocked that such criminal activity could take place in St. John’s. Ignorance is a great asset for perpetrators! We have created a brochure that was widely distributed. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, known as the RCMP, designed and produced several different forceful posters about human trafficking. The RCMP members on our Coalition obtained a large quantity of these posters that were then distributed to locations throughout the city
Since the Coalition was formed, it has organized two Public Forums to bring greater awareness to the problem. We had guest speakers from various areas of Canada and the U.S. A. Our Leadership Team and several other Sisters from our JPIC Committee attended the Forums. Some of the stories we heard broke our hearts, and these same stories focused our actions. We had follow-up sessions that resulted in a plan to have all our Police Force Members trained in recognizing the signs of human trafficking and in what actions are appropriate. The training has been completed in St. John’s and is now being planned for other areas of our Province. We held an Awareness Week and invited the media to assist us in spreading the word about Human Trafficking. Since 2016, training has begun in our high schools in the city. Very recently, the coalition launched a website. The logo was created by a class in IT Design. Before making the logo, they became knowledgeable about Human Trafficking. The students presented eight possible logos to the Coalition. At the launch, they spoke of the meaning they created in the chosen logo. It was moving and profound. You may wish to visit our website.
In October 2015, a Nation-wide “Operation Northern Spotlight” involving forty police agencies and hundreds of law enforcement officers, including those from our own province, interviewed women known to be involved in the sex trade. The Operation was not meant to lay charges but to hear from sex- trade workers as to the kind of protection they needed and to gather intelligence. A parallel action with the FBI’s “Operation Cross Country” took place in the U. S. at the same time. “Operation Northern Spotlight” led to charges against 47 individuals for 137 offences and the recovery of 20 individuals who were mostly under the age of 19, some as young as 14. Statistics paint a bleak and troublesome picture of the reality and scale of human trafficking in our world. However, I wish to emphasize signs of hope:
- Awareness of the problem has grown considerably in the past few years so have the multiplicity of groups who are making a difference.
- Police forces across national and international borders share intelligence and best practices.
- The international efforts to make the SDG’s a reality
- Victims of this bondage who gain freedom and work to free others
- High profile individuals and bodies who speak out: i.e. Pope Francis, the UN
In Canada the implementation of recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Indigenous Peoples and the Public Hearings into murdered and missing women.
Together we have work to do!
By Emma Rooney, pbvm
England: Welcoming Refugees
More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggle to cope with the influx.
Sister Philomena Rooney describes how England has reached out with hospitable arms. “We say we welcome all people joyfully so this was an opportunity to be with many different people as we extended our welcome. Our welcome includes meeting and welcoming refugees as well as working at The Café. We help in small ways at the Refugee Forum that is located very close to our home. It is truly a privilege to be present and to serve.”
Truths about Europe’s Migrant Crisis
- The migrants at Calais, France account for as little as 1 % of those who have arrived in Europe so far this year.
- The assumption of the British government is that most migrants are economic migrants; this crisis is mostly about refugees fleeing countries torn apart by war, religious extremist and dictatorial oppression.
- Contrary to perception that the UK is the high altar of immigration, it is not a particularly major magnet for refugees.
- In 2014, just 31,400 people sought asylum in the UK, and only 41% were accepted. Germany, France, Sweden and Italy were far more affected. If these ratings were calculated on 2015, then even impoverished Greece would rise above the UK in the table.
- Politicians in Britain said that the migrants would speed the collapse of the European social order. In reality, the number of migrants to have arrived so far this year (200,000) is so minuscule that it constitutes just 0.027% of Europe’s total population of 740 million. The world’s wealthiest continent can easily handle such a comparatively small influx.
- Despite the hysteria, the number of refugees in the UK has actually fallen by 76,439 since 2011. (Guardian)
By Antony and Catherine Tompkin
San Antonio, Texas: Detention is Not Child Care
This year about 70,000 people have crossed the southern border of the United States. Nearly all of these are women and children are giving themselves up to border patrol agents because they are seeking asylum from the violence and chaos in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
During the summer of 2014 in San Antonio, Texas, a meeting was called by the Presbyterian Disaster Relief Agency to address this emergency. About 400 people met including the childcare institutions of schools, social service agencies, health care workers and church organizations. Weekly we continued to meet and, like any good movement, adapted to the needs. People volunteered to prepare for the influx of youth. Others offered to do intake interviews, to offer “Know your Rights” presentations, to translate, to visit, to give needed shelter, etc. Nine months later, the group decided on a name, Interfaith Welcome Coalition, and then decided on four committees: Advocacy, Visitation, Shelter and Community Integration. Advocacy did educational pieces and organized two special sessions for about 300 people each time. Visitation prepared volunteers to visit the women and children. Shelter provided help normally at the bus station drop off and homes for overnight stays or longer. About three months ago, we began renting a Church, which was previously a home. Community Integration assisted those who decided to stay in the area. Most of these people had families in the USA with whom they wanted to reunite. Yes, I have been involved in all of these committees and lately have spent a good amount of time at the shelter.
The two Detention Centers are owned and operated by for-profit prison systems and can house around 3,500 people. They receive $342.73 a night from our government for each family. One of these places was a former prison for men and many of the workers are the same so you can imagine the environment. The other was a “man camp” for oil workers. I have visited women and children in both places and could tell horrific stories!
On Dec 9, about 200 people gathered to speak to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioners asking them not to license these two Detention Centers in South Texas as childcare centers. About 70 of our group testified to the conditions in these centers bringing various expertise (Child Care social workers and psychologists, lawyers, teachers, a number of Sisters, and volunteers). We explained why holding children in “baby jails” was illegal, immoral and not acceptable. Not one person spoke in favor. The Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops spoke after a number of Sisters and had the assembly laughing with the quote: “Woe to those who ignore the sisters.”
What is next? We hear that the DHS is set to deport 100,000 persons in January 2016. The word is that the ones to be deported will be those who have no possibility of asylum. Let us pray that it will be limited to felons and not affecting those who will meet violence with that return.
By Sharon Altendorf, PBVM
Zambia: Garden of Oneness
The sacredness of the earth and universe is central to the communion with God and all creation. In the middle of rural Zambia is the Garden of Oneness, founded by Terry Abraham, PBVM. The people of the area are now in the process of building and landscaping this property as an eco-spiritual retreat and education center.
Across Africa and Zambia especially, trees are under dire threat as they are pillaged to make charcoal for cooking. Impoverished, isolated farmers struggling with lack of rain are chopping down the trees to sell for charcoal, without replanting new ones. But in the peaceful quiet of these 20 acres in rural Zambia, trees are hallowed and respected sovereigns of the land. Because the land was privately owned, the villagers did not harvest the trees for charcoal there. Soon after Terry purchased the land, she invited the elders of the community to walk through the entire parcel.
“They identified one big strong tree they call the ‘mubanga tree,’ which means ‘strong tree,’ as a place to honor the ancestors,” explained Abraham. “They created a sacred space around this tree. The whole heart of spirituality is that God and our ancestors are journeying with us, always supporting us and sustaining us. They are with us all the time. We are never alone.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7gUAeHw8jM
The eco-spirituality center is still under construction but will eventually have four African-style round houses with thatched roofs, one in each of the four directions. To the east will be the House of Light, with educational and resource materials. To the south will be the House of Story, utilizing the African tradition of storytelling and Jesus’s stories and parables to learn about environmentally friendly techniques for farming, composting and building. To the west will be the House of Compassion, which will focus on natural healing techniques like massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology and herbal treatments. To the north, the House of Grace will be the house of silence, solitude, prayer and meditation. About 15 acres will be left wild, with walking paths crisscrossing the property.
“There’s an awakening happening, the whole world is waking up to the spirit of oneness,” she said. “On one side, there is so much about Al Qaeda and the wars and violence, and that’s the news that we get on every channel. Who tells the story of the good things that happen? Humanity is waking up to this oneness, waking up to something more profound, something deep that gives meaning and purpose to our lives.”
By Melanie Lidman
Portsmouth, Dominica: A Moment of Grace
Love recognizes no barriers.
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls
to arrive at its destination full of hope.
CALLS in Portsmouth, Dominica, provides “another chance” for at-risk youth to develop a holistic spirituality, responsible life style, social adjustment and education suited to individual needs and career plans. Because our trainees have been so scarred, the nurturing of a holistic spirituality is not easy. As we minister among the youth, we are aware of the creativity and destruction operative in the universe and in their lives. We find that meditation, guided imagery, focusing and journaling help them name their vulnerabilities and gradually deal with feelings of anger, guilt and shame. New life emerges as the young people begin to see themselves as both wounded and whole. Journal entries, used with trainees’ permission, provide a glimpse into their lives:
I’m hopeless. I’m useless. Life is a big ball of pain and misery. I can’t wait for it to end. (2/10/14)
I am kind, helpful, respectful and smart. I have a wild creative imagination that I will use in architecture and jewelry making. (13/04/15)
I regret so many things in the past. I wish I could forget. Some things are too unfair. I don’t care what they think of me here. (16/01/15)
My service at the Home for the Aged taught me to love old as well as young and to show the people that I care for them just like how CALLS cares for us. (19/03/15)
Moments of grace!
Quito, Ecuador: Energies of Solidarity
What moves mothers to take action and form an effective organization in this day and age? Firstly, these same mothers are aware of their innate ability and strength and secondly they have children with special needs and capacities who have a right to be happy and fulfilled. Those who are not aware of their own capabilities are being helped to realize the importance of joining a group and together finding solutions to their problems.
An initiative entitled Energies of Solidarity group was aided by CONADIS, which is the National Committee for Equality among people with Disability and the National Institute for Popular Economy and Solidarity, was designed and carried out by these mothers who have triple sufferings: they are poor, unemployed and have a child with a disability.
The mothers had time and talents but lacked resources so when Government, businesses and communities came together in 2009, some solutions emerged for about 100 people in this small area in the South of Quito. This Social Protection Project, directed by Marcela Cruz, PBVM, stresses active participation in the promotion of small and viable enterprises and the training consisted of moving the mothers from passivity to empowerment and the ability to make decisions.
It began with the formation of 100 mothers and some of the youth with special needs. An agreement was made with two local universities who trained the people in how to begin an enterprise, to create employment and to allow the mothers to become part of an active economic population. They were taught administration, how to look for small amounts of credit, become a legal entity to protect themselves and how to set up a small business. Finally, with the aid of the Salesian University they chose five enterprises:
Raising guinea pigs (an important historical activity among indigenous people), Quail farming, Bread making, Restaurant and Beauty salon.
This social protection project is about mothers who are there because of their children with special needs. They meet and share their common problems and triumphs. Some of their sharings are inspiring as they see the gifts of their children and count their blessings.
As the project progressed, it was co-financed at 75% by the Ministry for Economic and Social Inclusion and 25% from the Foundation of Tierra Nueva. This project is economy based and is not a capitalistic or egoistic approach but one of human relationships. They are constructing another type of economy and functioning for the common good through justice and for co-responsibility.
It is a certainty that this project will not save the poor, nor be short-term. Neither is it free from problems, fears,
skepticism, or uncertainties but it includes solidarity. In this context, solidarity puts the persons in the centre, those with special needs and those who do not have special needs. Values such as reciprocity, recognition, listening all strengthen the group’s performance in daily living, the economics of concern rather than the economics of acquisition seem to be pointing the way forward for many excluded communities.
By Marcela Cruz, PBVM
New Zealand: Compassion Waiting for Me
Compassion takes many forms. Often we do not even acknowledge that what we are doing is compassion.
I am in the habit of visiting with everyone at church. One day as I made my way to my seat, I spoke to the people in the back row and noticed that Sheryl Odlum looked very yellowish and grey. Eventually we learned that she had been diagnosed with ovarian and lung cancer. I had gone to primary school with Sheryl and danced with her. I was determined to look after Sheryl as much as I could. So, I asked her what would be of practical use to her, and her response was “just come and see me.”
That turned into lovely trips in the car to Wellington Hospital. Sheryl gave me many answers and pearls of wisdom to my family problems. Sheryl’s positive attitude literally shone around her and touched the many people who came and went during the daily chemotherapy treatments.
Sheryl and I spent time together, reminiscing, eating, combining our trips for mutual benefit, laughing, sitting in the car at the beach, minding her dog “Misty” so Sheryl can complete her bucket list. I am only one of the many people to whom Sheryl relates. What a privilege for me. We hardly ever talk about death but when we do, it is positive.
I have learned that when I thought I would reach out in compassion, and I discovered compassion waiting for me. (Mary-Anne herself has health problems but does not let them stop her from helping anyone in need.)
Ecuador: Compassion and Justice for Women
By Margaret McCarthy, PBVM
Recently in November, 2014, under the motto “LEARN, SPEAK AND ACT” Ecuador announced a major campaign to prevent domestic violence and reduce instances of femicide nationally.
In the city of Chone, a coastal town, ASMUS was founded in order to accompany and give social, moral, legal and psychological assistance to the women, wives, mothers, sisters and daughters suffering from family violence. Machismo is still rampant throughout the country but more so in the coastal region. The stories are endless-inebriated husbands or partners, drug addiction, gender motivated killings etc. There was a conspiracy of silence also and many women suffered alone and were too ashamed to speak of their family problems. Coupled with a low self-esteem and lack of education, the scene was set for continuing violence.
Asmus is now in its eighth year of aid to the families through a process of concientization, legal aid, psychological support and social assistance (where required), and has begun another phase in its development. As time went on the team involved invited the male perpetrators into the centre in order to make them aware of their errors. Through a process of education, the association is stressing the importance of the family unit and so using an integral approach to the various family problems.
They have met quite a measure of success with the families involved and a heightened awareness of equality between women and men. However, the social climate of violence between neighbours is very widespread and is another challenge to be met at this time.
There are alarming statistics of violence against women in Ecuador. Six out of every ten women have suffered some form of psychological or physical abuse in the country. One out of every four women has been raped or has been part of a network of sexual exploitation or human trafficking according to a recent report from the President of the Congress, Gabriela Rivadineira. In 2013, 300 cases of femicide were registered in the country. 38% of women have been physically abused, 26% have been sexually abused and 17% have been the victims of patrimonial violence that is the destruction of their material goods. A penal code is now in place and femicide is to be punishable by up to 28 years in prison, so awareness of the problem is growing.
Asmus has been a forerunner in the field and is a successful, community-based, people-centered enterprise that is contributing to an attitudinal change among the female population of Chone, Ecuador.
England: Travellers and Gypsies
By Sister Carmel Clancy, PBVM I am a Pastoral Care Worker with Travellers and Gypsies in the Diocese of Salford. Travellers and Gypsies are an ethnic minority group who are marginalized and victims of discrimination because of their unconventional lifestyle. Many live on Caravan Sites but probably a much larger number live in houses because there are not enough sites available. There is always controversy and opposition among the settled community when a Council or private person proposes to build a site in any urban area. The result is that most of the sites are situated in insalubrious areas such as near refuse amenity, factories that emit unhealthy fumes or railway lines.
Travellers and Gypsies are spiritual people for whom God is very real. Because of this I find it very easy to pray with them, something they, in turn, appreciate. I see myself as a link between them and the organized Church; I feel that through me they know the Catholic Church cares about them and is interested in their lives.
In my day-to-day work, I visit their homes especially at times of illness, bereavement or problems. They find it helpful to speak confidentially to someone they can trust, and I feel that I hear many ‘Confessions’ (but without having the power to give Absolution). They and I know that God is a loving and forgiving Father. I also prepare children for the sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation and Holy Communion following a programme that stretches over nine months. Helping children grow into the knowledge and love of God is probably the most rewarding part of my work.
I visit a prison weekly where I have a discussion group, which is comprised exclusively of Travellers and Gypsies. We reflect on the Scriptures and discuss many issues such as what God is like, the consequences of our actions, the meaning of life, etc. They appreciate these times because it is their only opportunity to meet each other.
I often act as advocate for people. For example, when the Housing Association upgraded a particular site, it was unable to complete one section due to lack of funding and the families involved were angry and felt very let down. I wrote letters to the Manager on their behalf and after much persuasion, the missing fences were restored and the ground leveled out. When I noticed how deeply depressed a particular Dad was due to financial circumstances and the recent sudden death of his wife, I referred him to an Agency that provided him with a weekly food parcel from a Food Bank. After the third or so delivery, I became aware of how his countenance had brightened; the wholesome food had made a difference.
I feel that my Ministry is about making a difference, so that people become freer in themselves and begin again to live a more valuable life.
Africa Unit Justice Network
Africa Unit: Justice Network
By Lynette Rodrigues, PBVM
The Presentation sisters have become a new Unit within the Union called Africa Unit. The Unit consists of two countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia. With this new structure, a need surfaced to examine the possibilities of addressing the mission of IPA. To address this need Sisters and friends of Nano from Zambia and Zimbabwe gathered to strengthen the Network of IPA in the African Unit. Sisters and friends who are interested in this new Justice Network are Lynette Rodrigues, Patricia Musiwa, Edina Kamana Maliti, Bernadette Sikuka Nzila, Bridget Gochera, Judith Bingura, Judith Habasune, Peggy Mudonga, Nora Somers, Cynthia and Naume.
The Justice Network wanted to understand and clarify the work involved on the IPA level, to examine how the involvement in justice work can contribute to making a positive difference in the world, to look at the context of our times in both countries and to see possible ways to participate at the UN and to commit to the four focus areas of IPA. To prepare for the development of a plan, the group shared their recent experiences in justice work and then reflected on the IPA Identity Statement, Mission and Direction Statement and IPA Assembly 2012 Commitments.
After identifying the issues in the two countries, members of the network committed to working on specific issues. They committed themselves to participate in specific events and finally identified specific partners to strengthen IPA commitments. This creative and inclusive new structure is creating and fostering an excitement for the future of justice work in Africa.
Newfoundland, Canada: Butterflies, Prison and T'ai Chi Chih®
Butterflies, Prison and T’ai Chi Chih®
By Sheila Leonard, PBVM, St. John’s NL, Canada
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs;
Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And go do that.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman
In the fall of 2003, after 30 years as a teacher/administrator, and more “rewired” than “retired”, I became accredited as a T’ai Chi Chih Joy Thru Movement teacher and thus began a new exhilarating chapter in my life, taking me unexpected places, both within and without.
The fall of 2014 found me again dreaming of teaching T’ai Chi Chih classes to groups of inmates at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary here in St. John’s where I live. In a heartbeat Heather, my Prison Program contact person, (surprisingly a former Grade One student of mine!) was sold and had secured funding and arranged to tour the Penitentiary and meet with the group whom she saw as likely benefitting most. It had long been tugging at my heart, each time with a little more momentum and passion.
This past fall I knew it was time! Somehow the ever Mysterious unfolding of the Universe brought our energies together in the prison setting where we have just completed a 10-week session. Other inmates have since been asking about doing it … though class numbers are limited by the availability of time and space as well as by security issues. Feedback from all sides has been wonderfully positive, with another class ready to begin in January.
I continue to be totally awed by the response of the inmates for whom I had offered the introductory session in September 2014 and I had been just as awed each week with the group’s engagement and enthusiasm. They themselves clearly entered in wholeheartedly and enJOYed the sessions. The men’s own amazement and their delighting in themselves grew from week to week and they let it show. Their individual thanks and handshakes every time as they left a session were heartwarming and humbling.
My introductory session was with the full set of inmates on one particular Range. I had done a silent demo, had engaged them in some of the 20 moves and we had some conversation about what T’ai Chi Chih is, “how it works” and how they might benefit. I had presented T’ai Chi Chih to them initially as “A way to help yourselves feel better on all kinds of levels using your own natural inner resources … while opening to the possibility of finding a new freedom though in prison.” All were quite amazed and many nodded as one person, considered a leader in the group, commented after the silent demo, “I sure feel a lot more peaceful than when I came in here 5 minutes ago!” Another wondered, “Where did you get the nerve to come here?!”
By an unexpected turn of events I had worn my orange “butterfly” shirt to that initial class “by accident”, instead of my usual T’ai Chi Chih shirt. No “accident” at all! Fitted beautifully and the butterfly image actually triggered conversation around how T’ai Chi Chih can change us, from the inside out, and even begin to transform our lives. They were enthralled when I shared James Hecker’s story of becoming accredited and teaching T’ai Chi Chih, all while he himself was serving time, and its amazing impact on the return rates of prisoners. A “Chi” moment, a “God” moment! Amazing, however you look at it. Before I left, the sign-up sheet was full!
Staff had been observing our sessions on security cameras throughout the building and experiencing their own awe and amazement at what they saw as well at the particular individuals in the class. The students also mused aloud about some guards’ surprised reactions, sitting a little taller as they spoke!
Many staff have expressed a keen interest in doing T’ai Chi Chih themselves, some just from their “on camera” experience of it. From the start we have been exploring the possibility of a lunch hour session for staff only. That initiative is being very well received by administration at this stage, partly as a morale booster for staff after a particularly difficult spring experience. They themselves are among those keenest about the idea, and want to be part of it. Heather is very encouraging about our getting an OK to move it forward.
Awe and gratitude say it all for me … clearly a joy and a privilege. Justin Stone, the originator of T’ai Chi Chih, calls the Chi a Divine Intelligent Energy. Ours only to get out of the way – and allow the rest to happen. Indeed God is “doing something new” here, as always.
Open to where it may lead … one small step at a time …
Delhi, India: Children of Minorities
Children of Minorities
The Presentation Sisters work especially for the rights of children through education and contributing to developing children’s hidden talents. The Sisters in Jahangirpuri, Delhi reach out to the poor and marginalized, especially the children of the Muslim community, a minority in the slums of Bhalsawa Delhi. Bhalsawa slum is a reallocated slum of Jahangirpuri where the Presentation Sisters reside and work with the bare minimum basic amenities even though the government claims that much is being done for the welfare of the minorities. The Bhalsawa slum is largely Muslim populated and very poor. Parents send their children, especially girls, up to std 12th to school. Following their education, their life comes to a standstill and they are given in marriage at a very young age.
It is here that the Presentation Sisters have made a difference. During the past two years the children ages 3 years to 18 years are encouraged to come to the Sisters’ center where they are taught to read and write, and then are admitted in Government schools. The children are also admitted to the Sisters’ Vocational Training Center where they are enrolled in skill training programmes. Certificates are awarded from Presentation Convent Higher Secondary School Delhi.
Since motivation for studying in regular schools is low and poor, the staff strives and is committed to give a great deal of encouragement to the girl children, as well as young girls. These girls are brought to the Presentation Sisters’ Center where they are given classes in all subjects. Once these children are thoroughly coached, they are admitted into English medium schools or into Government-aided schools where they excel academically and in extracurricular activities. This education gives the children a future other than roaming around as street children.
Girls under the age of 16 years have successfully completed tailoring and cutting, beauty parlor and Mehandi (an Indian art and design beautifully decorated on their hands and feet). These courses consist of six to eight months of learning. These young Muslim girls, the minority class, cannot afford to go to school due to their culture, but receiving encouragement from the Deepshikha “Presentation Sisters “centre, they are able to do well and earn a good income especially during festival season and feel very self-confident.
At times, it is very difficult to convince the minority group to try new things, but once they learn a skill or learn to read and write, their confidence is built up. Their whole self undergoes a total transformation, a change in attitude about moving on and creating a future. This transformation to live as self-determined women creates a special place in the society and they can make their community a better place to live with respect.
By Libania Fernandes, PBVM
Dabwali, Pakistan: Classes in Child Development
Classes on Child Development
Deepak and Deepika are brother and sister, whose parents died of AIDS when Deepak was eight years old and Deepak was seven years old. They were ostracized by the neighbourhood, as they were the children of AIDS parents. AIDS is still considered a communicable disease. No one in the neighbourhood or their relatives would associate with them except their old grandparents who were jobless. When the Presentation Sisters in Dabwali came in the contact with these children, first they intervened and managed to give them a livelihood by helping them to open a petty shop in their own house. These two young children managed the shop and earned a livelihood. In the meantime, the Sisters tried to give awareness on AIDS to the community through education about the disease. Later they decided to send these two children to school. When the sisters started, the school admission process there was a question from the management whether to admit these children in the school and allow them to associate with the other school students. After much interaction and communication with the management, the school authorities agreed to admit these children in regular private school. Today Deepak is in class X and Deepak is in class IX, and they are doing very well managing the school studies as well as their petty shop at home. Their grandparents are very grateful to the Presentation Sisters for helping and educating their grandchildren, as well as giving them their right, respect and dignity to live among others as others live.
By Rose Younas, PBVM
India: Women Empowering Women
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela
In the tribal (Indigenous) belt of Maharashtra, we have two PBVM communities working with the Kathkari, Kunbi and the Worli tribes. The Presentations sisters live in simple homes among the tribals in Karanje and Rees, and work with a focus on empowering women. The mission extends to many surrounding villages. Rees reaches out to 25 villages and Karanje to 35 villages.
Life for the tribals is in the lap of creation. A tribal woman wakes up early; she cooks farms, rears animals, and births and nurtures children and the entire family. She is subordinate to her husband and elders in the joint family. She is lucky if her husband is kind to her, but if he is alcoholic, life is very difficult.
In these villages, self help groups (SHG) are formed. These groups meet every month and discuss issues related to their life – family, children and education, health and nutrition, sanitation programmes, care of the environment, animal husbandry, food ration cards, savings and internal loans. Because of sanitation programmes, women’s groups have cleaned up their village.
The groups enable internal loans that come as help for cradling ceremonies, health purposes, weddings, building houses, children’s education, income generation, small business and cultivation. The centers also help the women in emergency medical needs, tailoring, goat rearing, educating the girls, and house loans.
Women are accompanied to avail themselves of government schemes for old age pension, widow pension, and house schemes. They are also educated to go to agricultural departments to get different kinds of vegetable seeds to cultivate. We accompany the tribals, so that the non-tribals do not disrespectfully send them back without giving them what is their due. Various training programmes on leadership, tribal rights, different skills and small scale farming have been made available to them.
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.” – Thomas Merton
Empowerment of Women: Our women are trained to gain self-confidence. They become aware of their rights as women, which are spelled out in the UN document- CEDAW. Women are also encouraged to participate in Gram Sabha. (village local self-governing bodies)
Food Distribution: The sisters with the SHG have critically studied the national food distribution scheme. This education has empowered people to work for their rights and challenge corruption and unfair practices. Women have even applied to take up the food distribution ration shop. From knowing how much food they are supposed to get, they have ensured their right to food, according to the ration cards they hold.
Reviving the Use of Tribal Medicines: Tribal women are trained as our village health workers. Trainings on health and hygiene, nutrition, and cleanliness are given to them. They are taught to maintain an herbal garden in their house and to encourage other families in the village. They are taught to prepare herbal medicines. Above all, they are trained to see to the health condition of the people in their villages.
When we listen to the life story of the women, I feel that they have gained energy and courage to go through life’s struggle and still remain happy and be life giver to the family and the others around them.
A Story: Mrs. Sangeeta Santaram Mere is an Adivasi woman belonging to the Worli tribe. She has five children, four girls and one boy. Her husband was a drunkard and she used to struggle a lot. There was neither food for the children nor enough money to send them to school. Often the husband desired to send the girls out to do household work. This is the usual pattern in the village among the tribes to send girls for work. At this moment, she shared her pains with the sisters. Each day the sisters saw her struggle to live as a worthy mother for her children and a worthy wife to the husband. Therefore, the sisters encouraged her to join in the self-help group. They also offered her a small job to take care of an herbal garden. With this support and encouragement, she started to save money in SHG, managed to feed the children and was able to send them to school. Other woman helped her to come out of the situation without the help of the husband. She is giving all her daughters an education, build a house and help her husband stop drinking. Her future dream is to continue to educate children and to live a dignified life. Her dream is coming true as all her girls are excelling in their studies.
Sebastiana Luis pbvm, Karanje Mission, India.
Fargo, USA: Assisting New Americans
Sisters Rosaria Acton and Olivia Scully (Fargo) assist New Americans in acquiring skills and knowledge to attain United States citizenship. Isha Kromah from Liberia was the most recent student to complete the course of study the sisters designed. She passed her citizenship test with flying colors.
Pictured are Sr Rosaria, Isha, and Sr Olivia at a class session.
New Zealand: Sowing Seeds of Hope in a Corrections Facility
“How do you like your job?” “What do you do?” “Do you feel safe?” These are the most frequently posed questions I have fielded since I have been in the position of Catholic Chaplain at Otago Corrections Facility. The questions are easily answered. Nano Nagle, Foundress of the Presentation Sisters, is on record as saying that: “… and if everyone thought as little of labour as I do, they would have little merit. I often think my schools will never bring me to heaven, as I only take delight and pleasure in them.” (To Miss Fitzsimmons, 17 July 1769)
I easily identify with that enjoyment and joy. I love my ministry! It is so different and the context is so far removed from the everyday world: walking alongside men with such broken lives, who for whatever reason have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. These are the people with whom Jesus was found: the poor, the vulnerable, the outcasts – people who have had little hope in their lives: born into poverty, living in violence, members of dysfunctional families, leading unstable lives, with limited or no education. The concepts of love and trust are unknown. They have many acquaintances and no real friends.
As Chaplains, we sow seeds of hope and help the men to find the real person they are when they are not trapped in the socially constructed labels handed out so freely by our society: prisoner, criminal, burglar, murderer, rapist, and paedophile – each label dictating certain behaviours. Finding who they are when they are not imprisoned in these boxes is liberating and opens the path to their finding the dream God has for them.
My ministry would not be possible without the support of, sharing of gifts and creativity by, a large network of Friends of Nano and others. They run Dreams Workshops, Creative Expressions, Art Sessions, and they visit and write letters to those who have no support. Two to three times per year (Christmas and Easter and one other) the men perform a pageant or concert for the wider community. They may write their own music and words and use their own spontaneity for short skits. These performances teach them how to work in a team, cooperation, leadership, self-confidence, communication skills. The performances teach the community that all is not bad in prison: that the people there are human and have amazing talents. This ministry is unique, challenging and addictive!
Jesus would identify with these observations. He knows what it is to be imprisoned, tortured, misunderstood, labelled and rejected by a society which had no interest in his message or his reality. As I go about my ministry I draw strength and inspiration from Nano who walked by the prison every day as she crossed the South Gate Bridge, paid for the release of prisoners, and left money for them in her will.
Veronica Casey of the New Zealand Vice Province
Dublin, Ireland: Promoting and Providing an Innovative Approach to Learning
Warrenmount Community Education & Development Centre is one of a number of centres in Dublin with Presentation involvement. It opened in 1995 to provide for the educational needs of adults in the Dublin 8 area. It is nestled in the ‘Warrenmount complex’, which includes the Convent, Primary School and Secondary School.
The Centre is guided by the charism of the Presentation Congregation and is committed to providing an open, friendly, welcoming atmosphere where people are respected and valued. It runs classes in a wide range of subjects, many of them accredited by FETAC (Further Education and Training and Awards Council). Also available is Literacy and Numeracy one-to-one tuition, and a full range of computer courses. We were fortunate in being able to set up a mobile laptop classroom. This added dimension to the Centre allows computer use at each class and access to the world wide web empowers the ‘techno-phobic’.
Popular courses are Childcare, Interior Design and Storysacks – a course which involves parents making a sack and various items that form part of a story to be read to children while helping adults with their literacy skills. Basic Irish, Local History, Gardening and Horticulture, and Communications are amongst other courses on offer.
The staff and tutors in the Centre consciously promote an innovative approach to learning – aware that the educational system of the past did not work for the majority of our learners. We do this by underpinning our programmes with the Multiple Intelligences approach to teaching and learning. This method identifies eight intelligences including Visual, Rhythmic, Logical and Natural, among others. This allows learners to progress ‘at their own pace’ and also brings a sense of fun and enjoyment to the classes.
‘It is not how intelligent you are but how you are intelligent’
We provide Fair Trade and organic products in the Centre Café. When the need arises, i.e. at times of elections, a specific programme on Voter Education provides a supportive encouragement to exercise the ‘right to vote’.
The Centre sponsors a Community Employment (CE) Scheme where the CE trainees can get valuable work experience in the Playgroup, the Administration Office and the Coffee Shop. Whether you want to learn about your local area, pick up a foreign language, improve your literacy or explore the world of computers or horticulture there is a course for you at Warrenmount.
Pauline McGaley pbvm is the current Director of the Centre. For more information visit our website.
'England: Mostly I just listen' - Being a Hospital Chaplain
My name is Sr Colette Iles and my ministry is that of Catholic Chaplain in Tameside Hospital and Willow Wood Hospice in neighbouring Ashton Under Lyne, near Manchester. No two days are the same in this work but there is always someone who likes a chat and feels so much better for it. Mostly I just listen. A sense of humour is very helpful. It gets through to most people of all faiths and none.
At times there are what I call “God instances” when I could be called to pray with someone who is dying or by the bedside of someone who has died. I always pray that God will give me the right words. I don’t always remember what I have prayed but I feel the right words were given me. One such instance happened recently when I was asked by a patient who was a Methodist to pray with her; she was dying of cancer. I took her hand and prayed and felt a great sense of God’s spirit in the room. I could almost touch it, it felt so strong. The patient slept as a great peace came over her; I think her family who were present felt it too. I left the room in silence.
A very important part of my ministry is giving Holy Communion to patients – it means so much to them. I feel very privileged to do what I do. The benefits are not confined to the patients; relatives who know their loved one has been visited and prayed with are also comforted.
New Zealand: Sharing and Praying with Solo Mothers
Mary Tait (second from right at back) of the New Zealand Vice Province writes: “This group of solo Mums meet in the neighbouring parish of St Bernadette’s, Naenae each Monday afternoon in one of their homes. It is a time of sharing and praying together about what is going on in their lives and the world around them. The group was originally formed over twenty years ago when I was doing parish ministry there. As you can imagine, the group has changed over the years but still welcomes anyone who comes along. There is no need for me to be present, but it is a meeting I try not to miss going along to.”
Zambia: Working with Women to be Self-sustainable
This photograph was taken at Kabanga, in the western province, which is one of our rural missions in Zambia. Presentation Sister Inez Fernandes works with the people here.
From left, Bo Ma Pumulo, Presentations Bella Vedamuthu and Maureen Miley are seen at an open well drawing water for the celebration of the opening of the Nano Nagle Centre.
“Since water is a big need in the area we tried to get some funds from our Sisters to line open wells which promote clean and safe drinking water. Until this time people used shallow wells which were not safe; sometimes even animals drank from the same source. We have lined 15 wells so far and 10 more are in the process. The open wells are comparatively cheaper to line and have a longer life span.
Our ministry here is to work with women, children, HIV/AIDS orphans and widows to be self-sustainable. We promote the above through Development Education Program by:
- Empowering women and youth through leadership skills
- Self sustainable projects like chicken rearing, fish and pig farming
- Agricultural sector by sensitising people to grow drought-resistant crops, doing organic farming, conservation farming, making compost, food processing
- Human rights, e.g. re Child defilement
- Health care and nutrition.”
Pakistan: Promoting and Working for Human Rights
Pictured to the right is Presentation Sister Norris Nawab (far right) working with a group of women in Pakistan. Activities carried out by the Sisters and their staff include:
- Empowering women to stand up for their rights – 30 women have been trained and 66 groups with 1,023 members have been formed throughout the country.
- Helping workers to move towards unionisation in order to empower them to get their rights and assisting them to get legal aid.
- Being involved in peace activities and working in collaboration with church organisations and with like-minded Muslim organisations.
Norris has come to see that justice and peace workers’ focus is to work for a just society where every human being could equally enjoy rights and respect in society, regardless of his/her caste, creed, gender or ethnicity. Norris is engaged in promoting human rights, especially for religious minorities, women and labourers in Pakistan.