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February 17, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters issued the following statement in defense of Catholic Charities USA and its humanitarian, Gospel-based ministry with immigrants at the Southern border.
We are deeply troubled by the vitriolic attacks on Catholic Charities USA and its Rio Grande Valley agency in Brownsville, Texas, renowned for their outstanding humanitarian work in fidelity to the Gospel, supporting migrants and refugees as well as Americans in need. The attacks, coming through hateful phone calls and vicious commentary, have been spurred by false media reports that Catholic Charities is aiding illegal immigration and engaged in human smuggling and profit-making.
Nothing could be further from the truth – nor more hurtful.
Catholic Charities aids 15 million people each year suffering from poverty, homelessness, natural disasters, mental illness, as well as migrants and asylum seekers. Among those subjected to harsh attacks are our Adrian Dominican Sister Donna Markham, OP, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, and Missionaries of Jesus Sister Norma Pimentel, MJ, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and its Humanitarian Respite Center.
We are honored to stand in solidarity with our Sisters Donna and Norma and all the people with whom and to whom they minister with such compassionate care out of faithfulness to our Catholic faith and Judeo-Christian tradition. We pray for an end to the mean spiritedness that seems to have gripped so many in our nation and for a softening of hearts that will permit us all to enter into honest encounters, as sisters and brothers created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27), seeking understanding and respectful engagement with one another.
Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council are Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; and Patricia Harvat, OP, and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilors.
February 4, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – Modern-day slavery – including labor trafficking and sex trafficking – is a worldwide plague, bringing in billions of dollars in illegal profits every year to criminals and enslaving 5.4 victims for every 1,000 people.
Those were the staggering statistics mentioned during a panel discussion by members of the Lenawee County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition. The virtual presentation, “A Closer Look at Human Trafficking,” was held during Human Trafficking Prevention Month on January 26, 2022. Two Adrian Dominican Sisters were presenters.
Laura Schultz Pipis, co-facilitator of the Coalition and Associate Director of United Way of Monroe and Lenawee Counties, opened the program by offering resources to participants who might be triggered by the dark topic of human trafficking. She also facilitated the question and answer session that followed.
Amanda Davis Scott, Program Director of the Lenawee County Child Advocacy Center, said victims from throughout the world are trafficked in a variety of ways, either for sexual exploitation or to provide a number of services, from construction and domestic work to work in hotels.
“Anyone can be the victim of human trafficking,” Amanda said, but certain groups are more vulnerable, including people of color, children in foster care, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and low-income people. Parents striving to provide for their families could be tricked into sending off one of their children to another country for what they are told is an opportunity for a better life.
Amanda also described the various ways that traffickers exert control over their victims: threats to harm other victims or their families; confinement, often in a place where the victims don’t know the language; isolation from families and friends; and physical and sexual abuse.
Also on the panel were Adrian Dominican Sisters Patricia McDonald, OP, and Marilyn Winter, OP, both involved in the Coalition.
“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity,” said Sister Patricia, Professor of Counseling Education at Siena Heights University. “We are coming to a conscious awareness of what this is and what we can do. …This is an awakening in us as a people.”
Sister Patricia pointed to some red flags that could warn concerned citizens that a person they are encountering is a human trafficking victim: bruises in various stages of healing, an excessively submissive demeanor, and even an inappropriately quiet stance. She also explained a silent signal that victims might use to tell others that they are trafficked: putting their thumb into their hand and their hands down.
“If you see it, say it,” Sister Patricia said. “Turn it over to legal authorities. It’s up to us to do what we can, where we can, in all ways we can. Let’s join forces and help make our society better for all of humanity.”
Sister Marilyn Winter, OP, Co-Facilitator of the Coalition, noted the “perfect storm” that makes human trafficking possible: a person who has power, a person who is vulnerable, and an ignorant public.
“A lot of times, trafficking is so invisible and involved in places that we would never think is open to trafficking,” Sister Marilyn said. She gave the example of some orphanages, where children can be illegally adopted, and travel tourism in poor areas, where children are set up to sell small items to tourists – for the benefit of the trafficker. “Trafficking is moving its tentacles into many aspects of life,” she said. “The more people become aware of the evil of trafficking, the better off the world will be.”
The Adrian Dominican Sisters have long been involved in efforts to combat human trafficking and in December 2008 approved a corporate stance “to educate ourselves and others regarding the magnitude, causes, and consequences of this abuse.”