What's Happening


Women work in a garden and starter plants begin to grow in tiny pots

March 28, 2024, New York, New York – Dominican Sisters around the world continue to dedicate their lives to empowering women and work to eradicate poverty, especially in the areas of human trafficking, asylum, and the dangers that women and children face in combat areas.
Dominican Sisters from Brazil, Cameroon, and Ireland spoke of their work during a “Dominican Webinar: Our Commitment to Empowerment of Women and the Eradication of Poverty.” Hosted by Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative at the United Nations, the webinar was held March 19, 2024, during the second week of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 68, March 11-22, 2024. “We hope you will learn more about the Dominican commitment,” Sister Durstyne said in her introduction. 
“Human trafficking is the result of the misery of the economic system that commodifies people and doesn’t respect human rights,” said Sister Sandra Camilo Ede-Brasileira of the Cry for Life Network (Um Grito Pela Vita) in Brazil. The inter-congregational network works to combat and prevent human trafficking, which includes sexual exploitation of women and child labor. “Our network is a space for prophetic action and solidarity, linked to the religious conference of Brazil,” Sister Sandra said.
Survivors of human trafficking receive support from psychologists and by participating in handicraft and baking projects, Sister Sandra said. “We can fight for wounded people with a praxis that can free them,” she said. “Our network gives us the creativity to start from different points of view,” developing models that can address the issues of society.
Sister Sandra said the network also holds awareness campaigns. “A person who is aware of this reality can really open their eyes to the situation,” she said. 
Sister Marie Cleide Pires de Andrade, OP, also from Brazil, works with other Sisters to combat domestic violence and to accompany its victims. “This is the experience of many women in this social context marked by inequality,” she said. A member of the Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sister Cleide said the emphasis is on “encouraging self-knowledge and self-esteem” among the women through activities that enhance their daily lives.
Sister Cleide used the community garden where the women work as a metaphor for the Sisters’ ministry with the women. “The seeds have been sown, such as spaces for welcome, friendship, listening, and raising awareness,” she said. “We want to continue dreaming and sowing seeds of joy and hope.… We are bearers of light.”
Sister Linda Nkechi Korie, OP, a Dominican Sister of Blessed Imelda, helps women combat poverty through services such as childcare. The Sisters of Blessed Imelda have worked for women’s empowerment for the past 40 years and now have six communities in three regions, building schools wherever they are, she said. 
She focused on efforts to educate girls and women, noting that 129 million school-age girls are not attending classes. “Early marriage, poverty, low family income, large distance to schools, lack of school infrastructure – all these factors contribute to increasing the social gap in the region” because of lack of education, she said. 
The Dominican Sisters of Blessed Imelda strive to provide schooling for more girls by offering scholarships. “We have sent 600 to schools, but that’s not enough,” Sister Linda said. She added that the Sisters are also building more schools to make up for many that have been destroyed.
In addition, Sister Linda said that the Sisters train women through income-generating skills, such as producing soap, and have employed many women in their schools.
Also in Cameroon, Sister Joseph Ngo Ndezeba serves at the St. Dominic Multipurpose Center in Balikumbat, in a conflict zone. “The schools have been shut down for a very long time; therefore, the children have been deprived of education and feel abandoned,” she said. “Girls are prey to unwanted pregnancies and unwanted marriages.”
Sister Joseph said the St. Dominic Multi-purpose Center trains girls to care for themselves and their children through education and training in crafts, home management, and masonry to build a decent home for themselves. The center is also opening the first technical school in the region.
Sister Marie Williams, the Coordinator of the Dominican Justice and Peace Office of the Dominican Sisters of Cabra, Ireland, spoke of the Young Mothers’ Network. Sponsored by her office, the network serves young immigrant mothers who came to Ireland seeking asylum and are now living in Ireland’s Direct Provision System. This system of accommodation centers provides asylum seekers with room and board, food, and healthcare until they are allowed to live independently. 
Sister Marie spoke of the hardships of this system. “The average length of stay is three years, but some have stayed for nine years,” she said. “People don’t have a say in where they live. A person or family could be moved without warning.” In some cases, she said, people are moved into tents.
One particular aspect of the poverty faced by families in the Direct Provision System is shame. “The women speak of the humility of being known by a number and only being spoken of by their needs,” she said. “They want to be recognized and valued for themselves.”
Sister Marie said that the Young Mothers’ Network offers women and their children a sense of dignity and recognition. Mothers in Direct Provision are invited to monthly peer meetings, where they can listen to talks on topics such as their essential rights. 
“When the women in the group give us feedback, they speak to us about the sense of being accompanied and the friendship and support they have found in the group,” Sister Marie said. “They no longer feel alone. This humanizing experience with others helps them the most – simply being there with others.” 
The webinar concluded with concerns from young Dominican students. Maddie and Emily – a sophomore and a senior at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin – spoke of the small things that young people can do to make a difference in the world. Tatswana and Michelle spoke of aspects of life in their nation, Zimbabwe, that keep women from achieving their potential: the lack of access to finances, early marriage, and teen pregnancies. Erin, Eva, and Katilyn shared a statement by Dominican girls on the importance of education. 
The webinar was presented by the Dominican Leadership Conference (DLC) in the United States and the Dominican Sisters International Confederation.

Exterior of Casa Papa Francisco

March 7, 2024, El Paso, Texas – During a February 9-27, 2024, volunteer session in El Paso, Texas, Sister Janice Brown, OP, ministered to immigrants crossing the U.S.-Texas border and heard personal stories about why they needed to leave their homeland and about their journeys to the United States.

Sister Janice served at Casa Papa Francisco, one of three Annunciation Houses in El Paso, Texas. Annunciation House serves as a place of hospitality for immigrants who are released from detention centers and are on their way to family members or friends in the United States who sponsored them. 

White woman with short blonde hair, her right eye closed, wearing a white turtleneck and a gray patterned jacket smiles at the camera Sister Janice was one of 11 volunteers who arrived together at Annunciation House and received orientation from Ruben Garcia, founder of Annunciation House. Because she was staying with the local Sisters of Loretto, she was assigned to serve at the closest house, Casa Papa Francisco. 

Nearly every person who came to the site "had the documents that are required to enter the country legally,” Sister Janice said. “They had gone through Border Patrol. They had gotten a court date.” After spending time in detention centers, the immigrants come to Annunciation House for rest, a meal, perhaps a change of clothes, and help in getting transportation to their sponsors’ home in the United States, she said. During her volunteer time at Casa Papa Francisco, immigrants traveled to join their sponsors in New Jersey, California, Colorado, Florida, and other places in the United States, she recalled. 

The hope is that Annunciation House guests stay for a short time before reconnecting with their sponsors. “Sometimes, the people don’t even stay a full day,” Sister Janice said. “If they can get transportation arranged, they can leave the same day. They might get a good meal, wash their clothes, and be on their way.”

Volunteers help to keep Annunciation House operating by completing numerous day-to-day chores. “I stepped into the working zone of the hospitality house 100 percent,” said Sister Janice. “We served wherever we were needed.” This included unlocking the doors in the morning and locking them in the evening, registering the guests, preparing meals, helping with the laundry, overseeing guests who worked in various areas, and cleaning the kitchen and other areas. 

But while these duties are essential, Sister Janice emphasized a greater dimension to her volunteer work at Annunciation House: being present to the guests and listening to their stories. “I don’t speak much Spanish,” she said, adding “Google Translate was my friend.” However, she understood and listened to many of the immigrants’ stories. 

One woman – whose husband was already in the United States – came with her children. They were kidnapped by a gang and held for 20 days while they called her contacts demanding money. Another woman had to pay $7,000 to a coyote – a person who charges immigrants to smuggle them across the border - to transport herself and her son to the United States. 

Another woman, on her way from Mexico to the United States, was drugged, raped, and abused. “She found herself in the hospital, and she didn’t remember any of it,” Sister Janice said. Her leg was so severely cut that she lost circulation and had to have her leg amputated to survive. “Casa Papa Francisco took her in,” she said. “She got a prosthesis and is trying to learn to walk on it.”

Immigrants and volunteers attend Mass in the chapel at Casa Papa Francisco. They sit in folding chairs in front of a priest at the altar with a large hanging cross on the wall behind him

Immigrants and volunteers attend Mass in the chapel at Casa Papa Francisco.


Sister Janice said several groups come together to help the immigrants. Along with the volunteers at the Annunciation House, other organizations serve in various ways. Las Americanas Border Servant Corps in New Mexico helps immigrants when they’re dropped off at the airport. Sisters of Loretto help with transportation, laundry, and gathering donations. “It’s quite a network of volunteers,” she noted.

“The resiliency of the people is amazing to me, that they go through all of this and are so vulnerable,” Sister Janice said. “They’ve gone through a lot of tough times but remain grateful and open.” 

Sister Janice advised people who volunteer at Annunciation House or similar houses of hospitality, even in the midst of a great deal of physical work, to be present to the guests. “There’s lots of work to do, but the presence and being welcoming are extremely important,” she said.

Sister Janice was at Casa Papa Francisco during the time that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Annunciation House, seeking to close it down. She pointed to the tremendous support that Annunciation House has, from Oscar Leeser, Mayor of El Paso; several state representatives; and Bishop of El Paso Mark J. Seitz, DD. 

Annunciation House “has a lot of support from the community, and it would be tragic to stop the good work,” Sister Janice said. Supporters stand behind the work of Annunciation House as part of the “Gospel mandate” to serve people in need. “We are called to welcome the stranger,” she said. “I think we are meant to be in a relationship with people who are vulnerable and in need.”  

Watch the press conference by supporters of Annunciation House from February 23, 2024.

white folding chairs around long tables covered with blue tablecloths in a tiled room with a cafeteria line at one end.

The dining room at Casa Papa Francisco is the scene of meals that restore immigrants newly arrived from the detention center.




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