Friday, July 20, 2018
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Human Face

Catholic women religious in the trenches

This one is true: Catholic religious sisters in India donating their kidneys to poor patients—total strangers in need of new kidneys in order to live longer.

This is among the many stories that come out weekly in Global Sisters Report (GSR).

More recently, and still continuing, are special reports on the global migrant crisis, humanity’s wound in need of attention and solutions. The stories are not only heart-rending; they tell us that there is hope as long as there are persons who care enough to be there and do something.

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Of this crisis, Pope Francis had said: “How can we not see the face of the Lord in the face of the millions of exiles, refugees, and displaced persons who are fleeing in desperation from the horror of war, persecution and dictatorship?”

Catholic women religious are among those who respond to the crisis. They soldier on and work quietly in the trenches, so to speak, without fanfare, despite attacks from political powers-that-be and internal conflagrations in the hierarchical church to which they belong.

Global Sisters Report is “an independent, nonprofit source of news and information about Catholic sisters and the critical issues facing the people they serve.” GSR has a network of journalists all over the world who report about the sisters’ lives and works, while sisters also write pieces from their perspective.

GSR is a project of US-based National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co. and is funded by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

GSR’s raison d’être: “For as long as there have been Christians, women have been in the forefront when it comes to serving the body of Christ. In fact, according to the Gospels, it was a group of women—Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, Susanna, as well as unnamed others—who financially supported Jesus’ ministry and cared for his needs.

“In the generations that followed, many Christian women became exemplars of charity and faith. Fabiola built a hospital in Rome, cared for patients and later built a hospice for the poor. Helena, Constantine the Great’s mother, spent her wealth making donations to churches in order to help the poor. In the sixth century, Radegund, Queen of the Franks, provided shelter and food for the sick and often served as their nurse.

“Religious life began in the second to third centuries, and most of the modern apostolic congregations arose after the Reformation. The greatest number of them were founded in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“Today’s women religious are living the legacy of their foremothers. Impelled by the Gospel, these some 710,000 women care for the least among us, ready to meet daunting problems with humility and fervor. Choosing a life of prayer, community and service, the sisters share their ideas, visions and unique charisms in order to share Christ’s love with the world.”

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These remarkable women have built schools and healthcare systems around the world, served the last, the least and the lost, and are there always to meet the challenges of the times.

Here in the Philippines, during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship, they were in the forefront to assist the so-called “poor, deprived and oppressed” who bore the brunt of tyrannical rule. Oh, tell me about it. No stopping them.

Women religious are in the fight against human trafficking, which has affected an estimated 2.5 million people, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. They help refugees fleeing violence in their homelands and assist them build new lives in their adopted countries. They assist those stricken with HIV/AIDS and are key players in the battle against the disease.

Why the sisters, the nuns, the women religious? Why their stories?

From GSR: “Because their stories are the stories of the Holy Spirit at work. Because they have changed and continue to change our world. Because for millions of people around the globe, the sisters and their commitment to the Gospel have been the tangible arms of the church.” Ave!

GSR is free (http://www.globalsistersreport.org/). Read and be inspired. It has been an honor and privilege for me to contribute stories to GSR these past two years. Let me know about sisters’ stories that need to be told.

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TAGS: charity, Global Sisters Report, Religion, religious life
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