Q: As a Social Worker in Harare, Zimbabwe, what has been and is now your ministry?
For two years, I have been working with the Mashambanzou Care Trust (the Trust), established in Harare 20 years ago. With teams of social workers and nurses, the Trust works to alleviate poverty in the community and to contribute to a generation free from HIV.
People suffering from AIDS are brought to the Medical Centre (Centre) in the city for care and treatment, and in some cases, to die with dignity. The Centre has 28 beds, male and female sections, and a small section for children. In my first year, I was responsible for counselling very sick and dying people in the Centre, and reaching out to their families and the community of these patients.
This ministry took me to Mbare, one of the oldest, high-density suburbs, south of Harare where I had oversight for two homes for vulnerable older children, one for boys and one for girls. As a social worker, I needed to follow-up on school attendance and performance, and to verify identity documents for these students. During school holidays, I drove long-distances to accompany some teenagers to family members in other parts of the country, and insure their return at the end of the holidays. The Centre relies on donor funding for several vehicles and drivers to serve this need. Another responsibility in Mbare was to visit, check attendance and documents for 60 orphans and vulnerable children with AIDS in a crèche (day nursery) directed by the Trust. Continue reading Sr. Elizabeth, SNDdeN, Serving in HIV/AIDS Ministry→
Health care is a primary concern for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur on the Island of Marajó, Pará, Brazil. They initiated a Health Pastoral on this island to provide support, spiritual encouragement, information about the rights of infirm persons, and to offer an alternative mode for treating illnesses. They encourage good health and healing by natural means, with fewer chemicals in the body, when possible and feasible.
The project began with women leaders giving their time in service to alleviate the suffering of people living in poverty who are not able to get to doctors and do not have the money to buy medicine. The Sisters, working with women leaders in the town of Breves, participate in a pastoral approach to health care. They search, through home remedies, to alleviate and cure illness. Sr. Maria Vagner Souza Silva, SNDdeN began the Health Pastoral in the town. Now, Sr. Maria Socorro Oliveira da Silva, SNDdeN visits the sick in the community and meets monthly with the women to discuss what would be the best way to make the home medicines. Her previous two years of experience in health and pastoral care has been beneficial for the people. The Sisters in the local community give support as well to these endeavors.
Experience of Growth
The Health Pastoral offers an alternative for treating illness. In September 2015, the Sisters invited a woman from the mainland who has a long experience in furthering education with home remedies for healing. For three days, the people participated in workshops on remedies for colds, oil for massage and special medicine for anemia. This experience enabled the women leaders, and infirm persons in the neighborhood to have a greater understanding of alternative medicines. The workshops were a great success. The people believe strongly in healing from medicines made with plants and natural herbs. In fact, they usually search out these alternative methods. Now, about 30 families benefit from the consultations and the use of alternative medicine.
The neighborhood has about 4,000 people and is growing every day. The group of seven women, including Sr. Maria, find this outreach demanding. They make home remedies of natural materials: leaves, flowers, barks, oils and water. These remedies sometimes work more slowly than chemicals, and require many visits, but they are generally more effective over the long run, and certainly are less expensive. Receiving invitations from the sick, the volunteer helpers are generous and patient, as they visit monthly about 40 persons in their homes. Since the sick are so weak and frail, even conversations become limited. In all visits, prayer is essential to the healing process. The community of Our Lady of Fatima is the most active in the Parish. The opportunity to serve in this Health Pastoral has called for growth in a spirit of compassion and solidarity in the community. The leaders and volunteers rely on two important ingredients for this service: the love of the sick and faith in the loving action of the good God.
Sister Gwynette Proctor is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who serves as Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Her ministry focuses on evangelization, leadership development and cultural competence training and education. She offers in-service workshops in teaching tolerance for teachers and administrators in schools and parishes. Sr. Gwynette works with Archdiocesan agencies to create more diversity in these communities in the greater Baltimore area.
In 1984, Sr. Gwynette saw a pressing need in the city of Baltimore. She envisioned and founded a program to reach out to young Black lives, in collaboration with the Catholic Archdiocese in Baltimore. Harambee Catholic Youth Organization is a network of 16 Black parishes which work together and share resources for spiritual, cultural and leadership development of youth. Sr. Gwynette describes the need, purpose and goals of this program.
Harambee . . . “Let’s all work together.”
By Sister Gwynette Proctor, SNDdeN
In Baltimore, Maryland USA, young people strive to create a path out of extreme poverty and hopelessness. The odds against success are enormous as thousands of young people either graduate from or drop out of dysfunctional public school systems each year. Lacking the necessary skills, knowledge and motivation to press for success, they wander aimlessly and/or find menial jobs that do not pay a living wage. At some point, an all-consuming despair and hopelessness takes root. They become adults who have no voice. Out of sight and forgotten, they are pushed to the edges of our communities and they continue to live and expect to die believing “no one cares.”
At a gathering of 100 representatives from the Black Catholic Parishes in 1984, the Harambee Catholic Youth Organization began its outreach. The group realized that the multiple challenges facing our young people could not be adequately addressed by one parish alone. The gathering decided that together, they could have a greater influence on and increased resources to support our young. Harambee, which in Swahili means “Let’s All Work Together,” is a network of 16 Black Catholic Parishes and offers programs that center on three aspects of outreach to and with Black Catholic youth: Spiritual Enrichment, Cultural Enrichment, and Leadership Development.
Spiritual enrichment and Christian formation are the foundations that inspire our children, youth and adults to trust in a good God that can and will carry them through difficult times. One hundred youth gather for prayer services and Days of Reflection. Another 70 young adults from ten different parishes participate in “Into the Woods with Christ,” the annual retreat on a camping trip to Swallow Falls State Park.
Harambee has also a choir, led by youth and composed of over 50 African American youth. It hosts a regional Youth Revival for 150 young people from neighboring states who lift their voices in prayer and song in praise of our good God acting in and through them.
Cultural enrichment keeps our youth connected to the achievements and legacy of the ancestors. Every culture has a language and a perspective that gives insight into the human condition. African and African American culture helps Black youth to “know who they are and whose they are.” Exploring African roots begins with an awareness of the divine and stories of a people who survived beyond slave ships, shackles and racism.
Each year the group engages in the “Harambee Freedom Ride.” This cultural emersion trip provides young participants with time away from their homes to be one with God, their peers and the historical, cultural and spiritual monuments and memories of African American leaders of our Church and throughout the country. At the conclusion of this experience, Bishop John Ricard leads a commissioning service at the Mother of Africa Chapel in Washington, D.C.
Leadership Development focuses on expanding and enhancing leadership skills among African American youth. This outreach in the program facilitates opportunities for youth to develop leadership, organizational, communication and peer ministry skills for service in the Church, school and community. Young people gain the spiritual and cultural strength to heal the scars of racism, combat the many negative societal challenges and strive to break the cycles of poverty that plague our communities of color in the city of Baltimore.
Harambee is one of several programs offered by the Office of Black Catholic Ministries which strives to “win the lost, build believers and equip disciples through the Catholic tradition.”
A few years ago, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur began a new mission in San Clemente, Pisco, south of Lima, Peru. In this region, the people continue to experience lasting effects from the earthquake of 2007. In February 2010, Sisters Miriam Montero Bereche and Mary Isabel Kilpatrick, SNDdeN visited this area in an effort to determine the best way to reach out in a new mission to the people. The needs were obvious. At first only those who could prove they were “damnificadas” received any grants for housing.
Sister Miriam (center) began to offer workshops to help displaced people dealing with stress. With such little assistance and a lack of housing, multiple difficulties resulted in physical and emotional health problems, including poor nutrition, family violence as well as delinquency among the youth.
Sr. Mary Isabel saw the need to provide some employment for women seeking a source of income. She searched for the possibility of developing small projects with the women. She called on a friend, Maria, a food engineer who had helped her previously in Lima. Maria had given a course on the preparation of fruit drinks and yogurt with the mothers of the children in the Fe y Alegria School in Lima. Again, Maria was willing to give lessons in
making yogurt, now in San Clemente. First, someone offered their house for the classes, the women contributed ingredients and shared the product at the end. While in this area, Sr. Mary Isabel and her volunteers discovered a small hall that had been built recently for people with special needs. The watchman, a blind man, offered the use of this hall, far from the centre of town but with better conditions and more space for the course. This location put the Sisters and volunteers in touch with some of the families with special needs in the area.
Project Becomes Sustainable
From this contact, they developed two small lunch programmes, one in this centre for disabled persons and another in the Santa Rosa barrio, in collaboration with the Dominican Sisters ministering also in San Clemente. Various groups of women enjoyed taking the courses but they had difficulty in organizing themselves to be able to continue.
Later, we were able to rebuild one of the rooms damaged by the earthquake next to our house in the Parish. This space is large enough to have the necessary equipment and reasonable conditions for groups to learn different skills. With the help of our engineer friend, Maria, a small group of women developed successfully the Yogurt Project. At present, by working two days a week, the six women are able to produce 60-80 litres of yogurt. This amount covers the cost of the ingredients and gives a small profit for each participant as they sell the yogurt. It is possible to increase the capacity but the women are not yet ready to take that step.
Although the project is small, it is significant as a source of income for the families involved; the product itself has health benefits for the recipients; the participants have developed friendships, learned to deal with customers and to cope with fluctuations in prices and availability of ingredients. They have their trials and tribulations but also a place to share them. They bring more life to the parish community. They hope eventually to provide catering services for groups that come for baptisms and funerals.
Development for Women
Besides the Natural Yogurt Project, Sister Mary Isabel is creating an Integrated Development Program for Women by providing workshops and hands-on training. Sewing Projects, such as painted tablecloths, which are sold, give training and income and cover as well the cost of the materials and supplies for the women workers. The Baking Project allows saleable goods yielding some income for the women workers after financing initial expenses. A growing program, Healing Touch, trains pastoral health group members to use “energy medicine” as a tool for overall wellness. An educational component is growing slowly yet positively as two women prepare for Level 5 certification. About 50 women have benefited directly from these projects while many more members of the parish community also received assistance.
Although family responsibilities continue to make demands on the time and energy of these women, those who choose to work together and learn new skills, do become more self-sufficient. They grow in confidence in their own abilities and a sense of God’s goodness in their lives.
Voice for the Homeless: Interview with Sister Linda Bessom, SNDdeN
Serving as Outreach/Senior Community Organizer since 1995, Sister Linda Bessom, SNDdeN works with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless (Coalition). Since its beginning in 1981, the Coalition acts from a strong belief in the inherent human dignity of each person, and considers housing as a basic human right, integral to the common good. Through direct service, homelessness prevention and advocacy, the Coalition attempts to ensure that everyone has a place to call home. In her ministry in Lynn, MA, Sr. Linda fulfills the organization’s mission to eradicate homelessness in the State by collaborating with people who address the root causes of homelessness. She listens to the voices of people most impacted, and engages them in a process to find long-term solutions for systemic change. She is a voice also for people experiencing homelessness and those at risk in their struggle for decent affordable housing, adequate income and accessible services. Sr. Linda sees her ministry as direct service, education andadvocacy.
In her outreach, she engages organizations, schools, faith communities through an educational process involving testimonies of people most affected. Her phone calls and meetings every day lead her to direct those in need to resources for shelter, food and rental assistance. Sometimes she advocates for them, especially when there is a wrongful denial for shelter. Occasionally, she solicits emergency funds from faith communities to house temporarily individuals or families denied shelter or rental assistance. Her direct service for Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children involves many agencies, groups and individuals. For this reason, she promotes project drives for the Furniture Bank in Lynn. She collects back to school supplies, holiday gifts/toys, winter coats and accessories, toiletries, gift cards for emergency aid, especially for children who are truly destitute.
The Furniture Bank provides cost-free furnishings to low-income families and individuals transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing in new apartments, when they do not have any furniture. Assistance with basic house items gives them a solid foundation as they rebuild their lives. Throughout the year, Sr. Linda conducts specific drives. This past year over 9,500 men, women and children (3,776 were women and children) received assistance from one of the Furniture Bank programs. 1,462 persons/families were able to access furniture and household goods for apartments. To families in need, the Coalition distributed 4,800 hygiene kits which included deodorant, soap, shampoo, conditioner, tooth brushes, tooth paste, combs, hairbrushes, razors, and shaving cream.
Recently, Sr. Linda asked for help from a community of over 60 Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who live in Ipswich, MA. Most of these Sisters are retired from active ministry, after having served many years, especially as educators. Now, they engage in a ministry of prayer, remembering all the intentions asked by those in the area as well as those who send prayer requests to the religious Congregation. Their ministry extends also to a variety of services for those living in poverty. Responding to Sr. Linda’s request, the Sisters in the Ipswich Community sent 35 bags and 32 cartons of clothing in early April to the Coalition for the Homeless. This clothing replenishes needed items in the Clothing Closet at the Furniture Bank in Lynn. This is one way that the Sisters are able to collaborate with Sr. Linda for those in need of clothing.
Education Leads to Advocacy
Sr. Linda knows firsthand how difficult it is for families to survive with such meager benefits to meet basic human needs. She represents these critical voices of people experiencing poverty and most affected by homelessness. She meets with faith communities, shelter and human service providers and concerned advocates who bring these voices to state legislators, able to influence public policies for long-term solutions. Often the Sisters become advocates in post-card campaigns to endorse legislation for emergency aid for elderly, disabled and children living in poverty. Sr. Linda is an organizer with other staff in this campaign for public policy. Many Sisters become endorsers of advocacy campaigns for helping the homeless. Now, after so many years, there is legislation to strengthen a state funded program reaching more than 21,000 extremely destitute individuals.
A proven pathway out of homelessness is assurance of an education through high school for children in low-income families. A good night’s sleep has a major effect on a child’s capability to learn; lack of sleep has negative consequences for learning. A Bed for Every Child Initiativearose from a critical need for beds. Coalition staff, collaborating with public schools three years ago, noticed hundreds of exhausted students too tired to focus on learning in the schools. They were sleeping at night on floors, couches or with siblings or parents. With a goal to distribute 1500 new beds annually, Sr. Linda helps to raise funds and collects new bedding as well. The Coalition provides these beds ($250 a bed) and linens for children in need. This past year 940 children received new twin beds, mattresses, bed frames and linens. This ongoing project is demanding to meet the goal.
In these projects for the homeless, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, their Associates and co-workers respond with action to requests from Sr. Linda. Her outreach expands as she continues to organize drives and distribute necessary items to people made vulnerable through homelessness or limited income. Collaboration and partnerships with faith communities are keys to success in Sr. Linda’s ministry as she networks and stands with those made poor in our society.
Founder’s Day this year at St. Julie High School in Woolton, Liverpool, England evolved into a unique celebration, led by the school chaplain, Mr. Mike Anderson. Sr. Margaret Walsh, SNDdeN, Chairperson of the Board of Governors, welcomed the students, administrators and faculty to an important assembly in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool. Kate McCourt, a Deputy Head Teacher, introduced the 1804 Society, a mission and leadership organization named for the founding date of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Words, song and dance focused on continuing the educational legacy of St. Julie Billiart on this 200th anniversaryof her death (April 8, 2016), and beyond.
Passing the Baton
The assembly seized the image of “passing the baton” in a relay race to pass on Julie’s spirit to one another and to others in our time. This symbol of running the race, as St. Paul reminds us, symbolized for the students a way of working as a team to reach a goal together in continuing the Mission of St. Julie. The entire school community made a commitment to proclaim God’s goodness to this generation and the next.
In a symbolic ceremony of “picking up and passing the baton,” the whole student body, over 1000 students, and their administrators, faculty and staff made public promises in a moving ceremony at the school. Two students invited all to stand and to respond in promises to carry on the work of St. Julie. Libby announced the ceremony in reminding the assembly of the significance of this year.
Then, Savannah, the head student, led the ceremony of promises:
Will you open your heart as wide as the world?
Response: I will!
Will you be an angel of peace?
Response: I will!
Will you stand tall as sunflowers as an example to others?
Response: I will!
Will you be a courageous soul and stand up against wrongdoing?
Response: I will!
Will you serve the good God well with much liberty of spirit?
Response: I will!
Will you follow the example of the Sisters of Notre Dame?
Response: I will!
Will you pick up the baton and continue the legacy of St. Julie?
Response: I will!
The Deputy Principal, Mr. Tony Costello reminded the students that these are big promises. He then asked the students to pray together for the grace of keeping these promises and to ask, as St. Julie did, for Mary’s intercession. The commitment ceremony concluded as the entire assembly prayed together a Hail Mary, followed by St. Julie, pray for us, protect us and bless us! The Head Teacher, Mr. Tim Alderman congratulated all involved in this inspiring programme and moving celebration.
Additional Photographs and video footage are available online from St. Julie’s High School in Woolton, Liverpool, England.
“Our common aim… to express in our time as Julie did in hers, that God is good.” (Constitutions 9)
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) make known God’s goodness as we respond to specific needs “in our time.”
This year, 2016, marks a milestone in the life and Mission of the Sisters in the ZimSA Unit (Zimbabwe and South Africa). St. Peter Claver Primary School in Maokeng, Kroonstad, South Africa is celebrating one hundred years of quality education begun and continuing by our religious congregation.
Currently the Primary (Elementary) School has 504 pupils, from Grade R (K), and Grades 1 – 7, and 27 teachers. A long-awaited dream, the High School (Post Primary, or Secondary), opened in 2010 on the site of the former convent in the Kroonstad suburb called Jordania, has 284 pupils with 17 teachers in ten classes in Grades 8-12. Both schools have a small team of administrators and support staff. In the Primary School. Sr. Gertrude Izuchukwu teaches Religious Education and does pastoral care and Sr. Chantal Kissimbila is responsible for finances. In the Secondary (High) School, Sr. Marie McLaughlin is the chaplain and Sr. Kay Bridge tutors students. Sr. Brigid Rose Tiernan represents the SNDdeN owners on the Board of Governors. Continue reading In Our Time→
St. Julie Billiart died on April 8, 1816 in Namur, Belgium. As she was dying, she sang Mary’s Magnificat in French. “My soul magnifies the Lord… All generations will call me blessed.”Like Mary, for whom she named her Congregation, Julie made a lasting impact on our world, especially on five continents where the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur live and serve in ministry. Her life, spirituality and values have inspired and influenced generations of children and adults for two centuries.
At a March 2015 gathering of Directors of Schools in Belgium and France, Sr. Suzanne DeMeersman, Province Moderator, stimulated ideas and touched hearts for celebrating this anniversary of St. Julie Billiart’s death. In June 2015, Sr. Marie-Thérèse Béget gathered a committee of school directors, alumnae/alumni, the General Archivist and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from the two Belgian Provinces. Beginning with an inquiry sent to schools for proposed activities, the planning evolved for ways to celebrate the 200th anniversary as a Notre Dame Family. School administrators, teachers and staff agreed on the importance of networking for this bicentenary and working as colleagues in a united effort.
The festivities will begin on April 8, 2016 and conclude at the time of Christmas vacation. All schools are sending information and plans to Sr. Marie-Thérèse by September 2016.
Some ideas for all the schools are already in process:
A flash drive containing information about the life of St. Julie and her founding of the Congregation will be distributed to all schools.
A newspaper, called The Julie Relay, will include news and information about bicentenary activities/events in the schools.
Plaques will be posted on April 11, 2016 at the entrance of all schools in Belgium and France. These plaques will say:“You are here in a school which lives the values of St. Julie Billiart and where each person finds his /her place and works with joy.” This effort empahsizes the strength of an educational system in which all experience joy and a sense of belonging.
On the 8th day of each month, good words of St. Julie will be given to students and teachers for reflection and for learning life lessons taught by Julie.
Groups of students and teachers will visit the Heritage Centre in Namur so that they will know and remember for a long time the origins and life of our Congregation.
Certain schools in Belgium and France have planned varied celebrations:
In Berchem, a digital screen will appear in front of the school with images and quotations from St. Julie. All girls with the name Julie will receive a gift.
In Namur, on May 3, 2016, the students will release hundreds of white balloons with cards attached, rising in the sky in Namur. On each card will be written the sentence: “I feel deeply for Namur something which touches my heart.” Who knows if one of these balloons, landing on firm earth, will be a messenger of the spirit of St. Julie for one or other person picking it up on the side of the road or in the center of a garden.
In Saint-Hubert, the school is making a CD with songs on St. Julie which will include also those of Sr. Marie-Ange Bonmariage.
In Orvilliers-Sorel, the school is inviting all groups of pilgrims to come while they are visiting the birthplace of St. Julie in Cuvilly.
Will you join these schools in organizing some event or project for the Bicentenary Year? The schools in Belgium and France invite and encourage other schools on five continents to communicate any events and activities that you will be doing this year.
Has the power of this one person, Julie, influenced you and does she have an impact on your life today? How will you celebrate the life and gift of St. Julie Billiart? May this Jubilee Year strengthen the bonds of our Notre Dame Family and announce to the world that “God is Good.”
Reprinted with permission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, ” The Power of One: Impact of St. Julie Billiart in Bicentenary,”Good Works, March 2016, pp. 12-13.
In 2005, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) entered into a marvelous venture to bring life and light to people and communities in Africa. Through the African Photovoltaic Project (APP), the leadership with the membership in our religious Congregation has given a serious commitment to action for equal access to information and communication for all our Sisters throughout the world. In researching this
possibility, it became evident to the congregational finance staff, charged with pursuing this issue, that there were more serious implications to this commitment. Especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, lack of any infrastructure was achallenge for accessing power for electricity, water purification and technology for communications. Research highlighted the ministries and communities in places deprived of bare necessities for life sustenance. Providing an infrastructure for stable and reliable electricity became a major goal.
We found an electrical engineer, Louis Casey who was drawn to the mission and capable of creating systems that would meet the needs. With some funding and leadership approval, Louis tested the system of solar panels with storage batteries in a prototype of a system, built at Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center in Ipswich, MA and it worked successfully! This prototype resulted in the emergence of the APP as it exists today.
Current & New
Today the APP, also called the Power of the Sun Project, provides access to electricity, water purification systems and technology for communications in four sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in five sites in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the Sisters have two full systems now, the first at Fugar (2006) at the Postulate house where new members enter the Congregation and the second system at Awkunanaw where there are two flourishing Notre Dame schools. Also, we have installed solar panels for power and lighting at the community houses in Abuja, Enugu, and Ilorin. The Sisters are grateful to the Congregation for providing life and light to their ministries and
communities in these places. They realize that the generosity of those supporting the APP is protecting the environment from the old generator’ carbon emissions, providing power for refrigeration and cooling and the use of technology for research, study, development and communications with the wider world. We are now expanding the project in Nigeria to add another site in Oro. The workmen are making progress in installing the solar panels with battery storage, in a project for new life for the Sisters serving in ministries in surrounding areas.
In the Congo, the APP is already bringing power in full systems to schools, clinics, hospitals and communities at the first site in Ngidinga (2008) and added sites in Lemfu, Kitenda, Pelende (2010). Since our Congregation is supporting sustainable human development with the Photovoltaic System working well in the school, hospital and clinic
in Ngidinga, the Belgian Technical Corporation, a public service provider supporting developing countries as an agency of the Belgian Government, decided to fund the existing system at our first site. This Belgian firm has improved the hospital with new sanitation, a new kitchen and upgraded laboratories as part of an expansion of medical services
for the people. Our Congregation also is upgrading and doubling the Ngidinga system and replacing the water pumping system. We are using donations from our PUR Water Project to fund this water system.
The Power of the Sun, will soon be reaching new sites in the Congo. Currently, solar panels, battery packs for storage of energy and water purification systems are en route in shipping containers to the Congo for installations in upcoming months at three new sites in Kinsaku, Mpese and Nselo, as well as at Ngidinga. We expect the construction of these new systems to be completed by the end of 2016.
Success in Sustainability
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur know that, only with the support of so many people does the African Photovoltaic Project continue to be successful in providing life and light to multiple African communities. In these eleven years, Sr. Leonore Coan, Director of the Mission Support with the assistance of many SNDdeN provinces and many generous donors has received over $4,000,000 for this project. The Congregation has spent over $3,000,000 while reserving the remaining million dollars for the third upgrade, currently in process.
An idea which evolved from a mandate at the 2002 General Chapter for equal access to information and communication through technology grew into a major miracle for sustainable life for the Sisters, their ministries, communities and the people in two developing countrieswhere the Sisters of Notre Dame live and serve. From the beginning, the Sisters have been involving the local communities in the installation and maintenance of the systems to insure the ongoing viability of the systems. Louis Casey who designed the system continues to consult the Sisters on their preferences for installation of the systems.
Gratitude for Support
Many readers of Good Works have shown tangible interest and support in sending donations to help fund this project. This article attempts to give a progress report on the current status of the project, to show how the support and contributions of so many donors have enabled the growth and development and to thank all contributors for success of the APP in bringing light and life to the people in two African countries. We, SNDdeN, offer gratitude in prayer for all who have made this project a success for many people.
Reprinted with permission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Life & Light in New Sites,” by Sister Lorraine Connell SNDdeN, Good Works, March 2016, pp. 4-7.
Parents, etc. is a drop-in centre, free of charge, for parents and other concerned family members seeking advice about children and young people. Currently, three Sisters staff the Centre: Sisters Kate Mulligan and Mary Ross, SNDdeN, psychologists, retired from active practice and Sister Theresa McAllister, SNDdeN, former administrator and teacher, returned from serving twenty-two years in Nigeria. Mrs. Margaret Bland, Mrs. Moira Berrie, and Mrs. Pat Hay, retired psychologist, join the Sisters in this family counseling service for parents. Over ten years ago, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) leased this small shop in Glasgow by using a fund designated to develop new ministries for our Sisters in Scotland, with money provided from the sale of stained-glass windows from Dowanhill College. In this two-room Centre, parents and other relatives bring a wide variety of family concerns. Individuals find tea and coffee in a welcoming space and privacy in a room provided for dialogue and counseling.
One mother whose husband deserted her when her children were very young, is now struggling with her teenagers. Her son, a school drop-out, has become very defiant, and possibly on drugs. She expresses relief “to be able to talk without being judged.”Another mother describes her experience when a friend told her to call the Centre. She recounts: “I was very cynical and didn’t think I needed help. Parents etc. is one of the best doors that I have opened…Sister Theresa made me a cup of tea and then I met with Sister Mary in another room. I said: ‘My husband left me but I’m fine’ and then I burst into tears. My self-esteem and confidence were very low. A listening ear helped me get out my anger, frustrations and disappointment.” With two sons and an ex-husband, this mother has always faced new problems. Parents etc.enabled her to realise what a good parent she is and has been. Not only the warm welcome, a cup of hot tea, tissues on the table and a willing ‘pair of ears’ but also a little understanding are remedies for reaching the minds and hearts of those in need.
Parents and grand-parents spread the word about this Centre, which provides a hands-on approach to what parents can do that is very helpful. Another mother said: “I just walked in off the street and I was welcomed warmly. My stressful problem was something outside of myself, without any control. In trying to resolve my child’s problem at school, I was knocking my head against a brick wall until I met with Sr. Kate.”
Grandmothers come to tell about daughters with drug and alcohol addictions. They seek advice and reassurance as they give full-time care to their grand-children. They experience significant changes in their daily lives and search for advice and counsel.
The Sisters and lay staff know that it is sometimes necessary to access other agencies. Volunteer staff at the Centre supplies necessary information and prepares parents to work with other professionals. These agencies often have long waiting lists. So the speedy support offered by our Centre is a temporary solution.
Each year, a variety of fundraising activities helps to cover essential costs including the property lease, electricity, water, phones and necessary materials. Local people and many Sisters support this ministry in different ways. Some parents help with a Christmas Fair, and are happy to participate in this effort to fund this drop-in centre. Parents etc. offers a friendly, nonthreatening atmosphere and gives assurance of privacy and confidentiality. In providing a listening ear and a non-judgmental approach for people in this city community, the Sisters in Glasgow are strengthening family bonds by this ministry for those facing “critical issues of our time…and other local issues.” (2014 General Chapter Calls)
Reprinted with permission from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, “Sisters Respond to Local Needs in Glasgow” by Sister Mary Ross, SNDdeN, Good Works, November 2015, pp. 8-9.