STUDY: International Sisters in United States

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Sr. Mary Johnson, SNDdeN

For three years, beginning in 2014, Trinity Washington University (Trinity) in Washington D.C and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University collaborated in a Study of International Sisters in the United States. Sr. Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Trinity, with her colleagues in this study, Dr. Mary L. Gautier, Sr. Patricia Wittberg, SC, Sr. Thu T. Do, LHC acknowledge with gratitude the support of GHR Foundation for this project.

By Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN

In this study, we define an international Sister as “a woman religious who was born outside the United States and is now living in the United States, in ministry, or study or residence.”

At a time of great trial for immigrants to this country, we conducted the first-ever national survey of Sisters who were born outside the United States. We used multiple methods to find as many Sisters as possible by contacting the leaders of every apostolic, monastic, and contemplative institute of women in the United States, along with the vicar of religious of every diocese. (Only 18 dioceses reported no international Sisters.) Through these methods and using various other contacts with Sisters and groups, we identified and surveyed in this country over 4,000 international Sisters from 83 countries and 6 continents. Several Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are included. The survey was translated into English, French, Spanish and Vietnamese. We had help with the other languages. In addition, we conducted 26 focus and individual interviews across the county.

Here are just a few demographic findings from the survey:

Continent of Origin of the Sisters (with largest sending continent first)

• Asia
• Europe (older international sisters are from western Europe, younger are from eastern Europe)
• North America (Canada and Mexico)
• Central and South America
• Africa
• Oceania

Reasons for Entering the US

39% were sent by their Congregations for ministry
28% arrived as children, teens, adults, before entering religious Congregations
13% were sent by their Congregations for study
10% were sent by Congregations as part of their formation programs
6% transferred from provinces outside US to US provinces in their Congregations
2% transferred to a Congregation in the US from another Congregation outside  the US
2% came to enter religious life in US

Demographics related to age and arrival

The average age of international Sisters is 58, which is 20 years younger than the average age of US born Sisters
On average, they entered religious life at age 23, and came to the US at age 30
Forty-one percent have been in the US for 15 years or less

Ethnic/Racial Background (self-identification)

35 % Asian/Pacific Islander
33 % European/Canadian/Australian
21 % Latin American/Mexican
11 % African/Afro-Caribbean

Current Ministries

The largest percentage of international Sisters serve in parish/diocesan/ethnic group ministry, healthcare, and education.

14 % are students in college or a school of theology.
13 % serve in congregational/vocation/formation ministry. Some of these Sisters are in Congregations that have just opened a new mission in the U.S. The mission of some of these is to evangelize.
9 % serve in social services.
5 % are contemplative nuns in monasteries all over the U.S.
1 % serve in campus ministry.

Needs identified by these Sisters:

♦  Language training to attain fluency in English.
♦  Mentoring so that Sisters are accompanied as they navigate complex situations of ministry, community, Church and society.
♦  Acculturation processes for the sending and receiving groups.
♦  New initiatives on the part of US based Congregations to reach out to international Sisters in order to increase their sense of belonging and to build solidarity.

Listed above are just a few findings. Many more findings, plus analysis and recommendations, will be provided in a forthcoming book to be published next year. In the meantime, there has been keen interest in this study, especially at a gathering of leaders of national Catholic organizations in Washington, D.C. in March, 2017 and a session sponsored by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in Rome in May, 2017.

Also, my colleagues and I were grateful when Sr. Mary Pellegrino, CSJ, mentioned the significance of the study to the leaders assembled in Orlando, Florida in August 2017, in her Presidential Address to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

It is the hope of our research team that the findings of this study will shed further light on the experiences and gifts of those who migrate to this country. We hope that it will be a useful tool for those who are interested in issues of immigration and particularily the gifts and challenges of those women religious who were born outside this country and who minister in the United States.


 

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Japanese Sisters Contribute to Peace

by Sister Masako Miyake, SNDdeN

“To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.” – Pope John Paul II

In Japan, the ministries of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) are now mostly in the Hiroshima Diocese. In 1981, during a visit to Hiroshima as a pilgrim, Pope John Paul II gave his impressive Appeal for Peace to the world. Collaborating with the Church in Japan, Sisters of Notre Dame are challenged to be peacemakers.

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Sr. Toshie Nakashima engages students in a reflection on St. Julie Billiart’s spirit of peace-making.

With our co-workers, we are educating young people to be peacemakers. Although most of our students and staff are not Catholics or Christians, in all Notre Dame schools, we do have religious education classes, pray together, study the Gospel and the spirit of our foundress, St. Julie Billiart. Peace study is an essential part of religious education in our schools. We teach and encourage students to be peacemakers. In 1950, with the prayer for peace, Japanese and American Sisters opened Notre Dame Seishin Junior and Senior HighSchool (NDSH) in Hiroshima. Today, this school has a six-year program of peace studies.

A-Symbol-of-PeaceSenbazuru ~ Symbol of Peace
Students have opportunities to hear experiences of the atom bomb from graduates; Sr. Agnes Hirota, SNDdeN is among these witnesses. All students visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park “to remember Hiroshima.” Before their visit, they prayerfully make paper cranes. After sustaining serious injuries from the atom bomb, a girl named Sadako, as a prayer for her recovery, made 1,000 paper cranes (Senbazuru) before she died at age 12. Since then, other young people fulfill her desire and continue this practice with paper cranes which

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Students bring peace cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

have become a symbol of peace. Every year, more than ten million Senbazuru are offered to the Peace Park. Students in our school join the Recycling Project of Senbazuru by creating mosaic arts with messages for peace and send them to Catholic Schools in Korea and the Philippines; to our Heritage Centre in Namur, Belgium as well as to a Junior High School in the Japan Disaster Zone.

Challenge from the Disaster Zone
On March 11, 2011, the Great Eastern Earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan with many deaths and heavy immediate and long-term economic and environmental damage. Official records list 15,882 deaths; 2,668 people are missing and 315,196 people are still taking refuge after two years. The tsunami caused destruction to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and released wide-spread radioactivity that has become a severe health hazard. Even now, the 100,000 people, evacuated from this area, live in fear and anxiety. People worry about the effects of radiation on their children.

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On the street cars and stations everywhere, Sr. Miriam Miyazaki proclaims her message on a peper-bag: “Good-bye, Nuclear Plant!”

After World War II, Japan chose The Peace Constitution and economic development instead of strong military power. The choice resulted from an earnest desire never to send Japanese children to the battle field nor allow the children ever to starve again. Eventually, the priority for this goal changed to profitability and efficiency, strengthened by the progression of Globalism. With these trends, national policies promote more nuclear power plants, even though scientists predict new disasters, due to other earthquakes or tsunamis.

All 50 functioning nuclear reactors in Japan, with some on the active fault, are at risk for more horrific accidents. Without a more secure environment, the people doubt survival for the next generation.

SNDdeN Collaborate with the Church
As Catholics, we are only 0.3% of the whole population. Yet, in 16 dioceses in Japan, we are united and challenged to respond to the call from the Disaster Zone. The Sendai Diocese (three disaster prefectures) organized the Support Center for victims and formed 9 bases. All dioceses send volunteers and raise money for the Support Center. Caritas Japan supports the Center financially. All Catholics, including bishops, priests, religious and lay people are serving together and sharing resources. At first, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Sisters sponsored a “Sisters’ Relay” to have Sisters from each Congregation join the volunteers for one week or more at the Support Center. During the second year, the women religious had a relay of prayer. Many Catholic schools collected donations and sent the students as volunteers. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan proclaimed: “Abolish Nuclear Plants Immediately.” Many dioceses encouraged parishes to study more about nuclear power.

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Sr. Johanna Saiko Nakamura accoumpnied 10 high school students from Hiroshima to the Catholic Support Center in the Disaster Zone for assistance with the clean-up from the earthquake and tsunami.

To help victims of natural and nuclear disasters and to change our own life styles are constant challenges. Sisters in Japan are responding to the call. Each community decided on concrete targets in daily life to save electricity and live more simply. We sent Sister Mitsuko Shoji to the Sendai Support Center as a runner of Sisters’ Relay for a month and other Sisters joined with her in prayer. Notre Dame schools also sent volunteers. Sister Johanna Saiko Nakamura joined with ten students last summer in efforts to remove the debris. These experiences help the students to think about their own lives now and in the future.

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Young people, as peace-makers of the satellite parish Higashi Hiroshima, and Sr. Masako Miyake, SNDdeN welcome the new Bishop of the Hiroshima Diocese, Bishop Manyo Maeda.

Sisters in Higashi Hiroshima belong to a satellite Parish Church. At a gathering to understand more about the plight of the victims, a graduate of our school described her work mostly for children. The local welfare commissioner, responsible for taking care of the families from the Disaster Zone, shared her experiences. All attending the meeting, Christians, Buddhists and other denominations prayed the Rosary together. At the opening of the Year of Faith, the Bishops pointed out the current social situation in Japan. They asked Japanese Catholics to “share ideas with each other, and search for measures and expressions for New Evangelization with people inside and outside of the Church, while listening to the voices of suffering people.”

 

From: Good Works, August 2013. Visit our Good Works Archive and download a copy.

In 2014, SNDdeN will celebrate the 90th anniversary of our Mission in Japan. We hope to listen more to the voices of our people and collaborate with the Church as peacemakers.

A Success Story in Medical Centre

By Sister Rose Ndianefo, SNDdeN

“You really saved my life!”

Bello, a mother of four children nearly died as a result of gastroenteritis. She was rushed to our hospital at 2:00 a.m. on that painful day with a case of stooling and vomiting. She had been sick for about four days. On her arrival, she looked very weak, dehydrated with sunken eyes, dry mouth and skin. She was barely able to talk, because of her general state of weakness. According to her husband, she had been using a lot of herbs, but to no good effect. When her husband saw that her condition worsened, and Bello was almost at the point of death, he decided to bring her to our hospital. He was panicking, as he said, “I am afraid that she may not make it, if I wait till daybreak, and I do not have any money to care for her.” When he was asked why he did not bring her to the hospital sooner, or why he waited so long, he repeated that he had no money.

Sr.-Rose-and-Bello-450px-webAt Notre Dame Medical Centre in Amoyo, Nigeria, we admitted Bello into the female ward; she underwent a medical assessment and her treatment began. The laboratory investigations revealed not only gastroenteritis, but also typhoid and malaria. Hospitalized for five days, with multiple medications and treatments, she got better eventually. When she was discharged to go home, her husband was not able to pay even a penny for the highly subsidized costs of the drugs and laboratory tests.

sign-board-Amoyo-300px-webThis grateful woman certainly appreciated all our care. Thanking the Sisters and members of staff, she said: “You really saved my life.” She told us that she knew about the care and special treatment at our Medical Centre; she realized too that we would give her the treatment, even though she and her husband did not have any money. Her husband confessed that when his neighbors told him to take his wife to another hospital in the town; he refused by telling them that no hospital would care for his wife if he did not have any funds. Only Notre Dame Medical Centre would help them.

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Sr. Rose Ndianefo, SNDdeN (left) assists the doctor in this serious surgical procedure.

Multiple Services for Limited Staff
The Centre is open 24 hours for emergency care; it offers multiple services, including many normal deliveries and some Caesarians, ante-natal care, nutritional counselling for mothers with new babies, treatments for hypertension, diabetes, gastro-intestinal problems and various diseases (hepatatis B, malaria, typhoid,etc.) and necessary immunizations/vaccinations. Sisters Rose Ndianefo and Mary Bernadette Eboh, SNDdeN serve as staff nurses and midwives who work with one doctor, a laboratory technician, two nurses aids and two health care workers. Three persons assist with maintenance and security. Sister Antonia Uwakwe, SNDdeN is a community health worker for the Medical Centre. All staff members aim to give quality care, in a cost-effective service to the people; we offer sessions on preventative health care and child welfare. Last year, even with 100 new patients and 284 returning patients, we began a program for orphans and vulnerable children. At times, even with limited resources, our medical staff extends to home care for the elderly and to two outreach clinics, including a mobile clinic.

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Sr. Rose Ndianefo, SNDdeN gives a hepititis B injection to a patient, a clinician prepares the documents and Sr. Antonia Uwakwe, SNDdeN prepares the next injections.

People have hope when they come to our Centre for medical care. The Notre Dame spirit is alive and active, with St. Julie’s option for those living in poverty and for the sick in an under-served community. The people in Amoyo recognize God’s goodness in this health care ministry of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. In September 2014, I was missioned to the Medical Centre, a special kind of place where our Sisters are called to work. This is an area where the people hardly eat two times in a day. They cannot afford medical care either and often, they rely only on herbal medicine for cures.

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Sr. Mary Bernadette Eboh, SNDdeN prepares a group of expectant mothers for childbirth.

In our Centre, we have a policy not to send anybody away just because she/he does not have money at hand. Of course, our policy results in outstanding debt, with challenges to search for funding through grants, sponsorships and fund-raising efforts.

We continue to network with other hospitals/clinics, churches and organizations. We do what we can to alleviate pain and suffering for underprivileged patients, living in poor situations, as they testify continuously. Bello’s story shows that we give the people some hope for getting well in Amoyo, and we will continue to bring the good news in our good works for those in need in Nigeria.

Please show your support for saving lives by funding medications, necessary treatments, and preventative care.

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Educational Vision Crosses Cultures

By Sisters Masako Miyake and Carol Shoup, SNDdeN

St. Julie envisioned the educational mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to extend worldwide. That vision has unfolded in various ways into the 21st century. One expression of Julie’s early vision is the networking of “Sister Schools” internationally.

Exchange Students
Notre Dame Seishin* Girls’ Junior and Senior High School (NDS) in the city of Kurashiki, in the Okayama Prefecture, Japan, and Notre Dame High School in San Jose (NDSJ), California, U.S.A. are “Sister Schools” and even across a wide and deep ocean, relationships keep building. (Seishin = Immaculate Heart)

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One student and Amy Huang, (back row-left) Director of the Exchange Program at Notre Dame, San Jose, welcome 12 Japanese students and their teacher, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto (far right) outside of the school.

Every year young women from both schools have the opportunity to share their unique academic programs, cultures, and learning environments as exchange students. This year, Ms. Amy Huang, Director (NDSJ), organized the many details of the Student Exchange Program. On March 18, Amy and host families welcomed 12 Japanese students, their teacher, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto, and their Principal, Sister Masako Miyake SNDdeN for two weeks of academic and social sharing.

The first week began with a welcome breakfast and campus tour, including a history of the City of San Jose given by Social Studies teacher Mr. Jim Floyd. Shadowing their host IMG_9680-web600pxstudents to classes during the school week, our visitors experienced spotlights in classes in Global Studies Honors, Advanced Spanish Culture and Conversation, and in Biology Honors Class, where they examined and identified hominid skull casts. Then, hosted by Notre Dame Alumnae, they visited and toured Stanford University and Intel Corporation, for glimpses of higher education and innovation in America.

Highlights of Two Weeks

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In the gym at NDSJ, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto and the students from Kurashiki, Japan, share the love of St. Julie Billiart and her mission.

Our new friends enjoyed highlights of the Woman’s Place Project, by the Ninth Grade class, who honor in original table settings, 163 women of history, as well as the Young Woman Advocacy Summit, presentations by the Seniors’ of their yearly service projects on issues of justice and peace. At the end of the first week, our exchange students delighted in a downtown culture walk, a visit and tour of City Hall and the office of International Affairs.

After a weekend with host families and friends, the Japanese students were happy to see their Principal, Sister Masako Miyake, who came for the last week of the program, and curious and eager to explore a sister ND school and capture as much as possible on her camera. The students shared with Sr. Masako their visit to San Jose’s historic Japan town and Yu-Ai Kai, a Japanese-American senior center.

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The students share with Sr. Masako their visit to San Jose’s historic Japan town and Yu-Ai-Kai, a Japanese American senior center.

The girls delighted the senior citizens with Japanese songs and stories and enjoyed lunch before returning to school. During the next two days, the group toured San Francisco, with so many sights, from the cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate.

Deepened Relationships
Reflection time and discussion were interspersed over the course of the two weeks, for increased understanding and deepening of relationships. The exchange program concluded in a Farewell Party, with certificates for completion awarded to our Japanese students. There were dances and expressions of appreciation, among laughter, smiles, and tears. ND Seishin school gifted to their Sister School some beautifully decorated wooden plates. In return, NDSJ presented our Notre Dame Seishin school with a clock, engraved with a customized quote, “Time does not take away from friendship…”
(Tennessee Williams).

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At the airport, NDSJ students, teachers and some parents say “good-bye” to Japanese students, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto and Sr. Masako Miyake, SNDdeN.

Thankful for their presence in our school community, teachers and students from NDSJ said farewell to these special young women, their teacher and principal from ND Seishin. Now, both schools begin to plan for ND San Jose students to visit ND Seishin, Kurashiki during the summer of 2018 in order to expand their vision of a Notre Dame Sister School and the culture and beauty of the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

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Sisters Provide Disaster Relief

By Sisters Juana Rivera Jara and Evelyn Fitzke, SNDdeN

El Niño rains hit the Pacific coast of Peru in March and April 2017. In the rural north, the Piura region, where two communities of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur live and minister, the devastation was particularly damaging. Floods devastated whole villages; Houses-flooded-neighborhoods-web300pxthey washed away houses, schools, and health centers; they destroyed roads, bridges and vast areas of crops. During the heavy rains and flooding, the Sisters in the Tambogrande Region rallied to help people suffering from the disasters to their homes and property. Everywhere, destruction and disease pervaded an area where many people are already vulnerable!

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Sr. Juana Rivera Jara, SNDdeN hangs an IV for an elderly dengue fever patient. No fancy IV equipment or crisp bedsheets here! The patients walked many miles to reach the Health Center in town, where dedicated staff offer the best they can .

Sr. Juana Rivera Jara, SNDdeN is a nurse, living in Tambogrande in a community of four sisters, and working in the town’s health center. She talks about the pain and suffering that she is witnessing daily from those who are ill, living in poverty and at great distances from medical resources. “The torrential rains have brought diseases, especially dengue hemorrhagic fever and chikungunya (deadly viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes), and also the threat of cholera. There have been many deaths,” she says sadly. “In my work as a nurse, I care for people with these illnesses. They are mostly those living in poverty in flooded rural areas.”

Sr. Juana comes from the village of Miraflores, high in the hills that border the town of Tambogrande. “I was born in the rural area, I grew up in the campo,” she tells us. “I appreciate and enjoy the countryside and nature and all its beauty. But there also have been moments in 1983, 1998, and now 2017 that frightened and saddened me. I feel now the suffering of the people from the disastrous flooding: whole villages cut off by damaged roads and bridges, mudslides, crops completely lost and domestic animals carried away into the rivers and mudslides.”

 

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Sr. Juana uses games and puzzles to access the development of children in the village in order to pick up developmental delays that can be treated.

Facing Challenges
Sr. Juana realizes the challenges. The people who come to the Tambogrande health center are very poor, and often come great distances, from the rural communities that surround the town. With rivers and creeks swollen, roads and bridges destroyed, to reach the health center presents major obstacles for travel. In several rural communities, the small health clinics are completely washed away, so people have to make the long trek into Tambogrande.

Sr. Juana understands the problematic situations, hurdles and frustrations experienced by the people in the travel through raging waters and thick mud:
♦ parents bringing their child with a high fever and convulsions;
♦ the family transporting their grand-dad whose speech is slurred;
♦ the man and woman carrying their brother who fell and now is unconscious.

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Even the local ambulance sometimes gets stuck in the strong currents of the swollen river!

Once the people arrive, they need to pay for basic supplies, such as needles, IV equipment, bandages and medicines. They do not have health insurance; they do not have any money. With the bean fields washed away by the floods, the livestock drowned in the rivers and mudslides, these desperate people search for medical help for loved ones in this humanitarian crisis, caused by the severe flooding. Tambogrande’s health center, made of brick, is still standing, but desperately under-equipped and under-staffed. The flood waters are reaching the walls of the health clinic, and are now a focus of mosquitoes. There are not enough beds or mosquito nets or other essential equipment. When the emergency room overflows with patients, the medical staff must attend them on stretchers and benches in the hallways.

For the doctors and nurses, the situation is extremely difficult, Sr. Juana explains: “The hours are long, 12-18 hours per shift, which is longer than normal, due to the shortage of medical personnel. The conditions are not safe for the healthcare worker, either! I have often been afraid of contracting these illnesses, because we work surrounded by the mosquito that carries the virus.” The biggest challenge now facing Sr. Juana and the other medical staff at her health clinic is the current outbreak of deadly dengue hemorrhagic fever, carried by a mosquito breeding in the flood waters. In fact, Sr. Juana heard that 3 young healthcare workers, 2 nurses and a pharmacist in the neighboring city of Piura, have died from these illnesses.

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Sisters Juana Rivera Jara and Consuelo Zapata Crisanto (center and right) interview a resident (left) in a shanty town on their rounds as community nurses.

Assistance from a Community of the Sisters of Notre Dame
How do we help? In any way we can. Sr. Juana often finds she has to help discretely, out of her own pocket with Notre Dame funds, to make up what is lacking in terms of medicine or critical supplies. Sometimes it may be only her own bottle of drinking water that saves the day.

With Sr. Consuelo Zapata Crisanto, SNDdeN, a nursing student, Sr. Juana conducts home visits in some destitute neighborhoods.

Sr. Miriam Montero Bereche, SNDdeN, a psychologist, provides post-traumatic stress

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Sr. Miriam Montero Bereche (right) and the parish youth group distribute emergency packages of good for families living under plastic sheeting or in tents.

counseling to individuals and families traumatized by the flooding.

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Sr. Evelyn Fitzke visits an elderly man in a small village and brings medication and food supplies.

 

Sr. Evelyn Fitzke, SNDdeN, visits the elderly through our St. Julie Senior Adult Program and ensures that they have essential medications and food.

Sharing is a primary value in the Peruvian culture.
During the recent floods, the SNDdeN community as a whole worked in coordination with the local parish to obtain and distribute supplies of food and medicines to devastated neighborhoods of people living in poverty. Recently, Sr. Miriam accompanied the members of the parish youth group to the town of Catacaos, which was completely

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Children and parents sit outside to eat packets of food, just distributed.

destroyed when the Piura River overflowed. The group distributed emergency packages of food to families camped out on the side of the road or to whole families living under plastic sheeting or in tents. This project, initiated by people who themselves have lost so much shows how even the most vulnerable find some way to reach out to someone who has even less. Through their involvement in the parish, specific experience and training and the generosity of donors, the Sisters feel blessed to share and to offer some relief in a humanitarian crisis.

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Faithful to Heritage in Saint Hubert

by Sister Monique-Marie Petit, SNDdeN and Mr. Patrick François*

In April 1812, in a letter to the superior
of the community in Saint Hubert, St. Julie writes:
“Everyone wants to come to Saint-Hubert.”

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In August 1809, Saint Julie Billiart founded the school of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) in Saint Hubert, Belgium, at the request of the mayor of the city. At that time, three Sisters became the community and opened the school with two classes. Even though much has changed from the early years, the Institut Notre-Dame celebrates today over 200 years of life as an educational institution! In 1985, the Institut Notre Dame joined with the Institut of the Marist Brothers in a merger school called: the Fundamental and Secondary Free School of Saint Hubert (Ecole fondamentale et secondaire libre de Saint-Hubert). The number of students continues to increase, with 700 students now in the secondary school and 240 in the pre-school and elementary schools.

SNDdeN Presence in Disadvantaged Area
A city of 3500 inhabitants, in the middle of the Ardennes Forest in the province of Luxembourg, Saint Hubert is considered an economically deprived area in relationship to the two nearest cities.  Many families live and survive, inspite of unemployment, thanks to the Public Center of Social Action. The student body, both in the secondary as well as in the pre-school and elementary grades, becomes more financially and socially disadvantaged from year to year. In the secondary school, more than one student in three is not able to pay the entrance fee in September. The young people, 32 girls and boys who are welcomed into the boarding residence are for the most part children from one-parent families, with emotional and financial problems. Practically one-third of those students depend on youth-aid services. In 2016, the secondary school opened a special class to educate children of new immigrants welcomed into the region.

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Sisters Jeanne-Emmanuel Pairon and Marie-Clotilde Gilles, SNDdeN play games with the student boarders.

Two retired Sisters, Sœurs Jeanne-Emmanuel Pairon and Marie-Clotilde Gilles, SNDdeN live in the building and bring ready assistance and a happy presence to the life of the school. Another SNDdeN, Sister Monique-Marie Petit, SNDdeN, is a member of the Board of Trustees. Today, at the heart of this school, is an oratory, a place of calm, prayer and reflection. Faculty, staff and students, faithful to St. Julie’s spirit, visit frequently this oratory. The directors in the different sections of the school are particularly sensitive to the educational values transmitted by Saint Julie: one director, Mr. Patrick François, belongs to the group of directors organized by the South Belgium/France Province whose goal is the implementation of Julie’s charism in our heritage schools, in our time.

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Sr. Monique-Marie Petit, SNDdeN, visits the pre-school and helps with lunch.

In the pre-school and in the elementary school, a special effort is made to have the children eat the noon meal at school and also to have staffing for supervision/counselling for student-boarders. Offering this possibility demands a big investment of time and energy for supervision of the students by the teachers and brings peace, security and enjoyment for the children.

Educational Values
A major objective of the school is to educate the whole person and to help every young student to find his/her way and place in life. The administrators, faculty and staff welcome each child to the school, whatever may be his/her way, and allow each one to have new opportunities, and sometimes a third or fourth chance to succeed.  These students, like all others, are “lifted up” to Christian values which motivate and guide the adults serving in the school. The full staff has the will to help the 2mai2017-009-300pxwebweakest and most deprived, which is a strong value inherent in this school. As a goal of our Notre Dame foundresses, this value inspires teachers and administrators to form these young people to the best of their abilities. Among other Notre Dame values, the school is a place of respect and welcome, an inclusive community where differences are lived out each day by students from different cities, town, social classes, and enrolled in different academic programs or options. Sharing and good relationships are born in exchanges among students and teachers from day to day.

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Students in the elementary and high school find friends at recreation after lunch.

In order to give the children in the early years more quiet spaces in their life and apprenticeships, a renovation of the buildings was undertaken in the summer of 2016. Now the pre-school and elementary classes are located in one large building, on a green and ventilated site. During recreation time for the elementary school, constructive activities take place in order to involve students and limit any conflicts. Also, the space reserved for games is more self-contained, with the yard divided into different zones: discussion, games, sports and ball games…etc.  Consequently, the secondary school uses now the property from the elementary school which enables a greater cohesiveness for their sports teams.

Welcome and inclusion of students from a disadvantaged milieu becomes possible, thanks to creativity and the involvement of many people. To permit each student to pursue his/her studies and to have some materials involves great financial efforts at the school. The members of the Board of Trustees, administrators, teachers and the students organize lucrative activities to accomplish these ends/aims: fancy-fair, plays, sale of lasagna, etc. This is a challenge each year. The young people are aware of these charitable and disinterested actions in participating at gatherings for increasing funding sources. They learn to contribute to projects for fighting against leprosy or tuberculosis in the Third World, for animation in day nurseries or homes for the aged, and become involved in other service projects.

As a former student of the Institut Notre-Dame and the merged Institut Saint-Joseph, Sr. Monique-Marie realizes that this school has remained faithful to the educational values of Saint Julie and Marcellin Champagnat (Marist Brothers’ Founder).  In spite of difficulties experienced, St. Julie’s spirit is active and alive daily in Saint Hubert: “Ah ! Qu’Il est bon le Bon Dieu.”
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**Sister Monique-Marie Petit, SNDdeN is a Member of the Board of  Trustees at Saint Hubert. Mr. Patrick François is Director of the first degree level at the school and also a member in the Association of French-speaking Congregational Schools in Belgium/France (ASSOEC)—See Good Works, June 2012, pp.12-14

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Network: A Cry for Life

Sr. Josineide Maria da Silva, SNDdeN  

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Sr. Josineide Maria da Silva, SNDdeN works with women from other Religious Congregations to prevent trafficking of women and children.

I am a woman religious in the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and a social worker.  As a woman, Christian, religious and social worker, I value my duty to  save lives from any injustice and to struggle for others to protect their human rights.

To combat this crime against the human person, I began to work in 2012 with women of various Religious Congregations who form Network: A Cry for Life, for the purpose of preventing the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. This Network emerged so that women religious may take an active stance against the reality of human trafficking. In the face of the clamor of the victims of sexual exploitation and the diverse modalities of the trafficking of persons, women religious accept the challenge of a specific ministry, focused on this growing crisis in modern-day society.

The major objectives of the Network are:

  • to raise awareness and provide information by prioritizing groups in situations of vulnerability, community leaders, pastoral agents and others;
  • to organize groups of reflection and study;
  • to spread the ministry by empowering individuals who will empower others;
  • to participate in social movements advocating for public policies for confronting the trafficking of persons.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE 2010), the state of Pará has 7,581,051 inhabitants from 144 counties; these are gigantic proportions compared to most of the other states in the Amazon region.  A negative aspect for this population in Brazil arises from the elevated incidence of women trafficked for sexual exploitation. Women from the peripheries of Belém are recruited for Surinam, French Guyana and other countries to practice obligatory sex and other evil objectives, such as human slavery.

Pastoral Ministry for Women
The trafficking of persons, especially of women, is a consequence of social inequality and an expressed, depraved social issue, from colonial times in Brazil until today. The main victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation are girls and women who live in situations of poverty and social vulnerability.  In the face of this reality, I am sensitive to women and girls who are victims of trafficking for sex and other ends.

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Sr. Josineide presents her paper which shows how social inequality and ineffective public polices contribute trafficking of women and children.

Active Involvement through Education
Professionals in social work face a great variety of challenges in today’s society, with sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy in adolescents, trafficking of persons for sexual exploitation among others.  Social workers seek alternatives to understand these challenges for the persons involved.  As a requirement for completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, I presented a paper at the University on December 5, 2016 on the reality of the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation in the city of Belém, as a current and great challenge for social workers. Researching and writing this paper led me to discover that social inequality and the ineffectiveness of public policies are factors that contribute to many incidences of sexual exploitation. Social Service workers must start by seeking public policies that meet the needs of the women who are victims of sexual exploitation by traffickers of persons.

josi-bz-1-200-px-webI see this crime as happening in a “silent” and “invisible” manner, as exemplified by the reality of women on the periphery of Belém.  I want to work by exposing this crime by ministering to these women as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and to assist these victims in collaboration with other women religious for systemic change in Brazil.

A thought that inspires me often as I minister to those in need is the valued ideal of the late Nelson Mandela of South Africa:

 “I struggled against white domination, and I struggled against black domination.  I nourished the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal that I hope to live to see become reality. But, if necessary, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

 

Safe Water in Kenya

Sr. Evalyne Aseyo, SNDdeN

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Sr. Evalyne Aseyo, SNDdeN (center) collaborates with workers, volunteers and Communities to revitalize Primary Health Care in Kenya.

In Kisumu, Kenya, I am engaged in research, teaching and community service at the Tropical Institute of Community Health and Development (Tropical Institute).  In collaboration with Community Health Extension Workers and Community Health Volunteers, we form a partnership to reach out to vulnerable communities.  We mobilize and organize communities into Community Units to ensure dialogue, referrals and feedback mechanisms for communities linked to the health sector.  At the Tropical Institute, we consider this partnership as working together for individuals and institutions in sharing resources, ideas and experiences to support, enrich and attain high quality outcomes in health care for all involved.  To revitalize Comprehensive Primary Health Care in Kenya, we collaborate with workers, volunteers and Community Units to enhance community participation in health care service delivery and health care outcomes.  chalk-board-300-px-webTogether with other partners, we collect data and follow up indicators such as immunization coverage, Ante Natal Care (ANC), use of Insecticide Treated Nets for mothers and children under 5 years, vitamin A uptake, health facility delivery, and treatment for safe water. We post results of these indicators on community chalk boards, located in central places within the community. We discuss this data in a forum of community dialogue which leads to community action days for ongoing health care.

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The PUR Water Packets transform contaminated water to clean and clear water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing.

Support for PUR Water Packets
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Realizing that the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, through a Congregational Mission Fund, give financial support to vulnerable households, unable to access clean water, I requested financial aid from the international Mission Office in order to purchase water commodities for one Community Unit in Kisumu County. From funds received, I was able to purchase the water treatment commodities of PUR water packets and aquatabs.  Community Health Extension Workers helped to identify Kadero and Okok, Community Units attached to Gita Sub-County Hospital, as the villages, which could benefit most from these commodities. Kadero has 25 villages and Okok comprises 14 villages. The River Awach, passing through these villages as their major source of water used for drinking water and household chores including cooking, poses a risk continually.  Also, some households, not using the river water, use unprotected springs.  In April and May 2016, there was a cholera outbreak, resulting from contaminated water, in these Community Units. In following up the water treatment indicator, with the Community Health Workers, we began to raise awareness in these communities on the importance of household water treatment and to make the use of these commodities of PUR water purification packets and aquatabs a priority in these villages.

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Sr. Evalyne Aseyo (on extreme right) encourages the villagers to use the water purification packets and aquatabs.

Even though clean water is still a critical issue, these commodities have gone a long way in reaching some of the most vulnerable households unable to access clean water. In sustaining and expanding this project, we intend to reach more households in the area. Obviously, this project continues to go a long way to reduce diarrheal diseases and water borne diseases in this community.  The community appreciates the support of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and their generous donors who contribute to this safe water project.

 

Ohio Province Promotes Congregational Projects

Karen Hadden and Angie Weisgerber,
Associate Director and Assistant Director of Development

smndphtovoltaic-1385_hdr-300px-webThe Ohio Province has initiated an educational project at Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati, Ohio,  on the property at East Columbia Avenue. In an unused garage, solar panels and batteries have been installed for a Photovoltaic Learning Lab Project as part of an engineering experiment for two Notre Dame schools — Mount Notre Dame High School, an all girls school located next to the convent grounds in Cincinnati, OH, and Chaminade Julienne High School, a co-ed school located in Dayton, OH. In collaboration with Mr. Louis Casey, an engineer who coordinates the African Photovoltaic Project (APP) with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur internationally, the Development Office of the Ohio Province began a forward-looking initiative to connect with international efforts for collaboration, education and fund-raising. Students learn multiple aspects about conserving energy and the benefits of solar power through an experimental solar model. Solar panels on the convent garage convert the energy from the sun and store this solar power in batteries.

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Keith Hanley, Learning Lab Volunteer Project Engineer, meets with Sr. Lorraine Connell, SNDdeN to learn about the success and expansion of the African Photovoltaic Project in the sites where Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur serve in ministry.

This system is similar to the photovoltaic system which the Sisters are using to bring electricity and a water purification system to schools, hospitals and convents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.

Photovoltaic Prototypes
In 2005, the Sisters set up a photovoltaic prototype at the Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center in Ipswich, MA to test the viability of this project for the ministries and communities of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) in Africa. This prototype in the pre-school and arts center proved to be a successful venture for installations in the Congo and Nigeria. With the help of generous donors, the SNDdeN Congregation moved forward with installations first for a community in Fugar and for the schools in Awkunanaw, Nigeria (later for communities in Abuja, Enugu, Illorin and Oro). Then, through 10 years, the Photovoltaic sites expanded in the Congo, first in Ngidinga, and then in Lemfu, Kitenda, Pelende, Kinsaku, Mpese, and Nselo.  These installations have been providing electricity, water purification and technology access to ministries and communities, from 2006 to the present.

Education through Experimentation

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Mount Notre Dame High School engineering students working on an experiment in the Learning Lab.

In some ways, the Ohio Province project is another prototype for education and experimentation for students and faculty in a few schools in Ohio and Illinois. The Photovoltaic Learning Laboratory in Cincinnati is a teaching center where students learn about energy as well as about the work of the Sisters in communities and ministries in Africa. During January and February 2017, engineering students conducted experiments for understanding power grids, in order to determine the length of time for the batteries to drain and be restored in tracking the lighting on the power grid. Students from Mount Notre Dame and Chaminade Julienne High Schools are collaborating on this experiment.  Students monitor the output, input, recharging of batteries, and track time, weather conditions and temperature. Students collect, record and summarize the data.  They will present a formal report at the Science Exposition at the University of Cincinnati in March 2017.  They understand the importance of this experiment and the ongoing and lasting effects of a photovoltaic system for supplying electricity and for purifying water.  They realize the impact that this system is already effecting in many sites where the Sisters of Notre Dame live and serve in the Congo and in Nigeria. This learning experience is a way for the faculty and staff in Notre Dame schools in the Ohio Province to understand how the Sisters are contributing to the lives and progress of the people in Africa.  It is an opportunity for them to contribute to the work of the Sisters for sustainability of life for the people in underdeveloped countries and to extend these efforts in the future. Students are experiencing a real connection with the Mission of the Sisters, as they realize the impact of this project begun by the Sisters in 2005 and continuing with success until today!

Lenten Water Project
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Students in Notre Dame schools throughout the Ohio Province participate also in the Lenten Water project. Schools support this global outreach program of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur by raising funds for water purification packets from Proctor and Gamble’s non-profit foundation, Children’s Safe Drinking Water, to be distributed for water purification in communities and ministries in Africa and Latin America. These packets purify the water and supply drinking water to towns and villages that would otherwise be deprived of clean water.  The children in our schools show how much they want to help children in other parts of the Globe.

Sister Ann Fanella, SNDdeN tells about a 4th grade student in Chicago:

 Sr. Ann: Last year a young girl approached me in church with a container of money she had collected during Lent.

Child: Is this going to help someone?

Sr. Ann: Yes! You will help so many people.

Child: (jumping up and down) I am so happy I can help other children.

Since the Ohio Province started this program in 2011, 45 schools have contributed over $140,000 to pay for these water packets, distributed to different Notre Dame sites in the Southern Hemisphere. During Lent 2017, schools in Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, OH; Phoenix, AZ and throughout the United States will contribute to the Clean Water Project, promoted by the Congregational Mission Office in Ipswich, MA.

See the Lenten Project on the homepage of the international Website: www.sndden.org and read the next article by Sr. Evalyne Aseyo, SNDdeN in Kenya.

 

 

Refugees Cross the Channel

Sister Mary McClure, SNDdeN and Mrs. Rosemary Martin, Head Teacher

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Sr. Mary McClure, SNDdeN welcomes a group of young women from Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The media has recorded well the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. For many refugees from Africa and the Middle East, the journey led to Calais, France, the nearest port for entry into England.  And for most refugees, their journey ended there. Access was denied. Camps were set up and this area became known as the ‘jungle.  Who can imagine the plight of a group of unaccompanied young women in their journey from Ethiopia and Eritrea?

When the camps were being flattened, a group of unaccompanied young women remained in Calais. Beginning to draw negative attention from some male Asylum Seekers, they would be easy prey for traffickers.  The authorities in France quickly distributed the girls to other parts of the country whilst Sr-Mary-and-Girl-300px-web-pixilatedlooking for a more permanent solution.  Glasgow City Council agreed to accept a number of Asylum Seekers to the City, as had been the pattern for a number of years.  On hearing the plight of these 19 young women, (11 from Eritrea and 8 from Ethiopia). Glasgow became proactive about ensuring a safe place for them in the City. Very quickly, a large number of the City services personnel, including Educators and Social Workers, met to discuss how to accommodate and protect these vulnerable young women. They considered how the girls could be educated together, in such a large number, whilst receiving the support and nurture required for them.

EDUCATION FOR NEW LIFE
a-catholic-community-of-faith-sign-300px-webNotre Dame High School in Glasgow
is a unique school. It is the only all girls’ school in Scotland which is non fee-paying and financed by the local education service.  Founded over 100 years ago, by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, our school continues to offer a ‘safe, supportive environment’ for girls and young women. This Catholic School is recognised as a community which is inclusive of other faith traditions while continuing to celebrate our Catholic identity.

head-teacher-ndhs-glasgow-2017-150px-webIn late November 2016, as Head Teacher of Notre Dame High School, Glasgow, I received a phone call from Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education in Glasgow. Maureen believed that the Catholic ethos and nurturing environment which Notre Dame High School provides would be the best possible provision and asked how did I feel about welcoming this group to our school.  With the agreement of our management team, my response was positive: “with open arms,” continuing the heritage and ethos of our Patroness, St. Julie Billiart.

With two weeks to prepare for their arrival, with no idea of age and stage or the level of English language acquisition or level of schooling received, we began making plans to welcome our new students.  Our first meeting with the girls from Ethiopia and Eritrea took place in their newly refurbished accommodation (a former hostel for the homeless).  With the Pastoral Care team and Year Group Head, we were able to greet our new students.  We had managed to acquire a stock of used uniforms and 19 new school ties.  It was an incredibly humbling experience to witness their delight, not only at the uniform, but on the realisation that education would be an integral part of their new life. We were able to show the girls pictures of their new school and began forming relationships that we hoped would ease their obvious anxieties.

PRESENTS IN PRESENCE
The presence of these young women in our school highlights for us that Notre Dame High School is a special school. Heads of Department and classroom teachers go out of their way to provide learning experiences which are accessible to all. Our young people volunteer their time to support the newcomers in classrooms and on excursions around the City.  Similarly, our new girls are already beginning to establish themselves, even in contributing to our Christmas Carol concert for parents and friends and in our final Christmas service for the young people. What a moving experience to hear the 8 girls from Ethiopia sing an ancient carol in their own tongue.

St. Vincent de Paul group from our local parish community, St. Simon’s, provided £500 to help with the girls’ transition.  We bought Christmas gifts of watches for each of them–why watches? Our students were learning how to tell the time, and no one had a watch!

These young women are a gift to our Notre Dame community. They encourage us to have ‘hearts as wide as the world.’ They remind us of the fragility of life and the sacredness of life. These young women have come to us from the most abandoned places. With courage we continue to welcome, teach and sing: How good is our good God.

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