Seeds Grow in Southern California

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Kindergarten give a group hug to Sister Judith Flahavan, SNDdeN.

Over the course of her last thirty-one years as an active ministry educator, Sister Judith Flahavan, SNDdeN was a principal in three Catholic elementary schools in South Los Angeles, CA. In June 2012, she retired from full-time ministry. Then, during a six-month sabbatical, Sister Judith learned that Notre Dame School (NDS) in Santa Barbara, CA, the last existing Catholic school among the original four Catholic schools there, did not have a full-time principal. She made a decision to use her gifts as an educator in this city!

 

Reflections: Sister Judith Flahavan, SNDdeN

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8th Grade students at Notre Dame School in Santa Barbara, CA.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) have a long history at Notre Dame. In 1906,
Fr. Stockman, OFM invited SNDdeN to begin a school for children at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Santa Barbara. In an old Armory Hall belonging to the parish, four Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) opened Dolores Catholic School with 150 students in 1906. Through the efforts of those first Sisters and the many who followed them, the school grew and flourished. In 1911, the Jesuits assumed responsibility for the parish. In 1974, the school was renamed Notre Dame School. Over the years, people recognized the school’s strong education, academic excellence and dedicated alumni/alumnae. When the number of Sisters diminished, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur withdrew from NDS in 1990.

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Primary students learn with iPads at NDS in Santa Barbara.

Common Realities
In January 2013, Sister Judith was happy to assume the leadership role as Principal at Notre Dame School. Moving to peaceful Santa Barbara after her many years in South Los Angeles was a bit of an adjustment. She received an amazing welcome by the many people thrilled that an SNDdeN was back, and she immediately felt “at home.” Also, as Sister became more and more involved as an administrator, she realized that among the families at NDS there are common realities shared also with the families in South Los Angeles. She learned that at this school many children (166 students out of 260 students) qualified for the federal breakfast/lunch program, which is considered the benchmark for persons living in poverty in the United States. She came to realize that the income of many families was comparable to that of families she knew in South Los Angeles.

She rejoiced in the beautiful goodness of the families:
• the respect for all persons which was evident among them,
• the way they helped each other when possible,
• their commitment to Notre Dame School,
• their reverence toward God, and
• their ethic for hard work.

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Transitional Kindergarten children learn about St. Francis and Pope Francis from Notre Dame Associate, Jackie Gonzalez.

She appreciated the dedicated faculty, two of whom were Notre Dame Associates. She saw that at NDS, St. Julie’s vision of educating those living in poverty is alive and well. She was overwhelmed by the number of alumni/alumnae living in Santa Barbara and remembering with gratitude and happiness the Sisters who gave them a strong educational foundation. Mainly, Sister Judith realized that the seeds of education planted by those Sisters were in full bloom. Even though the Sisters had not been in the school for about 20 years, their spirit and St. Julie Billiart’s charism of proclaiming the goodness of God by educating children for life still inspires and permeates with energy the daily experiences within the Notre Dame community.

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Since June 2016, a competent educator, Ms. Christina Stefanec is replacing Sr. Judith as Principal. Grateful for the opportunity of serving for 31/2 years at Notre Dame School, Sister Judith is confident that the mission of St. Julie will continue to be integrated and grow in the school, and in making known God’s goodness and love in Southern California.


“Truly, I tell you that just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25: 45
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Santa Barbara School students say “Thank you.”

Sisters Welcome Asylum Seekers in Scotland

by Sisters Patricia Cassidy, SNDdeN

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” (Matthew 25: 26)

The city of Glasgow, Scotland has welcomed more dispersed asylum seekers than any other city in Britain. Since the year 2000, the Government in the United Kingdom (UK) has been dispersing asylum seekers throughout the country to ease pressure on London and surroundings. Many Glasgow-based organisations are rising to the challenge.

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Today Sisters Patricia Cassidy, Maureen Coyle, and  Eileen Cassidy, SNDdeN make a difference in the lives of refugees and migrants.

In collaboration with an organisation in Britain, called Positive Action in Housing (PAIH), three Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are making a difference today in the lives of refugees and migrants in Glasgow. PAIH supports and highlights the plight of destitute asylum seekers, i.e. those whose cases are rejected. This organisation provides some financial support through a Destitution Fund, raised by public donation, and tries to find overnight accommodation for the most vulnerable, either in hostels or with accommodation volunteers. Three Sisters assist these asylum seekers who lose all support entitlements, including their homes, and who find themselves evicted onto the streets. Sisters Patricia Cassidy and Maureen Coyle, SNDdeN are among those volunteers who open their home in Glasgow to asylum seekers. Living next door to them, Sr. Eileen Cassidy, SNDdeN also offers “on hand” support in this ministry.

Continue reading Sisters Welcome Asylum Seekers in Scotland

Sisters Teach in an Isolated Place

Sister Obioma Ezewuzie, SNDdeN, Headteacher

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Sister Obioma Ezewuzie, SNDdeN, Principal, speaks at a graduation ceremony.

As the poorest school mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) in Nigeria, Notre Dame Nursery and Primary School, Ugwuomu-Nike, fosters the charism of our Congregation by taking education to a small village, an abandoned place. This educational mission is certainly close to the heart of our foundress, St. Julie Billiart. Our school serves specifically the children of people living in poverty: palm-wine tappers and peasant farmers. The school helps many parents who are unable to pay school fees or buy books for their children. The school provides also a source of employment for the wives of these farmers as well as young girls trying to earn a living in Ugwuomu–Nike.

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Sister Schola Onwumar, SNDdeN helps little children with a project.

This Notre Dame School, Ugwuomu- Nike, is in Enugu State, East Local Government Area, which is the Southeastern part of Nigeria. In, 1996, the Diocesesan Office of Peace and Justice asked the SNDdeN to assume responsibility and to manage this educational project. At first, the Sisters lived among the people by renting a small house. Since the nursery and primary school were never economically self-sufficient, eventually in 2006, the Diocese handed over the school and land to the SNDdeN. In assuming ownership, the Nigeria Province built a small convent on the property to show that we had come to stay and to throw in our lot with the local people. A Catholic church, half built, graces the village today and does have a resident priest.

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Sister Nkechi Onah, SNDdeN, shows her pupils how to weave palm leaves into mats.

Quality Education
Our school is without any doubt the best school in the local region. In this far-away place, five Sisters, with lay co-workers, offer quality education in the early stages of learning. Every day, some children walk a very long distance of seven to eight miles from their homes to the school. To reinforce the learning process in school and at home, we print exercise books for the children. In school, we do also seasonal farming and plant cassava which is one of the major foods here; and we sell snacks to the pupils. We ask help from some of the parents who are more secure economically. They have contributed resources to put ceilings in a few of the classrooms. At present the school has two hundred and fifty pupils with twelve teachers and two helpers. Twenty percent of children in the school are supported financially by our Notre Dame sponsorship program.

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Sister Chidinma Nwasunja, SNDdeN, teaches her pupils computer science.

Challenges for Power and Transportation
In the community where the school is located, there is electricity. Even when the residents pay as much as they are able, the electrical current is low or scarce. Most of the time, we need to run our generator, especially for the computer classes. Another obstacle is the bad road leading from the city to our village. Cars are not very popular on that road because only four-wheel drives can manage the terrain on an untarred road. The mixture of sand and clay is very dusty during the dry season and slippery during the rainy season. The main public transport is to climb on the back of a motor bike behind the driver. The cost of this transport rises considerably when the road is almost impassable. Sometimes two or three passengers climb on one bike. Some Sisters have scars on their legs and arms from the poor drivers’ efforts to avoid hitting a goat darting out from the bush or slipping and sliding in the sand and the mud. Mud also sticks to one’s shoes or sandals when walking during the rainy season. The majority of the children walk to school; a few students pay to ride a motor bike.

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Sister Jumoke Balogun, SNDdeN, makes reading a priority for her students.

God is so visibly present here in many ways.
The Sisters called to this ministry in nursery and primary education are happy, adaptable women who find joy and God in serving people living in poverty and in supporting them and one another. The village is quite isolated. Most resources, provisions and contacts are located in the nearest city at a distance of 45 minutes to an hour’s drive. The people of Ugwuomu-Nike are happy to have the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in their village; they value the education and support their children receive in the school. They appreciate also help provided from abroad. From the funds contributed by many generous donors, our Province has been able to advance the growth of our school. Through grant funding, the school has more resources for education: some recreational equipment for the nursery section, football posts for the primary section, classroom furniture, computers for children to reach the wider world and learn more through technology. Funding has also provided a portion of staff salaries.

The Sisters called to this ministry in nursery and primary education are happy, adaptable women who find joy and God in serving people living in poverty and in supporting them and one another.

On the Margins of Society

“I was hungry and you gave me food…thirsty and you gave me something to drink… a stranger and you welcomed me…” Matthew 25:35

st-margaret-logoSister Elizabeth Smoyer, SNDdeN finds energy and passion in her ministry in South Bend, Indiana at St. Margaret’s House (SMH), a day center committed to the Gospel value of hospitality. Opened 26 years ago, St. Margaret’s House helps women and children who live in poverty, as they struggle on the margins of society. The mission, central to SMH, is to empower women for improving the quality of life for themselves and their children. Staff and volunteers respond to immediate needs and open a pathway for women to make long-term changes leading to a new life. They offer programs to these women for acquiring skills to face the future with hope.

An Interview: Sister Elizabeth Smoyer describes her ministry at SMH.

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Sister Elizabeth Smoyer, SNDdeN coaches participants in the seminar, Creating My Future.

Since 2010, I have been serving as guest services caseworker, kitchen manager and assistant to the volunteer coordinator. The community at SMH helps women face life with dignity and take responsibility for improving their lives. I would describe the core of our mission as building and strengthening relationships, accomplished by “the mutual transformation of guests, staff, volunteers and donors,” in a supportive community. Poverty as well as wealth can be isolating. Addictions diminish health and the self-worth of individuals. At SMH, the hospitality shared provides acceptance, guidance in a non-judgmental way, safety and a good meal. The staff guides, respects and gives direct attention to each woman for a movement forward. Volunteers welcome guests, assist them in the clothes closet, and cook the daily meal. clothes-closet-webSome accompany the women in the art studio as they uncover talents and learn skills of artistic expression in a communal atmosphere. Volunteers have hearts and minds open to listen and support the guests and the staff. They offer help and speak of how they “receive so much more than they give;” they find how their own suffering connects them to our guests. Day by day, this communal experience opens deepening wells of compassion and silkcreations32014commitment. This community is open, honest and caring for one another. I believe this is transforming action: “By what happens in the community, everybody is changed.”

Concrete Steps
Our long-range goal is helping these women trapped in generational poverty to create their own paths for a stable and secure life for themselves and their families. With concrete steps, we assist the women to improve their lives with skills essential for competing in the workplace. The program Bridges Out of Poverty, Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World offers a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by different economic classes. Women learn the causes of poverty and the hidden rules of the middle class. Each woman examines her own reality and circumstances for creating her own action plan. She names her personal resources to make concrete changes in her life.

Another seminar, Steps for Success, offers additional lessons for these women by giving them practical skills to find and sustain employment. My responsibility is to present this seminar and to coach participants through the entire process. I accompany participants who step out of “the tyranny of the moment,” of just “doing the next thing,” to reflect on where they have been and where they want to go. The women discover a spirituality of wholeness where their gifts and talents manifest themselves. They find financial literacy with a credit review, basic budgeting and banking and learn the basics of resume writing and interviewing skills.

Providing Meals for Homeless
daily-hot-lunch-webAbout 80 persons come each day to St. Margaret’s; 23% of our guests are homeless or precariously housed. We serve a continental breakfast and an afternoon snack, nutritious food meant for some to be their main meal of the day. Before the noon meal, everyone gathers to welcome by name and applaud newcomers. This meal fosters support and inclusion in our community. We share announcements, victories as well as burdens and gather in prayer led by our guests. These women set the tables, deliver meals to the children and also wash the dishes.

St. Margaret’s House supports the varying strengths and vulnerabilities of guests, staff and volunteers. Our participation in community transforms us as we stand “with people made poor in a world marked by increasing divisions and inequalities” (Calls General Chapter 2014, p. 5). When it may seem that the “work is worthless,” we remember the words of Thomas Merton: “In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

Learn more at St. Margaret’s House website or follow St. Margaret’s  on Facebook.

Sisters Coordinate Medical Services

“I was sick and you took care of me…”  Matthew 25:36

Sister Eulalie Nkengi, SNDdeN

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In her visits, Sr. Eulalie Nkengi, SNDdeN reviews and evaluates treatments.

In the Congo-Kinshasa Province, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) minister in multiple ways to the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Educating the children has been a major priority since the arrival of the Sisters from Belgium in 1894. From the early years in the Congo, the Sisters reached out also in cities and villages by serving the growing needs for medical care of the Congolese people. At first, they established dispensaries wherever they opened schools and then considered also as priorities medical centers, dispensaries, maternity clinics and hospitals. With the expanding needs for medical care, in a ministry for serving sick, suffering and disabled persons, more Sisters became mid-wives, nurses and physicians as well, and now staff these centers.

Sister Eulalie Nkengi, SNDdeN is a physician who coordinates the medical services in seven health care facilities, administered by the Sisters in the Congo-Kinshasa Province, with two located in the Bandundu region and five located in Kongo-Central. She travels to cities and villages across the mid/south western region of the DRC. Her major responsibilities, begun in 2011, encompass the general oversight of the medical centers, maternity clinics and hospitals in Kimwenza, Kitenda,  Lemfu, Mpese, Ngidinga and Pelende.  In Ngidinga, there are two facilities, a hospital and a health care center.  All facilities are affiliated with the Hospital Center, René de Haes in Kimwenza. The centers in Pelende and Kitenda are located in the most distant area of the province, in the Bandundu region. One center is 650 miles from the Province center at Kimwenza and the other is 720 miles away. Sr. Eulalie travels these distances on extremely difficult and often treacherous roads.

Continue reading Sisters Coordinate Medical Services

Sr. Elizabeth, SNDdeN, Serving in HIV/AIDS Ministry

Interviewer: Sr. Brigid Rose Tiernan, SNDdeN

Q: As a Social Worker in Harare, Zimbabwe, what has been and is now your ministry?

Elizabeth-Chinamo-2015-webFor 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 Pastoral on the Island of Marajó, Brazil

By Sister Maria Socorro Oliveira da Silva, SNDdeN

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.

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Sr. Maria Socorro Oliveira da Silva, SNDdeN, prepares herbs for alternative medicines.

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.

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Sr. Maria Socorro Oliveira da Silva, SNDdeN, (second from the end) with her pastoral team, prepare alternative medicines for sick and infirm neighbors.

GW June 2016 – Health Pastoral on the Island of Marajo, Brazil

Good Works Archives on sndden.org

Harambee … “Let’s all work together.”

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 Gwynette-Proctor--web-300on 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.

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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.

Hamarabee-Group-2-Philadelphia-Liberty-Bell-webCultural 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.

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Bishop John Ricard with participants.

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.”

GW June 2016 – Harambee .pdf

Good Works Archive on sndden.org

Enabling Women with New Skills

By Sister Mary Isabel Kilpatrick, SNDdeN

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.

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Sr. Miriam Montero Bereche with Rosa and Magdalena at a workshop.

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.

Yogurt Project
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

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Patty and Sr. Mary Isabel Kilpatrick label and seal the yogurt containers.

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.

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Jenny and Rosa collect milk for the Yogurt Project while little Yumi helps.

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.

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Jenny assists in the fruit preparation.

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.

GW June 2016 – Enabling Women with New Skills.pdf

Good Works Archives

 

Voice for the Homeless

Voice for the Homeless: Interview with Sister Linda Bessom, SNDdeN

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Sr. Linda Bessom SNDdeN, collects donations for the MA Coalition for the Homeless — A Bed for Every Child Initiative. (The Informer-Article 193)

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 and advocacy.

Direct Service
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.

Furnature-BankThe 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.

Coalition-Truck-at-IpswichRecently, 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.

Another Project
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 logo a bed for every childcapability to learn; lack of sleep has negative consequences for learning.  A Bed for Every Child Initiative arose 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.

Website: www.mahomeless.org
Voice for the Homeless: Interview with Sister Linda Bessom.pdf
Good Works Archive