By Sister Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, SNDdeN
~ On behalf of and in collaboration with Sisters Joan Burke and Jean Stoner, SNDdeN
Participants gather after the Event for Sustainable Development Goals 4, to achieve 2030 Agenda, sponsored by the SND@UN in 2019. Sr. Kristin Hokanson, SNDdeN (center: a panelist) poses with Sr. Amarachi Ezeonu and other panelists.
During the late 1990s, at International Union of Superiors General of Women meetings in Rome, the General Government Team (GGT), now called the Congregation Leadership Team, were impressed as they saw the influence and standing of Congregations with United Nations accreditation and began to
investigate how the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur might obtain this status. Sister Ellen Gielty, General Moderator, started the long and detailed process of applying for accreditation. She had to demonstrate what the Congregation could offer to the UN and how it would promote the aims of this world body as outlined in the UN Charter. Her efforts bore fruit in 2001, and the GGT, after a search among the members, named Sister Joan F. Burke, SNDdeN (then serving in Nigeria) to serve as the first SNDdeN NGO Representative with an office in New York. Sr. Joan took up her assignment in 2002 and served as our UN NGO Representative until 2010 when she handed it over to Sister Jean Stoner, SNDdeN who served from 2010-2016. Sister Jean passed the baton in 2016 to Sister Amarachi Ezeonu, SNDdeN who is the current Representative.
After a presentation, Sr. Amarachi interacts with students of Mount Notre Dame High School, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The UN is a global body with membership of 193 nations and over 5,000 NGOs accredited to the Economic and Social Council of the organization. SNDatUN collaborate closely with other NGOs in our advocacy for the people and our planet through our presence and through our oral and written statements at UN meetings. Our endeavors at the UN complement the Congregation’s long-standing mission of providing quality education, healthcare, and other social services, especially for people living in poverty. In our fast-changing world with many emerging and complex social, environmental, and economic challenges, both our advocacy for systemic change and our efforts to provide social-psychological services for people are necessary for sustainable development.
Sr. Joan Burke with Sr. Rebeca Spires, SNDdeN from Brazil at the Permanent Forum of Independent Peoples in 2006.
Nowhere else across the globe is there a coming together of representative of governments from every country. Each – old and young, rich and poor, large and small, east and west, north and south – has an equal vote. We, SNDdeN, are present where this happens so we can continue to participate in ongoing advocacy efforts and engage others in the important work of systemic change. We clearly benefit from being at the UN because there we are part of collaborative strategies to address policies on a global level instead of trying to do this work on our own.
Sr. Jean Stoner helps her niece, Katie Blawie as an Intern at the UN.
The UN benefits from our participation as a faith-based NGO since we bring our mission-oriented values, experience, and process skills to bear directly on the work of the member nations. As Kofi Annan stated to a group NGO representatives, “You are the conscience of the UN.” Our global mission as an accredited NGO at the UN provides the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur an excellent opportunity to realize one of the mandates of our Constitutions:
“We work with others to transform unjust structures and systems as we participate in creating new ways of relating which enables all to experience more fully the goodness of God.” (Constitutions 23) It is also a fulfillment of St. Julie Billiart’s vision that “her sisters would go throughout the world, proclaiming God’s loving care for all peoples.”
Sr. Amarachi with two members of RUN (Religious at the UN); Sr. Margaret O’Dwyer, DC and Sr. Celine Paramundayil, MM in a UN conference hall.
We continue to be proud that the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are at the United Nations. Our NGO participation in the international action that occurs at the United Nations is a uniquely valuable public witness to St. Julie Billiart’s wanting her daughters to have Hearts wide as the world. In appreciation for twenty years of collaborative efforts with others in our global advocacy at the UN, we echo the words of the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld: “For all that has been, thanks.
For all that shall be, Yes!”