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Religious sisters share mission reality: compassion, generosity, exhaustion, powerlessness

For the third consecutive year, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See hosted the symposium "Women on the Frontlines." They joined with the British Embassy to the Holy See to highlight the courageous work of women religious around the globe. 

However, it was virtual due to the coronavirus.

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
“Tragically, this pandemic has caused vast unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity — further challenging the work of women religious. We are grateful to be joined today by three remarkable sisters who will speak about the pandemic’s impact on their organizations, and the communities they serve.”

British Ambassador to the Holy See
“Whether running schools and hospitals, caring for the sick, rescuing victims of human trafficking, or supplying employment for the destitute, the religious orders provide essential services either in places where there is little other provision, or for people for whom there is little other support.”

The three keynote speakers came from various countries, each facing a different reality, especially now that COVID-19 has hit.

Sister Stan Mumuni began the order Marian Sisters for Eucharistic Love, which protects the lives of orphans born with birth defects in Ghana. For years, they have been killed

Superior General, Marian Sisters for Eucharistic Love
I told myself I would never turn away from their needs that are in front of me. I decided that these children must be given life. They must be given dignity. They must be given respect.

Sister Imelda Poole, President of RENATE, explains combating human trafficking, which has gone online more during the lockdown. She is based in Albania, which has an increase of poverty and hunger due to coronavirus.

President, RENATE
“There are 40 million trafficked victims in world today. They're in front of our noses, along our streets and in our neighborhoods. It is a 40-billion-dollar industry of this heinous crime of the trading of human beings.”

Sister Alicia Vacas, Provincial Superior, Comboni Sisters in Jerusalem shared how her religious community is providing food needs and medical help around the world with no resources or protection for themselves.  

Provincial Superior, Comboni Sisters in Jerusalem
“When I look at my sisters, religious women on the frontlines, I don't see super women. I see women of great faith, of great compassion and generosity, of great determination. But also, very vulnerable women, exhausted, most of the time powerless because they are going on with the brokenness of their people.”

These religious women press on with faith and resilience, offering themselves each day to those most in need around the world. This is what the annual symposium highlights, the difficulties these sisters face and how they continue to serve despite it all. 

Melissa Butz