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Forty Days , Prayer, Fasting Works of Love

March Reflection from Sr. Edithann Kane, SNDDeN

Dear Friends,
Since the beginning of February, Julie’s words quoted in the last reflection have been penetrating my thoughts: “The holiest fast I ask is charity, the practice of charity towards one another.” I often think about the practice of charity – of love – as pertaining to those with whom I live, or with whom I come in contact each day. But this year, in light of all the experiences of hatred, violence, fear, lies, name-calling, etc. that have been part of our national reality, I think that my practice of charity has to go way beyond my immediate circumstances.
Phrases from the Gospels come to mind unbidden, like “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” and “Love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you,” and “As often as you did it to one of them you did it to me.” And then there is the prayer Jesus taught us: “OUR Father”-not My Father.
Pope Francis begins his encyclical letter “Fratelli Tutti” (translated as Brother and Sisters All) with reference to St. Francis of Assisi. He writes that St. Francis
…calls for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance, and declares blessed all those who love their brother [sister] “as much when he is far away from him as when he is with him”. In his simple and direct way, Saint Francis expressed the essence of a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.
With a firm conviction that our words and actions have ripple effects across distances, this Lenten season prompts me to send loving thoughts to those people who have engaged in those very negative behaviors mentioned above. I ask God, who has created each one of us in the Divine image, and whose love keeps us in existence, to “batter [the] heart” ( Gerard Manley Hopkins) of those who are filled with fear, hatred and violence and help them to know that they are loved and are capable of acting in love.
Perhaps another way to spread genuine love is to try to understand the positions of those whose beliefs and opinions are different from our own; to dialogue, not for the sake of debate or convincing another to share our belief, but to try to understand. Now there’s a Lenten practice that is very challenging; I hope I can do it!
It is a very tall order we have from Jesus: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus’ love extended to all he met – to outcasts, to friends who betrayed him, denied knowing him, to those who crucified him and to us…”Father, forgive them….”
Pope Francis concludes his encyclical with the following prayer which I think captures somewhat the thoughts I have had. It is my Lenten prayer. You might want to make it yours.
Lord, Father of our human family, you created all human beings equal in dignity: pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter, dialogue, justice and peace. Move us to create healthier societies and a more dignified world, a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.
May our hearts be open to all the peoples and nations of the earth. May we recognize the goodness and beauty that you have sown in each of us, and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects, and shared dreams. Amen.
May the remaining weeks of Lent be filled with all the graces and blessings we most need and desire as we try to spread far and wide the love that Jesus has for our brothers and sisters here in the United States and around our world.
In Notre Dame,
Sister Edithann Kane, SNDdeN

Black History Month – Reflections February 2021

Dear Friend:

As I write, we here at Villa Julie are on “lock down”; in our rooms, being served meals in our rooms; rarely venturing outside and always wearing our masks!  But the bright side is that we lack for nothing and there is plenty of time to reflect on life.

February brings us Lent.  St. Julie shows her realism and her deep biblical sense in her advice to her Sisters who were living in a time when the Church asked people to fast daily.  She counseled her Sisters:

“The holiest fast I ask is charity, the practice of charity towards one another.”

This, of course, is a fasting we can do all year long – and don’t we need it in these tumultuous times!

February is also Black History Month.  I recall a long list I once had of inventions created by people of African descent—I have no idea where it is now, nor do I remember those inventors today. Unlike Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, or Henry Ford, their names were not drilled into us in history classes.  Yet, their inventions were integral to the achievements of our country and the world.  And if we were instructed in the inventions and discoveries made by ancient cultures, we never recognized that those were cultures of people of color. So much of what we know today, or what we have built on, comes to us from African peoples.

Having information about African American people, their achievements in the past and in the present, is but one way of addressing racism in our country.  I have come to realize how little I understand and take for granted my whiteness and the privileges I enjoy on account of it.  Once again I recall an editorial in which the writer listed all the ways she benefits from being white.  How I wish I had saved it!  Perhaps we could all take time this month to think about this.

Some of these ways have become more obvious in recent years:  I do not face the danger of “driving while white”; nor do I risk being frisked if I walk in a neighborhood not my own at night; nor do I get followed when shopping in a department store.  I am among the first to be tested and protected against COVID 19. I have no reason to fear the police, or to participate in a peaceful demonstration.  I do not have to search for textbooks that include the place of white people in history , nor look for images of Jesus that look much like me.  My sisters don’t worry that their sons or grandsons might be shot for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of our Sisters who serves on our Congregational Leadership Team is African.  Her position requires considerable travel.  Nine out of ten times, after going through the x-ray machine she is also body searched.  When she asks what was seen in the x-ray that required a body search, there is no answer.

I can’t help wondering how I would cope if I lived in a country where people like me were once thought to be less than human; or where some of the buildings my ancestors built (like the U.S. Capitol) were once restricted for me; or where the wealth enjoyed by so many white people has come down to them through the ages because of the legacy of slavery.   What would I think about myself if I knew that many people thought me naturally “slow” intellectually; or lazy, or a trouble-maker, or that my presence in proximity to them would “bring the neighborhood down.”

At the risk of losing my readers because this reflection is too long, I include here some comments made in an article by Father Bryan Massingale, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and an associate professor of theology at Marquette University.    He recounts his various encounters with security personnel and police, even being arrested for a burglary, clearly because of his color. He notes:  “This happened despite my being a priest, a university professor, and a respected member of the community.”

Referencing our celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Massingale goes on to say:

…the true goal of King’s movement… is the loving acceptance of individuals and groups. King believed that genuine integration demanded that white Americans confront what he called the “nonrational psychological barriers” to human unity….Social scientists call such bias “racially selective sympathy and indifference,” that is, the ‘unconscious failure to extend to a minority the same recognition of humanity, and hence the same sympathy and care, given as a matter of course to one’s own group.’”

Thanks to our Anti-Racism Team (ART) the Sisters in the United States have many opportunities to reflect on racism and our role in perpetuating it.  I hope that during this month and throughout Lent, I can follow Julie’s advice and take on the “fast” of charity by examining the places where I am still oblivious about my participation in racism.  I invite you to join me in this “fast.”

In Notre Dame,

Sr. Edithann Kane, SNDDeN

Update from The U.S. -Mexican Border-Impact of COVID-19 on our Ministry to Immigrants

Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN

November 11, 2020 

For the last 2 and a half years, over 40 Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have given volunteer time and service to immigrants arriving at our southern border.  From early 2018 through to March of 2020, we have been present to the immigrants at both the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen (Catholic Charities) and subsequently in the Refugee Tent Camp in Matamoros, Mexico over the bridge from Brownsville,TX.

Immigrant family in tent at camp
Volunteers providing food and snacks for immigrants
Sister assisting immigrant with asylum application

 We had to move our presence from the Respite Center to the Refugee Tent Camp after the Trump administration ordered the  …   Remain in Mexico policy also known as MPPMigrant Protection Protocol in July 2019.  With the MPP – asylum petitioners mostly from Central America were no longer allowed into the USA.  The Respite Center was empty!   We now had to go over the Brownsville International Bridge daily to get supplies to the 3,000 + refugees stuck in the Matamoros tent camp awaiting a dubious chance at asylum.  We, along with other volunteers, filled carts with tents, plastic sheeting, children’s books, school supplies, diapers, powdered milk, wet-wipes etc., and dragged them over the bridge.   We did that daily until March of this year 2020.

Sisters at the border wall
Stickers for Children in the Camp

Then Covid-19 hit and it was no longer possible to visit the camp in Matamoros for 2 reasons:, first, the medical team that served the camp – Global Response Management isolated the camp from all visitors and volunteers to avoid the spread of the virus in the camp among the very vulnerable refugee families; and second, the bridge was now closed by US Border Patrol to non-essential persons which included us!

This is the situation we face till the present moment.  We cannot travel to the Border due to the COVID risk, which is extremely high in Border cities; and even if we were to travel south we could not go over the bridge to help the families still in the camp.   However we have remained in contact with 2 groups which find ways to get needed supplies to the refugees in the camp: Team Brownville and Global Response Management.  We channel donation money that we receive to both of these groups on a regular basis. The needs in the camp have grown increasingly vital as hurricane season brought heavy rains, floods, mud, rats and other vermin. Their fragile tents were destroyed and needed to be replaced. The Rio Grande flooded the camp and caused a number of drownings.  …We plan to return to the Border as soon as the COVID permits to re- access how we can best contribute to a hopefully less inhumane situation.


Children in camp sharing their food
Mother and Child in the Camps

Fighting Human Trafficking of Women in Rural Uganda

Luke: 4:18 “”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…”

In the spirit of the above-quoted Scriptures, Sr. Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN is working with other Catholic Sisters and lay catechists from Africa and here in the U.S. to increase awareness of human trafficking perils among “high-risk” groups, minors and the general public. This is being done through information dissemination campaign and provide the public in Uganda and neighboring communities the truth about human trafficking as well as to devise mechanisms to remedy the prevalence of human trafficking Fort Portal Catholic Diocese and Rwenzori Regions of Uganda.

Escaping Human Bondage
We think of human trafficking/slavery as something that happened in the past- but sadly, it is an ongoing problem. Can you imagine the suffering of young Ugandan girls who were enticed by government licensed labor recruiting agencies and taken to the Middle East for honest domestic labor, only to find themselves entrapped in situations of horrible abuse? Recently, at a conference headed by Sr. Eucharia Madueke , SNDdeN, two such girls told how found themselves trapped inside employers’ homes, stripped off their names and called “Kafala,” ( an Arabic word for “servant”), overworked, robbed of their religious identities, physically and emotionally abused, and infected with sexually transmitted diseases. They eventually escaped and found their way back to Uganda with no money for medical care and no place to call home as their people rejected them.

In one of Sr. Eucharia’s workshop sessions.

The Problem
Young Ugandan women and girls between ages 12-24 are most vulnerable to human trafficking. Human trafficking in Uganda is both domestic and international. The country serves as a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Children as young as seven are forced to beg in Kampala streets and other urban areas, work in the farming, fishing, mining, dangerous heavy industrial work, street vending, in the bars, restaurants, and domestic service. False recruiting companies continue to use both private and government radio and television to entice young Ugandans facing economic hardship and lack of opportunity to leave Uganda for a supposedly better future. Government officials and in some cases, the police, have been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse, and facilitating the movement of vulnerable populations from settlements in Uganda to South Sudan.


Sisters with a Solution
Sr. Eucharia and the women religious working with her have developed a plan to combat human trafficking in two areas of Uganda noted for tourism, yet particularly affected by this scourge. They have already confronted government officials, in the first phase of their program. But they need popular awareness and support. They want to use radio and other forms of social media to provide counter messages to the Ugandan public, telling them the truth about many of these jobs overseas. They want to gather data to expose these practices to the government and the world. They’d like to create a video that shows how traffickers often use false jobs to hook and trap young and vulnerable people into forced labor and sexual slavery. Even poor rural areas receive radio and TV programs. They want to continue to hold enlightenment campaigns and town hall meetings in this region, particularly in the rural communities targeted by traffickers, to educate the people about the evil of human trafficking. They want to mobilize and train other stakeholders, particularly the catechists working in vast rural areas, so that they will work together in combating human trafficking.

Sisters’ Visit to the District Security Officer–seeking good governance

Will you stand with Sister Eucharia Madueke and help protect these innocent young women?
The overall campaign is estimated to cost $51, 240. U.S. Sr. Eucharia and those working with her are praying for support, and seeking funds from public and private foundations. However, there is a great need for smaller donations. For $600, Sr. Eucharia and her team could create and broadcast 10 radio programs countering the false radio advertising of the traffickers. A donation of $1000 covers the cost of a presentation at a town hall meeting in one rural area- they hope to hold 5 such town halls. $2000 would pay for creation of an anti-trafficking radio jingle. The research efforts and creation of a documentary could be accomplished for $5000. Any gift can help with the largest cost – the travel, and costs associated with workshops to train the sisters engaged in this work. We will keep you updated on Sr. Eucharia’s progress!

Unrestricted donations permit the Sisters to support human justice works like these, while letting the Sisters of Notre Dame apply funds where they are needed most.