Twelve Days of Giving – 2020

Our Twelfth Day of Giving and final story in our 2020 series. “Mother and Child”. So many of our Christmas carols and hymns contain those words. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have always focused on the need of women and children. To aid and educate those in the most abandoned places is of the utmost importance to the Sisters. The picture above was taken by Sr. Mary Alice McCabe when she was still able to go into the migrant camps in Mexico to hep those who are there, seeking a better life. The rais have caused the Rio Grande near the camp to flood, causing hte flimsy housing of the migrant families to deteriorate, and compounding their problems with cold, mud, vermin, illness. There have been some drownings. In honor of a Mother who also was traveling far from her homeland to protect her child, we hope you will be moved to make a donation.

Our SNDs who are involved with ministries all over the world have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Just being able to reach some of these ministries has been difficult! But on top of that, ensuring that the many people who rely on the assistance and guidance of our Sisters on a regular basis have access to what they need, and receive the care necessary to keep healthy during a global crisis, continues to be a major challenge!

Between now and January 1st, these stories of the Sisters’ giving and their needs and the needs of those they serve, will remain up on this site. We hope that you will make a gift to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur this Christmas to help the meet all of these challenges.

Radio Broadcasts by the Sisters in Uganda to Combat False Ads and Prevent Human Trafficking

Our Eleventh “Day of Giving ” Story: “Mission Not Deterred by Covid-19 Pandemic”

Such is the report from Sr. Eucharia Madueke, SNDDeN of Base Community, regarding her work with the Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), Washington, DC. Earlier this year, we told you about how the AFJN has been building the capacity of women religious in Uganda, including the Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, empowering them to tackle human trafficking and all forms of violence against women and children in the country since 2018. In 2019, the sisters hosted a meeting for over 120 national and regional government para-states to encourage the government to map out a national strategy for combatting human trafficking. This same year, the sisters, with the assistance of the National Criminal Investigation Department rescued eleven trafficked young women and referred the case of 22 girls for further investigation to this department.

This year, the sisters planned a National Day of Prayer and March against human trafficking. These activities, which got a national and regional publicity and were planned to feature many prominent Ugandan civil and religious leaders, got placed on hold until further notice because of COVID-19 lockdown. The sisters used available online technology and social media platforms to reach out to their audiences. During the relaxation of national lockdown that allowed small group meetings, the sisters began to reach out to the people in manageable numbers to avoid endangering anybody’s health. 

AFJN held its first Zoom meetings with the sisters in the month of May, to discuss ways they can maintain its presence with the people amidst COVID-19 lock down. At this meeting, the sisters expressed great concern over the high rate of domestic violence. The also noted that human trafficking continued even with the lockdown. Given the problems on ground and the COVID-19 restrictions, AFJN decided to work with the sisters on the use of social media for advocacy. First, we composed a prayer Against Domestic Violence anddistributed it through various social media platform available to the sisters.  In June, July and August, the Sisters hosted 18 weeks of radio talk shows in Lira and Fort Portal regions, focusing the talk show on educating the public and answering their questions on human trafficking and domestic violence. The sisters also used this means to state publicly their stands against human trafficking and other form of violence on women and children. Sister Eucharia writes that the “…radio talk show was very successful in educating the masses given the large number of people that tuned in to the program and the volumes of questions that were asked. Both the radio station and the public pleaded for the continuance of the program, but we have to stop due to lack of funds for airtime.”  Note – the traffickers use radio to persuade young people to seek “employment” abroad – and their ads are continuing.

A female survivor shares her experiences

In an attempt to address the negative impact of human trafficking on the individuals, families and communities at large, the sisters  held a one-day workshop for inmates of  Hope Community Development Initiative (HOCODI -Uganda), a government establishment to train poor Uganda women in employable skills. At the gathering of  the twenty-night young women and five members of HOCODI staff, the sisters discovered that thirteen of these girls are survivors of human trafficking and seventeen were preparing to travel abroad (trafficked). The survivors, three of them sponsored by AFJN, shared their exploitative experience in the hands of their traffickers overseas. They also shared their feelings of abandonment and lack of understanding from families and communities. At the end of their tear-filled and emotional sharing, the young women preparing to travel abroad vowed not to travel. One of them said; “I cannot make the mistake of going abroad after listening to these stories.” The sisters worked with these young women and their families to achieve reconciliation.  Similar groups were held to help young men who were subjected to human trafficking (in most cases for labor exploitation).

Survivors of trafficking and their parents, with sisters

We do not have the space to adequately present Sr. Eucharia’s story and the marvelous work that is being done to combat human trafficking and domestic violence in Uganda and Nigeria. A full length article will appear in early January on this website.   Your unrestricted donation goes to support efforts like those of Sr. Eucharia to rescue these survivors of human trafficking, restore them to their families and prevent other young people from being betrayed into modern day slavery by false hope. Give them true HOPE by your donation on Giving Tuesday.

Julie Community Center

On our Tenth Day of Giving, we feature the Julie Community Center in Southeast Baltimore, Md. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Julie Community Center is a separate 501(c) (3) nonprofit (Director, Laura Syron) but still has close ties to the Sisters. This community organization is in its 25th year of service and has been served by several Sisters in the past. Currently, Sr. Therese (Tracy) Dill is active with this ministry. The Julie Community provides after school program, youth enrichment and summer camp program from children ages 6-12. It also has a special emphasis on education, health promotion in cooperation with the Johns Hopkins, advocacy, and community activities for youth in areas such as teen pregnancy, drug prevention, leadership development, scholastic achievement, and building strong family relationships.

Per Ms. Syron: “The pandemic caused the halt of center based activities – Summer Peace Camp, after school programs with Wolfe Street Academy, Girl Scouts, and the Child Care Training Program. We have been able to utilize the center for food distribution. We partnered with a local church, Mixx Church, Baltimore City Public Schools, and Wolfe Street Academy to distribute daily meals to families throughout the spring and summer and the weekly Friday food program with Wolfe Street Academy kicked off in mid November.  We have taken this downtime to make needed repairs to the building to make it safe and inviting for the community to use.”

The Julie Community Center is looking to provide its customary services in 2021 and is seeking funding to allow it to offer an additional workforce development program to train and certify women in the community in childcare. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur provide partial support for these efforts. You can make a difference locally by donating on December 1 or during the holiday season, on this website.

Jugs for the Water Project in Haiti- 12 Days -2020

If you follow our Facebook page and have visited our website before, you have seen the videos and posts about the Notre Dame Bakery Project – and the new Water Project, before. Five gallon water jugs and caps are still needed ( 200 to start) and a gift of $10 would provide 2 jugs to hold purified water. For our Ninth Day of Giving story, we asked Sister Katherine “Sissy” Corr to update us on how COVID -19 has impacted those efforts. Of course, one major impact has been that the travel bans and advisories have kept Sister Sissy from returning to Haiti and she has been supporting her ministry from Florida.

Sr. Sissy writes: “Just because of what is happening in the US, we immediately become worried when someone gets sick . For example last week we had two of our early morning team call in sick. The first inclination [of the Haitian team members] is not to seek testing. There is a stigma associated with COVID. So our precaution has to be to close down for a few days, to be sure all is ok. So far that is what we have done. This is hard for the workers because they lose pay.”

“Of course we provide all our workers and sellers with masks and sanitizer. It costs a fair amount to keep up but it appears this is helping.”

“The doctors in the area are worried about a second wave, in particular because they opened up the airports in September and that of course brings more people from the US who could be hidden carriers of the virus.

Many people are out of work in Haiti too. For us that means many people ask “to pay later” or just ask us for help to alleviate their hunger…please give us some bread. These are just plain hard times. So we are challenged to figure out how much we can do. I would like to declare Jubilee on the debt that people have built up…”. But to do that, Sister Sissy needs additional funds- perhaps funds that our donors could provide on Giving Tuesday?

For our Eighth Day of Giving story we are sharing with you the ongoing work at the Evart Street Community Center in Washington, DC. Sr. Denise Curry, SNDDeN, writes: ”

At Evarts Street our usual work with the immigrant community took a few COVID-19 twists. The mother and 2-year-old boy from Liberia who had lived with us with since September 2019 moved on —  just before the pandemic hit.  So our guestroom has been empty – and very lonely since then.

Our tutoring work has taken its own route. In March, we transitioned from in-person weekly tutoring to helping our kids (two families and five children in one household) every day with on-line classes by Zoom. The goal was to complete their homework assignments – not much learning going on.  But by September the schools really improved their offerings. Now the children seem really engaged in Zoom classes and take personal responsibility. We still help with on-line assignments and go their home once a week (masks and outdoors!) for educational and physical activities.”

Please consider a donation to help the Sisters in their work. If you can commit to a regular monthly donation, that allows the Sisters to plan for continuing projects.

Combatting Food Insecurity

Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, we are telling both our Seventh and Eighth Day of Giving Stories today. Our Seventh Day of Giving Story features the work of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in combatting food insecurity during the COVID pandemic in Ohio Province. Our Thanksgiving celebrations focus on food – so much food that the leftovers are a problem and the excess a matter of regret for some. Yet many Americans in this pandemic year are suffering from food insecurity.

Sr. Kathy Harmon, of the Ohio province, contacted the Tri-Province Development office about the need for support for the Vine on Vine Street pizza place run to benefit the community there. Sr. Therese DelGenio has volunteered and worked at Our Daily Brea, a Catholic meals program, d for a number of years in the Cincinnati area. Sr. Therese wrote an article about how their efforts were affected by the pandemic. Here are excerpts:

Sister Thérèse shares the joys she experiences working at Our Daily Bread. “The people I met who are unhoused and living in poverty are amazing. Each one has an incredible story to share. I don’t think I could have walked in their shoes and faced the life situations that they did. I find the people and their stories to be delightful, grateful, creative, helpful, humorous, resilient, and spiritual.”

Our Daily Bread has 12 staff members. While all of them could be working elsewhere for bigger salaries, they choose to be committed to the people they serve. It is also supported by hundreds of committed volunteers who serve in many capacities. Our Daily Bread is still operating with a skeleton staff, providing boxed meals for those who need them.

However, the community is not allowed to eat in the premises. “So people eat on the sidewalk, by the buildings, anywhere they can find a space to sit down.” Our Daily Bread usually serves sit down meals for the guests.

“Since I’m not allowed to stay during the COVID-19 pandemic, I talk to families on the phone, making sure they have the paperwork they need to take care of their food, rent, and utilities,” said Sister Thérèse.

Read an article from Sr. Therese at this link: https://www.sndohio.org/sisters-notre-dame/news/1678217/focusing-on-the-goodness-of-god-moment-by-moment

Please consider an unrestricted donation to the Sisters of Notre Dame on Giving Tuesday so we can provide support for this and other worthy efforts of the Sisters.

Students at the Sisters Academy

Our Sixth Day of Giving story is about the Sisters Academy of Baltimore. This middle-school for girls in the tradition of Catholic school education, began in September of 2004.  A small group of educators, community leaders, and parents came together to talk about the power of education to transform blighted neighborhoods in southwest Baltimore. In August 2002, four religious congregations: the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of Bon Secours, Sisters of Mercy, and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, decided to conduct a school feasibility study that would involve reviewing demographic data of census tracts in southwest Baltimore, conducting focus groups with parents in the area, and interviewing neighborhood organizations. During this process, parents and community leaders pointed to a critical need for intervention in the lives of their middle school children.

The Sisters Academy has been very successful, now featuring classes for girls from grades 5-8. While the school now has other sources of funding and support from the larger community and businesses, it is still tuition free to the families, and receive significant support from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, which originated as a teaching order for poor children.  The Sisters don’t forget their original mission!

Admission to Sisters Academy of Baltimore is based on an evaluation of the merit of the student and her parent(s)/guardian(s) relative to the established admission criteria without regard to religion, race, color, and national or ethnic origin.

Sisters Academy serves girls from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Baltimore City, particularly those in west and southwest Baltimore. These communities struggle with poverty, high unemployment, drug addiction, and crime.  Graduates of the program receive continuing support in selecting and applying to high school and beyond high school.   As of June 2020, one hundred percent (100%) of the graduates of Sisters Academy’s first nine classes (2008 through 2016) have earned their high school diploma. Ninety-one percent (91%) of all of our graduates attend or have graduated from a private, Catholic, or selective public high school. Ninety percent (90%) of the young women who have completed high school have graduated from college, are attending college, or are enrolled in other professional, technical, or military service programs. By comparison, per the 2019 figures released by the Maryland Department of Education the graduation rate dropped most in Baltimore City, where it fell 1.85 percentage points to 70.3%.

Your donations to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur help them to continue to support worthy educational efforts like the Sisters Academy of Baltimore!

For our fifth “Day of Giving” we return to the needs of the immigrants at the U.S- Mexican border. The picture above was taken when the Sisters could join other volunteers to provide meals to the persons in the camp. Now, they cannot cross the border to bring food and supplies to help. Team Brownville and Global Response Management are two groups that have managed to still get supplies across the border. ” [The Sisters] channel donation money that we receive to both of these groups on a regular basis to buy the supplies needed. The needs in the camp have grown increasingly vital as hurricane season brought heavy rains, floods, mud, rats and other vermin.”

Please make a donation on Giving Tuesday to support these and other charitable efforts of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Prison Ministry- South Carolina

“… I was in prison , and you visited me.” Mt 25:36. For our fourth “Day of Giving”, we focus on the impact of the pandemic on the Prison Ministry supported by Sr. Christina Murphy, SNDDeN at Our Lady of the Hills, Charleston, SC. For many years, Sr. Christina and other volunteers have visited several correctional institutions for men and women, as well has endeavoring to help women to make a successful transition upon release.

Sr. Christina writes: “Before the pandemic caused so much “revamping” of what was the normal-this is what we have done to try to reach out to the ladies we minister to in Prison Ministry. Before all this happened we were able to come into the Institutions once a week, … hold Catholic Service, and visit with the women. Also at holiday time we were able to bring in a meal and supply holiday bags (shampoo, soap, etc.) to the women.”

Sr. Christina Murphy, SNDDeN

In mid March the Correctional Institution was put on lock down. We have not been able to get back in-and there is no change in sight.
In order to stay in touch with the women we have done the following:
~at the beginning of each month we have mailed the Sunday scripture readings and scripture lessons to each woman, that has been accompanied by a personal letter and religious brochure;
~to the women in other facilities, we have mailed cards and notes;
~last week we got permission to “drop off” holiday bags for the ladies. The list was restricted to just a fraction of the items that were previously allowed.”

“…During the months of July and August-we conducted a BOOKS BEHIND BARS PROGRAM and were able to deliver 60 cartons of books to the various institutions. …”.

“As of this date that is all we have been able to do. We will continue to do all of the above until we are allowed back in the Institutions. ” Sr. Christina tells us that they have sufficient funding for what they are able to do, at present, but we hope our donors will continue to support Sr. Christina by unrestricted gifts to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur so that when they are able to do more, we can furnish the means.

Sisters at Villa Julie Residence (2019 photo)

Our third “Day of Giving” focuses on our treasures, the Sisters at Villa Julie Residence and our other residences, who are as active as they can be in showing that “the good God is so very good”! Since early March, when COVID-19 became part of our lives, many things have changed for the Sisters. Here at Villa Julie, we stopped accepting any outside visitors. This was hard on on many Sisters, because, as you can imagine, seeing family and friends is very important to them. Thankfully, we were (and are still) able to video conference with them as an alternative.

In addition to the emotional toll this pandemic has taken on all of us, the financial impact has been significant.

In a time of high demand and price gouging, the cost to acquire the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for all SNDDeN health centers was great. Ensuring that we had ( and continue to have) enough masks for Sisters and staff, antibacterial soap and cleaning supplies at Villa Julie alone is no easy task. Just like so many others, the Sisters suffered financially due to this ongoing pandemic. The health and safety of our Sisters is paramount, so that they can continue to care and advocate for those in need-here and around the world. Please consider making a gift to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur this Christmas, to help with these costs?

Our second “Day of Giving” photo shows Sr. Mary Alice McCabe and Jeannette Braun with Honduran refugee women in the Matamoros camp. This photo was taken when the Sisters and other volunteers could still go into the camp.

As Sr. Mary Alice informed us: “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…”. Donations made to the Sisters are funneled to these groups to meet the need.

Your unrestricted donations help us provide funds to the Sisters for this and other worthy causes. You are free to designate your gift for a particular ministry like this. However, making your donation unrestricted gives the Sisters discretion to apply the funds where the need is greatest at any given moment.

Children in the Matamoros camp sharing their food

The Advent season is fast approaching. Advent is the season of HOPE– and don’t we all need that now, as the pandemic continues! Each year, the Sisters at Villa Julie – in n fact, all the Sisters, along with Christians around the world- look forward to Advent this season of HOPE. This is different than optimism – although the Sisters experience that too. It is a deep belief that the God who became one of us, and is always with us, is GOOD. Over and over again, your generosity to the Sisters confirm that belief.

For the next twelve days, the Development Office is presenting 12 stories about how COViD has impacted the lives and ministries of the Sisters in 2020 – and how the Sisters are doing their best to continue their ministries and bring a sense that God is GOOD to this troubled world. The series will culminate on December 1, “Giving Teesday”, with the twelfth story and our invitation to join the Sisters in their ministry by making a gift to theSisters on that day, or by Christmas.

On our first day of giving, Sister Mary Alice McCabe updates us on the Sister’ continuing commitment to help immigrants at the United States’ southern border. (Read more in “News and Events” in just a few days.): “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. We had to move our presence from the Respite Center to the Refugee Tent Camp. 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.”

The picture above shows some of the children of immigrants in the camp, sharing food. In a future installment, we will tell you more about how the Sisters’ ministry has changed since they cannot now cross the border into the camps. They still need your donations and help.