From the Parish House

This weeks From the Parish House comes all the way from New York City, where I am currently spending a few weeks with my sister, Angela.  Angela is living and working in New York as the Head of Mercy Global Action, the Justice arm of Mercy Global International.  The Sisters of Mercy, like many religious and other NGOs, hold Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.  They bring expertise from grass roots experience, where their communities are active on the ground working alongside some of the most vulnerable and at risk people in the globe.  I am always amazed and inspired by the leadership and determination exhibited by so many religious women who unrelentingly work to eradicated human rights violations and advocate for the freedom and dignity of every human being, adult and child alike.  During my stay here I have met a number of these incredible women and gained some insights into their world and works.

I was introduced to Sr Winifred Doherty a couple of years ago.  Sr Winfred is member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and has worked for decades across the globe in improving the lives of women and children.  Among other things Sr Winifred has advocated for the eradication of child labour and abuse of human rights in the cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa (DRC).  Cobalt is an essential element in all smart phones and electric cars.  Two-thirds of the world’s cobalt is contained in the mines in the South of the DRC.  Sr Winifred tells me that she not only draws these human rights violations to the attention of consumers but also to the manufacturers.  In 2022 she attended the annual meeting of shareholders of Tesla and challenged the board of directors to commission an independent review of the supply chains of its own manufacturing arm and to commit to the eradication of human rights abuses at the cobalt mines. The challenge remains.

This week Sr Angela, Sr Winifred and other religious women, tell me about their priorities in highlighting issues around human trafficking, homelessness, displacement of people and addressing the many equalities in the lives of women and girls.  As climate justice activists they also speak to issues of water and sanitation, mining and the extractive industry and its impact on the earth and people, particularly Indigenous communities.

They talk about the ongoing issues around the trafficking of vulnerable women into prostitution.  They tell me about their aversion to the growing use of the term ‘the sex trade’.  “Not the sex trade’ says Sr Winifred, ‘not sex workers’.  These terms try to normalise what is, in fact, an abuse of the human person and their inalienable dignity. The human person is a sacred being.  Our bodies are not objects for sale and trade.  There is dignity in work.  There is no dignity in turning our bodies into objects to be exploited as they are placed on the market shelf.

Our conversation turns to homelessness where Sr Jean Quinn has been working at the United Nations on behalf of UNANIMA for many years.  UNANIMA is an NGO representing 25 religious orders working in over 100 countries throughout the world.  Sr Jean speaks passionately about her work in getting homelessness on the international agenda with an International Homelessness Awareness Day, and building a coalition of partners who are prepared to work together in eliminating the risks that lead to homelessness and to create the conditions across the globe where no-one ends up homeless.

These women are stimulating to be around.  They are as much at home on the ground with workers in the mining town of Kolwezi as they are on the floor of the United Nations.  They will meet on the streets of Cebu with vulnerable women and bring their voice to the world leaders at a UN forum in New York.  They seek partners, build communities and continually check that no one is left behind.

The Gospel this week talks about Jesus’ family coming looking for him.  “My mother and sister and brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into action,” replies Jesus.  I think that I have been with some of the sisters of Jesus this week.  They are great to be around, they are full of the joy of the Gospel and their enthusiasm for the work of justice is contagious.

In the meantime – Central Park is calling.

Fr Brendan Reed

signing off in New York

 

Published: 7 June 2024

Parish Priest

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Jeff Phillips

You have an inspiring sister_ Angela & many others.
You sure get around Brendan.
Enjoy the Big Apple.

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Denis Fitzgerald

Great note, Brendan, linking your holiday, Angela and the other religious, inspirational work for justice and the gospel of the day - thank you. Peace, Denis

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