By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Women Religious on Frontlines of COVID19 Pandemic, Honored by American & British Ambassadors to the Holy See

This was done at a virtual symposium on J
Women Religious on the Frontlines Symposium on June 23,2020.

The event was followed via streaming
on Zoom, but the Ambassadors and some of the participating religious sisters were present and socially distantly speaking
at the headquarters of the UISG in Rome.

Humble, Lifesaving Service

British Ambassador Sally Axworthy once again praised religious sisters’ invaluable contribution worldwide.”

“One of the discoveries I have made since becoming ambassador to the Holy See nearly four years ago is how much great work is done by the religious orders around the world. 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. They do that without blowing their own trumpet and often at great cost to themselves.”

“The 650,000 religious sisters are an army for the greater good. We are here to celebrate their service, and hear some of their inspiring stories.”

US Ambassador to the Holy
See, Callista Gingrich recalled that this year’s marked the third Women Religious on the Frontlines symposium their embassy held since 2017, noting each was organized in collaboration with the International Union of Superiors General, led by Sr. Pat Murray of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, its executive secretary, and Claretian Missionary Sr. Jolanda Kafka, its president.

The Lifelines for Others

“Given everything that has happened in the world over the last several months,” she expressed, lour program could not have come at a more appropriate time. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused vast global unemployment, poverty and food insecurity, further challenging the work of women religious.”

She lamented the effects of the pandemic on the Catholic Church have been particularly damaging.

“Countless priests and women religious have tragically lost their lives to this terrible virus. Here in Italy and around the world,” Ambassador Gingrich recalled,” many faithful Catholic sisters have made the ultimate sacrifice while caring for others.”

“Despite harrowing losses,” she underscored, “Catholic sisters and faith-based organizations have continued their life-saving work.”

They have been at the forefront of the fight against the spread of COVID-19, she said, adding: “These faithful sisters and their orders are defined by an abiding sense of purpose and are dedicated to aiding those most in need.”

“They serve as lifelines for communities experiencing unprecedented hardships and as advocates for the oppressed.”

Sister Alicia Vacas joined us from Jerusalem, where she is the provincial superior of the Comboni Sisters. Vacas recently provided health care at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bergamo, Italy, where her congregation lost 10 sisters.

Vacas described the challenges faced by women religious not just in Italy, but around the world, including a lack of supplies, medical care and protective equipment. And yet, Vacas conveyed that a wonderful spirit of collaboration exists between congregations who support each other while caring for those in need.
These courageous women illustrate that even during a devastating pandemic, Catholic sisters work faithfully and tirelessly to support the most vulnerable among us.

Sr. Imelda Poole of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary joined us from Tirana, Albania. A native of Great Britain, Poole helped establish the Mary Ward Loreto Foundation in 2009, an anti-trafficking nongovernmental organization in Albania. She is also the president of Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation (RENATE), which works to combat human trafficking across 31 countries in Europe.

Sr. Stan Therese Mario Mumuni joined us from Ghana, how her sisters are working to combat the horrific human-trafficking situation in Ghana

She is the founder of the Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love, protecting and caring for Ghanaian “spirit children,” who are ritualistically murdered due to physical or mental disabilities.

Despite facing great and unexpected challenges resulting from the pandemic, Mumuni and her congregation continue to risk their lives to help these children.

Below one can read the full intervention of Ambassador Axworthy and the editorial written by Ambassador Gingrich.

One can also replay the entire
symposium by clicking the link below:

To watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moTXPwvmBsY

**
British Ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy’s Opening Remarks
Women Religious on the Frontlines Virtual Symposium
Rome, Italy
June 23, 2020

Ambassador Gingrich, Sister Jolanda, Sister Pat, dear friends,
Thank you, Ambassador Gingrich, for inviting me to co-host the symposium today and to the UISG for allowing us once again to take advantage of your hospitality! I am delighted to join Ambassador Gingrich in recognising the work of the sisters worldwide.
One of the discoveries I have made since becoming ambassador to the Holy See nearly four years ago is how much great work is done by the religious orders around the world. 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. They do that without blowing their own trumpet and often at great cost to themselves.
We have with us today three sisters who represent the best of that tradition.
Governments try to address many of the same issues that the sisters do. The UK meets the target of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on aid, which in 2019 amounted to €16.8 billion. That spending goes on humanitarian aid, vaccinations, education, providing food and medical care, often working with the UN or with governments. I hope our efforts are complementary. The sisters’ operations are endlessly agile, spotting needs and responding to them. They are also resilient, staying in conflict zones for example, even when that is at risk to themselves. We welcome their leadership. We recognise that they are uniquely well placed to build relationships of trust with those who have been exploited and abused. We cannot always do the same things in the same way, but we can work together to end human trafficking, sexual abuse and violence against women, and to promote education for girls, to reduce poverty and to provide healthcare in the world’s poorest places.
These are goals that we have in common. The 650,000 religious sisters are an army for the greater good. We are here to celebrate their service, and hear some of their inspiring stories.

Sally Axworthy
British Ambassador to the Holy See

Oped, of Callista Gingrich, piblished on website of American Embassy to
the Holy See:

Op-ed by Ambassador Gingrich on the occasion of the “Women Religious on the Frontlines” Symposium
Published June 23, 2020
The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the British Embassy to the Holy See on June 23 co-hosted “Women Religious on the Frontlines,” a symposium highlighting the humanitarian efforts of Catholic sisters who selflessly serve on the front lines of conflict zones and other vulnerable places around the world.
This was the third Women Religious on the Frontlines symposium our embassy has held since 2017. All of these programs have been organized in collaboration with the International Union of Superiors General, which is led by Sr. Pat Murray of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, its executive secretary, and Claretian Missionary Sr. Jolanda Kafka, its president.
Given everything that has happened in the world over the last several months, our program could not have come at a more appropriate time. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused vast global unemployment, poverty and food insecurity, further challenging the work of women religious.
The effects of the pandemic on the Catholic Church have been particularly damaging. Countless priests and women religious have tragically lost their lives to this terrible virus. Here in Italy and around the world, many faithful Catholic sisters have made the ultimate sacrifice while caring for others.
Despite harrowing losses, Catholic sisters and faith-based organizations have continued their life-saving work. They have been at the forefront of the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
These faithful sisters and their orders are defined by an abiding sense of purpose and are dedicated to aiding those most in need. They serve as lifelines for communities experiencing unprecedented hardships and as advocates for the oppressed.
We were grateful to be joined at our symposium by three remarkable sisters who spoke about the pandemic’s impact on their organizations and the communities they serve.
Sr. Stan Therese Mario Mumuni joined us from Ghana, where she is the founder of the Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love, protecting and caring for Ghanaian “spirit children,” who are ritualistically murdered due to physical or mental disabilities.
Despite facing great and unexpected challenges resulting from the pandemic, Mumuni and her congregation continue to risk their lives to help these children. She spoke about how her sisters are working to combat the horrific human-trafficking situation in Ghana, where children are sold to fishing boats for as little as $5.
Sr. Imelda Poole of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary joined us from Tirana, Albania. A native of Great Britain, Poole helped establish the Mary Ward Loreto Foundation in 2009, an anti-trafficking nongovernmental organization in Albania. She is also the president of Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation (RENATE), which works to combat human trafficking across 31 countries in Europe.
Poole revealed that 70% to 80% of RENATE’s work has now moved online. She described in great detail why those most impacted by the pandemic are now even more vulnerable to human trafficking and urged governments to take more legal action to combat this evil scourge.
Comboni Sr. Alicia Vacas speaks during “Women Religious on the Frontlines,” a June 23 online symposium about how women religious are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. (CNS screenshot/Facebook video)
And finally, Sr. Alicia Vacas joined us from Jerusalem, where she is the provincial superior of the Comboni Sisters. Vacas recently provided health care at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bergamo, Italy, where her congregation lost 10 sisters.
Vacas described the challenges faced by women religious not just in Italy, but around the world, including a lack of supplies, medical care and protective equipment. And yet, Vacas conveyed that a wonderful spirit of collaboration exists between congregations who support each other while caring for those in need.
These courageous women illustrate that even during a devastating pandemic, Catholic sisters work faithfully and tirelessly to support the most vulnerable among us.
(Read the article on the Global Sisters Report: LINK)

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