Global Sisters Report website celebrates two-year anniversary

Thank you! Readers like you help Global Sisters Report achieve its mission: to serve as a forum that focuses on the social justice mission of Catholic women religious and explores theology, spirituality, identity, community and other aspects of consecrated life.

Since I started as editor a few months ago, I find myself continually inspired by the vast range of ministries that sisters are involved in, including in the halls of the United Nations, detention centers outside Chicago, and the most remote areas in India, Vietnam, Guatemala, Tanzania and elsewhere. Sisters every day around the world live out the mission of mercy that Pope Francis reminds us is the heart of the church.

On this, our second anniversary, we wanted to take a few moments to reflect. We asked our reporters and editors to identify some of our most notable stories in the past two years. It was a difficult task as there are so many, but we selected some below.

We also encourage you to browse the hundreds of inspiring, insightful columns written by sisters that we've carried since our inception. Each strikes a chord, serving as an individual and part of a collective voice.

We also want to take a few minutes to tell you about our plans. As we embark on our third year, GSR will be expanding its reach with more stories from Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. We're also looking to increase coverage in Asia, even as we continue to write about U.S. sisters and issues. There are so many stories we want to tell, and we are always looking for sisters to write columns for us. Please contact us with ideas and suggestions at info@globalsistersreport.org.

Please share GSR stories with friends and associates. We have an active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, as well as a WhatsApp forum for Africa. You can remember to show appreciation with the "Say Thanks" button at the end of stories and columns.

So now, we say collectively again: Thank you!

______

Jesus and women: 'You are set free'
by Elizabeth Johnson, published April 23, 2014

Our very first lead story wasn't a story at all, but a column by St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, who won that year's LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award. She wrote that female scholars have called attention to many Bible stories that show Jesus' love for women that are often ignored. "Women bring to [theology] a new perspective, asking questions that arise from the life experiences — and suffering — of women," she wrote. "This type of theology is commonly called feminist theology, from the Latin femina, meaning woman. It sees faith with women's eyes. . . . And it searches the tradition for powerful liberating elements that can transform life today."

Easter hope for South Sudan
by Chris Herlinger, published April 23, 2014

One of our first news stories came from Chris Herlinger, who is now GSR's international correspondent. Chris visited South Sudan ahead of Easter in 2014 as violence continued to increase in the world's newest country. He wrote of the sheer senselessness of the escalating civil war and how women religious and clergy plead for peace. "I'm not a pacifist, but after this assignment, I have increased respect for those who are," he wrote. "A country like South Sudan, where people routinely come down with malaria, should not be at war. It has too many other things to worry about." Herlinger has continued to travel the world and spent the most recent Lenten season with refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

Climate change in Vietnam: Nuns volunteer to help people adapt
by Joachim Pham, published June 2, 2014

Vietnam's Thua Thien Hue province is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather, and many landowners are unable to farm on land that is underwater during the rainy months. Joachim visited with sisters in the area who help landowners develop climate-resilient methods of making a living. This includes teaching classes on how to grow vegetables, flowers and mushrooms and how to raise poultry and fish. "I am happy to cultivate my land again for a living," one woman told Joachim. "I am deeply grateful for the nuns."

Education: A way up for Cambodian women escaping the sex-trade
by Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, published June 23, 2014

On a reporting trip to Cambodia, Claire met Maryknoll Sr. Helene O'Sullivan, who heads the Horizons Vocational Training Institute, which provides basic education and intensive job training for women and girls who were victims of human trafficking. These women are frequently considered "trash" by their communities, and the education and training the institute provides helps them get into "formal sector" jobs in Cambodia's growing tourism industry. In jobs in hotel housekeeping or waitressing, the women can earn up to $150 each month, more than double what most sex workers make.

Out of the land of persecution
by Dan Stockman, published Jan. 19, 2015

In the fall of 2014, Dan went to Chicago to visit one of 12 Chaldean parishes in the United States. The result was "Out of the land of persecution," which highlights the struggles of religious who grew up as part of the Christian minority in the Middle East and who now minister to a similar displaced population. "In every tragedy, you have two options," a Chaldean priest told Dan. "You can take it to heart and let it mess you up, or you can work against it, and in the midst of war and pain and suffering, let God use you as an instrument of peace."

Bearing witness, being church: Dominican sisters in Iraq
by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, published Feb. 5, 2015

In 2014, a group calling itself the Islamic State began to terrorize Iraq. Christians fled, moving into refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. In February 2015, Dawn wrote about three Dominican sisters who visited their Iraqi sisters trying to make life work despite Iraq's many challenges, challenges that have since escalated. In January 2016, Dawn posted an update from the sisters: "Everybody is physically and psychologically exhausted," wrote Dominican Sr. Maria Hanna, the Iraqi sisters' prioress. "It does not seem that there is any solution. . . . We ask your prayers that God may enlighten us and grant us His wisdom to discern in our reality despite all the difficulties and pressure we are living."

The Selma effect: Catholic nuns and social justice 50 years on
by Carol K. Coburn, published March 9, 2015

March 10, 2015, marked the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. Six Catholic sisters from St. Louis attended the original march, and even though they didn't get far before they were stopped by police, their attendance at the march ushered in "a new era that forever changed the face of religious life and would inevitably redefine how sisters understood and acted upon social justice issues for the rest of the century," Coburn wrote.

United in action and prayer: Las Hermanas helped create new way of being 'church'
by Nuri Vallbona, published March 18, 2015

Since the early 1970s, Las Hermanas ("The Sisters") has pushed to end discriminatory practices in the Catholic church toward Latina Catholic laywomen and nuns. Nuri dug deep into the history of Las Hermanas, which helped establish the Mexican American Catholic College in 1972 and has helped Hispanic women reach their leadership goals. The group's motto is "unidas en accion y oracion" ("united in action and in prayer"): "We were very explicit that 'accion' came first and not 'oracion' because we didn't want to be perceived as 'las monjitas en oracion' ('the nuns in prayer')," Sr. Yolanda Tarango said. "We wanted to highlight the activist part."

Guadalupan Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit help people in central Alabama accept their realities, feel their strength
by Soli Salgado, published Dec. 14, 2015

Through La Casita, a center in Birmingham, Alabama, the Guadalupan Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit help immigrants, most of whom know little English, adjust to life in the United States. La Casita provides services that include citizenship classes, psychological services, and legal help to those who need it. In 2015, Soli and Nuri Vallbona traveled to Birmingham and spoke to many immigrants who have been helped by the ministry. They learned that once the immigrants get on their feet, they continue to volunteer at La Casita to help others. "It's their way to show gratitude," said Sr. Gaby Ramirez, director of La Casita. "They're letting us know that since we've been helping them, more people are in need, so it's their way to pay it forward."

Albinism in Africa: Sisters, activists counter violence with education, protection
by Melanie Lidman, published Feb. 8, 2016

Local traditions in some parts of Africa hold that body parts of people with albinism have magical properties that can make people rich. On her reporting trip to Tanzania, Melanie spent time at a residential school run by the Our Lady of Kilimanjaro Sisters that teaches students with albinism, students with disabilities, and students who are orphans or from disadvantaged backgrounds. Part of the sisters' goal is to change the perception around albinism, including through a presentation that shows albinism occurs in every living thing. "The reason why there's a high level of stigma and discrimination is that they don't understand about albinism, they don't understand why we exist," said Mariamu Stanford, who has albinism. Earlier in 2016, Melanie also wrote an outstanding series about female genital mutilation in Kenya.

Sisters urge reason, reform on immigration issues
by GSR staff, published March 9, 2016

In March, GSR tried something we had never tried before: We conducted a roundtable for sisters working for immigration reform and talked to them about Donald Trump's wall, Catholic social justice, family detention and more. What we ended up with was a snapshot of how sisters from all parts of the country are helping those coming into the United States. Don't miss the full transcript and the video of the discussion.

America's prisons: Working to change mass incarceration and the racism behind it
by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, published April 4-7, 2016

For months, Dawn talked to sisters and others working to change the conversation around jails and prisons in the United States. The result was a four-part series that looked at the racism behind mass incarceration, those who work with the imprisoned, what happens after inmates are released, and what's next for the prison system. In the last year, Dawn has also written about other social justice issues, including human trafficking, and how sisters are working to address them.

[Gail DeGeorge is GSR editor. Her email address is gdegeorge@ncronline.org.]

Need some inspiration? Visual Life offers an image and a quote to contemplate five days a week. See what you may have missed >>