Read again: 10 noteworthy stories from 2017
Ah, January. A time to look ahead, start fresh and perhaps even take on a resolution to try to stick to for the next 12 months.
But if you'll indulge me, I'd like to start the new year off by looking back at the old one. For the third year in a row, I have compiled a list of 10 noteworthy stories (in no particular order) for you to revisit or to read for the first time.
We have some really great ideas up our sleeves for 2018. We can't wait to journey through this new year with you!
Appalachian coal country, where sisters see little change in 40 years by Dan Stockman, published March 2
When Dan called me after he returned from his reporting trip to Kentucky and West Virginia in the spring, one of the first things he described was the dichotomies he encountered, an anecdote that is also one of the first paragraphs in this excellent story:
"Unbelievable natural beauty next to gut-wrenching poverty. Enough natural resources to fuel the nation's industry for more than a century, and people unable to benefit from them much. A people who dearly love the rugged mountains they call home but are forced to destroy when the coal industry is booming — or leave to find work in the cities when it goes bust."
Dan's story examined how sisters in coal country are helping the increasingly powerless coal workers, come what may.
A journey marked by pain: Maryknoll Sr. Melinda Roper celebrates life in Central America by Tracy L. Barnett, published June 19
Much has been written about the four churchwomen killed Dec. 2, 1980, in El Salvador. But what about the woman who was superior of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, to which two of the sisters had belonged?
Tracy met up with Maryknoll Sr. Melinda Roper in Panama, and the result is a beautiful profile in courage from a woman who led the community through a time of violence and pain but never stopped advocating for people who live in poverty and those killed by their Central American governments in civil unrest.
(Side note: Tracy's piece on a controversial hydroelectric dam in Panama is also worth your time.)
Awareness fosters hope for often-invisible sex-trafficking victims in the Midwest by J. Malcolm Garcia and Soli Salgado, published Jan. 10
I have lived in Missouri for about 10 years but did not know the Midwest is a hub for sex trafficking until I read this piece.
"Because of its central location and all the means of transportation available — planes, trains and trucks — kids can end up anywhere in the country in 36 hours from here," one advocate against trafficking told GSR.
Of the 67 congregations of women religious that are members of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, about 25 are congregations from the Midwest. Malcolm and Soli spoke to sisters raising awareness of trafficking the Midwest as well as providing hope and help to victims of trafficking.
The hidden world of addiction and recovery among women religious by Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans, published Sept. 21
Although knowledge and attitudes about mental health disorders and addictions continue to evolve, public accounts of women religious who struggle with them have been rare, as have details of treatment and recovery.
Elizabeth examined changes in how the Catholic Church's approach to mental health issues has changed in the last several decades.
"It's in part the belief system that 'If I'm helping people, I can't be weak,' " a sister who is the CEO of a treatment center in Ontario told Elizabeth. "It's embarrassment and probably shame."
Ethnic minorities in South Sudan's camps face insecurity in warring nation by Chris Herlinger, published Oct. 5
Because of South Sudan's ongoing civil war, which began in 2013, Chris had trouble getting a visa to visit the country. When he did finally make it there in May, he found sisters doing their best to make life livable for those in extraordinary circumstances.
This piece, which came out of Chris' visit to a refugee camp in South Sudan's capital of Juba, epitomizes the desire of the South Sudanese to make the best of a bad situation.
"The focus [by the media] is on the famine, the displaced, the state of the economy, abuse of people," one sister told Chris. "It's all true. There is so much suffering, yes. But there's much more to it than that. Children are still going to school; people keep going on."
Partnerships strengthen sisters' clean water projects worldwide by Soli Salgado, published Oct. 9
When Soli began reporting on this assignment (which was a vague edict to "explore water ministry"), she found so many sisters in so many organizations that we broke the story into two parts.
The first installment focused on sisters on the ground bringing clean water to places that need it, and the second (which you can read here) focused on sisters advocating for clean water from afar.
Both pieces show how important collaboration is to bring help to people on the margins.
Villagers extol legacy of Sr. Rani Maria, soon to be beatified in India by Saji Thomas, published Nov. 2
Sr. Rani Maria Vattalil, India's first female martyr to be on the path toward canonization, was beatified Nov. 4. Ahead of the beatification, Saji talked to people who knew the sister, including, extraordinarily, the man who stabbed her to death in 1995.
Vattalil's family forgave her assassin, who served more than 11 years of a 20-year sentence for the killing.
He says he is happy the sister will move closer to canonization and says she will be "an inspiration for everyone to do good to others without fear. I will continue my life eking out a living from my farm and offering whatever little help I can do for others."
Sisters listen to help heal as Rwanda marks 23 years since the genocide by Melanie Lidman, published April 6
Rwanda has, by all accounts, emerged successfully from some of the physical devastation after the 1994 genocide. The economy is growing. Skyscrapers dot Kigali's skyline, and well-paved roads crisscross most of the countryside. Yet how do Rwandans honor the memory of those killed while still looking toward the future?
On her trip to the country, Melanie met several sisters who are dedicated to full-time listening, which includes running group therapies and counseling.
"The sisters in charge of listening are helping them spiritually," one sister told her. "We help them to resolve and get answers to their problems."
Women religious answer the call for the midwife globally by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, published Oct. 2
I have been asked a few times in my tenure as GSR managing editor if we would pay some sort of homage to the popular BBC TV show "Call the Midwife." This year, Dawn was able to use the show as a jumping-off point to explore sisters who are midwives around the world.
One sister who works as a midwife in Nigeria and Cameroon estimates that in 25 years, she's helped birth a couple thousand newborns. "I don't have the statistics but more than 2,000, if I put together all the places I worked at," she told Dawn.
First nun in Samburu tribe opens choice for Kenyan girls by Lilian Muendo, published Jan. 30
Young women from the Samburu tribe, a traditional people akin to the Maasai, in Kenya usually marry at a young age. But Roseline Lenguris did not want to get married; she wanted to continue to go to school and had a calling to become a nun.
Fifteen years ago, her village elders told her, "You had rather be dead than to live in this world without bearing children like a dry stick."
However, in April 2016, she became the first woman from the Samburu tribe to become a Catholic sister and was welcomed home with open arms. She is inspiring other young women in her tribe to find alternatives to marrying young.
[Pam Hackenmiller is managing editor of Global Sisters Report. Her email address is email@example.com.]