We are so proud of our many members throughout the country who planned and attended events throughout January and February for National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and the World Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of survivors of human trafficking! Below is just a sample of these many efforts to raise awareness, end human trafficking, and support survivors.
Many USCSAHT members participated in #WearBlueDay to raise awareness about human trafficking on January 11, 2020. Here are some of the photos that were sent in:
Sisters of Mercy
Members of the Divine Savior Catholic Parish
Members of Migrant and Refugee Services with the USCCB
Freedom Walkers on Hollywood Boulevard
By Bob Juárez, Member, Southern California Partners for Global Justice (Official Sponsor of this event)
January 11, 2020
A brisk 43° morning on the 2020 National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, was met by about 300 enthusiastic families, teens and adults of all ages. They gathered at Blessed Sacrament Jesuit Parish in Hollywood. After a warm welcome from Dr. Yolanda Brown, the parish life director, we prayed, listened, walked and shouted! Heather Bland, CEO of My Refuge House, which offers hope, safety, and a path of restoration in Cebu, Philippines for girls rescued from commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and abuse, led the event with exuberance. She called out families, high schools and youth service agencies; members of the Los Angeles Police Department, of the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, and abolitionists of many agencies, including the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking (CASTLA). Among the walkers were women religious of at least seven orders, the Southern California Partners for Global Justice, and other faith-based entities.
We were treated to the inspirational true story from Margeaux, herself a survivor of trafficking. Her resilience was palpable, drawing us vicariously into the dark world of human exploitation and moving us to embody the day’s theme: “Do Something!” The walk was accompanied with drumming by the international men’s spirituality group ILLUMAN, while two great cheerleaders, Giovanni Perez and Maria Elena Perales, led us in bilingual English and Spanish chants, calling for the end of human exploitation and trafficking.
The 1.5-mile walk took us on to the famous Hollywood Boulevard, where the LAPD patrol cars cruising by were met with cheers from the walkers in gratitude for their protective presence. Walkers talked to and passed out information to passersby, asking them to join our efforts. As we concluded, spontaneous drumming, dancing, and cheers abrupted on the atrium of the church, joyfully bringing our simple, but meaningful, action to a close. All walked away evermore aware of how important this work is to end human exploitation and trafficking!
Ministries of the Felician Sisters:
Madonna University Engages Students in S.O.A.P. Project
As part of the Madonna University Martin Luther King Jr. week-long celebration, Madonna University students and staff helped put labels on 10,000 bars of soap. These soaps will be distributed to hotels and motels in the Metro Detroit area during Super Bowl weekend, and the International Auto Show in June. The labels provide victims of human trafficking the National Human Trafficking Hotline number to call or text to get help if they are being forced to do something against their will. The photos show the students and staff in action. The project took about 3 hours to complete.
Angela Hospice Collects Items for Survivors
We have a bulletin board dedicated to information about the Awareness Month and all team members have been alerted to its presence. This is a follow up to a project we completed during Mission & Heritage Week when we collected 800+ back to school and toiletry items for Vista Maria, a local ministry which provides housing, counseling, and other types of support to girls and young women who have escaped human trafficking in the area.
Out of the Shadows – Human Trafficking Vigil and Panel
On January 11th, Resurrection Catholic Church in Greenbay, WI hosted an anti-trafficking event including four panelists speaking about human trafficking from different perspectives: Morgan Meadows m. Ed. – Survivor, Sgt. Matt Wilson – Brown County Sheriff Dept., Shelby Mitchell – Victim Advocate, Sexual Assault Center, and Kimberly Hardtke – Prosecutor. The event also included a proclamation by the Mayor of Green Bay and a number of exhibitors – including Truckers Against Trafficking sponsored by a local trucking firm, Schneider National; Blue Hair Wear (wear a lock of blue hair to raise awareness of human trafficking during the month of January); the local Sexual Assault Center, and Open Door Youth; 5-Stones that works against human trafficking and has great You-Tube videos for junior high and high school age youth- see its Website. USCSAHT members Sr. Sally Ann Brickner and Sr. Celine Goessl were on the planning team.
Prayer Vigil for National Human Trafficking Awareness Day – Boston Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition
On January 12th, members of the Anti-Trafficking Coalition (ATC) of the Boston Unit of LCWR hosted a prayer vigil outside the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Brighton, MA. Sisters and supporters stood outside and marched along the sidewalk with signs that said “Stop Human Trafficking.” After the outdoor witness they also hosted a prayer vigil inside.
Divine Savior Catholic Parish hosts presentation on Human Trafficking
A presentation on “Human Trafficking: Supply and Demand – How This Business Impacts Our Youth” was given on Jan. 25th at Divine Savior Catholic Parish in Orangevale, CA. It was repeated after several Masses and will be repeated again on March 22nd at other Masses. We had many resources to help parents monitor online social media sites and help their kids do the same. We saw the two videos and discussed local cases of both supply (kids tricked & trafficked) and demand (stings to arrest local men). The presenters were our parish AHT committee, which includes Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS (USCSAHT board member) and Sr. Sheila Novak, SDS.
Greensburg Diocesan Council of NCCW Prayer and Outreach Group to Combat Human Trafficking – St. Bakhita Day of Prayer and Education
The Greensburg Diocesan Council of the National Council of Catholic Women Prayer & Outreach Group to Combat Human Trafficking held our 5th Annual St. Bakhita Day of Prayer & Education Saturday, February 8, 2020. Each year we try to move our event around the diocese so we can reach more parishes, groups, and individuals with the information about the horrific crime of human trafficking. This year we were hosted by Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Monessen. We encouraged individuals to bring in new or gently used bras for Free the Girls. We had quilled cards made by rescued individuals at the Mission for El Salvador available for purchase. Janet Berna of the Pittsburgh Diocese and a Fair-Trade Ambassador with SERVV had a variety of domestic and international items available for purchase as well.
Members of our group and DCCW led 32 attendees in a prayer service from the USCSAHT that introduced them to the basic facts about St. Josephine Bakhita. Raissa Federline and Ardi Hill, of the group, presented the USCCB Become a Shepherd PowerPoint. There were materials from the USCCB, NCCW, NCOSE, USCSAHT, and Blue Campaign available for people to take and share. The 6th annual event will be Saturday, February 6, 2021, at St. Rita Parish, Connellsville, PA from 1 pm to 3 pm.
Feb 8th Mass and Reception at St. Camillus Church – Silver Springs, MD
|Photo credit: Global Sisters Report.|
USCSAHT as a member of the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking co-sponsored a mass and reception in Silver Springs, MD at St. Camillus Church on February 8, 2020. Bishop Dorsonville, Chair of the USCCB migration committee, celebrated the Mass in honor of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of survivors of human trafficking. After the Mass all were invited to a reception and resource fair with organizations working to end human trafficking. USCSAHT was represented by Sr. Ann Scholz, SSND, chair of our advocacy committee, who shared information with participants about our work to end human trafficking and support survivors.
You can read more about the event in this article from Global Sisters Report.
Together Against Trafficking Prayer Vigil – St. Louis, MO
In celebration of the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of survivors of trafficking, and the World Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, over 80 people gathered in the chapel at the Mercy Conference and Retreat Center on Monday, February 10th for a prayer service entitled, “Together Against Trafficking.” The prayer service was co-hosted by U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking and the Mercy Conference and Retreat Center, and open to the public. The content of the prayer service was adapted from Talitha Kum, the international network of women religious working to end human trafficking throughout the world, and was used by dozens of sister networks throughout the world.
During the service, four true stories of survivors of trafficking were shared from four different countries, highlighting different ways that people become victims of both sexual exploitation and forced labor. As each story was shared, a piece of a puzzle with words connected to human trafficking in various languages was placed up front, with the final piece containing the words: together against trafficking, representing the international efforts to end human trafficking.
Towards the end of the service participants were invited to write down a word they were taking with them from the experience and then post it around the puzzle. Some of the most common words were hope, love, and prayer. The gathering concluded with words from Sr. Esther Hogan, CPPS a member of US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking who works with survivors of human trafficking in St. Louis. She shared about her work and encouraged all those present to join in prayer and action to end human trafficking and support survivors.