An Enduring Legacy of Working to End Human TraffickingNovember 26, 2020
By Jennifer Reyes Lay, Executive Director of USCSAHT
As some congregations begin the process of nearing their historical completion, questions arise about how to best share their remaining resources and what will be the legacy they leave behind. This was the case recently for the Sisters of the Holy Family, who chose to make a $50,000 legacy donation to U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking to support our collective vision of a world without slavery and solidify their legacy as life-long members of the organization. This donation is just the most recent action in a long history of the congregation’s commitment to end human trafficking and support survivors.
The initial focus for the Sisters of the Holy Family on human trafficking started in 2007 after a regional LCWR meeting that included a presentation on human trafficking. Sisters attending that meeting went back to the congregation and requested it be added as a focus of their work. Sr. Caritas Foster, SHF now the current Congregational President of the Sisters of the Holy Family, led the initial educational process with sisters and associates, who later voted unanimously to make it a priority issue for the congregation. Their subsequent work has focused on three main approaches: education and awareness, networking with organizations serving survivors, and advocacy. They have collaborated with local coalitions in the Bay Area including law enforcement, government, faith agencies, and social services for over a decade, raising awareness and supporting survivors. In 2012 they were the first group to receive the FBI Director’s Award for their anti-trafficking work, having been recommended by the San Francisco FBI Office.
Given their commitment to anti-trafficking work, the Sisters of the Holy Family were early members and participants in U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking when it was just beginning to form back in 2015. Sr. Caritas served on a USCSAHT working group and has collaborated with members of the USCSAHT board including Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS who was recently awarded the Sr. Margaret Nacke Bakhita Award. Sr. Caritas supported Sr. Jean in helping to review and edit the monthly Stop Trafficking Newsletters for a number of years before it was brought under the umbrella of USCSAHT.
Recognizing the reality that the congregation hadn’t received any new vocations in over 25 years, the Sisters of the Holy Family chose not to merge with another community and have embraced their congregation coming to its historical completion. Currently, there are 45 sisters who remain, with most of them in retirement. However, the mission and charism of the congregation remain strong with sisters offering support through prayer and through their financial resources. While there are not many sisters active in anti-trafficking work today, the congregation does still have a strong donor base that allows it to give out local grants to anti-trafficking and survivor organizations.
The decision to give a $50,000 donation to USCSAHT came about after the recent sale of a piece of property owned by the sisters. Sr. Caritas made a proposal to their board of directors to share some of the funds from this sale with USCSAHT, an anti-trafficking organization of which they are current members and with whom they have a trusted relationship of collaboration. The board and community approved of the request and the donation was made with a request to report back on how the funds were used so that the sisters could see the lasting impact of their generous donation in the work to end human trafficking.
Sr. Caritas remarked: “I would like to thank USCSAHT for the great work they are doing. We are no longer able to it ourselves, so partnering with you all allows us to remain connected to this important issue. I want to thank all the members who are doing the little actions and the bigger actions. I have seen the organization grow since its founding and it’s beyond my imagination what it has become.”
U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking extends our heartfelt gratitude to Sr. Caritas and the Sisters of the Holy Family for trusting us with this piece of their legacy. We believe that ending slavery is everyone’s work, and so we all have an important role to play. These funds will allow us to grow and continue our mission to realize a world without slavery.
If you or your congregation are considering a legacy donation or estate bequest to USCSAHT or would like to explore the idea, please feel free to reach out to our Executive Director – Jennifer Reyes Lay – at email@example.com.