Sister Celine Goessel of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross, who recently returned to the U.S. headquarters for the Catholic order [yes, right here in Merrill] is an 86-year-old little firecracker of a nun who also happens to be a former Provincial of the Order [from 2006-2012] [formerly called a Mother Superior].
She returned to Merrill in early spring 2021, and has made it her passion and personal mission to spend her golden years [tongue in cheek, since she has already twice retired and twice come out of retirement, and she has more energy than most 35-year-olds] educating people about and helping to eradicate Human Trafficking.
Sister Celine calls it “the worst crime that we humans need to deal with” and said that, “Since COVID-19 invaded our world, the crime of drugs and the misuse of guns in our American society has been surpassed by Human Trafficking.”
One of the best ways to eradicate it is to educate the public about what Human Trafficking is, how to recognize when it is happening right in our community, how to report it, and how to stop supporting it. And yes, you read that right. Because sometimes, she says, we do things or make decisions that inadvertently support ongoing Human Trafficking activities without even realizing it.
If you don’t think Human Trafficking exists in Wisconsin, and in Merrill, think again, Sister says. While often hidden from view from the ordinary person, it’s here, and it’s happening, in our own back yards. Human Trafficking is in cities and rural areas, and in all 72 counties in Wisconsin, she says.
Three ways human beings are trafficked
Human Trafficking happens in three key ways, Sister Celine explained: Trafficking of children as child brides, Labor Trafficking of children and adults, and Sex Trafficking of children and adults. Though possibly the most horrific to even think about, Sister Celine focuses most on helping to educate and eradicate Sex Trafficking, which encompasses many different forms and activities.
The victims of Sex Trafficking are both male and female, although more frequently female, she says. And victims can be all ages, from very young children on up, though the most frequent victims are young, and those seriously victimized don’t live to be very old. The average age of a victim of Sex Trafficking is 13 years old. These are some of the cold, hard, but strikingly horrifying and tragically sad, facts.
Sister Celine was never what one would call a super pious, obedient servant of God, and she would be the first to tell you that. But this slightly and delightfully sassy woman of God is passionate about doing God’s work, and has been devoted to Him since her Junior year in high school. In this season of her life, that spunk and her warm, down-to-earth ways make her relatable and approachable. When you’re dealing with a topic like this, that demeanor and her genuine sense of humor make her the perfect Sister for the job! Picture Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act, but white, including her short white hair – sometimes with a streak of blue to show her solidarity with the victims of Human Sex Trafficking – and no dreadlocks. Sister Celine loves that movie, and believes that, like the nuns in that movie, she and her fellow Sisters need to get out of the hospitals and schools and get out on the streets where the real issues are.
Holy Cross Sisters, Wisconsin