Categories for Good News!
May 11, 2022
U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) is honored and grateful to receive a very generous legacy gift from Our Lady of Victory Missionary (OLVM) Sisters, also known as the Victory Noll Sisters. This legacy gift will sustain the ongoing work of USCSAHT and honor the long history of the OLVM Sisters work accompanying those on the margins who are impacted by oppression. For the past 100 years, the OLVM Sisters have been living their mission and charism of presence, advocacy for justice, faith formation, and leadership formation with persons who live in poverty and oppression, who are on the edges of the human family. Since their founding, they have been focused on living in the communities they accompanied and meeting people where they were, responding to the needs as they arose organically through trusted relationships. Their goal has been to go where there is the greatest need and empower others to become leaders in their community, using their voice and talents for good. Now, they are living into the next phase of their life as they are no longer accepting new vocations and caring for the 32 sisters remaining in the congregation.
Part of living into this next phase of life for the congregation includes sharing their resources with other mission-aligned organizations through the distribution of legacy gifts. When it became apparent to the leadership team that the congregation had more resources than it currently needed, they asked the congregation at one of their assemblies: “Where do you want to make an impact? Where can we contribute our resources to places that are in alignment with our mission and charism?” Some of the key areas of impact identified were: supporting immigrants and refugees, working with women and children – particularly victims of exploitation, leadership formation of women, empowering Hispanic/Latino communities for leadership in the Church and beyond, addressing the climate crisis, and investing in community development of impoverished communities. While there are not many OLVM sisters who are able to engage in this kind of direct work these days, their legacy gifts are a way the congregation continues to live its mission in partnership with others.
Sr. Mary Jo Nelson, current OLVM President, shared that the mission and vision of USCSAHT to realize a world without trafficking and exploitation align well with the congregation’s focus on justice for women and children, promoting ongoing education, and supporting the work of the sisters in the U.S. who are also connected to a global network of sisters committed to this same mission and vision. The fact that our ministry has both a local and global impact makes it extra significant. The OLVM Sisters have been long-time members of USCSAHT, and with this legacy gift have solidified their support as legacy members in perpetuity, witnessing to their lasting legacy of accompaniment, education, empowerment, and transformation of society. USCSAHT is honored to be entrusted with this gift and legacy of the OLVM Sisters which will help sustain our ongoing work into the future. With this gift we can continue and expand our work to educate about human trafficking prevention and identification; advocate for stronger laws to prevent human trafficking, hold those responsible accountable, and support survivors; and provide direct support to survivors on their healing journeys.
The OLVM Sisters are the second congregation to make a legacy gift to USCSAHT as they near fulfillment. The first congregation was the Sisters of the Holy Family which you can read more about on our blog. If you or your congregation are interested in establishing your legacy as a champion of human rights in the work to end human trafficking and would like more information about how to make a legacy gift to USCSAHT please contactInfo@SistersAgainstTrafficking.org or call 267-332-7768.
PDF version of this press release
April 8, 2021
GUWAHATI, India — Sister Rose Paite stepped inside this sprawling city’s main train station and scanned the crowd. She often visits public gathering places like this as part of her life’s mission: to save children from being trafficked.
In seconds, Paite was off. She had spotted a situation that alarmed her — a young girl, maybe 15 years old, sitting beside a much older man in a crisp button-down shirt. Paite walked up to them and began asking questions.
Where are you going? How did you meet this man?
The answers confirmed Paite’s suspicion.
The girl said she had just met the man on the train. It wasn’t clear where she was headed next.
Paite, who was wearing a black tunic and white veil, talked to her for nearly four minutes and handed over her card. She wanted to be able to check in on the girl, but the girl refused to give Paite her phone number.
Before walking away, the diminutive Roman Catholic nun warned the man, but she said he was dismissive.
“That girl, truly, will get into trouble,” Paite said. “She is so vulnerable.”
Then Paite skittered off again. The Guwahati train station was busy. There were more children likely to be in danger.
Human trafficking is everywhere
Paite is not a lone crusader. She’s part of a vast but little-known network of Catholic nuns dedicated to fighting human trafficking across the globe. The organization, Talitha Kum, was formed in Rome in 2009 and now operates quietly in 92 countries.
The group is made up of roughly 60,000 religious sisters. The work they do is often dangerous and daring — confronting pimps on darkened streets, patrolling dusty alleys that host brothels. The sisters also operate safe houses in several countries, providing refuge for women and girls fleeing their captors.
Their work doesn’t only take place in the streets. The organization pushes for systemic change, lobbying for stronger laws to combat human trafficking.
“If you want people to understand the urgency of the problem, you can’t be tiptoeing around it,” said Sister Jeanne Christensen, a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking, which works with Talitha Kum.
Read the full story by Jake Whitman, Cynthia McFadden, and Rich Schapiro on Yahoo! News.
October 28, 2020
ST. LOUIS: On October 27, 2020 during the annual board meeting of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT), Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS was awarded the Sr. Margaret Nacke, CSJ Bakhita Award for her outstanding service in the work to end human trafficking. The award was presented by Sr. Anne Victory, HM, Board President of USCSAHT and Jennifer Reyes Lay, Executive Director of USCSAHT. Members of Sr. Jean’s community, the Sisters of the Divine Savior, joined in the virtual presentation and celebration in her honor including provincial leader Sr. Beverly Heitke, SDS.
Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS has dedicated the past 17 years of her life to the work to end human trafficking and support survivors of human trafficking. Part of her legacy includes the creation and publication of the Stop Trafficking! Newsletter, a monthly publication that educates people about the crime of human trafficking in its many forms and advocates for changes that address the needs of victims and the elimination of modern-day slavery across the world. While engaging in this work, Jean also co-founded and co-directed Hope House, a home for women coming out of situations of enslavement in California. When Jean launched the Stop Trafficking! Newsletter, few people knew about the scourge of human trafficking. Her diligent and thoroughly researched work has served to significantly increase public awareness and provide a forum for advocacy and action to eradicate modern slavery. Sr. Jean Schafer has served as a member of the board of directors of USCSAHT since it was incorporated in 2015 and was part of the planning team prior to that. She is currently the Chair of the Survivor Services Working Group of USCSAHT.
Sr. Jean is the second recipient of the Sr. Margaret Nacke, CSJ Bakhita Award. The first recipient was Sr. Margaret Nacke, CSJ, co-founder of USCSAHT, in whose honor the award is named. Those who receive this award exemplify vision, courage, dedication, and creativity in addressing the complexities surrounding the issue of human trafficking. They work in collaboration with others to raise awareness, address the needs of survivors, and engage in advocacy. Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS as recipient of this award, embodies the hope that each of us can be instruments to bring about the eradication of the evil of human trafficking.
To download a PDF of this press release: Click Here
September 25, 2020
Missouri was among the top 10 states last year for the number of defendants it prosecuted in human-trafficking cases, according to an annual report.
The Human Trafficking Institute’s 2019 Federal Human Trafficking Report looks at data from every federal human trafficking case U.S. courts handle each year. Its findings provide a summary of how the federal system holds traffickers accountable for exploitative conduct, according to its authors.
Missouri is fortunate, said Nanette Ward, a co-founder of the Central Missouri Human Trafficking Coalition, in that prosecutors here decided several years ago to focus on disrupting human trafficking in Missouri. There was a time, Ward said, when Missouri led the nation in the number of federal cases being processed.
In more ways than one, Missouri acts as a crossroads in the center of the country, she said.
“We have conditions that occur everywhere,” she said, “such as child abuse, domestic violence, homelessness and hits on the child welfare system.”
On top of that, the state has multiple north/south and east/west highways that pass through.
“We have all the makings of trafficking being possible,” Ward said.
Trafficking happens everywhere, she pointed out, but added that agricultural and tourism industries are major supporters of Missouri’s economy. Either industry could lead to instances of forced labor.
In 2018, Missouri lawmakers approved House Bill 1246, which combats human trafficking by requiring placement of posters containing resources to assist victims in many public buildings statewide.
The posters contain a national hotline number, 888-373-3888. Victims can also text 233733 (BEFREE) to the number or visit the National Human Trafficking Resource Center website at traffickingresourcecenter.org.
The hotline is available 24 hours per day, confidential and accessible in 170 languages.
To read the full story by Joe Gamm on The News Tribune: Click Here
March 23, 2020
US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is thrilled to welcome our newest staff member: Rebecca Guzman, who will serve in a part-time position as Development Coordinator. Rebecca will work with our Executive Director, Jennifer Reyes Lay, to ensure the financial health and sustainability of the organization by overseeing grant writing and reporting, fundraising, and membership/sponsorship renewal and engagement.
Rebecca comes to USCSAHT with a strong background in economics, graduating from Saint Louis University with both a B.A. in Economics and Political Science and an M.A. in Political Science. Previously she worked as Director of Advancement for St. Frances Cabrini Academy where she managed all of their donor and grant information as well as recruited new donors and assisted with their annual fundraiser. She also speaks three languages: English, Spanish, and Italian which will help greatly as we continue to strengthen relationships and collaborate with our sister networks of Talitha Kum throughout the Americas.
Rebecca is familiar with the reality of human trafficking and passionate about working to end it and ensure support for survivors. She spent two years working with a local shelter for underage trafficking victims in St. Louis, MO called Covenant House. While there Rebecca worked as an executive assistant and volunteer coordinator, organizing and supervising a diverse group of people and managing both the donor database and volunteer database, ensuring both the financial and material needs of the organization and its residents were met.
Rebecca is driven by her faith to share her gifts and talents with organizations working to make a positive difference in the world, and we are so happy she will be sharing her talents with us to realize a world without slavery. Please join us in welcoming Rebecca to the USCSAHT team! If you would like to contact her, she can be reached at Rebecca@SistersAgainstTrafficking.org.
June 10, 2019
June 7, 2019 Cleveland Ohio The US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) is proud to announce that it has hired Jennifer Reyes Lay as Executive Director, effective July 1, 2019. “We were blessed with a number of interested candidates for this position, and believe that Jennifer Reyes Lay brings the experience and skills needed to move USCSAHT forward in addressing this complex issue at this time,” said Sister Anne Victory, HM, President of the Board of USCSAHT.
As the new Executive Director, Jennifer brings over six years’ experience of working with faith-based nonprofit organizations, including positions as an Executive Director and Administrator. She leaves behind positions with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and the Ecumenical Catholic Communion. While employed as the Assistant Director of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Ms. Reyes Lay was deeply involved in the congregation’s work against human trafficking. In 2015, she helped create a corporate stance against human trafficking for the congregation and led their engagement of the issue. She also served as the congregation’s liaison to the USCSAHT, and in 2017 was the USCSAHT representative in Bogota, Colombia. Her tenure as the Administrator of the Office of the Presiding Bishop with the Ecumenical Catholic Communion provided her with extensive experience in the areas of administration, finance, and communication.
Prior to working with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, Ms. Reyes Lay served as the Executive Director for the Catholic Action Network. Through this position, she coordinated yearly fundraisers, implemented programming for the organization with a focus on social justice, and maintained the social media presence of the Catholic Action Network. Ms. Reyes Lay received a Bachelor of Arts in Theology and International Studies with honors from St. Louis University, and in May 2019 she received a Master of Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
The USCSAHT is a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education, supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy in an effort to eradicate modern-day slavery. It serves as the designated US representative for Talitha Kum, which is the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons. USCSAHT membership includes congregations of women religious, coalitions working against human trafficking in which women religious participate, individuals such as individual sisters and lay associate members of congregations, and others who are committed to the work of eradicating human trafficking. The USCSAHT publishes the monthly newsletter,Stop Trafficking!, which is a resource used by USCSAHT members, organizations, and concerned persons to exchange information and collaborate in the fight to eliminate human trafficking.
Ms. Reyes Lay will be the very first Executive Director of the USCSAHT, thus marking a new chapter in the organization’s history. She said, “I am honored and thrilled to begin working for USCSAHT as their first Executive Director. All of the sisters and collaborators I have met over the past few years inspire me in their dedication and compassion, and I believe deeply in their vision of a world without human trafficking. I look forward to helping further the mission of USCSAHT and grow our membership and resources, because as our tagline says, ‘Ending slavery is everyone’s work.’”
April 29, 2019
[Episcopal News Service] On the morning of April 6, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City became more than a transit hub – it became a site of prayer and activism that connected the Stations of the Cross to the plight of sex trafficking victims.
“The cross is a metaphor for sex trafficking,” said the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector at Manhattan’s Church of the Incarnation and chair of the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking. Sex trafficking victims often face continued violence, social stigma and a loss of agency in an unsupportive system.
Dannhauser and a group of some 30 faith-based activists – many of whom wore various hues of purple in support of sex trafficking victims and in recognition of Lent – gathered for a traveling model of the Lenten tradition, which connected the Stations of the Cross to elements of sex trafficking throughout New York City.
Praying the Stations of the Cross during Lent is a centuries-old tradition that focuses Christians on the path of suffering that Jesus followed to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, and for many Christians, that story is retold in solemn tones inside the walls of a church or chapel.
Organized by the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking, Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors followed seven stations, abbreviated from the usual 14, across three of the city’s boroughs. Each stop reflected Jesus’ journey on Good Friday and the burden of commercial sexual exploitation, featuring opening devotion and liturgy from faith leaders, as well as speeches from trafficking survivors. Attendees visited a shelter and service provider for homeless youth, a strip club, an area of the Bronx known for street prostitution, a human trafficking intervention court in Queens, John F. Kennedy International Airport and a hotel in Brooklyn known for commercial sex.
Fittingly, the Port Authority Bus Terminal served as the first station. Located just blocks from Times Square, the Port Authority is the nation’s largest and busiest bus terminal. It’s open 24 hours a day and, because of its location in a tourist district and its nearly 200,000 daily visitors, the terminal has long been a hot spot for traffickers, pimps and others who scout for vulnerable women to coerce into prostitution.
To read the full story on Episcopal News Service: Click Here
April 4, 2019
April 4, 2019, will be an important day in MPI’s history, as the organization will become a signatory to “The Code,” an important document—and pledge—by a global network of associations and corporations committed to taking significant actions in the worldwide fight against human trafficking.
MPI’s original commitment to this cause came in 2017, when President and CEO Paul Van Deventer, who will be signing The Code on behalf of MPI, heard Sister Kathleen Bryant, a Religious Sister of Charity from Los Angeles and a board member of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, address an MPI International Board of Directors meeting.
“I was moved by the plight of these innocent victims—many of them young children—and realized that I had a responsibility and an opportunity to help,” Van Deventer would later write in The Meeting Professional, the monthly magazine of MPI. (The Meeting Professional has featured many articles about the fight against human trafficking since the beginning of 2018.)
MPI soon embraced the cause, becoming involved with the U.S. affiliate of ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking), a network of organizations in more than 90 countries with one common mission: to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children.
ECPAT-USA has been around since 1991 and has been enlisting hotels, airlines and other fundamental components of the travel industry into the fight. The reason for this is that most of the human trafficking involves moving women and children around the globe, often to be used as sex slaves, with “customers” being accommodated inside hotel rooms.
Recently, ECPAT-USA hit upon the idea of recruiting professional groups within the meeting industry to join in the worldwide movement to fight human trafficking. It was something of a match made in heaven when MPI and ECPAT-USA came together.
To read the full article by Rowland Stiteler on MPI: Click Here
December 6, 2018
Dignity Health, one of the country’s largest health systems, has been granted $1.5 million by the U.S. Department of Justice to shore up its efforts to combat human trafficking and evaluate the effectiveness of its initiatives.
Research indicates a large share of sex and labor trafficking victims interact with a health care provider at some point while they are being exploited, and much of the progress around treating such patients in recent years has come from small clinics with strong community ties.
Dignity Health – with more than three dozen hospitals across Arizona, California and Nevada – will seek to bring its best practices to more patients, funded by the pair of Justice Department grants announced Thursday.
The two grants will fund training on how to provide trauma-informed care for human trafficking survivors, evaluate Dignity’s processes and expand its “safe haven” model – which integrates physical and mental health care into long-term support for survivors – to three sites from one.
While the health care field has boosted its efforts to identify trafficking survivors in recent years, Dignity’s model provides both immediate care and referrals to community services, as well as long-term follow-up care, a component that often doesn’t account for survivors’ complex mental health needs or is missing altogether in other models.
“Most health care systems promote a patient-centered approach, but I think what’s lacking is concrete education on trauma,” says Holly Gibbs, a sex trafficking survivor and director of Dignity Health’s Human Trafficking Response Program. “If you’re educated on trauma … you’re better able to understand your patient’s wishes, and respect your patient.”
Through the response program, Dignity identified at least 31 patients who exhibited “high or moderate indicators of sex or labor trafficking victimization” in fiscal 2016, Gibbs says. They are still finalizing fiscal 2017 and 2018 totals, but Gibbs says the preliminary figures have risen with each year. Combined, these patients have visited the health system’s initial safe haven clinic in Sacramento hundreds of times for primary and follow-up care, according to Dignity.
All three safe haven sites will be in clinics staffed by medical residents, which is one key to spreading the model beyond Dignity itself, says Dr. Ron Chambers, director of the family medicine residency program at Methodist Hospital of Sacramento.
To read the full story by Gaby Galvin on U.S. News & World Report: Click Here
November 12, 2018
Comboni Sister Gabriella Bottani, coordinator of Talitha Kum International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons, listens at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, Ohio, during an Oct. 26 meeting of women religious from throughout the Western Hemisphere who are working to stop human trafficking. (Credit: Dennis Sadowski/CNS.)
PARMA, Ohio – There was a time years ago when Flor Molina was working in a Southern California sewing factory, earning a scant wage and sleeping at night in a storage room not far from the factory floor.
On top of that, her bosses forbid her from talking with the other employees.
It was not the life she imagined when she accepted an offer 16 years ago from a factory recruiter in her native Mexico who promised good pay and decent housing.
Molina had made the difficult decision to leave her mother and children behind in Mexico for six months so she could save the $5,000 she needed to start her own sewing business. She had been sewing clothes and gained a decent customer base; she dreamed of taking the next step as an entrepreneur.
After 40 days in the factory, Molina escaped and found help. She realized she had become a victim of unscrupulous human traffickers and her only value to them was her labor.
Now 46 and living in Los Angeles, Molina told her story Oct. 26 to 60 participants in the Borders Are not Barriers conference of women religious, a handful of priests and justice ministry workers from throughout the Western Hemisphere working to stop human trafficking.
To read the full story by Dennis Sadowski on CRUX: Click Here