A few years ago, while Sister Sally Harper, CSJ was working with a Peruvian inter-congregational committee on human trafficking, a Good Shepherd sister on the committee asked if she could help one of their guests. Hanna, an Ethiopian mother living in one of their residences, spoke some English but no Spanish, and the sister wondered if Sister Sally might find someone the woman could talk with in English. That led to a relationship between Sister Anne Davis, CSJ, Hanna, and Hanna’s daughter, Betty.
Little by little, Sister Anne learned that Hanna had been a refugee most of her life, fleeing Ethiopia for Kenya and eventually South Africa. Hanna married, and in 2015 was forced to flee xenophobic violence in South Africa, traveling with then 3-year-old Betty. Although she was promised passage to the U.S., the trafficker moved them by air to Brazil, by bus to Peru, and again by air to Guatemala. The trafficker abandoned mother and child at the Guatemalan airport, taking their documents with him. After some days in limbo, Hanna and Betty were remanded to Peru, their last place of embarkation. From there, they got help from the Good Shepherd Sisters.
Eventually, Hanna’s husband was reunited with them in Lima, and Hanna found work in a hotel and rented a one-room apartment. They were surviving—until COVID. Hanna’s husband left the country in search of work. When she couldn’t pay the rent, the hotel allowed her and Betty to take up residence in a storage space. Unbeknownst to Hanna, the hotel was keeping afloat by housing people with COVID. Hanna became infected and could no longer work. By now her daughter was 8, her husband was out of touch with them, and she had nowhere to go.
At first, Sister Anne was simply a companion, someone to talk to, someone Hanna could call “friend.” Knowing Hanna’s plight, Anne wondered if she could do more. She took the situation to her local community in Canto Chico (a neighborhood of Lima), which consists of Sisters Maria Elena, Mary Luz, and Yolanda. They decided they could do no less than take the family in.
Now Hanna and Betty are part of the sisters’ local community. Although they do not share the sisters’ morning prayer and conversation time, the whole group eats together and shares all that is entailed in community living. Betty helps set the table, takes responsibility for leading grace before meals, and is doing a good job of teaching her mother Spanish. The two of them are waiting for COVID restrictions to be lifted so that they can take the next step in their journey: traveling to Canada where Sisters of St. Joseph and the Diocese of Peterborough are ready to sponsor them as refugees.
As the sisters reflected on their experience, Sister Yolanda noted how God had been working for years to gather this special community (in fact, Yoli met Hanna even before Anne did while doing an internship in psychology!) Sister Mary Luz commented that all of this could come about because they had the graces of apertura y flexibilidad—openness and flexibility. She said that Hanna’s experience touched her deeply because she herself was a migrant who left rural, mountain life to live in the city. “I know what it’s like,” she said. Sister María Elena Cáceres then added, “We need the dear neighbor in order to grow. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. I thank God for having put people in our path who have done so much to help us grow as women religious.”
Refugees and trafficked people are forced to be open and flexible. That is but one of the gifts Hanna and Betty have brought the sisters. Sister Anne may have summed it all up when she said, “This is an experience of living the Gospel—in union with Jesus who said, ‘I call you friends.’”
Check out our latest video about the ministry of our sisters in Peru. Because of coronavirus, our sisters have been finding creative ways to serve the impoverished people of Lima and Tacna.
We rely on funding from mission talks in Catholic parishes each summer to help support our Peruvian sisters. Because of the pandemic, we have not been able to speak at these masses. Please consider making a donation to support our Mission Fund.
Donate through PayPal
Donations can also be sent via check to:
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet
10777 Sunset Office Dr., Suite 10
Saint Louis, MO 63127
On July 14-28, our congregation will hold a Congregational Chapter, which takes place every six years. This gathering will involve more than 130 Sisters, associates, and support staff from across the United States, Japan and Peru traveling to St. Louis, Missouri. During the meeting, the Chapter body will create the “Acts of Chapter,” which are calls to action for our community. One of the Acts of Chapter from our last Congregational Chapter in 2013 called us to “act with urgency to protect [Earth’s] stability and integrity and to celebrate her beauty wherever we are.”
We know that climate change is at a crisis level on our planet and that all of our travel contributes to the problem. We also know that climate change is basically climate injustice because as we take advantage of convenient ways of travel, we simultaneously contribute to the conditions of climate disruption that disproportionately affect women, children, people of color, and other vulnerable groups.
By offsetting those emissions, we are acting concretely from our 2013 Acts of Chapter which call us to consider, “How does this decision/action impact the Earth community?” It is possible for us to make a significant contribution towards making our gathering carbon-neutral and therefore less of an injustice to our dear neighbors.
The following describes the efforts and actions that the congregation will be taking to offset the carbon footprints caused by our travel.
Our Congregational Chapter in St. Louis will necessitate a lot of travel for about 100 delegates, 22 from the Albany Province. Travel, especially by plane, creates a great deal of CO2. At this time when global warming is reaching critical levels, we need to take action to mitigate our impact on our Earth.
So what do you do when travel is imperative? Carbon offsets are part of the solution. According to Wikipedia, “Carbon offsets are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One tonne of carbon offset represents the reduction of one tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.
There are two markets for carbon offsets. In the larger, compliance market, companies, governments, or other entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. (These are caps agreed on in the Kyoto Protocol, for example.)
In the much smaller, voluntary market, individuals, companies, or governments purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources. For example, an individual might purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by personal air travel. Carbon offset vendors offer direct purchase of carbon offsets, often also offering other services such as designating a carbon offset project to support or measuring a purchaser’s carbon footprint. In 2016, about $191.3 million of carbon offsets were purchased in the voluntary market, representing about 63.4 million metric tons of CO2e reductions” (Wikipedia, “Carbon Offsets”).
It is very exciting that voluntary carbon offsets are becoming so popular! After calculating our offsets, we learned that a round trip from Albany to St. Louis creates about 1,148 pounds of carbon dioxide and that our estimated offset cost for 22 delegates at $5.73 per trip would be about $127. (https://www.terrapass.com/calculate-carbon-offsets). This is an estimate because not everyone is flying from Albany and some trips necessitate two layovers, which create more carbon dioxide.
The really good news is that our Province Leadership Team has pledged $150 and the HomeLand Committee will give $200 toward offsets. This is more than double the actual cost of offsets!
It was decided that we would make this donation to Heifer International to plant trees in Heifer-sponsored projects. This really fulfills two goals: first, our offsets to mitigate greenhouse gases and second, our food focus since the trees will aid farmers in developing countries. According to Heifer International:
This tree gift includes seedlings and saplings of trees appropriate to the region. Recipients are educated on nurturing young trees and the importance of reforestation.
A family with a small orchard is able to supplement their diet with delicious fruits and vegetables while becoming self-reliant at the same time. Passing on the seedlings enables communities to continue the cycle of sustainability. Your plant a tree gift ensures a healthy, productive future while fighting poverty and hunger.
We are working to fulfill our call to action of the 2013 Chapter which challenges us “to ask in every deliberation, “How does this decision/action impact the Earth community.”
Each Congregational Chapter calls us to respond to the needs of the times. Within our provinces, we then “divide the city” and respond in diverse ways. This is exactly how a group of sisters, associates, and partners from across the Congregation responded to the 2013 Call “…to ask in every deliberation, ‘How does this decision/action impact the Earth community?'”
We met through Zoom to discuss one of our primary concerns: Climate Justice. We acknowledged our role in the injustices caused by a lifestyle that is degrading Earth systems and displacing Earth’s human and other-than-human communities. It became clear that our congregation must offset the carbon impact of our Congregational Chapter. We strategized ways to act locally regarding our carbon footprint and then went to our prospective province leadership teams to request action.
Here in the Los Angeles Province, we used a reliable carbon calculator to determine the tonnes of carbon released into Earth’s atmosphere because of our travel to and from Province Chapter. We will be doing the same for our travel to the Congregational Chapter in July. We then contributed the calculated amount (in dollars) to Community Healing Gardens in Santa Monica. They give a monthly harvest to the St. Joseph Center’s Bread and Roses Café where they serve over 100 meals to those who are homeless or transitioning back into society through their program. In addition, the Healing Gardens offer an urban school garden program. Urban gardening, removes carbon from the atmosphere, reducing the climate injustice caused by our travel activity.
Albany, St. Louis and St. Paul provinces have also offset their carbon footprint in diverse ways, according to the local needs. May we continue to “think congregational and act provincial” as we celebrate our diversity in communion within the Congregation of the Great Love of God.
What does CO2 have to do with our last Province Chapter?
One of the things we did at our last chapter was to count our carbon footprint in traveling back and forth to the meeting. We roughly put into the atmosphere 10 tons of CO2, which, believe it or not, was not as bad as we thought it was going to be. We did better because more people are carpooling, many people live in the St. Louis area, and we are purchasing hybrids and fuel-efficient cars.
But here’s a reality check: the average American releases between 16 and 20 metric tons of CO2 and in Peru the average household releases 1.8 metric tons of CO2.
So as you can see, we have a ways to go to be more sustainable. That is why we decided to purchase carbon offset credits.
What are carbon offset credits?
According to the Sierra Club, the term “offset” might imply that you are “neutralizing” the impact of your travel, and thus it has no impact. This is not the case. Once you have emitted carbon, it is released into the atmosphere, and you can’t “take it back.” What offsetting does is help reduce carbon emissions elsewhere.
The province has purchased carbon offsets from:
These donations do not make up for our carbon usage. It’s more of an investment in the future so that less carbon will be used in other parts of the world. It’s a way to remind each of us that how we live costs more to the environment than we realize.
Why not give Mother Earth a gift?
So why not give Mother Earth the gift of carbon offsets? Use the links above to visit the websites for the organizations from which the province chose to purchase carbon offsets. It’s simple, inexpensive, easy, and it says “I care about Earth!”
Thank you for caring for Creation today and every day!
St. Paul participates in the congregational action to mitigate our carbon footprint caused by travel to Congregational Chapter meetings in St. Louis. Fourteen delegates will travel by airplane and six will travel in three cars.
We will offset the carbon use by dedicating money to plant trees on our St. Paul campus woodland area. We will include a community ritual with an educational component at the time of planting.
Our vice-province of Peru is going to donate $100 toward local environmental projects where we are serving as Sisters of St. Joseph. One project will take place in Las Brisas where the Sisters are working with the parish community to add a garden area at the parish church. The other project is in the Canto Chico neighborhood in Lima, where our sisters will be involving the children in a project to plant trees in the neighborhood park. The children will learn how to care for the plants and will be responsible for watering and protecting the plants.
Our sisters in Peru request prayers for victims of flooding
Devastating floods and mudslides have caused 72 deaths and extensive damage, as well as affecting infrastructure, power and drinking water in Peru, where we have 21 sisters.
Sister Sally Harper, director of our Peru Vice Province, sent the following update:
You might have heard in the news about the flooding in the north of Peru. It is quite extensive and people have lost homes, farms and animals. Other areas affected by the rains are: Abancay, Arequipa, Ancash, Ayacuho, Cajamarca, Cusco, Huanaco, Ica, Junin, Lima, Puno, Tumbes, and Ucayali. (These places are on the coast, in the mountains and in the jungle.)
There are problems in the outskirts of Lima (Chaclacayo y Chosica) and in Lima itself near the River Rimac which runs through the city. The rain from the mountains fills the rivers on the coast and they spill over their banks. Bridges have also been destroyed, so towns and villages are cut off.
In our three houses in Lima, we are affected by the heat (in the 90s every day for the last six weeks) and the water rationing. The Center House did not have water from Thursday through Saturday. Some of the sisters stood in long lines on Saturday to get a few bucketfuls. That evening they received two hours of water and were able to fill some barrels. Our houses in Canto Chico and Brisas are still able to use the water in their tanks, but are using it very sparingly.
This situation is attributed to what is being called El Niño Costeña. The heat wave is not being moved on because the winds that should come from Oceania are not coming.
We appreciate your prayers for those who are most directly flooded out of their homes and farms. We have contributed blankets, non-perishible items and money through a congregation that works in the north.
Your sisters in Peru
Directors of Association who met in St. Paul in September 2015. L to R: Joan Pauly Schneider (St. Paul), Mary McKay (Congregational Leadership Team Liaison), Dianne Nelson (Los Angeles), Menche Rojas (Chile), Anne Harpham (Hawaii), Monica Ibarra (Chile) , Peggy Maguire (St. Louis), Marge Mangan (Albany), Kileen Stone (Albany), Kay Komotos (St. Louis), Mary Kaye Medinger (Saint Paul)
by Kay Komotos, CSJA
Co-Director of Association, St. Louis Province
Directors of Association from throughout the Congregation gathered in St. Paul September 24-27 for their annual meeting with one another and our Congregational liaison, S. Mary McKay. Reconnecting with our colleagues from Albany, Los Angeles, St. Louis, St. Paul, Chile and Hawaii is an enjoyable, learning and prayerful event, as we share what we are doing in our own provinces. Our days together were busy as we discussed present issues and future plans that will move us towards progress and unity within our units, as well as with our Congregation.
We started each day with prayer, seeking wisdom and understanding, which set the tone for our commitment to unified mission. At our first meeting on Thursday evening, our sharing of the heart focused on our hopes for the next few days. The following morning, we shared what is happening in each of our units. In response to one of the action items from our last meeting in April, regarding the Congregational Call to Action “Living the CSJ Charism”, the province ACOF units had compiled information in two chart formats to illustrate differences and similarities between Associates (Albany, Los Angeles, St. Louis), Consociates (St. Paul), Ohana (Hawaii), and La Familia de San Jose (Chile). The Information Chart noted comparisons in the areas of General Participation, Leadership, Orientation, Candidacy, Commitment, Statistics, and Finance. The Identity and Commitment Chart focused on the Statements on Identity, Commitment, and Renewal of Commitment. We had both charts in hand at our meeting.
Mary McKay CSJ then gave a report from meetings with CLT/CLG (Congregational Leadership Team and Congregational Leadership Groups). The Design Team is working on processes to further implement the chapter call for “continued conversations and discernment on oneness and structures”. The CLG asked for clarification on some of the information found in the information charts and suggested a move to establishing a “core curriculum” or “common outcomes” to promote a more mutual orientation.
Another topic of ACOF interest was continued examination of a Legacy-Resource Center. With this pooled resource, the community encompassing ACOF, Sisters, and Partners in Mission, would explore best practices and leadership development as a whole, instead of searching for information from each of the provinces/vice provinces. The Legacy-Resource Center would serve as both a depository of “what did we say” in the past, to visions of the future which would include written material as well as video and spoken pieces. With a center located at one site, the history of the CSJ’s could serve as a leadership development tool. At this accessible online site, we would want to include formation materials, core curriculum which would incorporate common values, and focused themes that would be spread to every area of our community.
The ACOF directors discussed how various grants and foundations could be utilized to help strengthen the leadership development as well as the financial responsibilities throughout the provinces/vice-provinces. We are looking at several models that would bolster the mission and leadership of ACOF, which entails additional consideration of our goals.
With regard to the desire for a possible Carondelet Agregee community, directors will reach out to those individuals who have expressed interest and assist them to be in conversation across units, possibly gathering together in person at some point in the next year or two.
Friday evening was joy-filled! We and the congregational Vocation Formation group, who were also meeting in St. Paul, attended a dinner in honor of theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, PhD., along with professors and classmates from the Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality Hedgerow Initiative. Singer/songwriter Sara Thomsen added to the festivity. Dinner was followed by Elizabeth’s stimulating public lecture, “Is God’s Charity Broad Enough for Bears?” based on material from her recent book Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love.
On Saturday morning, ACOF joined in collaboration with the Vocation Formation group to discuss the following topics:
The afternoon concluded with dialogue on Calls to Action-Living the CSJ Charism related to ACOF Identity and Commitment. A sub-group of directors was formed to prepare a timeline, a process, a questionnaire, and individual/communal response sheets, which will be shared with ACOF members in all the unit groups. Once feedback is received, it will be compiled and sent out to all members after May 1, 2016.
Many thanks to our St. Paul Consotiate friends and colleagues who treated us to a delicious potluck that evening! Later on, a few of us went on a driving tour of Twin Cities highlights led by Jane Pauly-Schneider, tour director extraordinaire!
Sunday morning was a time for prayer, reflection and celebration as we concluded our time together as a memorable time well spent. Our gratitude goes to our driver, Margaret Brown, CSJ who generously and cheerfully provided transportation to all of us traveling from out of state, and to our Spanish translators, Agatha Grossman, CSJ, Catherine McNamee, CSJ, and Annette and Soraya Handy, Honduran students who attend St. Kate’s, and Kim Munoz. Thank you!!
How blessed we are to be ACOF (Associates,Consociates,Ohana,Familia de San Jose) and to share the charism of loving unity and the mission of Jesus with one another and the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet.