Volume 25, Issue 2   —   August 2023

Academy of the Holy Angels at CSW67

By Jennifer Crusco, Public Relations Manager, Academy of the Holy Angels High School, USA, a sponsored ministry of the Atlantic-Midwest Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Academy of the Holy Angels

Scores of international leaders and government officials convened at the United Nations for the 67th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), March 6-17, and six representatives from the Academy of the Holy Angels, Demarest, New Jersey were there. Caroline Dupas, Hannah Janiec, Aiko Chang, and Alexandra Valdez attended CSW67 with social studies teacher Jennifer Cucchisi and AHA Director of Mission and Ministry Joan Connelly. The Academy’s representatives were guests of the SSND UN-NGO Office.

Connelly and Cucchisi accompanied the Angels to various workshops. AHA’s visitors heard about digital tools for enhancing women’s political participation, Kazakhstan’s efforts to accelerate gender equality, gender equality as a prerequisite for democracy, pathways to women’s economic empowerment, and a cybersafety presentation about fake news and staying safe while online. The commission also featured a discussion of harmful practices, including child marriage and female genital mutilation.

“Our students are called to be leaders who recognize the dignity of all persons and promote justice and peace and care for all of God’s creation,” Connelly said, quoting the Academy’s mission statement. “Participating in the UN CSW supports AHA’s mission because CSW supports a worldview that is based on human dignity.”

Cucchisi commented, “Many Holy Angels’ classes explore women’s rights and roles around the world. In my international studies class, we focus on the issues women face, and how change can, and urgently must, be made in achieving gender equality.”

“I thirst”

By Sister Limeteze Pierre-Gilles, Atlantic-Midwest Province (AM), Assistant Director of Engagement with Beyond Borders, a non-profit organization in Haiti with whom the AM province partners.

 Sister Limeteze Pierre-Gilles

As I reflect on the 2023 UN Water Conference, there are two references to water in John’s Gospel that caught my attention: “I thirst” (Jn 19:25-34) and “water flowed from his side.” Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman was the only other time in the Gospel that he asked, “Give me a drink” (Jn 4:4-42). Water is life and Jesus, the source of the “Living Water”, offered it to a woman, an outsider, because whoever has access to the source of life, lives.

It is an indisputable fact that everyone who gathered for the conference seemed to acknowledge. At Beyond Borders, we are very aware of the importance of access to water because it determines whether a participant in the family graduation program will be able to successfully complete the program. Access to water affects not simply each participant’s physical being, but also their social, intellectual, economic development and their human dignity. Providing a simple water catchment system for a family goes a long way. It means less walking for miles to carry a gallon of water home, more time for children to spend in school, more fresh vegetables from the backyard, and healthy livestock for healthy meals and savings.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that women were present at both scenes when Jesus asked for water, considering how disproportionately the lack of clean water affects women living in poverty. “I thirst” is a cry for justice for the most vulnerable, the outsiders of our world, and the planet. If only we would listen and act.

UN 2023 Water Conference Impressions

By Kelly Grant Moore, Board Member of Global Partners: Running Waters, Inc., an affiliated ministry of the Central Pacific Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

The UN 2023 Water Conference was a very sobering yet inspiring event for me. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to witness the world coming together and commit to setting goals and developing strategies to guarantee a water-secure future. Many of the sentiments expressed echoed Global Partners: Running Water’s (GPRW) reasons for the work we do in Latin America. But hearing people from developing and/or small nations talk about what they are doing to help provide accessible, clean water made me more motivated to expand GPRW’s reach, educate the people in my life about the importance of water conservation and preservation and take steps in my personal life to make sure this precious resource is available for generations to come.

I was able to speak to a few people about the work GPRW does and they were excited to see that we were in attendance. Two of the people I spoke with were interested in learning more and partnering with us to reach more people in Guatemala.

I would be willing to attend another water conference, as I now know what to expect and could tailor my attendance to be more productive. I think it is important GPRW try to attend more than just UN water conferences. Attending conferences hosted by other groups would provide a great opportunity to develop partnerships that could help GPRW obtain funding or to reach people in areas we are not currently serving.

Civil Society Organizations, one of the decision shapers at the SDG Summit

By Sister Beatriz Martinez-Garcia, SSND UN-NGO Representative

UN with Civil Society

On April 20, I attended the Civil Society Town Hall with the President of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi. In preparation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit, Mr. Kőrösi called civil society organizations to share their knowledge and expertise and be decision shapers to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs.  The SDGs are seriously off track due to a combination of global interlinked crises.

During the meeting, Mr. Kőrösi, invited participants to use their telephones and he conducted an opinion poll asking the NGO community to respond:  1) In one or two words, define success for the 2023 SDG Summit:  inclusion, collaboration and action. 2) what are the biggest challenges in the way of achieving the SDGs? inequalities, inadequate financing, and climate change. 3) what transformative changes are necessary to get the SDGs back on track? political commitments, multi-stakeholders partnership and SDG financing stimulus.  If you were asked to respond to these questions, what would be your answers?

Mr. Kőrösi asked NGOs to submit their written statements, stating what should be included in the Political Declaration, the outcome document,  that outlines the commitments that Member States pledge to achieve in the year to come.  For Mr. Kőrösi, the SDG Summit is of crucial importance for achieving the SDGs by 2030. How are you collaborating to accomplish these goals?

Integral Ecology and Synodality: a necessary interconnection!

By Sister Veroni Teresinha de Medeiros, Province of Latin America and the Caribbean

Our commitments flag

We attended a workshop Towards Systemic Change and Political Advocacy that was promoted by the Latin America Religious Conference (CLAR), Brazilian Religious Conference (CRB) and Justice Coalition of Religious (JCOR), in Brasilia, Brazil. It was a workshop of listening, welcoming, participation and communion. Reflecting from the perspective of the dignity of life, integral ecology and the principles of synodality, we became deeply aware of the fragility and disregard for respecting cultural, social, ecological differences and human rights by local and global governments. How do we ensure the common good in the face of so much greed and socio-environmental exploitation?

We were challenged by the words of Pope Francis “to live a lifestyle consistent with faith” in a “current society that ignores and discriminates against ethical principles and creates inhumane conditions that befall people already living in precarious conditions,” and that unfortunately “we witness the incessant creation of new traps of misery and exclusion.” As religious and lay people, protagonists of synodality and integral ecology, having justice at the center of integral ecology we are called to advocate and work for transformation local and globally. We committed ourselves to making visible an itinerant church that is close to people in situations of suffering and to environmental causes, by

  • Listening to the challenges and opportunities to evangelize in the spirit of synodality and care for the ‘common home’.
  • Living fraternity and social friendship as it is in Fratelli Tutti.
  • Communion, respect for plurality and oneness to permeate our decisions.

Our diversity of charisms and ministries are fundamental to building the ecclesial community in communion, participation and mission for systemic change.

Living Our SSND Laudato Si’ Commitment

By Sister Beatrice Chepng’eno, Province of Africa

St. Kizito Primary School at Magwagwa, Kenya
Notre Dame Children Outreach, Nyalienga, Kenya on the World Environment Day

SSNDs in Kenya live the Shalom values and the Laudato Si’ goals by collaborating with others, advocating for ecosystem protection, appreciating nature and participating in campaigns. In our communities, schools, and parishes, we reflect on how our human actions accelerate climate injustice. We work for economic justice and offer ecological education. We confront injustices courageously.

The sisters in Kisumu confronted the steel factory that created a murram pit behind our home. During digging and transportation, the dust erupted, landed on every window, floor and piece of furniture. The sisters went to the excavation place and talked about the damage they were doing. In the past, the chasm diggings had collected rainwater in which a child drowned. Speaking up like this made them redirect the truck’s route.

At every opportunity, we raise awareness of the Laudato Si’ Goals and invite others to join us to take action. We encourage each sister to read the reflections and action plans from other organizations registered in the Laudato Si Action Platform and participate in webinars as a way of helping us to respond to the cry of the earth and the poor.

At Notre Dame Children Outreach in Nyalienga, Kenya, we celebrated Mass under a peace tree that was blessed during a World Day of Peace. Anyone visiting the compound can pick up a peace message written in different languages. Our children are learning to be messengers of peace, caretakers of the environment, and advocates in their own homes.

Who are the people of the peripheries in our time and space?

By Sister Slavka Cekuta, Slovenian Province

Sister Slavka Cekuta

I have been looking for an answer to that disturbing question. I read once that every person at least once in life finds herself on the outskirts, distant from relationships and lonely. I learned that the painful face of poverty can be seen in loneliness, exclusions, the death of the helpless and the cry of Creation. In the women’s group I lead, I often witness sufferings. It struck me to hear from women who have had an abortion. They killed their unborn, but in their minds and hearts, the child lives, grows, and even gets a name. The suffering of these mothers is indescribable, and reconciliation is a long process. In Slovenia, abortion is legal. Laudato Si’ encourages me to continue strongly defending human life from conception to death and all forms of life on Earth, to be in solidarity with vulnerable people and to maintain affection for them.

Shalom/UN-NGO Newsletter is a triannual publication of the School Sisters of Notre Dame:
via della Stazione Aurelia 95, 00165 Roma · tel: +39.06.6652.01; fax: +39.06.6652.0234.