The Maryknoll Sisters place a great value on support and advocacy of women’s issues. This dates all the way back to the time of our foundress, Mother Mary Joseph Rogers.
Of the many forms of injustice that come with misogyny, femicide must be the worst. This refers to the murder of women simply because they are women, whose lower status in many societies means that men can get away with killing them for any reason or no reason at all.
Since the COVID-10 pandemic, violence has only intensified against women and girls. Calls to violence-related helplines have increased by 77% in some areas. Our women’s advocacy work is as important as it has ever been.
Sister Story: Sister Elsie Monge, MM
In the South American nation of Ecuador, Sister Elsie Monge, MM has been working since 1974 to help bring justice to the people, who have often been exploited and repressed by various governments and companies. Femicide is among the worst atrocities she has seen, and is harder to fight because it is usually the act of a husband, boyfriend, family member, or an acquaintance whose romantic overtures have been rejected.
“Femicide is usually the last part of the chain of violence in the home, or work, or society in general, that ends up killing them because they are ‘just women,’” Sister Elsie says. “We gather the legal cases where this has taken place to consider what treatment these cases are given.”
One terrible example of this crime occurred last June 6 in the town of Montecristi. Two sisters in their 20’s were stabbed, decapitated and dismembered in front of their own children, inside their own homes. The identity of the killer or killers is unknown.
“Most of the time these cases end with impunity,” Sister Elsie says. “The killers get away with it. So then we also bring pressure from the justice side. We, and some of the other organizations we collaborate with, have been able to get a specialized team to receive the cases of femicide… We’ve worked with police and some public employees who have to do with the administration of justice, and also with grassroots organizations.”
In doing this work, of course, Sister Elsie and her colleagues risk provoking the anger of dangerous men, and becoming targets. Nevertheless, she is undeterred. “There is so much injustice,” she says. “If you don’t do the little things you can, people will be worse off. I think it’s part of the liberation message of Christ… He didn’t shy away from saying or doing something. If we don’t do it, who is going to do it? The people are so courageous, how could I not be?”
Sister takes a great deal of encouragement from the support provided by donors like you. “It’s very important for Maryknoll and for us who are out in the field with people who are excluded, whose rights are violated… I think it’s very important that people from the developed world reach out their hands to the developing world…. to empower these people to stand up for themselves, to be architects of their own destiny.”
“Creating options together brings hope, and hope heralds the coming of the reign of God.”
Sister Story: Sister Margaret Lacson, M.M.
Sister Margaret Lacson, M.M. is a native of the Philippines. Since 1993, she has been assigned to Japan, working with women and children. In 2002 she and a pastoral team set up the Kalakasan Migrant Women’s Empowerment Center. This facility ministers to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of female Filipina migrant workers in Japan, many of whom are married to, and have children with Japanese men.
“Kalakasan” means “Strength” in Tagalog, a language of the Philippines. The represents the strength that these women must have while working for low wages in a country where they are often considered outsiders, and where most do not speak the language.
“The Center’s activities fall into four categories,” Sister Margaret writes. “The first is Crisis Intervention. We are part of a national hotline call Yorisoi Hotline. Calls come from all over Japan from women in serious need of help. Our intervention sometimes entails introducing callers to lawyers or labor unions, or accompaniment to the City Hall for livelihood assistance.
“The second category is follow-up care, social integration, and healing. Women who experienced violence for their partners are in a process of healing, claiming their original strength, and stabilizing their lives. We hold monthly gatherings dedicated to bonding, sharing, healing, consciousness-raising, body-work, sills training, and information sharing. The aim is to help these migrant women become active and productive within Japanese society.
“Thirdly, we engage in lobbying and networking. It is important to lobby for laws that will better women’s lives. One law that we were actively engaged in was the Domestic Violence law enacted in the early 2000s, where our women talks with Japanese lawmakers. Because of this, migrant women were covered by the law. We participate in marches and mobilizations for women’s rights and human rights. We also network with lawyers who assist women and migrants and groups that promote women’s and children’s rights and welfare.
“Finally we engage in food distribution. We receive rice from the northern part of the country to be given to single mothers or households that need assistance. We also receive donations from other sources. Food distributions are done twice a month.
How You Can Help
With your financial support, the Maryknoll Sisters will be able to do the following:
- Provide crisis intervention services to help save lives.
- Fight for justice for victims of misogyny and femicide.
- Provide follow-up care, social integration, and healing.
- Lobby for laws that will better women’s lives.
Pray With Us
You walk beside us, each moment of each day. You know us by name, see each joy and sorrow. You created within us a gentle capacity to love and nurture. You gave us understanding and patience in a troubled world. You laid upon us the responsibility to carry and care for new life.
You released us to run and dance, to sing and create. You crafted in us sharp minds that are able to solve problems and see possibilities. You desire each of us to live life to the full, embracing your love for us and extending grace to others. You gave your life so that we could walk free to build your kingdom on earth as in heaven.
We lay our lives before you and trust in your unfailing love.
And lead us,
To reflect more and more of you life within our own.