Written by Irene Lukefahr, BVM
Even though the activities planned for the United Nations “Commission on the Status of Women” were cancelled due to the Coronavirus, our time spent with Beth Blissman, our BVM-Loretto UN contact was exceptionally rich and inspiring in so many ways.
The Loretto Sisters were my elementary school teachers at the Immaculate Conception School in St. Louis, MO in the early 1950s. So it was very special to be connected via Zoom with two Loretto Sisters who shared their memories of participating in the Women’s World Conference in Beijing 25 years ago. It was inspiring that a group of young women from Nerinx High School in St. Louis who were not able to travel to New York were able to join in the same Zoom meeting. These students were smart, caring, involved and passionate about making a difference in the world, the kind of women who demonstrate that the charism of the Loretto community alive today.
Some of us rode the New York MTA system to gather with the Grail Community in the Bronx. There, we met women from Uganda, Mexico and Ecuador. It was especially heartbreaking to hear two young women from Mozambique tell their stories. One had been forced into marriage at 12; her abusive husband had been 35 years older. The other woman had become involved in prostitution in order to support herself. These women reminded us of the desperate need for us to work to stop human trafficking and protect the rights of women throughout the world.
While touring the UN Church Center across from the United Nations, Beth introduced us to David, a representative from Amnesty International who seemed to be one of the few people at work that day also due to the Coronavirus threat. In our 45-minute spontaneous conversation, David confirmed how important it is to sign Amnesty International postcards, letters and petitions calling for the release of those held prisoners throughout the world. Individuals receiving these items are given hope that they are not forgotten. Furthermore, guards are more likely to treat prisoners with dignity when they realize hundreds of people, thousands even, are speaking up for them.
On our last day in New York, we were able to attend a well-planned program at the Salvation Army. There we heard young women share how the Salvation Army had helped them out of poverty and into self-sufficiency through things like a college education, whereas they then became advocates for others. The program also included a dance troupe which told the stories of these women through their beautiful movements. It was a day filled with hope which came about through our using our resources to help those in need.