From our Annual Report: Finding Freedom

When Selene, an immigrant from Mexico, married Luis and moved to Ohio, she thought her dream of normal life in America had begun.

But Luis isolated her at home, did not allow her to buy food or clothing for her children, and abused her.

Selene was just beginning to learn English and having no one to talk to other than Luis, who belittled her efforts, she felt even more alone. She knew that this was not what she wanted her life to be, but she didn’t know where to turn.

Her daughter, then in primary school, came home with an answer one day. “Mom, my friend belongs to this group, Proyecto Mariposas. It’s all moms and daughters like us… learning to speak English and learning to get along in our new country. I want to join – and I want you to join, too!”

That is how Selene met the Dominican Sisters of Peace Associate Yahaira Rose, founder of Proyecto Mariposas and Director of the Martin de Porres Center, a community outreach and retreat center. Meeting Yahaira was the beginning of Selene’s new life.

The moms and daughters in Proyecto Mariposas gather regularly for food, learning, and fun, creating a community of friends with not just a common language, but an immigrant experience much like Selene’s own.

“I thought I was the only person in Columbus who spoke Spanish!” Selene says. “Meeting these people was a gift!”

Selene learned that the sadness and isolation that she was feeling was not normal.

She met with a therapist who serves the families of Proyecto Mariposas as well as Rising Youth, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace that offers academic assistance and violence prevention services for local Latinx youth.

She also registered for classes at the Dominican Learning Center. Adriana Johnson, ESL Program Coordinator at the Center, says “Selene was so focused! She wanted to pass all four GED tests as quickly as possible – and she accomplished her goal. She also wants to motivate others and promote our program. She even meets with our current learners to motivate them.”

Ultimately, Selene determined that the healthiest thing she could do for her family was to get Luis out of their lives. It was ugly and difficult, but her newfound determination was bolstered when her son, Alex, came to her after she called the police to keep her husband from assaulting the two of them. “Mom, I am so proud of you,” he said. “You did what you had to do – you kept us all safe.”

It took Selene just four weeks to obtain her GED at the Dominican Learning Center. She has a new job, her children live in a safe place, and she is studying to obtain her US citizenship through a program offered by the Martin de Porres Center.

Yahaira Rose says, “Selene has a great spirit! I love working with her and her kids. She is determined and has great potential. I can’t wait to work with her in other capacities and celebrate her successes in our community.”

“God has been so good to me…he is truly my best friend,” Selene says. “My friends at my church, Yahaira, the ESL teachers at the Dominican Learning Center, the lawyer I met through the Martin de Porres Center – they helped make my life better. I have my kids, my place, my job, and I hope that I can be brave for the next woman who needs help… that I can be the friend that I found by coming to Proyecto Mariposas, to Yahaira, and to the Dominican Sisters of Peace.”

Click to help support our ministries in 2022!

Posted in News

Embracing the ‘What Will Be’

We are three weeks into 2022. I would like us to step back from our busy lives and take a glance at these past three weeks and what the year ahead could look like.

On New Year’s Eve, my community watched the movie: “New Year’s Eve” (2011) It reminded me of three characteristics that are often found in a Hallmark movie: family conflict, financial distress, and isolation. I think, most of us experienced these three in these last two years as CoViD has reshaped our lives. However, there is a fourth characteristic of these movies: serendipity – – discovering unexpected things that matter – whether it’s happiness, or hope, or love, you name it.

In the movie, New Year’s Eve was a night about having another chance – another chance for love, forgiveness, and hope, reminding us that we, too, are blessed with these serendipitous moments. We might consider that every New Year’s Eve, like Claire, who is in charge of the New Year’s eve celebrations in the movie, reminded us that we, too, have an opportunity for another chance to make our lives and the lives of others better. When the ball got stuck halfway in the air on Times Square during the celebration, Claire was asked to share a few words with the audience:

“As you all can see, the ball has stopped halfway to its perch. It’s suspended there to remind us before we pop the champagne and celebrate the new year, to stop, and reflect on the year that has gone by, to remember both our triumphs and our missteps, our promises made and broken, the times we opened ourselves up to great adventures… or closed ourselves down for fear of getting hurt, because that’s what new year’s all about: getting another chance – a chance to forgive, to do better, to do more, to give more, to love more, and to stop worrying about ‘what if?’ and start embracing ‘what will be.’ So, when that ball drops at midnight, and it will drop, let’s remember to be nice to each other, kind to each other, and not just tonight but all year long.”

The movie invited everyone to embrace the ‘what will be’ and to be kind to one another. Pope Francis, too, invited us to listen to one another and to walk with one another. He summoned us to enter into a personal and communal discernment for a synodal Church by praying with and listening to where the Spirit is calling us, by listening to one another, and by reflecting on how we are called to be Church. May we be awakened to our call and be challenged to become better disciples.

I would like us to reflect and pray with these questions:

  • What is God asking of us at this time?
  • What can help us listen to God’s Spirit in our hearts?
  • How can we stop worrying about the ‘what if’ and embrace the ‘what will be’? 

Our faith teaches us to be bearers of hope, love, and charity. As a final reflection, I would like us to consider the words spoken by Sam, a businessman in the movie, where he states,

As we move forward in this new year, let’s try to remember

 that sometimes it’s ok to listen to your heart.

I know it’s risky, take that leap of faith.

Let us take the risk to listen to the call within us, where God reveals who we will be, individually and communally.

Some of you reading this blog may have played with the thought of responding to God’s love by becoming a Sister; you may have even prayed with this thought for a while. If you would like to talk to a Sister about discerning God’s call to religious life, click here to contact us. If you would like to come and see what it feels like to live a life of prayer and service in community, we are offering a retreat in March (March 4-6, 2022) at our Motherhouse in Kentucky for single Catholic women, ages 18-45. We are offering the retreat both in person and via Zoom. For more information, contact Sr. Bea at 614-400-1255, or via email: Bea.Tiboldi@oppeace.org.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

With Open Hands

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald

Some of my best ideas come during our community dinners, from the sisters around the table with me.  As we break bread, slurp soup, or bite into a juicy morsel, we often share the stuff of our lives.  These daily happenings, glimpses of God, joys and challenges often spark conversation and ideas flow.  Last evening, as I discussed my ideas for writing a blog, one of the sisters asked if I had thought about reflecting on how we can use our body in prayer.  This sister shared how she often prays using St. Dominic’s Nine Ways of Prayer or other physical postures or movement to get in touch with God’s presence within and around her.  As she shared, I recalled how such body prayer practiced by myself and others helped me when I was discerning my call to religious life and has continued to help me connect with God and Spirit in my daily prayer.  Here are a few of those experiences.

Over twenty years ago, I met a sister who danced her prayer. I had never seen liturgical dance before, and I will never forget watching Sr. Jean Kinney stand and then reverently dance up the aisle with the gifts of bread and wine.  I was mesmerized at the sight of her tall, lean frame and expressive hands as she presented the gifts to the priest and then served at the altar.  At the same time, I felt God calling me to bring my gift, my life to the table as an offering. I never left my seat. It was as if Jean did the dancing, and my heart did the offering.

On a hill in Mexico City, Sr. Ana and I reveled in the beauty of the country stretching out around us.  We were standing in an area long revered as holy by the native peoples. At the top of the hill, we took off our shoes and stood on the warm earth.  We thought of God who created it all and the thousands of people who had walked this ground. With arms outstretched in prayer, we felt God’s presence in the warmth of the sun on our faces and in the breeze that surrounded us.  We brought that experience back to our sisters who had stayed behind at the school.  When we shared how we stood and prayed, it felt as if we were once again on that little hill united with God.

As you seek the face of God and God’s direction in life, I invite you to try some of these different prayer postures. It can be as simple as sitting quietly with your hands open on your lap or allowing your rosary beads to slip between your fingers.  For me, these body prayers help me become more aware of the presence of God with me, leading me and guiding me in my discernment.  In whatever way you pray, may you feel the gentle touch of God and know that you are loved.

To explore more ways to pray, check out our prayer group for discerners or our other upcoming programs.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

Spiritual Resolutions

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

New Year’s resolutions can be daunting and overwhelming, setting us up for disappointment rather than renewing our spirits and fueling our lives with hope.  For those of us discerning God’s call in our lives, spiritual reflection and setting spiritual goals is probably already part of our daily practice.  We have embraced a life stance of seeking and being in God’s presence in all that we do and are.  This mindfulness of God’s presence also makes us more aware of God’s action and guidance in our lives.  It seems to me that instead of New Year resolutions, God is inviting us to make what I like to call, “new day” resolutions. This mind shift just seems to make resolutions more manageable and possible.

Every day is a new beginning, an opportunity to begin anew or to start over with new insights and perspectives on where we are and where God is calling us. With each new day, we can refocus and recommit to living the life given to us.  As we greet each sunrise and sunset with gratitude for the gifts God has bestowed on us, we can open up a space within us for being awakened and transformed by the Spirit into the person we are meant to be.

Admittedly, I am not a disciplined person who finds committing to a daily practice easy.  But, with this confession, I am resolved to make some spiritual resolutions one day, one practice at a time. There are so many practices to choose from to help us grow in our relationship with self, others, and God.  Three simple, practical ways to growing in your interior life each day are to read from a spiritual book, to write in a prayer journal, and to listen more.

Read from a spiritual book. Give yourself some personal time every day to ponder and reflect on your spiritual life and your discernment by reading books about faith, prayer, spiritual growth, or spirituality. You may want to consider obtaining books from discount bookstores and from your public library. You can find a short list of books about discernment on our webpage here.

Write in a prayer journal.  Make a daily habit of writing whatever spiritual thoughts inspire you and about your sense of God’s presence and action in your life.  Sometimes this might be a gratitude list, a simple prayer, a letter to God, or a quote from a saint or Scripture. Revisit your journal for encouragement when you find yourself in a spiritual slump.

Listen more and listen deeply. Practice every day quieting your thoughts and opinions and tune in with wonder and curiosity to what God and others are saying. Be attentive to the message in and beyond the words spoken. You may find that in practicing the sacred art of listening to others comes a clarity in hearing God’s messages to you.

What will be your daily spiritual resolutions?

As you grow in your interior life, your desire for spending time in silence and discernment will grow. Consider attending a spiritual retreat so that you can reflect on your life and where God is calling you.

For those discerning a call to religious life as a sister, we are offering a discernment retreat, March 4-6, 2022.  For more information about this retreat, please contact Sr. Bea Tiboldi at Bea.Tiboldi@oppeace.org or call or text her at (614) 400-1255.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Human trafficking is just one facet of the social ill that is Modern Slavery.
More than 40 million people around the world are trapped in modern slavery, more than at any time in our history, despite the fact that slavery is illegal in most nations. Women and girls account for nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of all victims of modern slavery.
Modern slavery is an umbrella term and includes:

Human trafficking
Defined by the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol as involving recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion with the intent of exploiting that person for sexual exploitation, forced labor, or slavery, among others forms.

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve threat, use of force or, coercion.

Debt bondage
Status or condition where one person has pledged their labor or services (or that of someone under their control), in circumstances where the fair value of that labor or service is not reasonably applied to reducing the debt or length of debt, or the length and nature of the service is not limited or defined.

Forced marriage
Any situation where persons, regardless of age, have been forced to marry without their consent.

Slavery and slavery-like practices
Defined in the 1926 Slavery Convention as the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised. In a later treaty, states agreed that there are also certain “slavery-like practices”: debt bondage, forced or servile marriage, sale or exploitation of children (including in armed conflict), and descent-based slavery.

Forced labor
All work or service that is conducted under the menace of penalty and for which the person has not offered themselves voluntarily.

Worst forms of child labor
Drawing on the 1999 Convention on Worst Forms of Child Labour, it includes situations where children are: exploited through slavery or slavery-like practices, including forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; used, procured, or offered for prostitution; used, procured, or offered for illicit activities including production and trafficking of drugs; engaged in hazardous work which may harm their health, safety or morals.

January 26, 2022

Why does Human Trafficking Happen?

Human trafficking happens in every country in the world, in many different forms; however, the causes behind human trafficking are essentially the same for labor trafficking, sex trafficking, child trafficking, and all other types of modern-day slavery. Here are the 10 causes of human trafficking around the world.

Poverty

Poverty is one of the largest contributors to human trafficking. It can drive people to become traffickers; it can drive parents to sell children or other family members into slavery. People in poverty are targeted by traffickers, who offer them a way to earn money when, in fact, they will actually earn nothing and be treated as a slave. Poverty also plays a large piece in many of the other root causes of trafficking, driving people to migrate, making education and legitimate work difficult to obtain, making recovery and safety from war and disaster impossible, and more.

Lack of education

A lack of education can lead to decreased opportunities for work at a living wage, and it can also lead to a decreased knowledge of one’s rights. Both outcomes can cause people to be at a greater vulnerability for human trafficking. Education can also empower children to make changes in their community as they grow older that will prevent situations and vulnerabilities of which traffickers take advantage.

Demand for cheap labor/demand for sex

Basic economics tells us that for a market to form, supply and demand need to exist. The demands for cheap labor and for commercialized sex lead to opportunities for traffickers to exploit people. Traffickers can make a large profit by producing goods and services through cheap or free labor and selling the products or services at a higher price. Commercialized sex is a lucrative market that allows traffickers and pimps to become the only profiter from their victims through an endless cycle of buyers and high prices.

Lack of human rights for vulnerable groups

In many countries, marginalized persons lack institutionalized human rights, which can make them more vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers can prey on these marginalized groups because they lack protection from law enforcement, their families, and even the society they live in. When countries lack fundamental laws regarding human rights, traffickers feel as though they can get away with what they are doing more easily. Worse, in some countries, including our own, these laws can also end in punishment for victims.

Lack of legitimate economic opportunities

When people lack legitimate economic opportunities, it can lead to increased vulnerability to human trafficking. Groups that are especially vulnerable in this area are migrants without work permits, those who lack education, those who live in rural areas where there are fewer jobs available, and women and certain ethnic groups who may not be able to get jobs due to discrimination. Traffickers offer seemingly legitimate jobs to people who cannot get them otherwise, only to lure them into forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, and more.

Social factors and cultural practices

In many countries, cultural practices and social factors are a major cause of human trafficking. In some places, bonded labor is seen as an acceptable way to pay off debt. In other places, selling children to traffickers is the norm, especially for poorer families in rural areas. Some countries, such as Mauritania, still practice antiquated slavery, where families are held for generations by slave-masters. There are also instances, like in Uzbekistan, where forced labor is institutionalized. During the cotton harvest, all adults and children are expected to work in the cotton fields until the crops are harvested. Cultural and social factors can also prevent victims from seeking help.

Conflict and natural disaster

Conflict and natural disasters can lead to economic instability and lack of human rights, giving traffickers an advantage and making people more vulnerable to human trafficking situations. In conflict zones and wars, some rebel or military groups will use child soldiers and keep sex slaves. Additionally, both conflict and natural disaster can lead people to migrate out of their hometowns and home countries, making them more vulnerable to traffickers, especially if they are looking for work or paying smugglers to get where they want to go. And with increased economic instability, traffickers have opportunities to offer false job offers to people, leading them into trafficking situations.

Trafficking generates a large profit

One major cause of human trafficking is the large profit that traffickers gain. This is an incentive for them to continue trafficking people in both forced labor and sex trafficking. For traffickers using forced laborers and bonded laborers, they get cheap labor and can sell their product or service at a much higher cost. For those using sex trafficking, they can easily take all of the profit, forcing women to make a certain amount each night, and keeping them in the situation through drugs, violent force, threats, and more.

Lack of safe migration options

People looking to migrate out of their home countries due to safety concerns or economic opportunities are especially vulnerable to traffickers. Traffickers can use illegal smuggling as a way to trick people into forced labor or sex trafficking. For migrants looking for jobs in other countries, traffickers typically offer them job opportunities that seem legitimate, only to force them into a trafficking situation. For instance, when Russia was preparing for the Sochi Olympics, several men from Serbia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and other nearby countries were promised construction jobs, only to be paid very little and be treated poorly. And many women from countries like Nigeria, Ukraine, and other Eastern European and African countries are offered nannying or restaurant jobs in Western Europe, only to be trapped in sex trafficking.

Traffickers

Beyond cultural practices, the profit, vulnerabilities of certain people groups, lack of human rights, economic instability, and more, traffickers are the ones who choose to exploit people for their own gain. While many of these factors may play into the reasons why traffickers get into the business, they still make a willful decision to enslave people against their will — either because of the profit, because they believe that certain people are worth less, because of the abuse that they themselves experienced.

Trafficking ultimately exists because people are willing to exploit others.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

How Can YOU help Combat Trafficking?

You can use your voice to speak up for victims and to work for prevention. Here are some ways you can take action.

ADVOCATE
Trafficking Victim Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2021

Please urge your Representative to co-sponsor the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victim Prevention
and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2021 (TVPRA) HR 5150 bill. Programs that are currently being
funded by the previous TVPA are set to expire soon. It is critical that this legislation is brought to
Congress before survivors lose access to these much-needed services.
The bill will reauthorize vital programs across a wide coalition of U.S. government departments that
address human trafficking at an estimated cost of 1.6 billion dollars. Click here to send
a letter to your Representative.

The Violence Against Women Act 
The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress when prosecutors chose to not prosecute cases. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice. This bill was allowed to expire under the previous administration. It passed the House in March, 2021 and has been stalled in the Senate since then. 

CONNECT WITH LEGISLATORS
Reach out to your local and national legislators to let them know you care about ending human
trafficking and supporting survivors! You can use our helpful intro packet that explains the
connections between human trafficking and other justice issues like gender equality, economics,
racism, climate change, and immigration. Click here for resources from US Sisters Against Human Trafficking.

You can also reach out to your legislators to let them know about your support for the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which was released by the White House as part of the commemoration of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Click here to review the plan.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022


Watch. Listen. Save a life.

You may come in contact with victims of human trafficking in your daily life. The best way to help save a trafficking victim is to pay attention to people you actually know or interact with – your students, your tenants, your children, your patients, your co-workers.

It is all about two magic words: Context and proximity.

Hotels & Motels
Hotels and motels are common venues for both prostitution and sex trafficking, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, which is why it is important that concerns about potential trafficking be reported to the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline rather than directly to law enforcement, which could lead to arrests. Labor trafficking also takes place, where contract workers such as housekeepers may be exploited. They are also common venues for traveling sales crews to house trafficked workers. Below are some potential indicators of sex and/or labor trafficking that may also be indicators of prostitution.

  • Presence of a third party (pimp/trafficker) appearing to be monitoring a hallway or door
  • Guest is overly concerned with surveillance cameras or entrance policies
  • Someone is dropped off and visits for 30 minutes – 1 hour only – or someone waits for that person on property or in the parking lot
  • Abandoned or locked out young adults on property
  • Sales flyers left behind that detail suspicious magazine sales tactics
  • Research shows that the majority of human trafficking survivors had some contact with the health care system during the time they were being exploited. That means health care providers are often in the position to recognize that something is wrong and take steps to provide support. Potential red flags specific to a health care setting may include:

Healthcare
Research shows that the majority of human trafficking survivors had some contact with the health care system during the time they were being exploited. Health care providers are often in the position to recognize that something is wrong and take steps to provide support. Potential red flags specific to a health care setting may include:

  • A patient with reproductive or sexual health concerns and or potential signs of sexual violence and reporting an unusually high number of partners
  • A patient with work-related injuries reporting that health and safety gear were not provided or conditions were otherwise unsafe
  • A patient is unwilling or hesitant to answer questions about the injury or illness
  • A patient Is accompanied by an individual who does not let the patient speak for themselves, refuses to let the patient have privacy, or who interprets for them

Nannies, House Cleaners, Home Health Aides
Nannies, house cleaners, and home health aides labor in isolated conditions that put them at risk for trafficking. The vulnerability can be compounded by the fact that many domestic workers are immigrants who may not know their rights in this country. Indicators of potential concern include:

  • A live-in domestic worker who sleeps on a floor, in a garage, closet, laundry room or another place not intended for sleeping
  • An immigrant worker whose employer is holding her or his passport or other legal documentation
  • A worker who is rarely or never allowed to leave the home, or only allowed out/seen in the company of the employer
  • An employer who sets up and controls a domestic workers’ bank account

Familial Trafficking
Educators and social services professionals may be in a good position to learn about trafficking situations and help connect victims to services. At least one international study found that almost half of identified child trafficking cases globally began with the involvement of a family member. Victims are sold for sex or forced to work in family businesses. Familial trafficking often goes undetected. While familial trafficking can and does happen in families that appear entirely “functional” or “normal” to an outsider, there may well also be signs of other kinds of child abuse or neglect – which may, in fact, include trafficking. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers information about recognizing child abuse more generally.

Agriculture, Forestry, and Construction
The majority of labor trafficking cases learned about on the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline involve immigrants, many of whom are in the United States on legal temporary work visas, some of which require that employers provide housing. In general, housing and similar living/working conditions may be the best indications available that something is not right in the workplace. Examples might include:

  • Workers living in too-close quarters such as too many people in a single bedroom apartment who all work in a particular restaurant or store
  • Workers living in/sleeping at construction sites
  • Workers living in unsanitary conditions such as on a school bus with no running water in a farm labor situation

 

Excerpted from the Polaris Project Website 

Wednesday, 1/5/2022

In 2014, Pope Francis stated during his Declaration on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery:

“Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, and organ trafficking, is a crime against humanity. Its victims are from all walks of life but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.”

As we observe this National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Dominican Sisters of Peace will share resources to help educate, advocate, and take action against trafficking wherever we may see it.

  • The Ending Human Trafficking podcast was founded by  The Global Center for Women and Justice podcast in April 2011. The podcast’s mantra is Study the Issues. Be a voice. Make a difference. The National Family and Youth Services Clearinghouse promoted EHT as “a good way to get up to speed on human trafficking.” Click here to listen.
  • The Polaris Project offers a wide-ranging study of the problem on their Human Trafficking Myths and Facts page. Please click here to read.
  • Our own Sister Nadine Buchanan ministers to trafficked women and men here in Columbus. Click here to read her “Everyday Heroes” story in the Columbus Dispatch

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog