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Boston area sisters host prayer vigil for National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

By Sister Joanne Gallagher, CSJSpecial to The Pi
Posted: 1/17/2014

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Participants at the gathering to mark National Human Trafficking Awareness Day Jan. 11 process outside of the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse to hold a prayer vigil on Cambridge Street in Brighton. Pilot photo/courtesy Sisters of St. Joseph

BOSTON -- Local women religious representing 16 congregations in the Greater Boston Area gathered with over 150 sisters, associates, and many friends on Jan. 11 at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Brighton to pray for an end to human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery.

In 2007, the U.S. Senate designated Jan. 11 as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Those who gathered joined in solidarity with thousands of people across the country to raise awareness of sexual slavery and human trafficking worldwide. Although the Awareness Day is a U.S. initiative, the United Nations has also highlighted this topic because of its global reach.

In her introductory remarks, Sister Betsy Goodwin, OSF, said, "We gather today to fulfill a responsibility of those who are free: to pray for all who struggle to cast off the chains of human trafficking; and to pray for those who work to respect and enhance the freedom of those who are trafficked."

The prayer vigil also honored the memory of Sister Carole Lombard, CSJ, who died in July 2013. Sister Carole labored tirelessly to eradicate human trafficking by engaging and inspiring others, educating people from all walks of life, and advocating for just legislation to combat and eliminate human trafficking. Sister Carole was a founding member of the Boston Anti-Trafficking Coalition (ATC) and a public advocate for Massachusetts legislation on behalf of victims and survivors of human trafficking. She was a major participant in the six-year effort to support the passage of anti-trafficking legislation passed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Nov. 21, 2011.

During the vigil, a glass etching designed by Sister Adela Rodriguez, CSJ, was presented to Bakhita House, a safe house for women who are victims of human trafficking.

In presenting this memorial, Sister Mary Lou Simcoe, SUSC, said, "There wasn't a request to attend a workshop, take on a speaking engagement, or attend an anti-trafficking event to which Carole could say 'no.' She was totally committed to educating, informing, and supporting any effort to end this grave social evil."

Sister Carole was a founding member of the task force which established Bakhita House, a safe house for victims of human trafficking. Sister Pat McSharry, SND, also a member of this task force, received the memorial etching for Bakhita House.

"Carole was a woman attentive to all forms of injustice but very involved in the issue of human trafficking in recent years. I am convinced that she continues to advocate for the women of Bakhita House," Sister Pat said.

Catholic women religious have been key leaders in the national and international movement to stop human trafficking. In the past several years, the Boston area ATC has sponsored six symposia each attended by well over 200 participants who want to be part of the initiative to end this crime against humanity. Another symposium addressing the issue of Human Trafficking is planned for April 2014.