Written on: December 12, 2016
The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart are committed to creating a compassionate world. Our ministry and advocacy reflect our passion to bring the healing presence of Jesus to those who are marginalized by society and to issues that receive little attention. One of these is the issue of Human Trafficking also known as modern day slavery.
“The Gospel message is God’s unconditional love, love that respects and treasures the other.” Sister Eileen White
Last August, on the feast of the Assumption, Pope Francis prayed for all exploited women, praying that they live “a life of peace, justice and love in expectation of the day they finally will feel held by hands that do not humiliate them but tenderly lift them and lead them on the path to life.”
One such pair of tender, lifting hands belongs to Sister Eileen White. Sister Eileen serves as Resident Coordinator for Dawn’s Place, a warm and welcoming shelter home in an undisclosed location in Philadelphia. At Dawn’s Place, a dedicated staff works to improve the lives of rescued women who have been used—and abused—by the commercial sex trade.
“Commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking arise from the dark side of human nature—the tendency to see another person as ‘less’,” Sister Eileen says. “A thread of that dark side is machismo or chauvinism. We still present women as sex objects in advertising and entertainment. Poverty and the drug culture play a role, too. There are layers of dysfunction in our culture and many victims of that dysfunction.”
The women who call Dawn’s Place home at this critical time in their lives are women of every color and height, weight and personality. In her ministry, Sister Eileen and a dedicated staff and volunteers teach them basic skills: grocery shopping, budgeting, scheduling, cooking, and delaying gratification: all elements of managing an everyday, functional life.
“I also meet with all of the residents weekly and I invite them to share good news, complaints, concerns, questions, requests. I tell them what’s coming next, cajole them into accepting rules, teach them new ways of dealing with conflict. Often, I just listen.
“When I first came to Dawn’s Place, I imagined I would be meeting women who were not like me or anyone I knew,” she remembers. “I was wrong! These incredibly brave women are just like me and like many women I know. Their circumstances -some chosen and some thrust on them by a harsh life journey- were just different from mine.”
Sister Eileen believes that her ministry with women formerly enslaved by the sex trade is a meaningful way to live and share the Gospel message. “The Gospel message is God’s unconditional love, love that respects and treasures the other.
“If someone acts out, screaming and cursing at me, or trying to manipulate me, I don’t respond in kind. I take care to really reach out to that difficult individual. I remember that she is wounded by trauma that I cannot even imagine enduring. That’s when my prayer life gets tested and I have to practice what I say that I believe.”
This privileged ministry is reminiscent of the ministries of the foundress of the Grey Nuns, St. Marguerite d’Youville. “Like Marguerite, I believe in the mystery of God’s providence. I was led to these women, to this place. God loves them and I love them.”
To learn more about how other Catholic Sisters are working to end human trafficking, click here
Dawn’s Place is a collaborative effort to end human trafficking. Read more here
When Pope Francis was in Philly, some thought Dawn’s Place deserved a visit. Read more here
Sister Eileen White is a frequent contributor to this blog. She ministers at Dawn’s Place which was established in response to the need for safe, protected housing for women who have been victims of human trafficking in the Philadelphia area. Dawn’s Place is a collaborative venture supported by many congregations of women religious. The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart are proud to lend their support to this effort.
Your generous support allows even our working Sisters to minister in places where they are needed and not just where they might earn a large salary. This is the important difference between work and ministry, and your generosity allows us to be present in places where the love of Jesus is most desperately needed. If you would like to know more about how you can help to sustain us, please click here.
This is part of a three-part series found in our annual report to donors highlighting three pillars of religious life: Prayer, Ministry and Advocacy. Check our blog to read them all!