Written on: December 2, 2014
During a recent discussion, our Peacemaking and Nonviolence Committee wondered, “Do people know that Dawn’s Place, (where Sister Eileen White works with victims of commercial sex exploitation and human trafficking), was the brain child of a coalition of Catholic Sisters and Priests in the Philadelphia, Reading, and Scranton area?” Our committee sees the evolution of that coalition as a remarkable example of offering faithful witness as women in the Church – one of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart’s Chapter 2013 commitments.
For more than twenty-five years, the Catholic Coalition, comprised of representatives from 15 different religious communities, has met quarterly to share resources regarding a number of justice issues. They then determine how best to address them or make them better understood by their congregations and by the groups with whom they live and work. Issues examined over the years include immigration, racism, nuclear energy, the Mideast conflict, economics and social justice teaching, and human trafficking.
After co-sponsoring a workshop on human trafficking in center city Philadelphia in 2005, the Coalition asked the question, “What more can we do?” In 2007, a subcommittee of the Coalition – a Sister of St. Joseph, a Medical Mission Sister, a Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary and a lawyer in Philadelphia who has worked for years with women who have been prostituted answered the question. They recognized the need for hospitality and support services for victims and looked for a house. Providentially, the Good Shepherd Sisters gave the Coalition a home they were preparing to sell. “Dawn’s Place,” named for a murdered prostitute in Camden and for the hope of a new day dawning, opened its doors in 2009. Sister Eileen White, GNSH ministers there as Resident Coordinator to the 7 to 10 residents who receive support services for a year. Members of the Catholic Coalition and their congregations continue to support Dawn’s Place as volunteers and donors.
The Catholic Coalition focused their meetings in the last two years on the 50th anniversary of Vatican Council II, on the spirituality of water, and on justice at the grassroots through a program called “Pachamama”. Many Grey Nuns continue to attend meetings.