Written on: February 8, 2015
FEBRUARY 8 IS THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER AND AWARENESS AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING
“Every time legislation is passed or amended to better reflect the real needs of real people, we create a more compassionate world,” she observes. “Every time a letter to the editor or to a legislator helps someone gain a different perspective or a change in attitude, we create a more compassionate world….”
In18th century Montreal, Marguerite d’Youville spoke to the civil and ecclesial authorities about the needs of the poor, the elderly, the sick, orphans, prostitutes, and others abandoned by society. She was their voice.
Following in the footsteps of Marguerite, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart embrace the connection between their lives as women religious and the lives of those oppressed or neglected in the world. The obligation to be a voice for those who have no voice is an integral part of the Grey Nun community consciousness.
Sister Eileen White’s (Sister Michael Eileen) journey on the path of social justice advocacy began more than 30 years ago. “In 1978, I was missioned to Lima, Peru,” she remembers. “Joining our sisters there, I began to see social justice issues ‘with brown eyes,’ that is, from the perspective of those made poor in our world. I gained a different perspective.”
She was attracted to social justice advocacy because it speaks on behalf of the most vulnerable and least vocal people of our society: “the poor, people in prisons, trafficked woman and children, immigrants, those with no or inadequate health care, people affected by war or by economic downturns or by climactic or environmental disasters, to name just a few.
“Social justice advocacy – legislative advocacy – involves making efforts to promote or support legislation or public policy that can improve people’s lives and change the world for the better,” she explains.
Over the years, Sister Eileen has spoken out against the Iraq War, capital punishment and the development and deployment of nuclear weapons. She speaks out in favor of debt cancellation for developing nations and for supporting the principles of the Earth Charter.
In addition to participating in prayer and peace vigils, she has written to newspapers, phoned and visited lawmakers and organized e-mail campaigns on critical social issues. As a member of the Catholic Coalition for Justice and Peace, she took part in rallies for the closing of the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.
“Every time legislation is passed or amended to better reflect the real needs of real people, we create a more compassionate world,” she observes. “Every time a letter to the editor or to a legislator helps someone gain a different perspective or a change in attitude, we create a more compassionate world. Every time a peace rally helps to convince more people to consider opposing war and promoting peace, we create a more compassionate world.”
Currently, Sister Eileen works to create a compassionate world through her ministry as Coordinator of Dawn’s Place, a safe house for trafficked women, who have been exploited as domestics or sex workers. “I am one of 40 individuals helping these women overcome the trauma of their past and begin a new, better life with legal employment.” In her work, Sister Eileen says she often reflects on the words of St. Marguerite d’Youville: ‘There is much good to be done if we had the means.’
“I believe that we, as human beings and children of God, are the means—our love, our faith, our compassion and our energy fuse together when we reach out to others.” As she reaches out to the most marginalized members of society through her work with trafficked women and her social justice advocacy, Sister Eileen White, in her own way and with her unique gifts, creates a compassionate world.