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2021 SNJM Café

Anti-racism and Racial Justice: an SNJM Journey in the 21st Century

(March 30, 2021) — The SNJM+ Committee recently hosted their latest SNJM Café for Holy Names University community members. A favorite campus event since 2009, each annual SNJM Café highlights the shared values of the SNJMs and the University. The latest Café focused on anti-racism and racial justice. 

Sr. Carol Sellman, vice president for mission integration at HNU, started the café session by sharing the SNJM core values: Full Development of the Human Person, Education in the Faith, Hospitality, Dedication to Women and Children, Dedication to Justice, Service to People who are Poor or Marginalized, Commitment to Liberating Action, and Love for the Names of Jesus and Mary. The SNJM core values are central to the mission and operation of the University. Fr. Sal, co-director of campus ministry at HNU, began the discussion of anti-racism and racial justice with a Litany prayer, where the audience responded after each prayer with the words “help us to rise up.” 

The event transitioned with an opening statement from a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names Province Leadership Team, Sr. Marcia Frideger. “We Holy Names Sisters are a congregation of women religious who are active in addressing the needs of the 21st-century. We define ourselves as a community dedicated to actions that will attain for all peoples conditions of life that are more equitable and worthy of human dignity. The sisters of Holy Names University strive to keep the original inspiration of the founder, Marie-Rose Durocher, alive in a world that calls out for peace, justice, and meaning in life. We pledge to examine racism in ourselves and confront racism that privileges some and diminishes others. We raise our voice and join in efforts to end racism.” 

Three Sisters at international ministries were given the platform to share the work they’re doing and to show how their work reflects the SNJM core values. 

The first speaker was Sr. Ana Maria Vilca Mamani from Peru, South America. Her mission is to unite and seek solutions for hunger and poverty. She serves 19 self-managed soup kitchens in Peru. The kitchens are run by women and aspire to meet the nutritional need for the community and empower women. 

“For the past five years, I have been coordinating the Pastoral of Accompaniment to Trans Women. The life of a trans woman in my country is very sad and painful–most trans women live in hiding and are abandoned by their families,” explained Sr. Ana Maria. She conveyed how most of these women live in poverty and engage in prostitution for a source of income. Her mission is to provide a “visible presence for them and give them a space for listening, training, entertainment, and ultimately to make them feel important and valuable as daughters of God.” 

The second speaker was Sr. Francisca Khooa from Maseru, Lesotho. Her mission is to educate students about human trafficking, taking care of the environment, and advocating for families displaced by the government. 

“For about five years I worked as a midwife at one of our institutions in the rural areas of the country, and most of the population at the institution is living with HIV and AIDS. The SNJM Committee provided workshops to my colleagues at the institution and inspired them to provide health services in respect for human dignity and human life,” said Sr. Francisca. Additionally the Sister brought her colleagues together to produce food packages for those who are facing food shortages within the community. 

The third speaker was a faculty member from Holy Names University, Sr. Sophia Park. Sr. Sophia’s mission is to empower people in Asia to develop their own theology, one that reflects their life experiences and passions. 

Sr. Sophia reveals her thoughts on post-colonialism and how “many people suffer from a deep sense of internalized oppression,” and because of this she encourages people to accept who they are and embrace their diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Sister also discussed how we must walk in the footsteps of others in order to build connections and partnerships with people from around the world, and to fulfill the SNJM mission of the full development of the human person. 

For the remainder of the café session, the audience divided into breakout groups to consider the questions: “How do you see the action steps in the anti-racism plan linked to the SNJM values?” “How do anti-racism actions in general resonate or move you?” and “Where at HNU do you see a need for anti-bias action and what steps would you suggest to address it?”