It was with great pleasure that we welcomed Michele Morek, Co-ordinator of UNANIMA-International (UI), to Dublin on 21st /22nd July 2012. Michele wanted to meet as many of the Ireland based congregations of Religious represented on the UI Board. We, the Religious Sisters of Charity, took up her offer to visit us and she met with various groups of Sisters at the Generalate, Sandymount and Donnybrook.
- In the morning, with Pat Kenny, Board member, and her link sisters from the provinces and regions viz. Srs Eilis Coe (Ireland), Patricia Byrne (England/Scotland), Kayula Lesa (Zambia), Kathleen Bryant (California/Venezuela), Justina Nelson (Nigeria), Mary Balogun (Malawi) and Suzette Clark (Australia). Sr. Mairead Ni Chuirc represented the General Leadership Team.
- In the afternoon with the members of the congregation’s International Anti-Trafficking Group who were gathered for their conference the following week. Also attending were five members of the Service of the Poor/Trafficking Mandate group from the English/Scottish Province.
- Later in the afternoon with the General Leadership Team.
- On 22nd July Michele spoke to the assembled congregation of sisters and Friends of Mary Aikenhead in Donnybrook chapel before the Mass for the Anniversary of the death of our Foundress, Mary Aikenhead.
Quite a feat for Michele who has only been in post with UI since December 2011 and who, this month celebrated her Golden Jubilee as an Ursuline of Mount St. Joseph, Kentucky!
Michele gave us all a very comprehensive description of UI’s work with the United Nations (UN) over the past 10 years. She described how UI, as a Non Governmental Organisation along with other NGOs, can have a real effect on the outcome of the UN’s decision making – slow as that may seem! NGOs have been described as the ‘conscience’ of the UN. The 17 congregations which form UI are spread over all continents except Antarctica and so together we can work both locally and globally to bring about change for the best for those disadvantaged and for the planet.
Michele described the two main campaigns UI has spearheaded over the years and continues to promote.
- The STOP THE DEMAND campaign to raise awareness of trafficking of human persons, especially for the sex trade. UI had held an International Youth Workshop for English speaking youth in 2010 and followed this up with workshops in Kenya to encourage awareness in the rural areas. This is ongoing.
- The WATER for LIFE campaign which promotes access to water as a right to all life forms on the planet through a holistic water ethic that takes into consideration not only drinking water but also environmental phenomena such as hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) lately in the news in both Ireland and the UK. Water must be preserved for all times. This campaign is in its’ third year.
Michele spoke of her experience in 2011 when she took a four month internship with UI. This came after she retired from college work as Dean of Studies. Part of her experience as an intern included speaking from the floor of the UN on education for women and girls – the theme of the Commission on the Status of Women in March of that year. Her involvement in the various committees and forums throughout her time with UI gave her a wider perspective on the needs of the world so that she realised that while we work locally we need to think globally.
UI has continued to invite sisters and those who work in collaboration with our member congregations to consider internship with them. Over the past year there have been a number of sisters from various countries who have had a variety experiences and who have felt them to be life changing. They returned home knowing that the world is a bigger place but, through the contacts made in New York, they can apply their own situations to the wider picture and work for change both locally and globally.
Michele encouraged the RSCs present at all of the meetings to consider the invitation to experience the UN through an internship of no less than a month – three months which would include an orientation and ongoing support. New York, of course, has its’ own attractions too!
Michele also highlighted the need for information from the member congregations of UI on their involvement in working towards the aims of UI:
- To work for the needs of women and children in poverty
- To support refugees and migrants
- To work for the preservation of the planet
This will form a big part of the report she must make to the UN as part of UI’s registration as an NGO. This means that it is imperative that the sisters in each Province and Region share what they are involved in with the link person who will send it on to the Board member. As is obvious from the aims of UI listed above, the themes of our last Chapter mandates are reflected in them and so we have that information at our fingertips.
We remember Michele at Donnybrook putting into song what is at the heart of both UNANIMA and the Religious Sisters of Charity to do - ‘something wonderful’ in our world!
Sr Pat Kenny with Sr Michelle Morek
Sisters and Friends gather at the grave of Mary Aikenhead