Feature: Cindy, Sr. Hortencia, Lora, Marco, Sabrina, Sr. Joyce, Sr. Jane, Angelique, Sr. Agnes, Jodie and Nana at the Hilton Foundation’s 2023 All-Staff Retreat
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation proudly sponsor the RENATE Network and many other organisations across the Globe, dedicated to improving the lives of individuals living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage. Their latest newsletter shares updates on their activities throughout the year.
Dear Partners and Friends,
Warm Advent greetings from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation!
We are living and serving in a turbulent, anxiety-inducing world, amid doubt, discouragement and weariness due to conflict, loss of life and abounding challenges. We have many reasons to contemplate this Advent on how we can bring love, hope and compassion to the people we serve, and most importantly pray for leaders and decision-makers to find amicable dialogue to end human suffering impacting vulnerable communities. We, at the Catholic Sisters Initiative, are united with you in prayers for your families and the people you serve.
We are grateful to God and partners for the significant accomplishments in 2023. The Catholic Sisters Initiative distributed $48.8 million to support sisters and their ministries, and gained approval for 62 new grants. We are so grateful for the many partners we met during our site visits in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Africa and India – we are proud of the tremendous work you are doing to alleviate human suffering. During the year, we engaged in a variety of global forums to elevate sisters’ voices and highlight the work of sisters to improve the lives of people living in disadvantaged situations. We are grateful for our dedicated team, including our newest member, program officer Eduardo Moreno Cerezo – who supports our work in U.S.-Latin America.
Thank you for your collaboration! I hope you will enjoy reading some highlights of our year as we stand together in support of the global sisterhood.
Sr. Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF
Associate VP of Program Operations and Head of Catholic Sisters
Catholic Sisters as Leaders in Global Human Development
Sr. Hortencia Del Villar, Sr. Jane Wakahiu, Theresa May and Flavia Draganus
at the SATA Awards
The Foundation participated in several events this year that raised the profile of Catholic sisters as leaders in global human development. For example, the Hilton Foundation, the International Union of Superior Generals (UISG) and the ARISE Foundation collaborated to host the inaugural Sisters Anti-Trafficking Awards (SATA), which honored Sr. Seli Thomas, SMI from India for courage and creativity in addressing exploitation; Sr. Francoise Jiranonda, SPC from Thailand for excellence in network-building; and Sr. Patricia Ebegbulem, SSL for lifetime achievement in addressing exploitation. The SATA awards were held in London and featured former U.K. prime minister Theresa May and Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah as speakers, and Sr. Jane Wakahiu as a panelist.
Catholic sisters were also well-represented at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), held in New York. The Foundation co-hosted the Bakhita Partnership for Education side event, which showcased sisters’ accomplishments in providing education for over 4,500 vulnerable girls in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In addition, Justice Coalition of Religious (JCoR) represented over 200 congregations of Catholic women and men religious. And, ten Catholic sisters in Georgetown University’s Women in Faith Leadership Fellowship (WFLF) received certificates after one year of leadership and advocacy skills development.
WFLF fellow Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe also spoke at the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali, Rwanda in July. This global conference convened 6,000 in-person attendees, and Foundation staff and WFLF fellows hosted a private event on “Building Faith and Development to Advance Gender Equality.” The event highlighted how partnerships with faith actors can break cycles that perpetuate poverty, gender-based violence, child marriage, human trafficking and other challenges to gender equality.
The World Union of Catholic Women’s (WUCWO) held its general assembly in Assisi, Italy in May with the theme, “Women of WUCWO, Artisans of Human Fraternity for World Peace.” The event featured the world premiere of the Foundation-funded documentary film “In-Visibles,” in which women who have suffered and overcome violence are listened to and made visible. Sr. Jane and Senior Program Officer Angelique Mutombo attended the assembly and other related events at the Vatican.
Finally, Sr. Jane had an audience with Pope Francis and met with other leaders in the Vatican, including several grantee partners. Pope Francis was quite pleased when Sr. Jane described the Foundation’s support for the education and on-going formation of Catholic sisters. He was also grateful for the Foundation’s concern for elderly sisters, including the development of a global fund to care for aged and infirm sisters. “It was an inspiring encounter that explicitly demonstrated the pope’s tenderness, compassion and joy,” remarked Sr. Jane.
Pope Francis receives “The Hilton Legacy: Serving Humanity Worldwide” from Sr. Jane Wakahiu
Sister Led Youth Initiative beneficiaries and their administrators with Foundation staff
In July, the Foundation’s president, Peter Laugharn, visited several grantees in Kenya. The visit began at Strathmore University to learn about the Sister Blended Value Project, which supports sisters to build sustainable social enterprises. Next, the delegation visited the Sister-Led Youth Empowerment Initiative-Kenya (SLYI-Kenya), in which 450 vulnerable youth have received skills training to secure employment or to start businesses. The team also visited the Center for Research in Religious Life and the Apostolate (CERRA-Africa), where sisters presented three longitudinal studies they are conducting on the impact of Foundation investments. The day ended with a dinner attended by the Archbishop of Mombasa (who doubles as president of bishops in Kenya), government officials, Catholic sisters and 64 partners.
The convening demonstrated networks created in Kenya and how more than 8,000 sisters and partners are strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration to build communities of practice.
Hilton Foundation site-visit to Nirmal Jyothi Technical Training Institute in Bangalore
In March, Sr. Jane met with the leaders of the Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking (AMRAT), Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI), Conference of Religious Women in India (CRWI), Sister Doctors Forum of India and Sumanahalli Society on a site visit to Bangalore, India. This visit was a profound learning experience that deepened relationships with current grantees and opened up possibilities for new grantee partners.
In 2023, the Initiative made seven new grants to support human development in India. These investments support sisters’ ministries in addressing the needs of people affected by leprosy, HIV and disabilities; providing vocational training centers for youth; advancing anti-human trafficking efforts; and increasing the capacity of sisters who are also doctors. We are delighted for these incredible partnerships to alleviate human suffering.
Latin America Highlight
Convening attendees in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City
From November 28-30, Initiative staff hosted a convening in Mexico City for grantees based in Latin America. The convening, entitled “Walking Together Toward a Life in Hope,” was conducted in Spanish, thus affirming the Foundation’s commitment to localization and allowing grantees from Latin America to express themselves in their native language. Over 50 participants representing 13 organizations were invited to show how sisters in Latin America have developed networks to address human trafficking, migration, gender-based violence, healthcare and the care of elderly sisters. Senior Program Officer Sr. Hortencia Del Villar led a panel on human migration with sisters who run shelters in Mexico and at the U.S. border.
United States Highlight
Hilton Foundation site-visit with Benedict Center’s Sisters South Collaborative
In September, the US-Latin America team attended the Resource Center for Religious Institutes (RICRI) and Alliance to End Human Trafficking (formerly U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking) conferences and conducted site-visits with grantees in the Chicago area. At the Alliance to End Human Trafficking Conference, president and CEO of FADICA Alexia Kelley and international coordinator of Talitha Kum Sr. Abby Avelino received the 2023 Margaret Nacke Bakhita Award in recognition of their work and partnership to end human trafficking.
Site visits included schools run by the Daughters of Mary Immaculate of Guadalupe. These investments support the significant mental health needs of low-income students living in poverty and violence in Chicago’s south side. The team also met with the Sisters South Collaborative of the Benedict Center to learn more about how they increase the self-sufficiency of women who have been involved in the street-based sex trade, the vast majority of whom are adult survivors of sex trafficking. We were tremendously inspired by the sisters and the people they serve.
2023 Grant Recipients
- African Diaspora Network
- Archdiocese of Los Angeles
- Association of Major Superiors of Women Religious in Korea
- Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya Registered Trustees
- Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans
- Benedict Center Inc.
- Canossian Daughters Social Service Society, Akkayyapalem, Visakhapatnam
- Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace
- Catholic Archdiocese of Kumasi Safe-Child Advocacy
- Christ King Society Tambaram
- Confederation of Conferences of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar
- Conference of Major Superiors of Religious in Ghana
- Conferencia de Superiores Mayores de Religiosos de México A.R.
- Congregation of the Apostolic Carmel
- Corporación Tejiendo Solidaridad
- Daughters of Charity Foundation
- Daughters of the Redeemer
- Dicastery for Communication
- Fathers of St Edmund Southern Missions, Inc.
- Federatia Conferinta Romana A Superioarelor Majore
- Formation Support for Vietnam
- Francesco Collaborative
- General Assistance, Inc.
- General Secretariat of the Synod
- Georgetown University
- Good Shepherd Catholic School
- Health Association of the Sisterhoods of Kenya
- Institute for Global Engagement
- Institute on Religious Life Inc
- International Dominican Foundation
- Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) – Hekima College Theological training of sisters in Africa
- Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) Bakhita Partnership Project
- Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities
- Jose Maria Vilaseca, Civil Association
- Justice Coalition of Religious
- Kino Border Initiative, Inc.
- Loyola Marymount University
- Mercy Professional Services, Inc.
- Misioneros del Espiritu Santo Provincia de Mexico
- Missionary Carmelites of St. Teresa
- National Archives Project Women Religious
- Nigeria Conference of Women Religious
- Pax Christi Fund for Peace
- Red Rahamim
- Registered Trustees of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assis of the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam in Tan
- Religious Communities Impact Fund Inc
- Religious Formation Conference
- Religious Sisters of the Holy Spirit
- Sister-Doctors’ Forum of India
- Sisters of Mary Mother of the Church Limited by Guarantee
- Society of The Infant Jesus Limited by Guarantee
- St. Xavier’s Social Service Society, AHMEDABAD
- Sumana Halli
- The Conference of Contemplative Communities of Kenya Registered Trustees
- The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Bukoba Catholic Diocese
- The Registered Trustees of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Kenya
- The Registered Trustees of the Religious Missionary Congregation of Mary Mother of the Church
- The Sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix-GGOGNYA
- Union des Superieures Majeures
- Ursuline Franciscan Society
- World Union Of Catholic Women’s Organisations
Participants in the Latin America grantee convening in Mexico City
May God bless you this holiday season and in the New Year ahead!
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