woman in pink
November/December 2010
GranteeGrantee Highlights

Making Soap, Making Change

Camarones Cooperative is a women's cooperative developing soap using local materials, for sale to local markets including the local tourist industry.  They received a grant from Mary's Pence in October 2009.  Laura Randall initiated the project and visits several times a year from her home in Madison, WI. These are excerpts from her year end report.

The women of Camerones Cooperative making their first batch of soap.
Seven women of the community of Camarones have enrolled as participants in the women's cooperative and are committed to the production of piņon soap; they have elected a leader within the community, Betsy Vaca Vaca, who leads project steps and coordinates with the project developer, Laura Randall.  The women have organized themselves to work as a team and have planted and maintained one hectare of piņon plants.  They have organized within their families to accomplish the work with the help of their husbands, relatives, and children, who have played a role in supporting the success of the piņon plants and soap project.  They have made plans to sow the second season of piņon, with the help of INIAP, the agricultural branch of the Ecuadorian government. With INIAP's donation of a few hundred seeds, the women plan to distribute and plant the seeds in order to complete a second hectare beginning in January 2011.

In August of 2010, during one of Laura's visits, the first official soap bars were made from the hands of the women participants.  Samples were distributed primarily to the women, as well as supporters within the community and to U.S. private investors.

When asked how this project addressed systemic change and social justice issues Laura said - Our project has aimed to balance between the reality of the issues at hand as well as strive to confront the injustices and offer solutions.  Cultures can be seen as barriers or they can be seen as bridges.  Although there are many cultural issues we face with this project, what was once seen as barriers, especially working with women, I now see as bridges.  The machismo in the Latino culture can be seen as problematic, but in this village of Ecuador, we hope to focus more on strengthening and balancing the women's voice among their male counterparts.   As an outsider, I have focused on learning from these people and their traditions; I have accepted their reality and its difference to my own and I have chosen to find the opportunities to bridge our realities to achieve mutual goals.

IssuesIssues of Justice

Participation as a Catalyst for Justice

Hagar's House is a sanctuary for women and children in New Orleans that provides an open and empowering residential community, resource coordination and a safe space to transition into sustainable housing. They were formed out of a need after Katrina. Hagar's House received a grant from Mary's Pence this year.

Hagars House Staff
Staff at Hagar's House foster full participation in house activity and broader community issues.
Every Monday is House Meeting night at Hagar's House.  Residents gather to discuss issues and make decisions about goings on in the house.  All have an opportunity to participate in the decisions.

People have a right to participate in the economic, political and cultural life of society. 
Catholic Social Teaching tells us so. Hagar's House models participation at the ground level, by creating a structure for residents to make decisions that affect their living situation.

One of the decisions made at Monday House Meetings is the selection of a movie for this week's Movie Night.  Movies focus on social issues, and discussions focus on social justice and social action, better preparing people for participating in the political process. Residents do frequently get involved in local issues; this fall several attended the School of the America's vigil in Georgia.

Angela Davis, Executive Director, tells how this focus on social change was a conscious choice, and how Mary's Pence grant helps reinforce that choice.
Amongst residents, the program has received overwhelmingly positive support, it has not always been so easy with supporters who are not residents in Hagar's House.  Some supporters (perhaps legitimately so) were originally concerned that our social justice leanings would push away funders.  Having the financial support that we need to run this program and being able to show that there are funders-- like Mary's Pence-- who support us because of a shared commitment to social justice has given us huge leverage in furthering this program. Your support has impacted our larger support community as much as it has impacted Hagar's House itself.  Over the last year, we have seen talk and actions centered on "social justice" become "normal" not only in Hagar's House, but also in our board meetings, church, and other communities of support.  Thank you for making our lives more beautiful!

"Participation" is one of the 10 themes of Catholic Social Teaching.  You can read more about Catholic Social Teaching at http://www.osjspm.org/catholic_social_teaching.aspx

Hagar's House supports the homeless in New Orleans while reinforcing their right to participate in decisions within the house and at a community level.  You can read more Hagar's House at the Hagar's House Website

ActionAction For Mary's Pence
Donation to Mary's Pence Support "Las Marias" of the World

Guatemala Group
Asociation de Mueres Sembradoras de Esperanza, Santa Cruz de Quiche, Guatemala - Mary's Pence ESPERA Fund
Please consider sharing the season with the Marys of Mary's Pence: the expectant Mary Mother of Jesus, a faithful Mary Magdalene, an attentive Mary of Bethany, and the marginalized "Las Marias" of the world. Your support helps women build community and take steps toward economic stability for themselves and their families. What a gift that is! Find out how to Make a Donation

Visit Mary's Pence New Website

This fall we revamped our website to go with our new logo and look.  On the site you can learn more about our grantees across the Americas.  You can view videos of our ESPERA grantees, check out our Ministry Grant guidelines, and see who we have granted to this year. The Resources page has links to other useful sites, past newsletters and eNews issues, and to biographies of the 352 women listed in our Calendar of Women. Visit us at
Mary's Pence Website

With Gratitude for a Special Gift - A Bequest

Mary's Pence has recently received a substantial donation from the estate of a recently deceased educator.  After retiring from a lifetime of teaching children and young people, she relocated from the Northeast to rural southwestern Virginia.  In addition to donating to Mary's Pence, she became an advocate for a living wage in her local community and supported the transformation of an abandoned building that formerly houses a segregated school for African Americans into a museum, community center and library that celebrates African American heritage.

Christmas Tree
Women's issues were always a particular focus of her interest and support.  Prior to her death in November 2009, she set up a charitable trust that would continue to support the projects and non-profit organizations that were such a focus of her energy and concern during her lifetime.

We're grateful to this generous woman that supported the causes dear to her heart in her will, and to the Trustee who facilitated the contribution.


Mary's Pence - Who Are We?

We are a small organization with a big vision.  We want women in the Americas living in poverty to have a say and a hand in how poverty can be alleviated and social equity achieved.  Therefore we invest in local women who are creating models to increase women's economic status and improve their status in their community.  We look for models that foster women working together, to learn from each other, support each other, and explore new ideas.  We fund women in North, Central and South America.

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Reflection: Ode to Christmas

PrayerfulPrayerful Reflection


Ode to Christmas


Time presents itself again

Upon the scales of things hoped for and which is...

Only to be reconciled in the One for whom this season celebrates.


Come, is the soul's invitation

No matter to what was lost this year

Even if it was your self

     No matter to what was found this year

     Even if fleeting comfort


Come, is the soul's invitation

No matter your beliefs

Even when you lack them

     No matter your required assurances

     Even when they fail you


Just bring your unknowing

...to lay at the Baby's feet

...to place in His Mother's arms

...to dance hosannas on the wings of Angels


All else can wait right now.


In Christmas...it is never too late

In Christmas...you are never too far

In Christmas...His love eternally endures and will bring your heart home again.


Christmas Poem by Donna-Marie Terranova

December 2009

Mary's Pence Study Grantee - October 2009

Staten Island Welcome

Photo by Katherine Wojtan
Staten Island Oct 2010

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