woman in pink

March 2011

$100 for the 100th International Women's Day!

Honor the Women Who Inspire

This week we celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. Last month we asked for names of women who have inspired our readers.  You can read about these women in this issue.  


For almost 25 years Mary's Pence has supported women's projects by providing financial resources, accompaniment and consulting. With your support we can do even more.  Make a contribution today! 


GranteeGrantee Highlights


Catherine of Siena Virtual College    

by Ardian Mollabeciri  


Ardian worked as an intern at Mary's Pence during the fall of 2010. He is currently a graduate student at The New School in NYC.

Catherine of Siena Virtual College received a Mary's Pence Woman Studyinggrant in 2010 to recruit students from Latin America and begin the process of making courses available in Spanish.  Catherine of Siena Virtual College offers gender studies courses. Students come from around the world, and the work is on line and is designed to engage students in collaborative learning.

Women have suffered the consequences of social prejudice and discrimination in both society and religion. A group of men and women decided to address this issue, and in 2004 started the Catherine of Siena Virtual College.This group of educators is striving to make a discernable difference. Mary's Pence recently got a chance to speak with Joint-Vice President Deborah Rose-Milavec about how the school got started and it's vision for the future.

MP: In your opinion, what makes the college unique?

DM: Too many educational institutions turn out citizens and leaders who uphold injustice because their formation is far removed from the reality of those who suffer most. Too many educational institutions turn out citizens and leaders who use their authority like an entitlement check rather than in service to people and to a vision of equality, justice and peace for all. Too often institutions, even those rooted in a religious tradition, find themselves in a dilemma. First, economic globalization has made deep inroads into education thus re-shaping curriculums to align with vested commercial interests. Secondly, as higher education faces steeper budget constraints in the current economic climate, the path toward commercialization is often seen as one of the surest ways to survive.  In this climate, educationalists and institutions increasingly marginalize frameworks for developing students' awareness of the unjust power structures in society and religion.

Catherine of Siena Virtual College is a key institution encouraging, challenging and shaping the values and faith of our future leaders by exposing them to a wide range of people, ideas, cultures and religions thus enabling them to meet the demands of an increasingly complex and globalized world with ennobled hearts and energetic minds in the spirit of compassion and justice.

We combine the best Information Communications Technology (ICT) with a feminist pedagogical practice that takes seriously the way authentic, transformational education occurs. We create small interactive learning communities where students from all over the world find the safety and support they need to examine the critical issues that affect their lives while enhancing their leadership skills and strengthening their confidence to create positive change in the world around them. We actively engage men in our educational process utilizing both individual and collective strengths in the service of the common good and equality for all.
MP: Where do most of your students come from, demographically and geographically speaking?
DM: Since our opening, students have come from more than 25 countries around the world. This has created a truly international learning community where people from various cultural, economic and religious backgrounds come together to explore issues that are important in their lives. Thus they learn about and from each other. In 2010, 81% of our students came from developing regions where the availability of  gender/women studies courses is often limited and where the opportunity to study with other students from around the world creates multiple layers of learning.
MP: How would a degree from the college help a graduate in the job market?
DM: As women themselves will attest, an education is very important in getting a good job in today's market. But not all education is equal. Without the awareness of how gender inequities and discrimination against women function in our societies and world, women themselves often promote patriarchal models which systematically exclude and disadvantage women and other people who have less access to social and economic power and privilege. Our courses help make visible the unjust patriarchal structures which cede power and privilege based on gender, race, ethnicity, economic and military might and a host of other  "isms." Our goal is to do our part to help change the paradigm, deconstruct patriarchy in its multitudinous forms, and create, as one of our patrons, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza has coined, a community of equals.

MP: What is the plan for the college going forward in the future?

DM: CSVC is constantly expanding into new geographic regions of the world including Latin America, Africa and new regions in Asia. We continue to create new gender studies courses based on high-quality diverse scholarship from around the world. In 2011 we will focus on topics such as:
  • gender and the environment
  • women in religion
  • embodiment, gender and Christian mysticism
  • myths as life stories
We are also developing seminar style courses that focus o:
  • sexual abuse of women with resource aids for obtaining justice and healing
  • women in the media
As we develop our two-year and four-year programs, we are undertaking an accreditation process for the college.  With regards to language platforms, currently, our courses are offered in English.  We want to expand our language offerings to include Spanish and Mandarin.

The work of the College stands out because it uses social context and analytical skills to educate people about a cause, and prepare them for the world. It is a pleasure to say that we here at Mary's Pence are proud to call the Catherine of Siena Virtual College a partner and a friend in the quest to increase the rights and progress of women.
IssuesIssues of Justice  

Women Who Inspire:

Living the Message of Gospel Justice


In celebration of the 100th International Women's' Day we asked readers to share with us women who have inspired them for their work for social justice. Here are your lovely responses.


Personal Inspiration

Consilia Karli, Mary's Pence Board President, Allentown, PA 


The woman who inspires me weekly is Joan Chittister OSB, a theologian who writes about global matters from where she stands, and she does take stands repeatedly against the powers that be when they exploit and control our lives and souls. Sign up for her weekly mailing. 




However the woman who I knew personally and with whom I shared significant  changes in my own life is Evelyn Mattern.  We entered religious life together in 1959.  At that time she was in my mind "holier than thou" but through the years I watched her change and grow into a social activist and mystic.  She introduced me to taking risks for what you believe in, to Thomas Berry, ecology, and his new creation story, to feminine role models in her book, "Why Not Become Fire", to simple living in her log cabin in NC, and in her last days, to dying with dignity.  All significant moments of soul growth. What more could one sister do for another?


A Sister Who Says Yes to Her Neighborhood

Cindy Sullivan, CSJ Affiliate and Mary's Pence Board Vice President, St. Louis MO


I would like to nominate Sr. Marie Charles Buford, CSJ. I feel she is a shining example of being a "Yes" in her neighborhood. Often, as women, we take the few first steps to bring change and our willingness to work, be open and create something new brings forth miracles.  Her dedication to the "dear neighbor" is a response to the Sisters of St. Joseph chrism of unity and reconciliation.  Her work has made significant, really historical changes in the Carondolet neighborhood, a struggling neighborhood in the City of St. Louis' south side. Read her story (page 11). 


Civil Rights Heroines 

Roxanne Smith, Mary's Pence Board Treasurer, Maplewood, MN


Harriet Tubman (March 1822 - March 10, 1913) was an African American abolitionist, humanitarian and Union spy during the American Civil War. After escaping from slavery into which she was born, she made thirteen

missions to rescue more than 70 slaves using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.  She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harper's Ferry and in

the post-war era struggled for women's suffrage (wikipedia).


Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 - October 24, 2005) was an African-American civil rights activist, whom the U.S. Congress called "the first lady of civil rights", and "the mother of the freedom movement".  On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver James order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Her action was not the first of its kind. Irene Morgan in 1946, and Sarah Louise Keys in 1955,  had won rulings before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Interstate Commerce Commission, respectively, in the area of interstate bus travel. Nine months before Parks refused to give up her seat, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to move from her seat on the same bus system. In New York City, in 1854, Lizzie Jennings engaged in similar activity, leading to the desegregation of the horsecars and horse-drawn omnibuses of that city.  But unlike these previous individual actions of civil disobedience, Parks' action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  


Women Helping Women

Sheila Daly, Sandy Hook, NJ


There is no stopping once you start, but here are a few names.


Maureen Gallagher OP, Mary's Pence founding coordinator, for getting over the thinking, "I am a woman, what can I do to address injustice to women?"  Founding Board Members were Kaye Ashe OP, Carol Coston OP, Edwina Gateley, Janemarie Luecke OSB, Amata Miller IHM, Sheila Murphy, Rosalie Muschal-Reinhardt, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Mary Luke Tobin SL, Yonlanda Tarango CCVI, Margaret Traxler SSND, and Teresita Weind SND.


 Helen LaKelly Hunt and Swanee Hunt who started the Women Moving Millions campaign: for standing up to the patriarchy of their family and demanding their fair share, and then using it to improve the lives of women, and encouraging other women of means to do the same. Learn more about Women Moving MillionsWomen Moving Millions.



Ann Halloran, OP, who took the credo "small, local, sustainable" to heart and helped to transform a 9-block area around the Dominican Center for Women in Milwaukee through the promotion of home ownership, community gardens, literacy, health and the arts. Learn more about the Dominican Center for Women


Nancy Sylvester, IHM,  for her work with Engaging Impasses that looks bravely at the critical issues of our day for new responses and to cultivate a healthy Earth community. Learn more about Encouraging Impasse. 





For Margaret O'Brien, my grandmother, who ran the "bank" among her women family and friends as a precursor to the micro-finance of today, and who lived everyday responding to the face of Christ she saw all around her.   


Peace Activists 

Joan Haan, St. Paul MN


Kathy Kelly is an American peace activist, pacifist and author, a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, one of the founding members of Voices in the Wilderness, and currently a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. As part of peace team work in several countries, she has traveled to Iraq twenty-six times, notably remaining in combat zones during the early days of both US-Iraq wars. She has been arrested more than sixty times at home and abroad, and written feelingly of her experiences among targets of U.S. military bombardment and inmates of U.S. prisons. Learn more about Voices for Creative Nonviolence.


Marie Braun - Sanctions kill childrenFollowing a trip to Iraq in1998, Marie Braun became involved in grassroots organizing against the sanctions and more recently has worked against the war and occupation of that country. She is co-founder of the Women Against Military Madness Iraq Committee and the Twin Cities Peace Campaign-Focus on Iraq and is involved in a number of coalitions. She is one of the driving forces behind a peaceful protest on the Lake Street Bridge in Minneapolis that has been held weekly on Wednesdays for over 11 years. Read about Marie Braun 


For 40 years Janet Chisholm has been active in the leadership of peace groups locally and nationally. She is currently a board member of the Nevada Desert Experience, the 26 year faith witness at the Nevada nuclear test site. Janet established a spiritually-grounded, intergenerational, community-based program called Creating a Culture of PeaceCreating a Culture of Peace (CCP). In four years, CCP traveled to 36 states and Palestine and prepared over 330 trainers.   


Helping Those Caught in Desperate Situations  

            Paula Wojtan, Dearborn MI


"Is God vengeful, demanding a death for a death? Or is God compassionate, luring souls into love so great that no one can be considered 'enemy'?"  Sister Helen Prejean's prison ministry and her accompaniment of a man on death row was documented in the movie Dead Man Walking. Read about Sr. Helen Prejean



Seane Corn is a renowned yoga teacher and the founder of "Off the Mat, Into the World." She takes us inside the practicalities and power of yoga - even as a source of social healing.She is involved with many charitable organizations and is a co-founder of the Off the Mat, Into the World campaign which aims to motivate and guide people to find ways to be active in their local and global communities. Corn also created a yoga program at a California shelter that houses and educates former teenage prostitutes. She also helps raise funds, spread national awareness and provide services that support YouthAIDS.  Hear an interview with Krista Tippett on Speaking of Faith.  

ActionAction For Mary's Pence   


Lenten Soup Supper:

Standing in Solidarity with Women of Latin America  


Many faith communities gather at this time of year, to share a simple meal, and

focus on prayer and reflection. Mary's Pence has created a packet so you can easily organize a gathering in your home or with your faith community. The program includes a short program highlighting ESPERA Funds as a way of improving women's lives, and a prayerful reflection highlighting women who have made a positive difference for women and communities in Latin America. The packet includes a short video, prayers, discussion guidelines, and soup recipes from Latin America. Email us at inbox@maryspence.org or call the office at 718-720-8040 and we'll get you started.


Lent begins March 9 this year, April 24th is Easter.

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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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In This Issue Women that Inspire

Action For Mary's Pence


PrayerfulPrayerful Reflection

Guatemala Group

Women of Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala

One Woman

In Kingali, she wakes up,

She makes a choice,

IUn Hanoi, Natal, Ramallah.


In Tangier, she takes a breath,

Lifts up her voice,

In Lahore, La Paz, Kampala.


Though she's half a world away,

Something in me wants to say -  


We are One Woman

You cry and I hear you.

We are One Woman

You hurt, and I hurt, too.

We are One Woman

Your hopes are mine

We shall shine.


In Juarez she speaks the truth,

She reaches out,

Then teaches others how to.


In Jaipur, she gives her name,

She lives without shame,

In Manila, Salta, Embu.


Though we're different as can be,  

We're connected, she with me -


We are One Woman

Your Courage keeps me strong.

We are One Woman

You sing, I sing along.

We are One woman

Your dreams are mine

We shall shine

We shall shine -  


And one man, he hears her voice.

And one man, he fights her fight.

Day by day, he lets go the old ways,


One woman at a time.

We are One Woman

Your victories lift us all.

We are One Woman

You rise and I stand tall.

We are One Woman

our dreams are mine

We shall shine

Shine, shine, shine -   

One Woman, performed at launch of UN
Woman, February 4, 2011 

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