ESPERA Funds: Bringing Hope and Opportunity
by Katherine Wojtan, Mary's Pence Executive Director
|A woman in Guatemala receives her first ESPERA loan, a member of the Executive Team counts out the money.|
Having a little bit of money in your hands can be a very empowering thing. This is especially true if you are a poor woman living in a rural area within a highly patriarchal society, as many of our ESPERA women do.
ESPERA Funds are impacting 65 small rural communities. In total, 509 loans have gone to 368 women. This means that women have had more than 500 opportunities to earn additional income and improve their own lives and the lives of their children. Projects include small shops and resale of items, agriculture projects involving animals and crops, and arts or production enterprises in metalwork, baked goods, ceramics and more. In total, interest and fees have earned the groups over $6,800 to invest in administration of the funds and learning opportunities.
ESPERA Funds are a pool of money granted to the women's groups, to be loaned to women for income-generating projects. The women own and circulate the funds, making all decisions regarding loans. Mary's Pence journeys with them as they establish and implement programs using their funds.
Since inception, ESPERA Funds have been set up with women's groups in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Haiti. We have new groups that would like to participate, and with the generosity of Mary's Pence supporters we can make this possible. We ask you to please consider sending in a donation to aid the expansion of this enabling and empowering work.
The wonderful thing about the money is the courage and opportunities it provides to the women involved. In addition, when the money is repaid it becomes available for recirculation in the community over and over again, giving opportunities to new groups of women.
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|Issues of Justice|
A Labor Day Reflection
A key principle in Catholic Social Teaching is the
Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. The economy should serve people, and not the other way around. We all have a right to productive work, and decent and fair wages. The right to organize helps protect these rights. As we celebrated labor day this past weekend I hope that there was discussion and reflection about these rights... in your family and your community. Learn more about Catholic Social Teaching.
Since recently moving to Minnesota I attended mass at the parish closest to my home. I was pleasantly surprised at the courage and clarity of the pastor's letter in the bulletin about the Rights of Workers. I've included it below.
Stephen Adrian, Pastor - The Church of St. Matthew (St Paul, MN)
A fundamental point in our church's social teaching is that workers have a
Fr. Stephen Adrian
natural right to form labor unions and to enter into collective bargaining with their employers.
There is no ambiguity about this moral principal for Catholic moral teaching. It was first articulated in modern time by Pope Leo X111 in 1891 and has been reiterated by every pope since then, including our current Pope, Benedict XVI.
The principle arises out of the very nature of people to form collectives and to act in solidarity with each other.
This principle also leaves the playing field between employees and employers.
There are no "good guys" and "bad guys" in this equation. It is just the equation that allows for a fair and equitable process by which labor and capital can work out their relationships.
The tragedy and shame is that over the past year governors and legislatures of many states including Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, etc have voided the right to collective bargaining for public employees.
The voiding of the natural right to organize and bargain strikes at the very heart of the Church's understanding of the dignity of the person.
There was a time in the '40s and '50s and '60s that such action would have roused the bishops of the country to pound the tables and scream out in protest and in defense of the rights of workers. There was a time when local bishops and the National Bishops Conference would have gone to the brink to support the dignity of working families. They would have locked arms and joined in solidarity with disenfranchised working families.
This did not happen!
Maybe in times past bishops remembered that they came from immigrant working families; that their roots were found in the families of trades people and laborers. Maybe today they have forgotten where they came from. Shame, shame, shame!
Stephen Adrian, Pastor
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|Mary's Pence News|
Mary's Pence in National Catholic Reporter
NCR's September 2nd issue highlighted Mary's Pence and a few of its grantees. The two page article was in the Ministry Section of the newspaper, and featured quotes from Maureen Gallagher, one of the founders, and former Executive Director, Sheila Daly.
Help us spread the word by forwarding the article to friends, or by writing the NCR to thank them for the coverage of our work.
Read the Article in NCR.
Mary's Pence Presents at Catholic Worker House
Earlier this summer, Gilda Larios-Mary's Pence ESPERA Fund Facilitator in Mexico City-and Katherine Wojtan-Mary's Pence Executive Director-spoke at Mary House, the Catholic Worker House in New York City founded by Dorothy Day. An inquisitive group was in attendance to learn about our work in Latin America, Mexico and Haiti. The provision of financial resources for women was deeply valued by the audience, and a lively discussion ensued about best practice regarding interest and fees for financial services. It was an honor for Mary's Pence to participate. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog on this topic.
Love, the Universe and the Circulation of Money
Mary's Pence will be leading a prayer and reflection session at the Call to Action Conference in Milwaukee on November 4-6 in Milwaukee. Join us there! The theme of the session is Love, the Universe and the Circulation of Money. Linking with the conference theme of this conference is Living the Gospel of Love. Find out more about the CTA Conference.
'Tis the Season
Many parishes put up Giving Trees at Christmas time, creating a way for parishioners to help others. If your parish has this practice, please consider submitting Mary's Pence as a recipient. It's a great way to educate people about social justice, and contribute to a cause dear to your heart. Contact the office for information you can use when talking with your parish, and for beautiful tags that can be used on the tree. It's not too early to contact your parish, deadlines are usually sometime in early fall.
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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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Artist's Point, Grand Marais, MN.
Our Father, Holy Mother,
Creator of the Cosmos, Source of Life,
You are in my mind, in my garden,
in my cup of wine and loaf of bread.
Blessed be your names:
Mother, Allah, Goddess, Beloved, Father,
Radiant One, Yahweh, HaShem, Sophia
Your presence has come, your will is done
on earth as it is in the cosmos.
May we give each other strength, mercy,
tenderness, and joy
and forgive each other's failures,
silence, pettiness, and forgetfulness
as we ask to be forgiven
by those we've hurt.
Lead us home
to ourselves, to You,
to clarity, to oneness
and deliver us from the darkness
of our ignorance and fear.
So we pray and so we receive. Amen
No Ordinary Time
Photo: Andrew Crichton