woman in pink

September 2013

Grantee Grantee Highlights  

YOLIZTLI  (Nahuatl word meaning "life")

Translated by Gina Pesano, Mary's Pence volunteer

Yoliztli is a cooperative that crafts artisanal sculptures and art pieces from metal and participates in an ESPERA (Economic Systems Providing Equitable Resources for All) community lending pool in Mexico. ESPERA is a program of Mary's Pence.

Yolitzli, a grass roots cooperative in Mexico, developed in 1996 as a result of the gathering of a bible study group.  The group was part of an ecclesiastical community, a branch of the Catholic Church, and utilized the method of See, Think, Create, and Celebrate to analyze the reality in which we all live.

This philosophy applied to reading the bible and thinking about God's message, as well as analyzing the socioeconomic environment at the local, state, national and international level.  With this approach, we wanted to see if we could begin to find solutions to the problems of our daily lives.

The year was 1996, not long after the Zapatista movement of 1994 that publicized the plight of the indigenous communities of Chiapas.  We analyzed this uprising and the causes for which the Zapatistas fought.  Although these indigenous peoples demonstrated peacefully in their request to be heard by authorities, no one attended to their needs or offered a solution to their just demands.  And these demands were for things to which any man or woman had a right, including the right to food, housing, decent work, education, medical support, etc.

Our study group recognized that the demands of these indigenous peoples were just, and also recognized that there were many of us experiencing the same challenges.  Unemployment in the group was high, we were still recovering from the economic crisis of 94-95, and the poor leadership of the governments of Salinas and Cedillo had left many on the streets.

We also recognized the importance of the unemployed obtaining decent work, and several proposals were made.  The Almanzas recounted how in the 60s and 70s they worked in a monastery of the Benedictine Order producing religious artifacts using Benedictine designs, with Father Gabriel Chavez de la Mora.  

After some analysis and commentary, we realized that for those of us over 40 years old who were unemployed, it would be difficult to find work. It was here that the idea began to form of starting a cooperative that produced artisanal products.  The idea was based on what we realized through study of both the bible and the Zapatistan principle that everyone deserves the right to decent work.  

We started up in March of 1996, a group of 12 people with many obstacles to overcome.  We started with absolutely nothing: no money to provide ourselves with a salary, no money to invest in tooling, most of us had to be trained in the work.  We had to learn to produce, to sell, to seek out markets for our product.  Throughout this transition we went through a lot; times of sadness, but also times of hope and of unity.  Through it all, we stayed true to our ideals, and believed in the combined strengths of each person.  This enabled our project to grow strong.

Our organization has as its cornerstone the commitment to ourselves, to generate jobs, to support the community in which we live, and to participate in civil organizations to share ideas for transforming a society with dignity and humanity.

The formation of our organization (cooperative) was funded by friends like Gerardo Thijsenn who is sadly no longer with us in this world.  He was an ally who helped significantly with the formation of this group, contributing his wisdom and experience, and inspiring people like his sister Willy Thijsenn to contribute to the formation of Yolitzli.

Willy was a person who dedicated much time and effort to the project.  She worked in her country of Holland, creating postcards that explained the objectives of our organization.  Once she began receiving contributions, she sent them to us to apply to the development of Yolitzli.  During that time, we believed that the Thijsenn siblings were angels who helped strengthen this project.  In fact, during times of sadness we might experience, like not having enough food for Christmas dinner, Willy would suddenly present a donation to us.

In 1997 Yolitzli registered with the Secretary of the Treasury to be a legally constituted company and to be eligible to receive benefits available from the State and Federal government.  We began seeking Federal support from SEDESOL as a project that created decent jobs.  We participated with 24 other projects, of which half were approved, and we received economic support in the amount of 72,000 pesos.  The funds were used to prepare catalogs, develop a brand for Yolitzli, and buy office equipment.

Once we had made contact with the state government, we were invited to participate in festivals and expositions, and were supported with space, transportation, food, and lodging.  At some of the events we sold well, but at others we did poorly.  This is how we learned to choose in which type of market to sell our product.  We therefore promoted our product in those cities, states, and places that were highly touristed.

Currently Yolitzli is comprised of eleven people: five partners and six non partners.  Seventeen years after formation we continue to grow slowly but firmly and consistently.  We have overcome obstacles thanks to the hope and constancy of our internal partners, and to the external groups who see Yolitzli as an alternative option for creating decent jobs in our society.   

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IssuesIssues of Justice


Money and Life: a documentary about money that aims to change your life 

by Samantha Holte, Mary's Pence Summer Intern 


Mary's Pence seeks to make money more accessible to women via its ESPERA program and Ministry Grants. In these relationships we wish to share and foster positive values regarding money: that money can be spent, saved, and used wisely for the empowerment of women. The 2013 documentary Money and Life, produced and directed by Katie Teague, reminds us that money is not wealth-- that wealth can be our beliefs, knowledge, health, family and community.


While not taking a stance on whether money is 'good' or 'bad', Money and Life suggests that the most recent financial crisis created amazing opportunities for us to recreate what money is, what it represents, and what it is used for.  It asks the questions "How can we move beyond being merely consumers, debtors and creditors, and put money in service to what we really care about as citizens, as human beings? Can we design a monetary circulation system that fosters democratic equality?


Money emerged as a human creation, a medium of exchange, and an instrument to get what we want and need. According to the documentary, this relatively recent piece of social technology has gradually transformed from a means of wealth to a measure of wealth-we want to accumulate money for its own sake.

Through this desire for accumulation, we continue to use up the planet's scarce resources at an increasing rate. Several experts interviewed in Money and Life propose that there is and could be an alternative system of exchange, a system that is resilient, sustainable, and serves people.  Advocate Rebecca Adamson states in the film "Money disconnected from the earth is not going to do anyone any good."

Mary's Pence ESPERA facilitator Gilda Larios sees the role of money as one of "circulation, not accumulation." Mary's Pence is a 'ministry of money' and you are a part of this ministry! Together we are all doing our part in changing the money game.


To learn more, read a synopsis, or watch the full version, visit the: 

Money and Life website


See the link below for a trailer of the movie.



Money & Life Trailer
Money & Life Trailer














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Actions Mary's Pence News


Mary's Pence Seeking Grant Applications -  Oct 1 Deadline


If you or someone you know has a project that is bettering the lives of women, consider applying for a Mary's Pence Ministry Grant. We fund projects that support women's well-being - physical, social and economic - in North, Central and South America. We look for models that foster women working together, to enhance learning, mutual support and creativity. To learn more about the application process go to our website. 



It's Not Too Early  


Christmas is a time of giving, and many parishes have the wonderful tradition of sponsoring a Giving Tree. We invite your parish or faith community to support Mary's Pence at this special time of year. Giving Tree gifts help support our ESPERA program, so including Mary's Pence is a wonderful way to include women from Central America, Mexico and Haiti in your tradition.  


We would be delighted to send you what you need - beautiful Mary's Pence Giving Tree tags, a sample request to your Giving Tree committee and sample text for church bulletins.   


New to Mary's Pence Board


This spring we had three wonderful women join our board.


Ana Grande-Los Angeles  

Ana is 1st generation Salvadoran American, born and raised in Los Angeles. For the last six years, Ana has worked with PowerPAC on social policy campaigns such as the California DREAM Act, and with individual candidates formulating best strategies to win. Ana  from Mount St. Mary's College and is currently an adjunct professor with the Religious Studies Department. Ana is also the Political Director for the New American Leaders Project.


Andreen Soley-Philadelphia and Los Angeles

Andreen was born in Jamaica but now splits her time between Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Her first foray into non-profits was as an AmeriCorps VISTA at a drug and alcohol prevention collaborative in Northern California. For the past fifteen years, she has worked as a researcher, grant writer, and program administrator in various educational organizations. She currently works at a development professional for a small Catholic high school in Los Angeles, California.


Luisa Maria Rivera Izábal, Cuernavaca, Mexico
Since she finished Social Work studies, Luisa Maria has been involved in many different projects, programs and consultancy jobs, with one goal, work for a more just world for everybody -- a world where the dignity and integrity of every person is respected. She was a nun for some years with the Helpers in Mexico and Colombia. Later Luisa Maria participated in solidarity movements with Central American groups. She has also been active in the feminist movement, and was responsible for follow-up of projects supported by Catholic Relief Services and OXFAM, U.K. in Mexico and Central America.    


Welcome to Ana, Andreen and Luisa! 


Mary's Pence - Out and About


Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) Assembly

August 13-16, 2013 - Orlando, FL

Mary's Pence was present at the LCWR Assembly this month.  We hosted a intimate wine and cheese reception to thank the Sisters for their support. Cutting the cake is Sister Mary Beth Gianoli, OSF of the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg. A big thank you to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet of Los Angeles for sharing their suite, and to Lois Mills for supplying the refreshments.  



Women-Church Convergence  

September 27-29, 2013 - Mt. Prospect, IL

Women-Church Convergence (W-CC) is a coalition of autonomous Catholic-rooted organizations / groups raising a feminist voice and committed to an ekklesia of women which is participative, egalitarian and self-governing.  Mary's Pence will be attending in celebration of the coalition's 30th anniversary. 

Learn more here. 


Call to Action Conference 2013

November 1-3, 2013 - Milwaukee, WI
We hope to see you at the conference! Visit our table in the exhibit space.  

  • Join us for our prayer session on Saturday morning, a reflection titled Solidarity in a World of Separateness.
  • Participate in the caucus we are hosting on Solidarity with Central America and Mexico - Saturday at 12:45  
  • Celebrate with us Saturday over the dinner hour - we are hosting a wine and cheese reception to celebrate ESPERA's 5th Birthday.

We love to meet supporters and others who are curious about our work! 

Learn more here.   




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

 Grantee Highlights-Cooperative Yoliztli


Issues of Justice: Documentary Money and Life 

Mary's Pence News 








Photo by Justine Cudel
God, in the midst of a world of relentless change may we always trust in your tender care and guidance.  Remind us that you are lovingly inviting us into the future and that you will always provide the grace we need to face whatever awaits us.
We believe you are making all things new, and that what is ahead is even greater than we could ask or imagine. 


Leadership Conference of Women Religious prayer card 



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