19 February 2015
In Trichur, India, the Congregation of Samaritan Sisters Generalate, led by Mother Rose Cornelia and the Mistress of Novices, Sister Sophia, greet visitors. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Pope Francis has proclaimed 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life. It’s a time for celebrating the work of the religious orders — sisters, brothers, priests — who’ve made their lives a consecration to God and his people.
No one embodies this devotion more than the sisters. They’re the driving force behind most of the initiatives CNEWA donors graciously support. Today, ONE-TO-ONE begins a series of profiles to introduce you to some of these remarkable women and their vital work.
In the countries where CNEWA works, sisters serve in schools, hospitals, orphanages and other works that help people in need. Many sisters work in places where family structures have disintegrated. So, for the children they help, the sisters create that environment — a structure for those who don’t have a family. They feed, house, clothe, educate and care for them so they’re not alone.
In crisis areas, sisters provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care and even psychological help to displaced people. They often have to improvise, and don’t always have the resources they need. But they never discriminate in terms of religious or cultural background. They don’t turn people away.
When you become a novice, you learn about the church’s and your religious order’s practices, which strengthen your relationship with God. Sisters also learn how to minister by working with those already doing it, through hands-on learning in the field as well as through formal education. You live with other sisters. You share your prayers. You share your meals and other aspects of the community’s daily life and ministry.
It’s about simplicity. You give your life to a religious community that professes belief in God and practices works of mercy. From that base, you go out and serve the wider world.
You also learn from the Gospel to treat others as you would be treated — which fits in with the total mission of the church, especially under Pope Francis. It’s not about ritual and bureaucracy. It’s about emphasizing the religious and humanitarian aspects of what we do as a church.
The sisters bring that into everyday life. During the days and weeks ahead, ONE-TO-ONE will show you how they do it. For the church to be alive, we need religious women to continue the faith. Through times of crisis and periods of calm, faith is what endures.
To support the work of sisters around the world, please visit this page.
And be sure to read our first profile, about a young sister in Ethiopia, who is teaching skills that are changing lives.
Brother Gerard Conforti, F.S.C., has a background in education and financial management in New York and Michigan. After working in the Middle East at Bethlehem University, he was invited to join Catholic Near East Welfare Association in New York, where he now serves as Chief Administrative Officer.
19 February 2015
Sister Elizabeth Endrias assists a trainee at the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne Vocational Training Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Name: Sister Elizabeth Endrias
Order: Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne
Facility: Women’s Promotion Center
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
It’s a small building, filled with the sounds of life. Whirring sewing machines. Scissors snipping through fabric. Voices filled with hope for the future.
At the Women’s Promotion Center in Ethiopia’s capital city, teenage girls and women learn the skills of making clothing—from fabric cutting to sewing to embroidery. They are among the poorest residents of this poor country. And their training serves one purpose: survival.
A group of nuns from the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne runs the center. The sister in charge, Sister Elizabeth Endrias, is 24 years old. But the program she’s developed is intensive. “Training takes from ten months to two years,” she explains. “This year we have thirty trainees in dressmaking and seven in embroidery.”
With resources limited, the school has begun charging a modest fee. For the poorest students, however, money is never a barrier. “In this case we intervene, inquire about their difficulties,” Sister Elizabeth says. “And when we find it necessary to support them, we offer them free education to complete their studies.”
She remembers the day one teenager arrived with her father. “He had the desire to help his daughter in her training. He told me the extent of their poverty but willed to pay.”
The father paid for two months, but grew ill and passed away. “Imagine the challenge facing this 18-year-old girl,” Sister Elizabeth says. “We not only exempted her from fees, but also gave back to her mother the two months payment that her father had paid.”
That young seamstress—her name is Hanna—plans to start a dressmaking business to support her family. “Sister Elizabeth is very special for me,” she says. “She rescued me from losing this opportunity after the death of my father. I am very grateful to her.”
For the women who fill the center each day, Sister Elizabeth and her fellow nuns are role models. Her supervisor, Sister Weineshet, explains that all have wide-ranging abilities. “If they work with women, not only their religiosity is needed,” she says. “They need to be equipped with a holistic knowledge of women, their needs and challenges.”
At Catholic Near East Welfare Association, we’re proud to support the sisters’ important mission. And as they help improve the lives of women who have so little, one thing is certain: the good sisters will be grateful if you can help too.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.