Monday, September 26, 2011

Awareness of Human Trafficking in US

Awareness and Fighting of Human Trafficking

I have the good fortune of being a member of the Forum for Executive Women here in St. Cloud, MN. This group of more than 100 professional women meets monthly to network and hear lectures on pertinent topics. Our last lecture was on the prevalence of Human Trafficking. This is hardly a popular topic; rather one that we would like to deny exists in this country, even in this state and probably, in this city.

The reality is that it exists in this country and in this state. It is often operated out of hotels. There are about 1.5 million girls and boys who are in sex exploitation; the average age is between 12 and 14 years of age. Human trafficking is big business -- $32 billion dollar business worldwide with the United States playing a significant role in that business. It is difficult to get an accurate amount of profit but it is clearly big business and includes industrial slavery as well as sex exploitation. The sex exploitation is not about sex; it is about money.

Persons who are most vulnerable for human trafficking are children who come from unstable homes, those who have a poor self-concept, the homeless and runaway children. Adults are also vulnerable – the unemployed, those who do not have good language skills, the unskilled needing work. These adults end up working in “sweat shops” earning very little for wages and yet needing to pay for their room and board, signing unreasonable contracts with the employer, etc.

Why am I writing this blog? First of all, to create an awareness of human trafficking, to encourage all to do what we can to assist young children to be self-asserting, to learn life skills and to develop strong personalities.

You may want to check out these websites:

There are also a number of books on human trafficking:

The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today by Kevin Bates; Caged by Molly Venzke (situated in New Orleans); A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery by E. Benjamin Skinner as well as other informative books.

Be informed, be alert, be part of the solution!

Miriam Ardolf, OSB

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

About Rosemary

One day while walking a few blocks to use the internet while I was at Chipole, Tanzania---where the 400 member Benedictine community of St. Agnes resides---I saw a sister separating the herb, rosemary, from its branch.

She had carefully collected the precious herb on top of a sack. Everyone who passed by smelled the long, thin herb and delighted in its fragrance.

The next day, the same sister was getting ready to pound the rosemary into a fine powder. I watched her clean the tools, a wooden bowl elevated at least two feet high and a long wooden "pounder."

When the bowl was almost full, she began to pound with a steady rhythm. Suddenly I wanted to try. She was generous, but I knew it was not a job for me because my arms hurt immediately. I did not have any upper body strength for the type of steady action this process required. The picture above shows the energy needed.

The Sisters use the rosemary for seasoning the sausage they make, as well as for preparing delicious pork roast for their table.

With her best English, this young Benedictine Sister indicated to me that a machine would be better. Yet, I realized that until they had such a machine, she or someone else like her would be preparing the rosemary powder with an age-old method that takes human striving and strength, great patience, and steady action.

Food for thought?

These Three Things

Three weeks ago I went to the movie "The Help". It is a wonderful story of courage, truth, generational wisdom, heart breaking issues of racism and loving-kindness.

My favorite image of the movie is when one of the caretakers, Minnie, takes the little girl into her arms and looks her square in the eyes and says, “You are kind, you are special, and you are intelligent.” Adorably the girl reiterates the phrases back to Minnie and stumbles on the last phrase which has three syllables.

This scene melted my heart. I believe our world would be a better place if we took time to share these intentional phrases with children and each other eye to eye. I also believe God’s presence somehow, someplace everyday - every moment - is continually looking into the eye of our soul to repeat those three statements.

• You are kind – you have been given a heart to love. We are humans created to care for one another with respect, dignity, and compassion. Your authentic self in the purest form desires to live out of kindness.

• You are special. I made you, created you in my image. You carry The Life and Light of Truth to shine in the world for this time and space. No one can do it like you!

• You are intelligent. So many times we confine intelligence to the academic or business world, comparing and competing with one another. Each person is gifted with an intelligence the world and Body of Christ need. The eye cannot say to the nose I don’t need you. We all bring our gifts to share and shine. Intelligence is about the generosity and freedom of giving all of yourself, that God may be glorified.

Take time to share these statements with your children, mates, friends and colleagues. And remember everyday God looks into the eye of your soul to share these truths with you. We might stumble at repeating them – that is fine – just fine with God!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Every Pebble

If you have ever walked around the block with a 3 year old child and stopped with her for every new attraction, you know what it is to wonder, to notice, to be involved; and as an adult, you also notice the time it takes to be there with her .

If you have ever been in church with someone who seems intent on giving the ‘kiss of peace’ to as many persons as possible by touching multiple hands or waving to the many too distant for a touch, you know what it is to be touched , but only mechanically, without the least eye contact or recognition of your presence or the gift of Christ’s peace offered. In fact, you may choose to sit somewhere else next time you go to Mass.

I prefer the 3 year old child’s stopping by every pebble, ant, flower as she unconsciously gives herself to them to the sister or bother who merely touches my hand but not my heart with the gift of Christ’s peace. . . or their noticing me as a sister in Christ!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Campus Buzz

We enter September and the students have poured onto campus. Their presence reminds us that a new academic year has begun and once again we will be directly or indirectly pulled into the college orbit. Our closeness to the college-- physically and in myriad other ways—is a plus and we mutually benefit.

We founded the college in 1913 and it has been dear to our hearts ever since. Unfortunately, we have few Sisters under contract to the college; currently there are eight serving as faculty and four in staff positions. Fortunately we have Benedictine Friends (latest name), a program of over 30 years duration, which fosters ties between Sisters and individual students (mainly first-year students). Many Sisters and students meet during the semesters to share a meal, recreation and/or discussion at agreed-upon times, either formally or informally. Often lasting friendships develop and for some, extend years beyond graduation.

St. Benedict in his Rule calls the monastery a “school” for the Lord’s service. We are so blessed to be part of two schools here: the monastery and the college.

Sister Carol Berg