In August, two staff members from the Congregation’s offices in Notre Dame, Indiana, journeyed to Ghana and Uganda. Daniel Flowers, assistant director of development, and Katie Yohe, Laudato Si’ coordinator for mission advancement, spent three weeks visiting sisters in each country. Their overarching goal: to advance the Congregation’s global efforts toward fulfilling Pope Francis’ urgent call to care for the Earth and seek justice for oppressed and marginalized people everywhere. This urgent call, outlined in the 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ (on care for our common home), recognizes that the cry of the Earth and the cry of the most vulnerable are intricately intertwined. Laudato Si’ implores all humankind to take decisive action, here and now.
Holy Cross sisters have always been keenly attuned to this concept of integral ecology. Flowers’ and Yohe’s visit served to further educate and inform sisters on how to more intentionally and strategically blend Laudato Si’ precepts into their proposed and existing ministries. The staff members framed their presentations around the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which outlines seven goals and ways to take action individually and collectively.
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“We have a lot of sisters who are passionate about helping people,” Yohe said. “They see many needs and they have many ideas about how to provide help and solutions in accordance with Laudato Si’ goals. There’s a vibrancy to their dreams and efforts and a desire to make a difference. It’s invigorating.”
The journey to Ghana and Uganda was packed with structured activities and informal get-togethers, including Laudato Si' and project development workshops with each community of sisters in the two countries. The two also took opportunities to visit as many ministry sites as possible and talk to the people who benefit from them: young students, survivors of human trafficking, parents trying to feed their families, widows and widowers who face ostracization, empowerment program participants, collectors of plastics for recycling, elderly persons living on the fringes of society, and many more. From these encounters, Flowers and Yohe gained insights into the truly remarkable ways that Holy Cross sisters are lifting people out of despair and into fulfilling lives.
Yohe was delighted at the opportunity to see firsthand the ways that sisters are already striving toward Laudato Si’ goals, and at the chance to help them advance those efforts. She added, “I was just amazed at all the activity already going on.”
As coordinator of the Congregation’s Ministry With the Poor Fund, Flowers was able to see the direct results of the grant proposals that pass through his hands. Grant requests now require sisters to tie their ministries to one of the seven Laudato Si' Action Platform goals. On each visit, Flowers worked with sisters on how to structure their proposals to achieve this requirement.
Flowers also captured photos and experienced how current and proposed projects match up with donor funding. “I felt I was representing our donors,” he said of the visit. “I want to help our donors see what they have made possible, to help them feel a more direct connection with the people who are being touched by their generosity.”
If the responses to their visit are any indication, beneficiaries are very aware and appreciative of the donors’ assistance in their lives.
“When Katie and I walked into the St. Andrew’s School auditorium in Jinja, Uganda, the entire student body cheered, as though we were the actual donors,” Flowers said. “The amount of love they showed was so heartwarming, and we want to convey that love to our donors.” Later, the two staff members helped the children plant trees so they could all experience care for creation, together.
Looking back at their journey, both Flowers and Yohe mentioned they saw the intangible become tangible: “The Congregation’s mission, core values and corporate stands—all of that is so alive and well in Ghana and Uganda.”