By: St. Joseph Worker-New York Program

SJWP annual gathering human trafficking

SJWs join in exercising their lungs in order to breath in the Spirit!St. Joseph Workers (SJWs) and their staffs from Los Angeles, New York, Orange, and St. Paul came together for their annual gathering at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange Motherhouse in California. Their days together continued to build relationships, reflect more deeply on the CSSJ Mission and the pillars of the program.

After introductions, the SJWs joined in some energizing challenges to prepare them for the activities of their days. As they moved into a circle each wrote out their intention for the gathering. The gathering prayer moved into a reflection on the CSSJ Mission through words gleaned from our tradition; radical inclusivity, selfless, attentive, magnanimous, animating, stimulant of love and communion, etc. In small groups, the SJWs shared the state of their hearts as they pondered where they meet Love in today's world and where is that they bring Love in their daily lives.

SJWs processing input during the gathering.

Since the gathering took place during Human Trafficking Month the SJWs and staff joined together to complete a community human trafficking project. They began with an insightful presentation by Dr. Sandra Morgan from the Global Center for Women & Justice at Vanguard University who is globally recognized for her expertise on combatting human trafficking and working to end violence against women.

They then 'divided the city' to work with over 100 local businesses regarding Assembly Bill 2034, which requires 13 types of businesses in the state of CA to have information posted on human trafficking in the entrance of their business. Each business was given human trafficking posters, in multiple languages, a copy of the bill with a brief education to the bill.

Brooklyn Vetter, SJWP NY Associate Director, leads the SJWs in a training for the action.In reflecting on the action, the SJWs expressed how they appreciated the supportive presence of their 'team' and how this empowered them to carry out the action on behalf of the dear neighbor.

It is the Mission that propels them onward to take the next right step, to move out of their comfort zones and to advocate for those who are forced and coerced into unwanted situations.

On the final day of the gathering, SJWs had the opportunity to connect with other young women who participated in the program in previous years. The panel of SJW alumnae shared their experiences, growth, challenges and how they made the transition from a year of service to a professional career. Of the almost two hundred young women who have participated in the program in one of these cities since 2002, a large percentage go on to work for non-profits. A fair number also pursue degrees in an MDiv or Theology program.

After participating in the panel some of the SJW alumnae gather for a group photo. These alumnae now either work for a SJWP or remain very connected to a local SJW community.As the days passed the relationships deepened and the SJWs knew well that they are part of a program that is bigger than themselves and their home cities. Together they learned more deeply that love never fails!

Sisters of St. Joseph can be heartened to have these young women as companions in the CSJ Charism and Mission.

May we hold our SJWs in our hearts so that they can continue to live each day with love, courage, beauty, gentleness, gratitude, and trust. May their service continue to be fruitful, their hope vibrant and their voices clear.

All are encouraged to invite young women between the ages of 21-30 to consider being a SJW.