Marymount, Tarrytown has gladly extended a welcome to LifeWay Network, an organization that provides safe housing for women who have been trafficked, and educates the public about present day human trafficking and slavery. When renovations of the Marymount Convent grounds began two years ago, the Eastern America Area Council led by Sr. Catherine Patten decided to rehabilitate Rogan Lodge and offer it to LifeWay Network for use as its administrative offices.
RSHM have long supported LifeWay’s work. In 2005, seven sisters from five different religious congregations (Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, and Sisters of Charity) attended a conference on human trafficking. The group left the meeting compelled to do something. Mary Heyser, RSHM, facilitated a gathering of sisters from ten congregations, hosted by the Sisters of Charity in the Bronx, NY, to discuss next steps. In fact, according to Jo Piazza, author of If Nuns Ruled the World, Sr. Mary “…became the glue for the group that would become known as NY-CRC-STOP: New York Coalition of Religious Congregations to Stop Trafficking of Persons.” This coalition, co-chaired by Sr. Mary and Sr. Joan Dawber, SC, continued to educate themselves and conduct workshops. Today, more than 30 congregations of women and men religious in the greater New York area work to end trafficking through education, advocacy, and support of persons who are trafficked.
As NY-CRC-STOP continued its important work, Sr. Joan envisioned a “Safe House” for women rescued from trafficking. She established LifeWay Network, and with the support of the coalition members’ contributions of time, talent and funding, Sr. Joan’s vision became a reality in 2012. This f irst safe house accommodated five women rescued from labor and/or sex trafficking. A host community of three religious, supported by social workers, a house manager and dedicated volunteers, provided a caring and supportive environment, enabling these women to heal and move forward with their lives. Today there are two homes that can accommodate up to 16 residents in the NYC area for both longer-term housing and emergency needs.
Over the years, many RSHM sisters have supported and volunteered with LifeWay. Sr. Rosamond Blanchet currently serves as one of the four corporation members, and Sr. Elizabeth Kolb serves on the Board of Directors as Secretary. Sr. Ann Miller was part of the original host community at the first safe house, along with Ursuline and Dominican sisters. “I was blessed to be able to do this for eight years – we have grown together and increased our understanding of the needs of victims of human trafficking and the effects of trafficking,” said Sr. Ann. “It was a gift for us to be there.”
Continuing the important work started by Sr. Joan, Marion Kendall joined LifeWay Network as the Executive Director in 2018. She brings a clinical perspective with continuing emphasis on trauma-informed care, and is implementing new programs to benefit alumnae survivors, such as Welcoming and Inspiring New Growth as Sisters (WINGS) and the Restorative Community Mentorship Program, in partnership with the Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty at Fordham. “Trauma-informed care is about ensuring that ALL individuals feel physically and emotionally safe, are noticed and listened to and are given a voice,” states Ms. Kendall. She is grateful for RSHM’s continued support and shared understanding that everyone deserves a life of dignity. For more information about LifeWay Network, visit lifewaynetwork.org.