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No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters


Dreamcatcher Foundation co-founder Brenda Myers Powell was the guest speaker at "Slavery Still Exists," an awareness program sponsored by the Illinois Women Religious Against Human Trafficking on Jan. 10-11.

Dreamcatcher Foundation co-founder Brenda Myers Powell was the guest speaker at “Slavery Still Exists,” an awareness program sponsored by the Illinois Women Religious Against Human Trafficking on Jan. 10-11.

On Jan. 10-11, Illinois Women Religious Against Human Trafficking sponsored the awareness program, “Slavery Still Exists.”

The “Slavery Still Exists” gathering enabled the participants to become more aware of the evil and extent of human trafficking, to hear the tragic, horrific and deeply moving story of Brenda Myers Powell, who experienced sexual exploitation beginning at a preschool age. “Dreamcatcher” is a 2015 Sundance Film documentary that follows Brenda who now works as a community advocate with and for prostitutes and young girls.

Not only is Brenda a survivor of human trafficking, she co-founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation, to make a difference in the lives of others.

In his World Day of Peace Message, “No Longer Slaves but Brothers and Sisters,” Pope Francis states”

—– “Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person, which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbors, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.

“… Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others.”

Those gathered for the awareness program were also led into prayer for action and commitment to continue to open their eyes and hearts, no longer being “accomplices to this evil” (from Pope Francis).

Sisters Barbara Sheehan, Rosemary Ward and Providence Associate Gerri Baum were among the members of the sponsoring committee. The committee felt a great deal of support from those attending.

Gerri said, “Although we gathered to raise awareness about human trafficking and pray that its millions of victims would experience the power of being treasured by us and our efforts, personally, I was struck by feelings of deep peace and increased hope. I felt the audience, mostly women religious, walked in with a spirit of support and caring for us, the committee, and our mission. It was and is amazing.”

Here is the opening prayer from the event.

Feb. 8, is an International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

Here is a list of additional resources connected to human trafficking:

• The Sisters of St. Joseph, Orange, Calif., have developed an informative flyer and a calendar for prayer regarding human trafficking leading up to St. Josephine Bakhita’s Feast Day, which is Feb. 8,

No Longer Slaves but Brothers and Sisters.

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Sister Donna Butler

Sister Donna Butler has been a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for more than 60 years. Sister Donna has served in elementary education, parish ministry, diocesan social justice, as well as the Congregation’s liturgy office, archives department and social justice outreach. She also administered as the director of the Providence Volunteer Ministry. Sister Donna currently volunteers in outreach with Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College students.

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