Background on some Recipients

Mary’s Pence: Funding Women, Changing Lives

Mary's Pence blog pic

Mary’s Pence received a grant from our Poverty Justice Fund for a program called ESPERA. (Photo courtesy of Grace Garvey-Hall).

An ongoing commitment of the Sisters of Providence is to improve the lives of women by supporting systemic change that promotes gender equality.

One way we do this is through our Poverty Justice Fund grants. Through one of these grants, we are proud to be in partnership with Mary’s Pence, supporting their ESPERA program.

The ESPERA program partners with existing women’s groups that live on the margins, to help create locally owned and operated community lending pools with local training and development support.

Mary’s Pence has three requirements: Women will invest in income generating projects, whether in individual businesses of collectives; the original amount of the pool ($25,000) will remain intact and not be used for administrative costs; and interest is charged at a rate determined by the women.

Through the ESPERA program, women are able to participate in a collaborative process, that they direct, that fosters their own empowerment. Women who have said they didn’t have enough to save are now saving. Women have increased income – some by a small amount, some by as much as 10 times. With increased incomes, women have been able to send their children to school and improve their families’ nutrition.

During an evaluation of the ESPERA group in Suchito, El Salvador, 80 percent of the women participants reported positive change in their family relationships; they described their relationship with their partner as more equal.

The women we partner with in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, stated that because of ESPERA, they know that “we as women are capable and independent of men and we can perfectly move toward general equality.”

The women of the ESPERA group in Red de Mujeres Moralenses in Mexico, say that since joining ESPERA, they have become more independent, have higher self-esteem, their economic situation has improved, and they have learned to value and love themselves a little more.

Lastly, Mary’s Pence focuses their work in Latin America because these are our neighbors, our economies and histories are intricately linked.

We strive to be in solidarity with our neighbors by helping to create changes in their local communities that eliminate the need to immigrate and leave their homes due to poverty and injustice.

Sisters of Providence collaborating with

peace-building in South Sudan

A 2014 grant application to our Sisters of Providence Justice Fund provided us with a unique opportunity to make a difference in a war-torn country.

The Sisters of Providence are one of 118 congregations collaborating to provide financial assistance to the Republic of South Sudan.

The Sisters of Providence are one of 118 congregations collaborating to provide financial assistance to the Republic of South Sudan.

Solidarity with South Sudan is a project of the International Superiors General initiated in response to a request from the Sudan Conference of Catholic Bishops for assistance in rebuilding the health care, education and pastoral ministries of South Sudan.

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods are one of 118 congregations collaborating to provide financial assistance to the Republic of South Sudan.

The country has been ravaged by decades of war and is still struggling with fragile but hopeful peace agreements.

Sister Joan Mumaw, IHM, the USA Director of Development and grant applicant writes, “Education holds the greatest possibility for systemic change in South Sudan.”

For that purpose, Solidarity established two teacher-training colleges and renovated the Catholic Health Training Institute that had sat empty for more than 20 years.

One of the priorities is the education of young women since so few are educated in South Sudan. The center is working hard to enroll more women. They have been more successful at the Catholic Health Training Institute where there are nearly 50 percent of women enrolled in nursing and midwifery, up from about 15 percent initially.

At the teacher training college and in the outreach-training program for teachers, the percentage is about 22 percent. Students come from South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains (technically in Sudan). There is a need for 26,000 teachers.

The problem is keeping girls in school so they graduate from secondary school. Parents want to withdraw them even before they finish elementary school to marry them off.

Pastoral and agricultural training programs have also been initiated. The goal is to build capacity so as to turn the responsibility for these programs over to the Sudanese in 15 to 20 years.

Currently, there are 32 women and men religious from 19 congregations and 18 countries living and working in five communities around the country. This represents a new model of collaboration among religious congregations in mission and is inspired by the Conference on Religious Life in Rome in 2004 that advocated for new models of ministry and an option for the poor.

One-hundred and eighteen women and men religious congregations are financially supporting this effort. Sister Cathy Arata, SSND ministering with Solidarity, observes that we cannot do alone what we used to be able to do and that God is leading us to a new paradigm for religious life.

For more information, log on to

Poverty Justice Fund Applications for 2016-17 are due by June 1, 2017.

Center for Correctional Concerns, Joliet, Illinois

Sisters of Providence logo - PNGThis education program started in 1979 for the purpose of preparing male and female inmates of the Will County Adult Detention Facility to earn their GED diploma. When the program began, the county jail housed 100 inmates. Now, there are 800 residents.

Since 1979, more than 2,000 students have graduated. It is our hope that this program instills hope, self-respect and a sense of responsibility in our students. Our primary goal is to be a loving presence to this marginalized group of our society, to show them that someone cares about them and sees their worth. It is a liberating education that gives our students the inspiration for personal transformation as well as the skills they need to reintegrate when they are released from jail.

The United States has recently changed the GED testing program. Because this new test will be administered on computers, replacing the pen and pencil test, we must purchase computers for the new testing room. We also need to buy computers for the 10 classrooms as well as calculators, textbooks and software.

Learn more about the Sisters of Providence jail/prison ministry.


The following organizations were chosen for funding from the Sisters of Providence Poverty and Justice Fund for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.