Women in Mission 2023 Recap
On Sunday, March 26th, the Office for World Mission had the opportunity to celebrate Women’s History Month with our Women in Mission event. Women’s History Month allows us to celebrate and recognize women’s contributions to society. As we think about what that means in light of our faith, we cannot fully understand it without looking at the role of women in the Bible, like Mary Magdalene. She encountered Jesus when He healed her from demons. After this initial encounter, she became a faithful follower of Jesus and continued to be loyal even after the Crucifixion. Throughout her life, Mary Magdalene took action by caring for Jesus and the disciples. However, she also took time to intently listen and be present with Jesus.
Luke Ch. 10:39: ‘Mary sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.’
Just like Mary Magdalene, at different moments in our life we are called to take action and we are called to be present. During the event, two women were honored for their mission work: Idalia Nieves-Reyes, and Sr. Alice Thepouthay SCSJA. Both of these women shared their testimonies with event attendees.
Idalia Nieves-Reyes received the Bridge Builder Award, inspired by Sister Frances Cunningham. We present this award to a woman who sees each encounter as an opportunity to connect while sharing the Gospel of Christ.
Idalia's mission affiliation started in 2014 with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's sister parish, La Sagrada Familia, in the Dominican Republic. Her introduction to La Sagrada Familia came through the Community of St. Paul, whom she attributes to being a fundamental part of her missionary engagement. At first, she started as a donor to the sister parish, La Sagrada Familia, while also fundraising and running drives when she served as the pastoral associate at St. John Paul II Parish.
In 2017 and 2018, she visited La Sagrada Familia to serve as a translator for English-speaking missionaries. Being a translator between Spanish-speaking Dominicans and English-speaking missioners was a great blessing that entirely changed her perspective on life. She explained, "It is like wearing new eyeglasses; you can see everything differently and better than before." Her experiences and encounters led her to deeply appreciate and give thanks for every little thing she has. When asked to provide wisdom to someone considering engagement as a missionary, she would tell everyone to go because it 'is going to be the best trip of your life… your best investment.'
Sr. Alice Thepouthay SCSJA received the Being Present Award, inspired by the life and legacy of Sister Rosemary Huddleston, and presented to a woman willing to identify with and accompany individuals while building solidarity with and for causes that impact human dignity.
Sr. Alice, a member of Sisters of Charity St. Joan Antida, has been a parishioner of St. Michael Catholic Church for 39 years! She is also the Pastoral Associate and the Religious Formation Coordinator at St. Michael Catholic Church. Sr. Alice's interest in missionary engagement grew from her passion for serving God's people, the poorest of the poor. Her mission revolves around training catechists and finding programs and resources suitable for the needs of children and family refugees at St. Michael's.
One of the greatest blessings from this work is seeing the spiritual growth of young adults and watching them help the younger children. She highlights a key lesson from these encounters: the importance of opening the door and welcoming newcomers into the church. When asked to give words of wisdom, she shared that refugees bring joy and life to the United States church and St. Michael Catholic Church in Milwaukee.
To further illuminate the value of being present and building bridges, our two guest speakers were Anne Haines, the executive director of the St. Bakhita Catholic Worker community, and Sr. Janeth Vasconez Pamino, a member of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Youth.
We appreciate our award recipients, guest speakers, and all attendees who made the event a celebration!