WASHINGTON (CNS) — Spreading the Gospel in a place where hate or love are doled out based on tribal membership is a hard task but, since 2008, Sister Orla Treacy of the Irish Loreto Sisters has risen to the occasion.
On March 7, the day before International Women’s Day, she was recognized again for her efforts.
Sister Treacy was presented with an International Women of Courage Award by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for her work in Rumbek, South Sudan. The State Department citation for her award said she “continues to work in faith, striving for a world in which girls are not forced into marriage, are allowed to complete their education, and can pursue their dreams.”
The ceremony, in its 12th year, recognizes women from countries across the world who work for peace and justice in places where it is most needed. Women are nominated for the honor by U.S. ambassadors, and this year included awardees from Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Peru, Montenegro, Jordan, Egypt, Djibouti, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Sister Treacy was nominated by the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See for her work alongside other Loreto Sisters, who now run an expanding and comprehensive mission in a region that finds itself at the painful intersection of intense tribal conflict and seemingly insurmountable gender inequality.
The Loreto Rumbek Mission is best known for its secondary boarding school for girls, which Pompeo referred to as “a beacon of hope for girls who might otherwise be denied education and forced to enter early marriages.” The mission began with only the school, but has since evolved to include a co-educational primary school and a clinic for women and children.
Sister Treacy was the principal at the school’s inception in 2008 and, since then, has worked to make it a counterpoint to the hatred and hardship that surround it. She told Catholic News Service in 2017 that “inside the school the girls live in peace and harmony,” teaching other girls their own tribal dances despite the internecine fighting going on outside.
Another struggle the school faces is that women are often bargaining chips for the economic security of their families, crushing hopes they may have to pursue careers. In 2017, Martha Athiei, then-head girl of the school, described to CNS that “whenever you go home for holiday, your family members ask when you’re going to be finished with school. …They want cows.”
Athiei was referring to the lucrative bride prices — often paid out in livestock — families can receive if their girls get married.
In 2017, Sister Treacy was awarded the Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award. That honor, which is given to remember Father Hugh O’Flaherty’s rescue of Jews and soldiers during World War II, awarded Sister Treacy $1,158, which she pledged to put toward improving services at the mission’s health clinic.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103