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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Panelists reflect on history, tradition of Sisters of the Holy Cross

Viewing injustices through the lens of those who endure mistreatment can help realities click and breakthroughs come into focus, Sister Mary Turgi said at a panel discussion about the Sisters of the Holy Cross, which took place in Rice Commons on Thursday.

Turgi said her role as director of the Holy Cross International Justice Office affords her the rewarding opportunity to attend to relevant societal issues and develop action strategies.

“[The Sisters of the Holy Cross] have a very strong and long-standing commitment to working toward systemic change,” she said. “That tends to be where our congregation has done the most work.”

The irrepressible desire to seek avenues for reform, Turgi said, motivates her congregation to address issues such as human trafficking, climate change and immigration.

“We have a number of corporate stands, one on water as a human right,” she said. “Even though I trained as a mathematician, most of my ministries in my 54 years in the congregation have been working in some form with social justice activities.”

The Holy Cross International Justice Office, she said, has promoted what it considers to be worthy causes ever since its conception.

“Back in the late 1990s, there was a movement among the congregation to bring some project together that would really, really force our unity and our working together, and a committee was set up to organize that,” Turgi said. “The idea of creating an office that would support the idea of justice surfaced very quickly, and after a lot of discussion and dialogue, they decided that that’s what they would do. … In total, we serve 20 countries in the world.”

Senior Katherine Soper said she has observed firsthand the love and dedication that radiates throughout the Holy Cross community. As a first year, she joined an organization known as Friends with Sisters, which promotes bonding and camaraderie between students and sisters by allowing them to share conversations and meals.

“For those of you who haven’t been over [to the convent] for dinner, it’s amazing,” she said. “You sit in that room, and you know you’re just surrounded by women of God who are doing everything that they can to support human dignity — which is, I believe, the bottom line of social justice.”

The sisters’ support and encouragement, Soper said, led her to apply for the Uganda Summer Practicum — a service-oriented study abroad program that allows education and nursing majors to work alongside sisters in the Moreau Nursery and Primary School and the Kyembogo Holy Cross Health Centre.

“My time in Uganda was eye-opening,” she said. “I saw the sisters going each and every day and giving their all and looking at those students in the eyes and believing in them and telling them ‘You don’t know what your future is. You don’t know what God’s plan is for you, but let’s take the first step right here by learning two plus two.’”

Senior Therese Dudro also partook in the Uganda Summer Practicum, though she assisted Holy Cross nurses at the health clinic — an opportunity she said she learned of during the first tour she took of Saint Mary’s and one that swayed her college decision.

“I just knew that I wanted to do that,” Dudro said. “[The sisters] don’t ask for anything in return. They just do it out of love because they know Christ’s love, and they want to share it with everyone.”

Dudro said observing the sisters’ grace and compassion under all circumstances showed her how to embrace the unexpected.

“Every day, [the sisters] walk into that clinic, and they don’t know the challenges that they’re going to be faced with, but they face them with smiles on their faces, and they just exude love wherever they go,” Dudro said. “They fight for all their patients.”

The sisters exemplified selflessness and recognition of a common humanity, Dudro said.

“We had some patients whose families could not afford the care that we were giving, but the sisters do not care,” she said. “They said ‘No, your child is getting this treatment. You’re not going anywhere. We don’t care what you’re going to say. We’re going to treat the patient.’”

Soper said the sisters’ influence was not solely academic or medical, for their spiritual example resonated with the students too.

“I’ve never seen anyone pray as hard as those students do,” she said. “The joy they show in their faces while they’re praying was very inspiring and makes the work that the sisters are doing and that Saint Mary’s students are able to experience there worth it.”