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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Sister Margaret Stratman, O.S.M.

Gordon: For our readers who may not know about the Servants of Mary, I want to congratulate you and your colleagues for your great website which is almost hypnotic with all of the information and insights into so many of the issues which you address. When was your community formed?

Sr Margaret: Our branch of the Servants of Mary was founded in the 1840s in Cuves, France to better the lives of poor girls by educating them. We officially joined the Servite family in 1865. The Community came to the United States in 1893 and established our present Motherhouse in Omaha in 1918. Over the years we have staffed numerous schools across the country. We established a school for girls, Marian High School, next to our Motherhouse in 1955. It is a thriving school serving over 700 young women.

Gordon: What prompted you to join the Servite Sisters?

Sr Margaret: I was educated by the Servants of Mary and I was always impressed by how much they cared about each other and about us and our families. They were compassionate and also had fun together.

Gordon: What advice you give to young women who may be interested in religious life?

Sr Margaret: If you want to be about what really matters in life by helping people and belong to something bigger than yourself, religious life is a wonderful choice. That’s what it has been for me. This lifestyle has afforded me so many opportunities and blessings.

Gordon: Your ministries are extraordinary and reflect so many of the ways that we need to help one another but which many of us fail to do. Your ministry on human trafficking is a challenge that many Catholics are unaware of, especially in Chicago which is a central hub of human trafficking in the United States.  

Pope Francis has called  ‘Human Trafficking is A Plague on Humanity’ and met with a human trafficking victim when he addressed international mayors that was hosted by the Vatican to discuss his encyclical LAUDATO SI and how disruptions in climate were contributing to a humanitarian crisis in migration and modern slavery.

Sr Margaret: A couple of years ago the Leadership Conference of Women Religious at their annual meeting took the issue of human trafficking as a priority. Because of that the women religious in Omaha who have headquarters here, the Servites, Mercies, and Notre Dame Sisters, decided to form a Coalition against Human Trafficking to work on this issue. Since its beginning in 2013, it has greatly expanded and includes representatives from various agencies from law enforcement to victim services. We have four subcommittees working on legislation, awareness and education, training for hotel/motel personnel, and victim services.

Gordon: Your monthly human trafficking reports are a critical component of keeping all of us informed on this continuing pro-life challenge.  Could you provide our readers with some suggestions on what each of us can do to address this challenge in our community, nationally, and internationally?

Sr Margaret: You can do three things. You can realize that human trafficking is happening right in your community. It is a hidden crime that is everywhere. You can learn to recognize it when you see it. Some clues that may help identify victims:

  • Accompanied by a controlling person or boss; not speaking on one’s own behalf

  • Lack of control over one’s personal schedule, money, I.D., travel documents

  • Bruises, burns, broken bones, scars

  • Depression, fear, guilt, overly submissive

  • Sleep or eating disorders, substance abuse

  • Inability to leave home or place of work

  • Owes a large debt that one is unable to pay

  • Loss of sense of time, not knowing what city or state one is in

And if you suspect human trafficking, you can respond by calling the National Trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888. This can be done anonymously. Your response may help save a life.

Gordon: What impact could Pope Francis’s increasing advocacy against human trafficking have on the challenges of human trafficking?

Pope Francis has become a significant advocate against human trafficking. Not only does he represent billions of Catholics worldwide but even more, by his actions over and over again, he shows himself to truly be a man of mercy, a man who compassionately cares. He has helped, by his statements, to make the issue of human trafficking more visible. His words call all of us to action on behalf of the victims of this horrible crime and to search for ways to effectively end the exploitation and bring the perpetrators to justice.  He and other world religious leaders made the following joint statement:

Statement by Global Religious Leaders against Human Trafficking    We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historic initiative to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of goodwill everywhere to eradicate modern slavery across the world by 2020 and for all time.

In the eyes of God*, each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man and is destined to exist for the good of all inequality and fraternity. Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.

We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation, and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative. *The Grand Imam of Al Azhar uses the word “religions”.

W*The Grand Imam of Al Azhar uses the word “religions”.

Pope Francis Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong (representing Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh) The Most Ven. Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka Rabbi Dr. David Rosen Dr. Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif (representing Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar) Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi Sheikh Naziyah Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor of Grand Ayatollah (representing Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi) Sheikh Omar Abboud Most Revd and Right Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of CanterburyHis Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (representing His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew)

Gordon: Thank you for a great and informative interview and I hope that our readers will do whatever possible to help reduce human trafficking and consider making a donation to support your important work.


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