Friends in Solidarity was privileged to have an exhibit at the Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) held in St. Louis Aug. 9-12. Fr. David Gentry-Akin, the newly appointed mission promoter for Solidarity with South Sudan, based in Rome, joined Sister Barbara Buckley, RSM, associate administrator of Friends in Solidarity, and Sister Joan Mumaw, IHM, president, in greeting LCWR members at the exhibit. It was good meeting old friends and new for the first time since August 2019. COVID had interrupted meeting in person since then.
One of the highlights of our time at the meeting was the Outstanding Leadership Award given to Sister Patricia Murray, IBVM, the current executive director of the International Union of Superiors General (Rome), an umbrella organization representing religious congregations of women worldwide. Pat, a native of Ireland, has been remarkable in her ability to gather resources and develop programs in support of religious congregations of women around the world.
Pat was the first executive director of Solidarity with South Sudan and was among the first representatives of the UISG to go to South Sudan to visit the war-ravaged country and assist the Bishops of Sudan in identifying their greatest needs. Following the visit in 2006, the UISG and the Union of Superiors General (men religious) decided to focus initiatives on health care and teacher training and formation of diocesan pastoral teams. Later, sustainable agriculture was added as an additional focus of ministry.
The first volunteers from religious congregations began teacher training in South Sudan in 2009. By 2013, the Catholic Health Training Institute in Wau and the Solidarity Teacher Training Colleges in Yambio and Malakal were built, powered by solar energy, and matriculating the first graduates. The Malakal campus was taken over by the military in late 2013, with Yambio becoming the official STTC campus. The rest is history. Pat’s leadership provided a firm foundation for this international initiative in response to the request of the Sudan Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Watch video from presentation of the award to Sister Pat at the assembly
Sister Ann Oestreich, IHM, a Friends in Solidarity board member, and Nicole Moran, a consultant employed by Solidarity to do an organizational evaluation in 2019, joined Fr. David and Sisters Pat, Barbara and Joan for an evening meal at a neighboring restaurant, all in celebration of the contributions made by all present to the work of Solidarity over the past 15 years.
Above photo (from left): Nicole Moran, Fr. David Gentry-Akin, Sister Pat Murray, IBVM (seated); Sister Joan Mumaw, IHM; Sister Ann Oestreich, IHM; Sister Barbara Buckley, RSM.