New grantees – Fall 2016

Here are the newest Mary’s Pence grantees!

Bridges: Re-Entry Preparation Project for Women Prisoners
São Paulo, Brazilbond-bridges-team-in-front-of-the-butanta-day-release-prison-2015

Mary’s Pence has supported Bridges since its inception in 2013. Kathleen Bond, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, helps women who have experienced incarceration attain agency through numerous workshops on health and skills for life post-prison. With the particular focus of Bridges on maternity in prison, Kathleen also teaches workshops that help mothers who haven’t finished their sentence build a healthy bond with their newborns. Bridges seeks financial and political support from prison administration to ensure that the program will continue advocating for systemic change within the often-dysfunctional Brazilian justice system.

Centro de Recursos Educativos para Adultos (CREA)
New York City

CREA provides educational resources for the Spanish-speaking adult immigrant community in East Harlem and Upper Manhattan, NYC.picture-32 Classes at CREA help immigrant adults attain full literacy both in their native language and in English, and offer culturally competent advice on how to navigate the resources of the city. Life skills workshops, seminars on leadership development, and computer skills classes supplement CREA’s focus on adult literacy, creating a platform for social mobility and networking. The center is sensitive to family and cultural needs. CREA has been in operation for three years, and will use the Mary’s Pence grant to improve the services for its expanding student body.

The Dreamcatcher Foundationdreamcatcher
“Reaching for the Stars”
Chicago, Illinois

Dreamcatcher was created in 2008 by and for survivors of human trafficking and substance abuse. Dreamcatcher reaches out to women involved in the sex trade industry in Chicago with a pressure-free, no-judgment approach while also offering opportunities to leave the industry. This year, the Mary’s Pence grant will fund “Reaching for the Stars,” a direct outreach program which responds to the immediate needs of the survivors for food, medicine, material goods, and psychological support as they develop a sustainable lifestyle.

Exodus Lendingcint0kvxeaa7f55
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Exodus Financial Services is a startup initiated by the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in 2015 to counteract predatory lenders in the neighborhood of the parish. Payday loans are in the $200-1000 range and require repayment in full upon the next payday. If not repaid on time, they can accrue interest rates of up to 273%. About 70% of those with payday debt are women. Exodus Lending provides Minnesotans trapped in payday debt with interest-free repayment options, personalized advice and financial counseling. The Mary’s Pence grant will increase program support as the client base of Exodus Lending continues to grow.

“Somali Women Civic Engagement Initiative”
Minneapolis, Minnesota

The name Isuroon means “woman who cares for herself.” Isuroon grew from the personal experiences of its founder, Fartun Weli, who was struggling with infertility and the cultural pressures related to childbearing in the Somali culture. Since 2010, Isuroon has been an advocate for culturally competent women’s health care, providing resources on research, health promotion, and community and civic engagement. This first Mary’s Pence grant helps fund a project that will create social spaces and workshops for Somali women to learn about political processes in the United States, increase women’s presence and voice in their communities, and build leadership skills.

The Justice Project justicep3
Kansas City, Missouri

The Justice Project was founded in 2008 by Mercy Sister Donna Ryan, and Kris Wade, a survivor of crimes against women. Eighty percent of women they serve have been sexually exploited through prostitution, whose lives are unstable due to homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence, or addiction. A third-time Mary’s Pence grantee, the Justice Project will continue giving direct service to those in need, as well as educating the legal officials, police, service providers and community members on human trafficking issues.

Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE)
Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota

dsc_0755RISE is a new organization and a new Mary’s Pence grantee, started as a response to the need for connection within the community of Muslim women in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. The main goal of RISE is to make the underrepresented population of Islamic women activists more present in the political process. RISE seeks sustainability for women-led philanthropies and businesses through hands-on workshops, raising the visibility of Muslim women who are involved in civic engagement.

San Benito/San Andres Health Program
“For Women, By Women”
Petén, Guatemala

20150626_082422San Benito and San Andres parishes have led the Health Program since 2000. Last year, the Mary’s Pence grant funded projects on primary care and women’s reproductive health run by the San Andres parish. Based on conversations during health care visits, the program identified a need for mental health services in response to domestic violence in women’s homes. As Guatemalan culture favors a personalized approach to health care, an expert from the community will serve as a mental health promoter and therapist. She will initiate in-person visits, therapy sessions, and seminars on how to counteract domestic violence.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Brave Communities Making Change

Katherine Wojtan, Mary’s Pence Executive Director, shares her impressions about the grantee organizations she has visited throughout spring and summer of 2016.  

Determination and courage are the words I would use to describe the Mary’s Pence grantees I have had the opportunity to meet in my recent travels. This year, I have been on the road a lot, meeting supporters and new friends at conferences. I also visited several grantees who shared their inspiring stories with me. Read on about these projects and the women involved:


Wishwas is a group of immigrants from Bangladesh and other countries self-organizing to establish sustainable income.

Queens, New York

I was impressed by the positive energy of the women in Wishwas. Many of them had struggled with issues of domestic abuse or controlling husbands and took upon a collaborative sewing project to generate income. Thus, Wishwas became a sewing circle and a space for sharing stories. Nivedita Chandrappa, the local coordinator, is an immigrant from India who faced abuse in the past and now supports women in Wishwas as a master networker, seeking training and market opportunities for the emerging sewing collaborative.

Worker’s Rights Center
Madison, Wisconsin


The Worker Rights Center is a safe space for Latina workers to share their stories, learn their rights, and access resources.

Worker’s Rights Center is a group that embodies Catholic Social Teaching, with a passion for advancing dignity of all and the right to respectful work. They are dedicated organizers that respond with action to gender discrimination, sexual harassment, wage theft and other issues that Latina women are facing in the workplace. They have also created a just dining guide that points towards fair employers in the local food service industry, giving Wisconisinites a concrete way to support workers’ rights.

Milwaukee New Sanctuary Movement / Mujeres Lideres
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


The New Sanctuary Movement keeps immigrant families together by giving them legal defense against deportation and personal support.

The Mujeres Líderes course provides a chance for immigrant women to develop leadership skills in their own language and use them to create systemic change in their community. I met their staff, learned about their organizing efforts and witnessed their passion for making the challenges of immigrants visible to their neighbors.

Core El Centro
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Core El Centro gives all individuals regardless of economic status an opportunity to experience natural healing therapies that address imbalances in the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of well-being.

What a treat, to connect with an organization that has greatly grown and matured since it received Mary’s Pence funding! Core El Centro recognizes that healing an individual means changing her family and community alongside. The space itself emanates healing and welcoming energy.

Amethyst Place
Kansas City, Missouri

Amethyst Place provides transitional housing and mentorship for women in recovery and their families, serving 50-60 families and over 100 children each year. This group received a grant from Mary’s Pence when it was much smaller than it is today. Their work changes lives! We’re pleased to have provided funding during an early critical time that helped them blossom.

The Justice Project
Kansas City, Missouri

I am in awe of those who work with women on the margins, fighting barriers to a stable life, day in and day out. This visit reminded me of how safe and sheltered my life has been, and how much need there is on the street for real, visceral understanding and support.


The Justice Project is a peer-based nonprofit human rights organization. It provides criminal justice and social systems advocacy and navigation for women in poverty who are suffering from challenges related to human trafficking.


The Dreamcatcher Foundation fights to end human trafficking in Chicago, as well as educate the justice system about the dire experiences of women in the sex trade industry.







The Dreamcatcher Foundation
Chicago, Illinois

Brenda Meyers-Powell, one of the founders of Dreamcatcher, literally walks the pavement to connect with women who want help avoiding or leaving prostitution. In conversation, Brenda’s complete dedication to her work shines through. You can see more about her and her team in a feature length documentary Dreamcatcher,, also available on Netflix.

We look forward to meeting two other grantees very soon. Mary’s Pence is hosting a gathering with Genesis in Oakland in October, and we are also partnering with The Kitchen Table of St. Louis to host a workshop at Albuquerque in November. See our calendar for details.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mary’s Pence Grant at Work in Cincinnati

Helping local women advocate for fairness in kinship care

In March 2016 Mary’s Pence awarded a grant to Cincinnati’s Contact Center to support their advocacy efforts to change Ohio law so that kinship caregivers (relatives raising children) receive the same financial support from the state as foster care providers. Kinship caregivers, mostly grandmothers, currently receive only 50 percent of what a foster parent receives to care for the same age child. Mary’s Pence Board member Karen Hurley lives in Cincinnati and visited the Contact Center to learn more about these efforts.

 The Contact Center is a community-based women-led membership organization that “works for a better life for all low- and moderate-income people through grassroots organizing, education and outreach.” “We got involved with this kinship care issue,” says lead organizer Lynn Williams, “because many of our members are taking care of relatives’ children or are seeking to take care of children due to a crisis in their family.”


Contact Center Lead Organizer Lynn Williams welcomes political candidates and office holders to an advocacy event focusing on justice issues for women.

Memory Ryan, the president of the Contact Center Board, is a kinship care provider for her 2-year-old granddaughter. Angela Whitehead, also a member of the Board, has been caring for her 10-year old granddaughter since she was a year old. Both women are committed to their grandchildren for the long haul. “My granddaughter is my life,” says Angela, “but she is a handful.” Memory quickly adds, “I didn’t expect to be chasing a toddler at this stage of my life.”

A key focus of the Contact Center’s advocacy efforts is Ohio House Bill 458, which has sponsors from both political parties. It would provide the same level of support payments to kinship care providers as provided to foster care providers. This would be huge for Memory and Angela. It would mean their current monthly stipend of around $280 would double. Angela says she struggles to keep her growing 10-year old in shoes and school clothes, and routinely depends on supplements from St. Vincent de Paul and local food pantries.

The caregivers' organizing meeting.

The caregivers’ organizing meeting.

Since receiving the grant from Mary’s Pence, the Contact Center has held two events for local office holders and candidates to learn more about kinship care and other issues affecting women in poverty. A Mother’s Day Speak Out (held May 6) and a Women’s Equality Day Celebration  (held August 26) hosted a variety of local politicians and focused on the stories of women like Memory and Angela.

Both events were well attended. Democratic and republican candidates for Ohio house seats were in attendance along with candidates for Ohio’s First Congressional District, Hamilton County’s Juvenal Court and Hamilton County’s Court of Appeals. Besides advocating for House Bill 458, both events also focused on the need to provide social security work credits for caregiving of all kinds. Many contact center members who have spent their lives as unpaid caregivers for siblings and parents end of with no social security to depend on at retirement.

Mary’s Pence is proud to support the women at the Contact Center as they work to change this unjust system.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Meet Mary’s Pence – Svitlana Iukhymovych

I step off the Green Line train onto the rustic pavement of downtown Saint Paul. The building I am heading towards is old yet stately, packed with bustling offices. This is the home of Mary’s Pence, also my new work-home for the next 11 months. I feel excitement and a hint of tension as I walk in the door, as I’m new here – the St. Joseph Worker for 2016-2017. Good day! My name is Svitlana.

for_blog_1St. Joseph Worker Program that I’m part of is a harbor for young women who are passionate about justice. SJWs spend a year living in an intentional community and serving at social justice organizations such as Mary’s Pence. Beyond that, the program helps us find a spiritual compass, exercise leadership skills, and build connections with professionals throughout the country. When I realized that Mary’s Pence was on the list of potential placement sites for SJWs, I knew that I would end up here. After all, Mary’s Pence brings into life the voices and imaginings of actionable change. My love of language will be of use at this organization.

A couple of months ago, I graduated from Macalester College with a double degree in English and Psychology. Throughout my senior year, I worked at a cognitive neuroscience lab, translated renowned and contemporary poems from my native Ukrainian into Engish, and breakdanced. Some of the translations I’ve authored were published in the anthology Letters from Ukraine, a volume that came out in honor of the Lviv-Wroclaw cultural exchange. My capstone in literature focused on translations from Vasyl Stus, a Ukrainian dissident poet who had been imprisoned for his outcries against the brutalities of the Soviet system.for_blog_2 It’s a work in progress, as I am still compiling drafts and commentary. Vasyl Stus’ work carries as much intensity as his life story, and is kindred to all who seek and express a true voice even in the middle of political turmoil. This awareness I’ve built for the intersections between the personal and the political within every human story will enrich my experience at Mary’s Pence.

The mission of Mary’s Pence to support community projects for women resonates with important aspects of my identity. As a graduate of Emma Willard, the oldest all-girls’ boarding school in the nation, I recognize how vital it is to empower women. Collaborations among women do have the tremendous power to bring innovation, non-violence, and progress into the world. As someone who grew up in rural Ukraine, a land traversed with patchwork of private gardens, I know that the dearth of resources for local start-ups and small projects can be lethal to communities. With that, the focus of Mary’s Pence on smaller-scale projects initiated by women conjoins the values I hold dear.

Perhaps just like Mary’s Pence grantees, I feel vulnerable to the realities of non-profits, conferences, constant noise of money and power. I am honored to start my work journey, encouraged by the stories of women who keep up their stubborn pitch of kindness.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Mary’s Pence Summer Reading List 2016

Mary’s Pence recently sent out our Summer Reading List. Each summer we enjoy sending out this list because we know that you, our supporters, are intelligent and curious people who seek to know more about the world around them. In growing our understanding of the world we discover injustices, but we also discover innovative solutions to these injustices. Most importantly, we find hope and healing in community. This is what our Summer Reading List represents.

The books on this year’s list were placed in four categories: Powerful Memoirs, Truth in Fiction, Global Change-Makers, and Peace and Hope . Click here to see the full list.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ESPERA Women Have a Will to Thrive

Gabriela Bandini de Unánue reflects on her first year working with women participating in the ESPERA community lending program as the ESPERA Business Facilitator.

Reflecting on the year since I joined the Mary’s Pence team, I would like to share with you what has happened so far and what this experience has meant for me.

I’ll begin by thanking every one of the people that is part of this great team for the confidence, comradery, constant support, positive energy, dedication and talent that has gone into all of our activities. From the beginning of my work in June of 2015 I have felt welcomed and supported in a process of continuous learning and growth, as much personal as professional. To know each one of the women and men that are part of this team – office staff, donors, ally organizations, volunteers, and the board – makes me more proud every day to be part of this work.

Grace, Development and Communications Liaison, and Gaby, ESPERA Business Facilitator, visit some women in their home near Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Grace, Development and Communications Liaison, and Gaby, ESPERA Business Facilitator, visit some women in their home near Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Each meeting with the women who are part of the ESPERA program in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico has confirmed for me the positive impact that the program has in the daily lives of every one of the women. The organizational process that entails managing the community-owned fund involves open spaces of sharing and moments to make decisions collectively. This ensures that each one of the women plays a role in the process, considers the needs of the rest. They all join in their capacity to support something with the others, which leads them to operate in full solidarity and empathy.

Access to loans and the flexibility of the payment system together with the delivery and allocation of funds that each one of the groups establishes favors autonomy. The ESPERA model gives each one of the women participants new opportunities to improve their quality of life. They mobilize financial resources that they normally do not have access to and create new sources of income that are better adapted to their hopes and needs. With the loan pool they not only look to cover the basic needs like nutrition, housing, healthcare and schooling for their children and contributing to the circles they want to influence, but also, as women, they develop their skills and the self-esteem to make their voices heard in their families and communities.

Gaby (left) and Eva (middle), ESPERA Promoter visit Esther, who raises chickens and sells eggs.

Gaby (right) and Eva (middle), ESPERA Promoter visit Esther, who raises chickens and sells eggs.

The ESPERA program is made up of women who are fighters, creators, workers, generous and resilient with a tenacious internal force that is reflected in their refusal to be defeated in spite of constantly confronting difficult situations that at every moment remind them that they are also vulnerable. They bet on life and wellbeing, to challenge poverty of mind and spirit to counteract the shortage of material possessions. They work for equity between men and women, they protest against violence, and believe firmly that if we all exercise our political, social, economic and cultural rights, our communities will develop in greater harmony.

Their economic initiatives represent their will to thrive, to come out ahead, to protect who they are as human beings. The initiatives are their way to use all their talents, to capitalize on the resources they have, and to generate life. The women who participate in the ESPERA program are ready to grow their businesses, to maintain them, and to put all of their energy into them. The women work from sunrise to sunset with the firm conviction that if they can make their businesses function in the best way, they will continue to be like open windows that allow them to take deep breathes of fresh air.

Gaby chats with women from the Concertación de Mujeres in Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Gaby chats with women from the Concertación de Mujeres in Suchitoto, El Salvador.

For me, it is a privilege not only to know each one of these women, but also to be able to work with them and join them in the dream for economic justice; to combine their abilities with mine to achieve their own goals and particular dreams. This work requires that I travel many miles to meetings, get on an airplane every three weeks, and sleep always under a different roof. But what makes all the hard work worth it is have the opportunity to work together to apply tools like planning, administration, accountability, marketing, human resources, quality control, selling and design of products and services within their businesses in order to make them into elements that protect a variety of ways of life and alternative economies.

Thank you for this first year and thank you for being Mary’s Pence!

Gabriela Bandini De Unánue, ESPERA Business Facilitator

Posted in ESPERA Fund and Their Voices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking the Cycle of Recidivism Through Advocacy—MAYA Organization

Imagine this: You have been in an abusive relationship for several years. With no experience, you struggled to find a job to support your family so you have been earning your income as a prostitute. You’re a mother and have been battling addiction for as long as you can remember. You were recently arrested and have just been sentenced to the county jail for prostitution. You enter the system and find yourself struggling daily with depression and damaged self-esteem. Your world feels as if it has been hopelessly turned upside down. How will you ensure that you do not re-enter the system after your release? Will abusing drugs and alcohol continue to be your vice? Will you ever be permitted to see your children again?

Then, your cellmate tells you that the jail has a program offering free counseling for the incarcerated. You attend a single 60-minute session and after a year, you are attending regularly. Your counselor helps you slowly rediscover your confidence and sobriety and inspires you to work to get certificates in vocational skills.

Eventually, you are released from the jail and routinely reach out to your counselor for support. You relapse, but you do not want to hinder your progress so you re-enter the rehabilitation program at your own will and find sobriety once again. Your determination provokes a job offer at a local company and, as a result of your progress, you are finally reunited with your children.

This story reflects one of many success stories that the MAYA Organization has witnessed since the foundation of their Counseling for Incarcerated Women Program (video) in 2014.

lsMe and You Always

The MAYA (Me and You Always) Organization is a first-time Mary’s Pence grantee located in Pittsburgh, Penn. MAYA was originally founded in 2009 by Tomilyn Ward, Executive Director, with a mission to provide counseling and support for pregnant or adoption-seeking women and their families. Ward established the organization shortly after adopting her daughter, realizing that her daughter’s birth mother was not receiving any postpartum and post-adoption support. Ward became the birth mother’s only support system; she contacted social workers and an attorney to help during this sensitive time. She began doing research in graduate school and found that, more often than not, birth mothers do not receive follow up from adoption agencies post-adoption.

Ward started to follow up with birth mothers in MAYA who had given their child(ren) up for adoption and learned that many of them were or had been in prison and consistently recidivated—which means they re-entered the criminal justice system. As Ward continued to research this issue, she learned that 95-percent of incarcerated women are separated from their children. That same percentage of incarcerated women have also been victims of abuse. This inspired her to establish the Counseling for Incarcerated Women Program at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ).

This program has provided over 1,000 hours of pro bono counseling services for trauma and addiction thus far. They have utilized their Mary’s Pence grant to fund needs such as purchasing clothing for the women in the jail, housing and foster care resources, and rehabilitation services.

Advocacy Influencing Justice

Those in the criminal justice system have been systematically silenced and degraded. Many of the women in the system, many are survivors of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. These women are more likely to engage in negative, self-defeating behaviors which can drastically amplify mental illness.

Ward considers the most important element of the Counseling for Incarcerated Women Program to be advocacy. “We do whatever is necessary to ensure women are heard,” she said as she reflected on a situation where a schizophrenic woman was jailed without her medications for six weeks. Ward and her team worked tirelessly, reaching out to doctors, local law enforcement and jail officials, and were able to help provide the woman with her medication.


MAYA Organization staff and program clients express their gratitude for Mary’s Pence after the Color Vibe 5k in Pittsburgh in May.

With advocacy comes the need to accept all women, and hear them without judgment. This is important in breaking the cycle of women who are victims of abuse becoming prostitutes and entering the criminal justice system.  MAYA provides resources for these women to reestablish their self-esteem. They counsel women by recognizing signs of abuse and reducing violent tendencies, that many victims often redirect on their own children.

MAYA supports women inmates seeking recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, recognizing that relapse is a part of the recovery process. They support the women as they work to stay clean and break habits, and encourage positive decision-making and consistent therapy attendance. Notably, women are able to continue attending counseling at the MAYA offices after their release for as long as they need.

The Future

The future for MAYA is bright, as they continue to grow in size and funds. They are actively reaching out to better serve and involve the community by showing the impact of their work. “We are absolutely community-centered,” said Ward. They hope to continue to influence systemic change and social justice for women by expanding their programs in the Pittsburgh area and eventually beyond.

By Maggie Singerhouse, Development and Communications Intern, 2016

Posted in Grantees, Reflections, Spiritual, Theological, and Otherwise | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mary’s Pence Grants and Social Justice – Application Deadline Coming Up

Our work flourishes because it is based on the values of dignity of the human person, call to community and participation, rights and responsibilities, subsidiarity, preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, global solidarity, and care for creation.

These values are at the root of both Mary’s Pence Grants and our ESPERA program. Earlier this year a committee reviewed and confirmed the criteria that shapes our Mary’s Pence Grants decisions. Full criteria can be seen here.

We fund projects that are women led – for the benefit of women and their families; community centered – a group, preferably made up of those impacted by an issue, are leading the way; focused on social justice values; and working for long term sustainable social change.

Granting to social justice projects is different than supporting charity. Charity meets an immediate need; justice changes the situation of the long term. Both are important. Our focus at Mary’s Pence is justice and social change. One of the most important questions we ask ourselves when reviewing grant applications is “Will something be different in the future because of this work?”

Youth Rise Presents: "My Life Without You" Youth Impacted by Incarceration & Deportation at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on August 15, 2015

Youth Rise Presents: “My Life Without You” Youth Impacted by Incarceration & Deportation at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on August 15, 2015

Here are some of the ways our grantees work for long term change.

  • Shifting public opinion about justice issuesYouth Rise Texas in Austin is doing this by creating and performing monologues to raise awareness of the effects of familial deportation and incarceration.
  • Forming alliances and collaborations across diverse populationsNew Sanctuary Movement in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is working to organize immigrant communities and faith communities for immigration reform.
  • Creating change in unjust structure or policiesKinship Care / The Contact Center in Cincinnati is advocating that non-parental relatives providing foster care receive the same amount as unrelated foster care providers.
  • Building capacity by building skills – leadership, organizing or other skills. Wishwas in Queens, New York is organizing immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh, to learn sewing and marketing skills, with the goal forming a cooperative that will provide income generating capacity to this community.

As our grants selection committee gathers twice a year to review applications, this criteria guides us. We’re always happy to talk over a project with a prospective grantee as they are thinking about applying, to help them consider the criteria and the ways their work is moving their community forward.

Our next grants deadline is August 1See criteria and application. Please pass this link on to projects you know of in the United States and Canada, and encourage them to contact us and apply.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taylor Says Goodbye

This June marks my last month as a St. Joseph Worker for Mary’s Pence.

Since August, I’ve participated in a service program through the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet emphasizing social justice, community, spirituality and leadership. There were twelve women in the program this year, each in a different placement.

(From left) Nadine, Grace, Taylor and Katherine from the Mary's Pence office

(From left) Nadine, Grace, Taylor and Katherine from the Mary’s Pence office

Mary’s Pence was my full-time placement. I worked in communications and whatever else needed to be done. I had the opportunity to join the grants selection committee twice, implement social media strategy, speak about the Mary’s Pence Grants program at events and conferences and work closely with ESPERA staff to create a written history of the ESPERA community lending pool program. All of this has allowed me to hone my writing skills and passion for both social justice and accompanying women.

Mary’s Pence taught me a great deal about international development. There is a right way to give and to work in solidarity with “the poor and vulnerable” as Catholic Social Teaching says. Mary’s Pence was founded to provide women greater access to resources—that is to say, to put money in the hands of women who have projects that are creating lasting good in the world—and that’s exactly what Mary’s Pence is doing today, and what drew me to this community.

When I started this year in the St. Joseph Worker Program, I didn’t define community in any particular way. I thought of myself as highly independent, the kind of person who leaves her home state to go to college and travels internationally on her own. I still am that person, and I still value my independence, but after nearly a year of living with four other women and sharing meals, chores, dreams, ideas, fears, hopes, prayers and the ins and outs of our days working at social justice placements like Mary’s Pence, I now value community very highly, and consider myself part of many communities, including my university and church communities, my family and friends, and the national and international Mary’s Pence community. Relationships with the women of Mary’s Pence staff, board members, ESPERA women, grantees, donors I’ve met, have all strengthened my place in this community.

Grants committee, grants calls, grants articles where I got to interview grantees. ESPERA History, working with Gilda and Gaby, learning about the women’s businesses and way of life and challenges and triumphs and community. Learning so much. Writing about it.

I was initially drawn to Mary’s Pence because we do social justice at home and abroad—right under our noses and far away where our actions affect the most vulnerable. There were also spiritual and very feminist components that drew me in, and continued to engage me in the work throughout the year. I’m proud to have been a part of the almost 30-year history of Mary’s Pence.

As I turn to go, I am struck by the enduring compassion and fiery passion everyone who’s involved in Mary’s Pence holds for the work and the women, from members of Concerta to Gaby and Gilda, to former board members Judy and Pat, to current board members, to past staff members, to Katherine and Grace and Nadine in the office, interns and volunteers, and the donors we meet at conferences and who call or send us note, and remind us how engaged they are with the work all of us through Mary’s Pence. Communities of women in working solidarity with one another, this is Mary’s Pence, and this is bigger than any one of us. That’s what I’ve been a part of this year, and that’s why I’ll continue to support Mary’s Pence as I move on from my year as a St. Joseph Worker.

Taylor Harwood was a 2015-2016 St. Joseph Worker for Mary’s Pence.


Posted in Reflections, Spiritual, Theological, and Otherwise | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Meet Mary’s Pence: Maggie

Good morning Mary’s Pence supporters, readers, and grantees!

Meet Maggie

Maggie and her godson, Seth, on the St. Kate’s St. Paul campus.

My name is Maggie Singerhouse, and I have recently started my position as the Development and Communications Intern at Mary’s Pence. My work this summer is supported by the Career Ready Internship Program through the Center for Community Work and Learning (CWL) at St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s). This program allows junior and senior students to have internships at non-profit organizations, such as Mary’s Pence.

Over this summer, I will be working with a variety social media platforms, learning about grant writing and editing, and writing articles about Mary’s Pence grantees. When I was initially applying for internships, Mary’s Pence message of women empowerment truly resonated with me, as I hope to teach at a women’s university one day. Furthermore, I was inspired by the inclusion of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching in our work to advocate for women in Northern and Central America. These principles have been enforced throughout my college education and are considered the core of the St. Kate’s social justice initiative. While I have always found that many of these principles intertwine, one has stood out to me as the most paramount: the principle of solidarity.

Meet Maggie Herb

Maggie posing with the Herb Brooks sculpture at the River Center in downtown St. Paul, MN.

Solidarity promotes the recognition of ourselves and others as significant individuals who are part of the human family. This principle disapproves of violence against others and instead stands for peace and the common good. It is a principle that I actively attempt to engage in my daily life. In my first few days as an intern at Mary’s Pence, I’ve witnessed the importance of this principle in our work. Whether we are publicly establishing solidarity with women across the Americas through social media outreach, working to help women advocate for themselves or encouraging each other to address social justice issues effectively, solidarity is a consistent theme.

In the autumn, I will be returning to school for my final year at St. Kate’s where I hold several roles: Editor-in-Chief of The Wheel newspaper, Senior Representative for the St. Kate’s Senate, neuroscience/biology research assistant, and Student Coordinator for the Assistantship Mentoring Program through CWL. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, going for runs, and exploring the Twin Cities. I will be graduating in May 2017 with a baccalaureate in neuroscience. After I graduate, I hope to attend graduate school and eventually receive a Ph.D. in neuroscience. My long-term goals are to perform neuroscience research on Alzheimer’s disease and cognition, publish articles in scientific journals, and teach neuroscience or biology courses at a women’s university.

I’m really looking forward to working with such an inspiring group of hard-working women this summer. This journey will allow me to learn more about writing and communications, social justice, and women’s advocacy/empowerment in ways that will be applicable to my future, while also making an important difference in the lives of women.

Posted in News and Events | 1 Comment