U.S. Embassy to the Holy See
October 16, 2019
Remarks by Ambassador Gingrich at the “Women on the Frontlines” Symposium.
Your Excellencies, sisters, distinguished guests, and friends, good morning and welcome to the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
This is the second time our embassy has hosted a symposium recognizing the extraordinary contributions of women religious on the frontlines.
I am especially grateful to Sister Pat Murray and all of the sisters and staff at the UISG for lending their support to this program. The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See has been a longtime friend and partner of the UISG.
I’d also like to thank Father Frank Lemoncelli from the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for joining us this morning, and for delivering our closing remarks.
We are here today to recognize and celebrate the work of women religious on the frontlines.
What do we mean when we say, “frontlines?” At our symposium in 2018, we highlighted the work of sisters in conflict zones and other dangerous places around the world – and the risks they encounter on a daily basis. We focused our attention on one of the most egregious forms of violence: the scourge of human trafficking.
But as much as human trafficking – and crimes like it – drive conflict and instability, we must ask ourselves what circumstances allowed them develop in the first place? What are the catalysts of conflict? What leads communities and countries to instability? What causes governments to fail?
This is what we’re here to explore this morning. To do so, we’ve convened a panel of women religious who work to promote and advance education, health, and development, in conflict zones and other dangerous parts of the world. We know that when these fundamental areas of life are threatened or unprotected, conflict and instability prevail.
We’re also here to emphasize a key point: Women religious are among the most effective and vital partners we have on the frontlines in fragile communities around the world.
Women religious are often the last beacons of hope for millions of people who otherwise would not have a voice. They serve the displaced and the desperate, frequently at the risk of personal harm, in places where governments have failed and humanitarian organizations struggle to operate.
Beyond the care and support women religious provide to local communities, sisters often have an unparalleled understanding of the social, economic, and political situations in their region.
Too often, the work of women religious is under appreciated or even unrecognized. It is my hope that this symposium will illustrate the remarkable contributions women religious make to advance peace and human dignity around the world.
I am honored that we are joined today by someone who fully embodies the qualities I just mentioned: Sister Orla Treacy.
Like so many religious sisters working on the frontlines, Sister Orla is a woman of immense courage.
In a country besieged by civil war and insecurity, Sister Orla serves as the head of the Loreto Rumbek Mission, overseeing a boarding school and a primary school for girls, as well as a healthcare facility for women and children.
In March of this year, in Washington D.C., she was recognized by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, as a 2019 International Woman of Courage.
Sister Orla is one of the many inspiring women religious – in this room and around the world – who work tirelessly to advance human dignity and freedom.
It has been an honor to meet and work with so many incredible sisters during my tenure as ambassador. I’m pleased that so many of you are here with us this morning. Thank you, sisters, for all that you do.
The United States Embassy to the Holy See will continue to shine a bright light on women religious and their extraordinary achievements.
Thank you and God bless.