Category Archives: 2017 Lenten Gift

Our Collaborative Lenten Gift Special Collection – April 1-2

Bakhita_cropThis is the weekend to share in the extraordinary ministry of Bakhita House through our Lenten Gift! Once again, this is our opportunity, as individuals and as a community, to respond to the need before us and help ease the suffering of human trafficking. Over the years, we have tried to direct our Lenten Gift to an immediate, urgent situation, and this is what exists now at Bakhita House.

At Masses this Weekend: Donations can be made during the special second collection at all Masses at St. John and St. Paul this weekend. Please make checks payable to your parish (“St. John Parish” or “St. Paul Parish”), noting “Lenten Gift 2017” in the memo; we will total funds received from all sources and present one check to Bakhita House.

By Mail or at the Office: Donations may also be mailed to the Collaborative Business Office (39 Washington St. Wellesley, MA 02481) or dropped at either parish office during business hours.

Online: You can make a secure, online donation using ParishPay. (Anyone can make a secure, one-time donation with a credit card. No need to set up an account – just click Start Giving!)

Week 4 – How Can We Help?

Over the past three weeks, we have begun to learn about the tragedy of human trafficking and the healing work of The Bakhita House.  If you have found yourself thinking “I had no idea” while reading these stories over the past few weeks, you are not alone. There is very little awareness among most people in this country that human trafficking even exists, let alone in the United States; when it is recognized, it is usually thought of as something that happens in other places, to other people who are very different from us.  It is startling to learn that the 41 women served by The Bakhita House since it opened in 2011 were rescued from trafficking situations here in the Boston area, and that while some were brought here from other countries, the majority were born in the U.S.  So, now that we know, how can we help?

sisterThe current staff of The Bakhita House includes five religious sisters from three different religious orders, who work in pairs to be able to staff the house 24-7. The staff coordinates a team of over 30 volunteers from a variety of religious congregations as well as lay volunteers, who are critical to the mission of The Bakhita House. Volunteers provide a range of services to guests, including transportation, on-site life skills and social skills training, and tutoring. Volunteers also help engage in advocacy efforts and in fundraising. Volunteers receive training and are encouraged to be non-judgmental in their interactions with guests, providing an additional layer of care, support, and community at Bakhita House.  If you might be interested in helping as a volunteer or advocate, please visit the website for more details and contact information:

Financial donations enable The Bakhita House to provide emotional support, food, shelter, and clothing, as well as an environment that assists guests to rebuild their lives, and help as they transition to a new and stable life beyond the shelter. Next weekend, April 1-2, we will take up a collaborative-wide special second collection for our Lenten Gift, which will allow each of us to share in easing the suffering, and to answer Lent’s clarion call to love extravagantly.

For more information, please visit our Lenten Gift page.

Week Three – Voices from Bakhita House

This week we have ‘witness statements’; the first one is from a parishioner who is a physician who works at Massachusetts General Hospital, and volunteers at the MGH/Freedom Clinic one day/week. The MGH Freedom Clinic was launched in April, 2015 to care for victims and survivors of human trafficking in the Boston area. The Clinic offers free primary and preventative care for victims and survivors of human trafficking ages 13 years and older.

“I have been privileged to meet the residents of Bakhita house as patients. Through my work as a primary care physician at the MGH Freedom clinic I see many young women who have found refuge at Bakhita house. Their feelings are a mix of fear and relief. For some they have come straight off the streets – extracted from the hands of an abusing trafficker. For others – they have been saved from servitude in a job they were never paid for and worked 7 days a week. All are damaged. They have a deep mistrust in the health system because often times they may have been seen by a nurse or doctor who failed to see the signs that they were victimized.”

“One young woman had come to the US to work as a nanny. She had her passport taken away as soon as she arrived and the host family neglected to pay her, for months. She worked 14 hour days and was given no time off. She had hoped to make some money to send home to her family in the Philippines, but was unable to even communicate with them as her phone was taken away too. Thanks to her own savvy – this young woman called the Human Trafficking hotline (1-888-373-7888) and was freed. She stayed at Bakhita House where the nuns provided a loving home while she healed from her ordeal. She is now living in her own apartment, working a paying job, and sending money home to her family.”

“Another young woman, a New England native, was part of a forced prostitution ring. She was freed thanks to local law enforcement cracking the case and was brought to Bakhita House. She is still fragile. Her past life included opioid addiction and she is now trying to leave that behind. I work with wonderful counselors who also help these women recover from their trauma. The journey to recovery is long.”

“I treat sore throats and asthma flares, nightmares and addiction, and have learned volumes about the vulnerabilities and needs of this special population, all from the survivors themselves. I am continually impressed by their grace and strength. For many, faith plays a role in the ongoing hope. As one survivor writes: ‘To Love is to Believe. May we so love as to believe!'”

The second statement is from a guest at the Bakhita House. It attests to the unique ambiance of the house, created by the wonderful sisters who provide 24/7 coverage at the house, every day of the year.

“The Bakhita safe house is a one of a kind, as are the women who run it. They can be tough as nails and yet offer a soft place to land. They are well prepared for the challenge of working with girls like us: the ups and the downs that we go through are challenging! Some days we can be angry and defensive and some days we just need a shoulder to cry on; some days we want to run away or give up. When I moved in, they made me realize I was now a part of something – I became like family to them. When I need something they are a phone call away.”

“I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today without them. When you come out of a situation like being trafficked, you are skeptical of everyone, but you can count on the women who staff Bakhita House. And anyone they trust I trust! The volunteers they select are the cream of the crop. If you let them, they’ll be with you every step of the way no matter how scary it can be. This isn’t a shelter this is a family & I hope it never dies.”  Rhonda (not actual name)


Week Two – What Is The Bakhita House?

In 2001, when 800 leaders of congregations of Catholic sisters from 77 different countries gathered in Rome, the Sisters from Asia and Africa raised awareness about the phenomenon of human trafficking and the suffering of its victims. In 2007, the Boston unit of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) established an Anti-Trafficking Coalition. A year later, Boston (LCWR) established a task force and met with law enforcement and social agency personnel to learn how to help trafficked women. The Sisters learned that the greatest need for these women was a safe house. In October, 2011 Bakhita House (BH) opened. At the time it was the first and only safe house in New England for victims of human trafficking. It is supported and funded by 21 religious congregations including two congregations long associated with St. Paul’s and St. John’s: the Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Notre Dame.

sisterThe Bakhita Community, staffed by a core community of live-in Catholic Sisters and several volunteers, provides emotional support, clothing, food and shelter and services for victims of both domestic and international trafficking. The community’s goal is straightforward: namely, to create a home for these women with unconditional love. Remember, the victims of trafficking have been deeply traumatized and have absolutely no support system so the Sisters, in effect, become family to these young women. Ultimately the Bahkita Community creates an environment that assists guests to rebuild their lives; in effect to transition ‘up and out’.

roomIt starts with providing comfortable private rooms and convenient accommodations. The community has protocols and rules that focus on safety and confidentiality, all in a warm and caring environment. The community emphasizes and validates the guests’ strengths, adaptations and resilience. BH has adopted an empowerment model that enables guests to experience a renewed sense of control in their lives. Working with a case manager, each guest creates her own goals.

During its six years of operation, BH has cared for 41 young women; most of whom have been sexually exploited. The House can accommodate up to 3 guests at a time and the length of stay varies and can extend for up to 1 year. An important part of the stay is to integrate the women back into society and toward this end the Sisters help the women find jobs. BH is conveniently located near the T and Bus Lines for easy access to job opportunities. The Sisters are also responsible for connecting the women to critical and comprehensive services from government and social service organizations. In addition to paying rent for BH and purchasing/preparing meals for the House, the Sisters provide cell phones, monthly bus and T passes and other sundry expenses for the women.

When each guest is ready, the Sisters help them transition back into an independent life. To help ease the financial burdens of starting life anew, the Sisters provide the first and last month rents for each guest, as well as locating donated furniture and other needs for apartment living. Not surprisingly, the Sisters stay in touch with the guests once they are living independently and continue to provide emotional and financial support to the best of their ability.

Please visit our 2017 Collaborative Lenten Gift page for more information.

To learn more about Bakhita House, please visit their website:

Week One – What is Human Trafficking?

SlaveryHuman trafficking, the modern day practice of slavery, can be described most simply as “activities involved when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service”. The term trafficking in persons can be misleading because the emphasis is on the transaction aspect, but the crime is enslavement and exploitation of people, day after day for months or even years. Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control other people for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex or forcing them to provide labor services against their will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience – the loss of freedom.

According to the United Nations’ ‘Global Report on Trafficking in Persons’ (2016), the victims of trafficking include: women (51%), girls (20%), boys (8%) and men (21%). Many people associate trafficking with transnational operations, but the fact is that most exploitation takes place close to home. In most cases, the victims and the traffickers often have the same background, and may even be related.

The Catholic Church has long spoken out against human trafficking. In July 2016, Pope Francis said: “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.” He went on to say that those who suffer from forms of modern slavery are “the least among us” and that all people are called to renew their commitment to improving the human condition.

josephineBakhita House is named after St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita who was born in 1869 in the Darfur region of the Sudan. In 1877, when she was eight years old, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and spent the next 12 years enslaved. Eventually she was brought to Italy – and her freedom – through the help of the Canossian Daughters of Charity. She took her final vows in 1896 and for the next 42 years dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She died on February 8, 1947.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII. On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable. Sadly, the news of her beatification in 1992 was censored in Sudan. But just nine months later, Pope John Paul II visited Sudan and honored her publicly. He canonized her on October 1, 2000.

The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has organized an anti trafficking program and considers trafficking an assault on the dignity of every person. USCCB has designated February 8th as an annual Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking. February 8th is the Feast Day of St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita.