Catholic sisters at the UN: Bringing the moral voice to the debate

Franciscan Missionary of Mary Sr. Odile Coirier outside of the United Nations in New York City (Kelly Litt)

It took a radical notion about serving the marginalized to encourage Sr. Eileen Reilly to accept a job at the United Nations.

The position had been suggested to Reilly multiple times, all of which she graciously declined. When her general superior gave a talk on radical availability, being open to God's call and the working for the needs of all, Reilly said, "It just went right to my soul. ... How can I continue to say no when she's challenging us all ... to be radically available to the needs?"

The United Nations was founded in 1945 on the pillars of peace and security, human rights and development. Today, those pillars still guide the work. Yet as an intergovernmental system of 193 member states, the United Nations is only as strong as its weakest members and only as strong as each member government allows it to be. While the bureaucracy and power plays are frustrating and discouraging, the presence of nongovernmental organizations, many of which are operated by religious communities, helps push the focus of debate to people and the planet rather than power, money and self-interest.

Reilly has worked as the School Sisters of Notre Dame's representative at the United Nations for five years. She is just one of the impressive people I have met here during my year of service as a Dominican volunteer working with the Dominican Leadership Conference. Sitting on committees that focus on women's and girls' issues, migration, human trafficking and on peace, security and disarmament, I have had the privilege to work with numerous passionate representatives, many of whom are women religious.

Read the full story at Global Sisters Report.

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