February 21, 2018, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico – The women of Centro Santa Catalina, a faith-community of families struggling together amid the challenges of poverty – have much to be grateful this year as they mark 20 years of existence and growth.
Founded by local community members and Adrian Dominican Sisters Donna Kustuch, OP, and Eleanor Stech, OP, Centro Santa Catalina now stands on what had been the city garbage dump. Today, the faith community sees to the education of children, the faith formation of women, and the daily needs of families. Programs include a preschool and school; a sewing co-op that provides a livelihood for 19 women and their families; the Homework Help program, which serves 150 children per week; and an after-school tutoring program, which benefits more than 200 children and six adults per week.
In a reflection translated into English, the women involved in the Centro Santa Catalina community described their recent celebration. “We started with a procession, symbolizing that we are pilgrims, then we remembered the path traveled during these 20 years of history, contemplating the most important events.” They expressed gratitude for Sisters Donna and Eleanor, as well as for Sister Maureen Gallagher, OP, who has been walking with the women at the co-op and marketing their products in the United States. For more information about their products, click here.
In their reflection, the women noted the support network they have formed through the Center as they move the cooperative and the center forward. “The most important thing is that the community is strengthened by signs of sisterhood – redemption and survival – and is motivated to continue working for itself.”
Through the years, the Center has helped numerous women and their families to become self-sufficient, Sister Maureen explained. With the help of grants and donations, the Center has sent women to school, to finish their high school degree or to earn a degree from the university. Other women are being paid to attend a certification program for teachers’ assistants. The center also provides jobs and benefits for the local women who work in the Afterschool Tutoring Program.
“The Center has been funded mostly by the Adrian Dominican Congregation and grants from American groups or foundations,” Sister Maureen said. “We also have fundraisers and faithful monthly donors from around the United States.” She added that the Center is applying for a foundation status in Mexico to enable them to apply for funds in Mexico.
“A thousand thanks to all the people who support us so that the Center remains possible,” the women of Centro Santa Catalina wrote.
Feature photo (top): Rosa Elida, Director of Centro Santa Catalina, reads a prayer of thanks during the anniversary prayer service.
Left: The late Sisters Donna Kustusch, OP, shown in the photo shown above, and Eleanor Stech, OP, co-founders of Centro Santa Catalina, were honored during the anniversary celebration. Right: Prayer service participants stand around a timeline depicting the journey that they made in the past 20 years through Centro Santa Catalina.