Teaching on the elementary level introduced Sister Mary Ellen O’Boyle to the needs of the poor, especially the struggles of young mothers. On the high school level, her goal was to prepare young women for employment that would make them highly qualified and respected administrative assistants.

Sister Mary Ellen OBoyleIn the early 1970s, Sister Mary Ellen received an invitation to begin a one-room job-training program in the Bronx. Here Sister Mary Ellen encountered women who were searching for a better way of life for themselves and their families. Attending classes daily for one term offered the skills needed to continue their journey. After a few years, this program relocated to Grace Institute in mid-Manhattan. The women enjoyed this transformation to the “big city” and wore a sense of pride when accepted into the program.

Sister Mary Ellen has long believed that the place of women in our society and our Church was an issue that needed attention.

Since 2011, Sister Mary Ellen had coordinated the Congregation’s anti-trafficking efforts. In February 2012, LifeWay Network, an anti-trafficking organization supported by over thirty-five religious congregations of women and men, opened a Safe House for women survivors of trafficking. Approximately one dozen Sisters and Associates from the Sisters of Charity of New York volunteer at the house. Through LifeWay Network, the Sisters of Charity are active members of several anti-trafficking organizations.

Through these partnerships, education about the reality of trafficking is provided and suggestions on ways to help end this modern-day slavery presented. The organizations encourage efforts to purchase Fair Trade products, which indicate that no slave labor was involved in the production process. The Sisters of Charity support legislation that ensures more significant support to trafficked persons.

Sister Mary Ellen feels privileged and blessed to collaborate with religious congregations to make a difference in the lives of trafficked persons. She says, “As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I am grateful that as a Sister of Charity, I was first able to strive for gender equality through my teaching. Now, through advocacy, I work to help eliminate modern-day slavery that victimizes girls and women. To end efforts for legal sex trade, I ask our supporters to sign the petition and share it with others.”

By Sr. Lorraine Cooper, SC