By Elizabeth Lowe
A recent trip to the United Nations Headquarters in New York altered Raven Proctor’s life.
“There were so many countries I had never heard of, people with faces I had never seen before,” said Proctor, 22, a senior at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore. “It was life-changing, mostly because I now have a face to go with these remote countries. I know their names and I can picture their faces.
“I’m not fighting for this imaginary little girl, I know who she is.”
Proctor was one of 10 students and three staff members from Notre Dame of Maryland University who spent a week at the U.N. earlier this month.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame, who established the university as the first Catholic four-year college for women in the United States, are registered as a non-governmental organization with the U.N.’s Department of Public Information.
This was the third time in five years Notre Dame students visited the U.N.
As part of the School Sisters delegation to the 57th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, March 4-15, Notre Dame students sat in on workshops where they heard testimony and research from women from across the globe.
On the floor of the U.N., they listened to delegates from U.N. member countries discuss this year’s theme: “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”
Topics included human trafficking, stoning, forced and early marriage, and mothers who kill their female newborns because of their gender.
School Sister of Notre Dame Sharon Kanis, a religious studies professor and coordinator of the justice and peace program at Notre Dame, said the trip “helps to put our own experiences into a global setting. We learn what is happening in the world, and for some students, it is new information.”
She continued, “The students aren’t just being given the horror stories. We’re trying to teach them how to do the analysis. Why are these things happening? What’s causing people or countries to think these ways? We move from the analysis, to reflecting on it, to what actions you can do.”
The School Sisters work to transform the world through education, part of a charism which resonates with Proctor, other Notre Dame students and generations of alumnae.
“I’m going to rely on the concept of physical experience needed to supplement education,” Proctor said. “I don’t think anyone can go on this trip and interact with these people and come back and not feel like they’re someone new.”
Machan Bowman, 24, a junior at Notre Dame, went to learn about “speaking up for those who don’t have the power to speak up for themselves. I wanted to see how I could use that information in my life here, locally, to help women who may be abused.”
The group lodged at Villa Notre Dame, a convent in Wilton, Conn.
“All the words of encouragement … it was so empowering for all of us,” said Proctor, referencing conversations with the School Sisters. “We were all motivated to never be overpowered.”
This spring, students plan to share their experiences with the university community and School Sisters of Notre Dame at Villa Assumpta in Baltimore.
Copyright (c) March 27, 2013 CatholicReview.org