from the world of CNEWA
A ‘Good Shepherd’ to Suffering Women
by Greg Kandra and Erin Edwards
This spring, the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd — the Good Shepherd Sisters — suspended its work in Ethiopia, citing dwindling vocations.
For the last 40 years, the order has worked tirelessly to help the poor in that corner of the world. A woman at the forefront of that effort has been Sister Winifred Doherty. Sister Winifred spent 16 years in the country, helping women escape prostitution and trafficking, often through education and training programs that were in part supported by CNEWA.
Since 2008, Sister Winifred has been based in New York, serving her community as an NGO representative at the United Nations.
As the congregation was preparing to leave Ethiopia, Sister Winifred sat down with ONE to talk about her life, the work of the Good Shepherd Sisters and the struggles still facing women in the Horn of Africa.
ONE: Tell us a little about your background.
Sister Winifred: I’m Irish by nationality. I was born in a small town in County Westmeath. After finishing secondary school,
I entered the Good Shepherd Sisters and lived among them until 1991, when I was invited to go to Ethiopia. From 1991 to 2007,
I had the privilege of living and working with people there. In 2007, I was in a discernment process on whether to leave the mission or continue. As it happened, I was invited to take a position in New York to represent the congregation. I arrived in January of 2008 and I’ve been here ever since.
ONE: What attracted you to this order?
Sister Winifred: During a retreat when I was in school, I actually talked with a priest about a vocation. And he said to me: “You know, it’s Good Shepherd for you.” And he actually wrote the letter. He said he knew the provincial leader at the time. When I went home and was sharing this, I discovered that I had a grand aunt and a cousin who were Good Shepherd sisters, who many years previously had entered Good Shepherd and gone on a mission — my grand aunt to Sri Lanka and my cousin to India. And here was I, without really knowing anything about them, being led to Good Shepherd! I felt if they could do it, so could I.
What attracted me is that the work of the Good Shepherd congregation is about compassion and reconciliation. It is identifying and wanting to be close to and in solidarity with people who have been excluded — especially women and girls — and the most excluded groups are people living in poverty, women who have been forced into prostitution and, today, women and girls, boys and men, who have been trafficked. So I am energized by the work that we do.
ONE: What impressed you the most about your experience in Ethiopia?
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Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Women (rights/issues) Vocations (religious) Personality profile