International Women of Courage Award 2021: Sr Patricia Murray’s words

International Women of Courage Award 2021: Sr Patricia Murray’s words

It is with great pleasure that I join the Patrick Connell the Chargee D’ Affairs at the US Embassy to the Holy See at this Virtual Party Watch on the Occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the International Women of Courage Award.  I want to begin by sending good wishes to all the women who are following this live event. In your name I congratulate the 14 women who are being honored today from different parts of the world. We are particularly pleased here at the International Union of Superiors General to congratulate Sr. Alicia Vacas Moro who was nominated by the US Embassy to the Holy See.

During these past years through this Award Ceremony the US Embassy has helped to highlight the life and ministry of several women religious who have all served their people in very difficult and demanding contexts. These Sisters highlight the life commitment of thousands of other Catholic Sisters who have often left their own countries to meet the needs of those who are on the margins of life, to work for peace and reconciliation and to collaborate with many others to build bridges of profound respect and understanding so that life may flourish for each person and for all.

Sr. Alicia Vacas Moro, is another witness of that same generosity and lifelong commitment to those in need.  As a member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters and a registered nurse Sr. Alicia has worked in Egypt and Israel. Present at various stages among impoverished communities and among migrants and asylum seekers, particularly concerned for women and children, Sr. Alicia has worked to establish educational and other opportunities that empower people to live a more dignified life. These are the concrete steps that she has taken to help build a more just a peaceful society where the needs of the most vulnerable are not forgotten.  We know that the pandemic has increased the vulnerability countless women across the world. However women everywhere have shown great resilience in balancing work and family life while coping with the threat of infection. Let us remember today that women are leading the health response during this global pandemic s 70% of the social and health care workforce are women.

Sr. Alicia’s award today is particularly important as Pope Francis’ journey to Iraq concludes. He appeals to all of us to commit ourselves to fulfilling God’s dream that the human family may become hospitable and welcoming to all God’s children. He encourages us praying “that looking up to the same heaven, the human family will journey in peace on the same earth.” From experience we know that women are outstanding peace builders. One recent United Nations Report proclaimed that “From rubble, they rebuild. With singed scraps, they weave together the new fabric of a community, a country, and set the wounds of conflict on the long journey towards healing. This is the transformational work of women peacebuilders, leaders who work tirelessly to broker and keep peace, and rebuild their societies.”[1]

Now more than ever the voices and the actions of women need to be raised and listened to. Too often, media narratives portray women as vulnerable victims, failing to acknowledge their crucial work in bridging deep divides and mending their communities. In raising up Sr. Alicia Vacas Moro and other women, the International Women of Courage Award provides space for the voices of women, the voices of Catholic Sisters to be heard.

From many different parts of the world, alongside their suffering sisters and brothers, they advocate on behalf of those forgotten and marginalized. The writer Erin Morgenstern reminds us “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”[2] And so as we honor the recipients of this years’ International Women of Courage Award let us listen to their experiences, their stories and who knows what we might do because of their words, because of the witness of their lives.

Thank you very much.

©Sr. Pat Murray ibvm

[1] The power of women peacebuilders, UN Women, October 29, 2019.


[2] Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus.

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