Filipino nuns reach out to prostitutes to turn towards God
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
8/4/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
While illegal, prostitution is prevalent in the Philippines. Red light districts are everywhere apparent in the big cities, and traveling brothels are frequently set up in rural farming areas. A local order, Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries, has recruited nuns to go into these blighted areas, not to judge, but to turn women and children away from this way of life.
Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries visit prostitutes at Filipino brothels and bars to encourage them to leave their lives of sexual slavery to find God's love.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The missionary sisters conducted its own survey regarding the causes of prostitution in Filipino and towns in 2005. The conclusion they reached was that poverty and ignorance led these women and children, both female and male, to fall prey to pimps and other sex industry operators.
According to Sister Clare Pedoche, who heads the group's community in the Diocese of Pasig, northeast of Manila says that the highest concentration of prostitution was in the nation's capital of Manila, followed closely by Cebu City, near where the U.S. bases operated.
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As part of their mission, MQHM sisters have been going out at night in red-light districts, bars, brothels and karaoke bars.
Two or three times a week, small groups gather at the Pasig center of MQHM, dressed in their mid-calf skirts and modest blouses pinned with their wooden crucifixes, and say prayers together before heading out. "We pray that the precious blood of Jesus would shield us and be our protection against risks, and guide us," Pedoche explains. Coming home from a rescue operation, the nuns and other lay partners also say cleansing prayers.
The nuns go into these bars and brothels "not to judge these women who work there, but to reach out to them and offer them a way out of prostitution should they want to get out," Pedoche says. As part of their approach, the nuns do not directly tell the women their job is bad. "We listen a lot - and hard. We offer them a shoulder to cry on . we try to make them feel God's love for all, even those who sin."
The assigned team member first asks the bar manager or owner for permission to visit with women workers. She tells bar officials her group of missionaries will give out free rosaries and scapulars to the women, along with leaflets on how to pray the rosary.
"We work differently from other non-governmental organizations reaching out to prostitutes. We don't pay the bar fine, we don't pay at the door, we wear our long skirts and blouses," Pedoche pointed out.
Arriving before the bar's peak hours, they catch the women huddled inside rooms preparing for the evening. Some bar owners or managers bring them to the VIP rooms where it is more private to talk with the women.
At the local brothels, the sisters arrive before 3 p.m. since women go on display to customers around that time and cannot be disturbed.
The group's foundress, Corazon Salazar, started the apostolate in Cebu in 1996 as a laywoman. In 2000, now retired Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, then archbishop of Cebu, formally established the Institute of Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries as a Catholic Association of the faithful. Three years later, he canonically erected it as a Public Association of the Faithful with Salazar, a professed sister by then, as founding superior. Its work has since expanded to other cities and towns, including this city of Marikina, northeast of Manila. MQHM nuns are also based in California.
In the Philippines, sisters are going around select dioceses introducing their work and inviting church members to join their efforts "because the work is too big and we are just few sisters in the whole country."
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