On this Word Day of Prayer for Peace, may that Spirit of Peace accompany us and lead us to work for justice, which is at the root of peace.
Solemnity of Mary
As part of the Octave of the Nativity, which begins on Christmas, the Church honors Mary as the Mother of God. While saluting the mother of Jesus, we do not forget that she is also our mother. As we begin a new year, we honor Mary by keeping our hearts open to the divine.
Sadie Alexander (b. January 2, 1898; d. November 1, 1989)
In 1921, Alexander received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania marking her among one of the first African American women to earn a Ph.D.. After getting married, she returned to school for her law degree. In 1927 she became the first African American woman to practice law in Pennsylvania and to be admitted to the state bar. She was also the first woman to hold an office in the National Bar Association. She fought against discrimination in Pennsylvania's restaurants, hotels, and theaters. In 1947 she was appointed to the President's Committee on Civil Rights.
According to the Ghanaian custom known as Trokosi, young virgin girls are enslaved in religious shrines as atonement for crimes of their family members. At the age of seven, Juliana Dogbadzi was sent to work as a slave in one such shrine. There she was starved and raped and ultimately gave birth to two children. At 23 years old she escaped and began working to ban the practice of Trokosi. Because of her efforts, Trokosi is now banned in Ghana and she is working to have the practice recognized and then banned in other countries.
Elizabeth Ann Seton (b. August 28, 1774; d. January 4, 1821)
Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in New York City and married William Magee Seton in 1794. She was widowed in 1803 with five children and thus began her conversion to Catholicism. In 1809 she helped found the first group of women religious in the United States, the Community of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Later, she also founded a school for poor children, which served as the beginning of the Catholic parochial school system in the United States. In 1893, she was elected Superior of the Sisters of Charity, the first American religious society. In 1975 she was canonized as the first American-born person to be elevated to sainthood.
Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron
Miriam was the older sister of Moses and Aaron who became known as ‘the Prophetess.’ She watched over Moses in the bushes and brought her mother to act as a nurse when he was rescued. When she criticized Moses for his interracial marriage, her punishment was leprosy. After she begged Moses’ forgiveness, she was cured. Miriam was highly revered among her contemporaries and was sought out for her direction and advice.
Charlotte Ray (b. January 13, 1850; d. January 4, 1911)
Charlotte Ray, daughter of an abolitionist, was the first African American woman to become a lawyer in the United States. She received her law degree from Howard University in 1872. Charlotte was also the first woman to be admitted to the District of Columbia’s bar. Due to racism, Charlotte was unable to have an active practice. Instead, she taught public school and devoted her time to organizations working to advance the status of African Americans and women. She was a strong advocate of women’s suffrage and was an inspiration for many future female lawyers.
Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes (b. January 7, 1844; d. April 16, 1879)
Bernadette Soubirous, a French peasant girl, is believed to have been granted 18 visions of the Blessed Virgin. For example, on February 11, 1858 Bernadette saw the figure of a young girl at the grotto of Massabielle, in Lourdes. Four years later, the Church acknowledged that the figure in the apparitions was “The Most Holy Virgin.” In one of the later appearances, the apparition told Bernadette to dig for water with her hands. The spring she uncovered still flows at a rate of 27,000 gallons a day. People travel from all over the world to bathe in the spring and pray for healing. In 1866, Bernadette entered a convent where she lived simply until she died at age 35. She was canonized in 1933.
Fannie Bullock Workman (b. January 8, 1859; d. January 22, 1925)
Fannie Bullock Workman traveled the world with her husband as a pioneer, geographer, travel-writer, cartographer, and adventurer. Their mapmaking and detailed scientific observations in the Himalayas remain important resources. She set many women’s altitude records, and at age 53 was still climbing to heights of 20,000 feet. Fannie was also a champion for women’s rights, especially suffrage. On one expedition in the Himalayas, she carried a banner proclaiming “Votes for Women.”
Christine Hakim (b. December 25, 1957)
Christine Hakim is one of Indonesia's best known and beloved actresses. She worked in both film and TV and chose to portray, among other roles, the mother of street children and an Acehnese rebel. She is also known for her activism work. She created the Christine Hakim Foundation which promotes public education about autism. The foundation also supplies milk for undernourished children, helps to rebuild schools, and provides grants to teachers.
Gabriela Mistral (b. April 7, 1889; d. January 10, 1957)
Born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga to a dilettante poet in Chile in 1945, Mistral eventually became the first Latin America writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature. She also wrote poetry about nature and the poor, as well as being a teacher. Fear that her work officers would not like her poems drove her to write under a pen name, which she chose for her two favorite poets, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Frederic Mistral. Gabriela also represents the angel Gabriel, the bearer of good news, and Mistral is the Spanish word for wind.
In addition to being a writer and poet, Gabriela played an important role in the educational systems of both Chile and Mexico. She also was the Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon. Later, she taught Spanish Literature at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and the University of Puerto Rico. She never married but adopted a child who later died. She later joined the lay order of Franciscans. Her tomb is inscribed with her own words, “What the soul is to the body, so is the artist to his people.”
Baptism of the Lord
Remember all women brought out of Africa into slavery and baptized against their will.
Sister Dianna Ortiz, OSU (b. 1958)
On November 2, 1989, while serving as a missionary in Antigua, Guatemala, Sister Dianna was kidnapped by the Guatemalan military. For 24 hours she was tortured and raped. Since then she has spoken about her ordeal and attempted to raise concern about the plight of victims of abduction and torture. In 1998, she founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC), which provides support to survivors, especially those in the United States.
Anne Reynolds (b. January 13, 1934; d. March 9, 2004)
Reynolds raised eight children with her husband Ed. She became active in helping Catholic parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children by encouraging them to give their children unconditional love. Anne helped create conferences to educate youth, professionals, and the public, and worked with the Catholic Parents Network to assist parents. She wrote letters to publications and to pastors, assisted PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and was always available to speak with individuals. She cherished the clients she helped with Volunteer Counseling Service.
This quietly strong woman was featured in the National Catholic Reporter when she and Ed were forced to resign as Eucharistic Ministers because of a letter to the local press supporting Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent’s ministry to gays and lesbians. Despite this deep hurt, she continued to be a woman who hoped for change in the Church.
Theresa Maxis Duchemin (unknown birth date; d. January 14, 1892)
Born Almaide Maxis Duchemin to Haitian parents, Theresa grew up in Baltimore as a boarder in a school run by Elizabeth Lange. In 1828, Theresa and Elizabeth founded the first order of Black sisters in the world, the Oblates of Providence. During this time, Theresa met Fr. Louis Florent Gillet, a Redemptorist who was seeking to establish a congregation in Monroe, Michigan to teach French immigrants. In 1845 she left the Oblates and went to Monroe to establish the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In 1855 Fr. Gillet left Monroe and Theresa lost the supportive presence of the Redemptorists. Finding few opportunities to expand the congregation in Michigan, she established a mission in St. Joseph, Pennsylvania. She was blocked by her bishop from opening another mission in Reading, PA. After much protesting, the congregation was ultimately split into two separate foundations. Theresa exiled herself and lived among the Grey Nuns of Ottawa for most of her life. She was able to return to the Pennsylvania motherhouse for the last few years of her life.
Coretta Scott King (b. April 27, 1927)
Born in Alabama during the Depression, Coretta Scott was forced to pick cotton to help her family financially, but resolved early to seek equality and to struggle for an education. In 1945 she attended Antioch College in Ohio on a scholarship studying education and music. She chose to concentrate on musical training upon graduation and continued her studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. There she met the young minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., whom she married. They moved to Montgomery, Alabama.
King raised four children before being thrust into the limelight when her husband was assassinated. Her speech on Solidarity Day in 1968 is often viewed as an example of her emergence from the shadow of her husband’s memory. In it, she implored American women to “unite and form a solid block of woman power.” She remains a spokesperson on behalf of black causes and non-violence. She devotes much of her time to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Change in Atlanta.
Kathy Kelly (b. December 10, 1952)
Kathy Kelly is an author, pacifist, and peace activist in the US and abroad. In 1996 Kathy Kelly helped found Voices in the Wilderness to lead a campaign against the sanctions in Iraq. Currently she is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She has been arrested several times both at home and abroad, and has spent time in jail for her beliefs.
Asma Jahangir (b. January 27, 1952)
Since earning her law degree in 1978, Jahangir has been crusading for human rights in Pakistan as a leading lawyer and advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Currently, she is the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. Over the years she has represented thousands of seemingly hopeless cases for persecuted religious minorities, women, and children. She also helped to form the first law firm for women in Pakistan and the Women's Active Forum, which protests the mistreatment of women and minorities in Pakistan.
From August 2004-July 2010, she was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Now she is the chair person of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent body of lawyers and activists.
Mourning Dove (b. 1888; d. August 8, 1936)
Mourning Dove is the literary name chosen by Christine Quintasket who was born in Colville Confederate Tribes in 1888. Mourning Dove earned her living most of her adult life as a migrant worker, picking fruits and vegetables by day and writing in her camp tent at night. However she is known for being an ethnographer, orator, pamphleteer, teacher, and novelist. She believed that her description and analysis of Native American ways would ensure better treatment for her people. She is credited with authoring one of the earliest novels to be published by a Native American woman, Cogewea, the Halfblood, in 1927. Mourning Dove was also a public speaker on the welfare of Native American people in her region and was one of the first women elected to her tribal council. She died after a short life of hard work and illness at 48.
Martha Cotera (b. January 17, 1938)
A feminist, librarian, and civil rights worker, Martha Cotera has made an enormous impact on the advancement of Mexican-American women. Following the first national Mexican-American feminist conference in 1970, Martha and her coworker Eve Chapa founded the Chicana Research and Learning Center in Austin, Texas. In addition to the co-founding of such an influential organization, Martha has also distinguished herself as a feminist author through the publication of her book Profile of the Mexican American Woman.
After becoming affiliated with the Raza Unida party, Martha served as a keynote speaker in its statewide conference in Austin, and actively supported public forums for its political candidates. Martha has provided testimony on women’s issues and affirmative action, and has persuaded city officials to increase representation of Mexican Americans on local boards and commissions.
Pray for victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. In fact, there are more cases of domestic violence than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Studies suggest that more than 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Studies also suggest that men who witness domestic abuse as children are twice as likely to abuse their own families.
Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake (b. January 21, 1840; d. January 7, 1912)
Born the daughter of an ecclesiastical lawyer, at the age of 25 Jex-Blake moved to the United States to study medicine. Longing to qualify herself as a doctor in England, she attended medical school in Edinburgh. While there, she and other hopeful female doctors were prevented from attending lectures by objecting men and refused further admittance to the school. Because of this, she was unable to complete her courses and receive her degree.
She began a lawsuit. First she and the other female students were given permission to continue their education, and later in the higher courts it was declared that the matriculation of women was an illegal act in Britain. In 1874 she set up the London School of Medicine for Women and went on to receive her medical degree from the University of Bern, in Switzerland.
She continued to fight for the ability to become certified as a doctor in the United Kingdom, and for the right of women to study medicine, drafting bills and frequently contacting members of Parliament. Finally in 1876 the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons allowed women to attend classes and earn degrees, and all medical schools were forced to open their doors to women.
Born with the name Hadassah, she is the eponymous heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther. According to the Bible, Esther was a Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus. While Ahasuerus was traditionally identified with Xerxes I during the time of the Achaemenid empire, many historians now believe that Esther was the queen of Persia under a later king of Persia, during the time of the Sassanid empire. Her story is the basis for the celebration of Purim in Jewish tradition.
Mary Ward (b. January 23, 1585; d. January 30, 1645)
Born in Yorkshire, England, Mary Ward entered the convent of the Poor Clares but felt called to active, rather than contemplative life. In 1609, she founded a Catholic society for women, modeled on the Society of Jesus, called the Institute of Mary. The idea of uncloistered nuns was innovative for the times and was met with much resistance. After a time of suppression under Pope Urban VIII, her institute was fully restored in 1877 and became the model for the modern Catholic Women’s Institute.
Maria Tallchief (b. January 24, 1925)
Maria was born in Fairfax, Oklahoma to a Scottish-Irish mother and an Osage father. At four years of age, she began to take dancing and piano lessons and excelled in both. Because of her talent, she went to New York to become a ballerina after graduating from high school. There she was hired by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo where she worked with George Balanchine, a famous Russian choreographer. After performing in a version of Stravinsky’s Firebird, Maria became the prima ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre at the age of 35. After retiring in 1965, she went on to be artistic director for the Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet. Later she founded the Chicago City Ballet and was its artistic director from 1981-1987.
Sandra Ware (b. April 27, 1954; d. January 25, 1997)
Sandra Ware founded Mary’s Pence grantee Let’s Start in St. Louis, which offers assistance to women after they are released from prison. A native of St. Louis, she grew up in Pruitt-Igo, the notorious public housing high rise now razed by the government that built it. Sandra spent 17 years in and out of the Missouri prison system. Poorly educated but intelligent and insightful, she was able to turn her life around with the help of Jackie Tobin, SSND and the other women of Let’s Start and her husband Keith and their two small children, Najwa and Amir.
Against all odds, Sandra made a difference. Her life and hard-won wisdom profoundly affected the others involved in Let’s Start. Role model, friend, inspiration, confidant, searcher of truth, challenger, sister—Sandra was all of these to the women who meet every Tuesday night at St. Vincent’s Parish Center to support one another in their journey toward stability. Sandra knew she had been given a second chance at life after all her hard years of drugs and prisons. She used that gift to change her life and the life of others by working for alternative sentences for non-violent offenders. But cancer gave Sandra no third chance. Her 43 years were much too short for her husband, her children and for the women of Let’s Start.
(Submitted by Sr. Regina Siegfried, a volunteer at Let’s Start) 26
Angela Davis (b. January 26, 1944)
Angela Davis was an African-American political activist born in Birmingham, Alabama. She studied at home and abroad before becoming a doctoral candidate at the University of California. But because of her membership in the Communist party and her advocacy of racial black causes, she was eventually denied reappointment in 1970. During the 1960s and 70s, during which she spoke out for the cause of black prisoners, she grew close to a man named George Jackson, a revolutionary. After four people, including Jackson’s brother, were killed at a trial with a gun registered in Angela’s name, she was put on the FBI’s ten most wanted criminals list under false charges of conspiracy, murder, and kidnapping. She went into hiding and was apprehended two months later. She was released on bail and eventually acquitted in 1972. This experience moved her to form the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
In 1991, Angela became a professor in the field of the history of consciousness, and was appointed a presidential chair in 1995 at the University of California. She has written five books, including an autobiography. Today, she is known around the world for her ongoing contributions to the movements for racial equality, women’s rights, and world peace.
Angela Merici (b. March 21, 1474; d. January 27, 1540)
Orphaned with her sister at the age of 15, Angela Merici, moved to a small Italian town where her uncle lived. While there, her sister died without receiving the last sacraments. Distressed, Merici joined the Third Order of St. Francis to continue to pray for her sister’s soul. When her uncle died, she returned to her hometown and dedicated her time to teaching girls from her home, which she had converted into a school. She sought to lead young girls in a Christian life amidst a decadent society. In her early sixties, Merici founded the Ursulines, a group of women who remained in their own homes but worked for the needy and met monthly for spiritual support. Her hope was to transform society through the renewal of family life and Christian education.
Honor all women theologians. 29
Kaye Ashe (b. January 29, 1930; d. February 15, 2014)
Kaye Ashe served as the first board president of Mary’s Pence. A leader in justice and religious organizations, she challenged and encouraged those in the Catholic faith community and beyond to seek out common ground and fight against injustice. She was especially passionate about issues of sexism and racism as well as women’s involvement in the Roman Catholic Church.
She made her first religious profession as a Sinsinawa Dominican on August 5, 1950. She earned a Ph.D. in Modern European History and French at the Uniersity of Fribourg, Switzerland. She went on to teach and direct various programs at Rosary College (now Dominican University). As Prioress of her congregation from 1986 to 1994, she was a peaceful and joyful presence in the lives of all who knew her. She then taught at College of California from 1996 to 2006. In addition to teaching and ministering she published several books and lectured about societal change and women’s history, spirituality, and leadership.
Strong in her feminism and her faith, and unrelenting in her demands for justice, she serves as a role model for women of all ages and all those who fight for equality.
Ludmila Javorova (b. January 31, 1932)
Born as the fifth of ten children into a fervent Catholic family, Javorova grew up in Brno, southeast of Prague. After her first religious retreat at the age of 15, she said she felt a flame burning deep within. Her family was deeply religious and Javorova continued her devotions, but her mother refused her request to enter a convent.
By 1948, Czechoslovakia was under communist control and began a relentless brutal persecution of the Roman Catholic Church as well as all other denominations. Religious life established itself underground and Javorova continued to flourish in her spiritual life. The underground church, known as Koinotes (a Greek word for tightly-knit group of believers) operated at great risk. Javorova joined with an ordained Catholic priest, Felix Davidek, to prepare a small group for ordination as underground priests.
Davidek conducted evening seminars for future priests and many others, including some women. Every seminar began with Mass followed by an analysis of the political situation of the world wide church. Ordained as a deacon, Javorova organized many aspects of the seminars, their setup and implementation, facilitating the sessions, and taking on issues of security. In 1967 Davidek was consecrated, in secret, as a bishop. On December 28, 1970, Bishop Davidek consecrated Javorova as a Roman Catholic priest. Following the rite of ordination, Javorova celebrated her first Mass.
Her ordination split Koinotes apart. She was forced to live her life as a priest in secret. Javorova experienced intense pain and loneliness as a result of this imposed silence about her priesthood, and she knew her priestly identity must remain permanent. Javorova, who never received permission to function as a priest in public, suffered the rejection of other priests. Sometimes she concelebrated with other members of Koinotes who knew about her priesthood and supported her.
When the communist regime fell in 1989, it ended the need for underground church. The decades of war, fear, and secrecy that formed Javorova and fostered her vocation to the priesthood came to a close. Since then, Javorova has respected the right of the Vatican to refuse her faculties, but has never abandoned the reality of her ordained ministry.