Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Holy Names Sisters, Associates, address water rights, responsibilities

the Inland Register

(From the Jan. 15, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

After months of research and reflection, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJMs) and their lay Associates – including 75 Sisters and three dozen Associates in the Diocese of Spokane — announced a campaign of education and action in response to the economic exploitation of water.

The campaign stems from the Congregation’s recent approval of its corporate stand on water, which declares that “water is a human right and public good.”

According to UNICEF, a child dies every 20 seconds from a disease related to unclean water and inadequate sanitation.

The SNJM corporate stand affirms that water is a sacred gift that connects all life; access to clean water is a basic human right; freshwater’s value to the common good trumps its possible commercial value; and freshwater is a shared legacy, a public trust, and a collective responsibility. Sisters and Associates will encourage actions and policies that promote the corporate stand, and oppose those that don’t.

Overwhelmingly, some 1,200 Holy Names Sisters and their 600 lay Associates worldwide voted to affirm the corporate stand.

The corporate stand on water comes four years after the SNJMs approved a stand against the trafficking of human persons. “We maintain that just as women and children are not for sale, water is not for sale,” the Congregation said in a booklet that was prepared to educate Sisters and Associates about the water issue.

During the months of research and reflection that preceded the vote, Sisters and Associates compiled facts and shared stories of water as a human right and a public good.

Holy Names Sister Sue Woodruff of Portland, Ore., remembers a childhood experience that she can never duplicate today: standing along Celilo Falls on the Columbia River and watching her uncles as they fished for Chinook.

“I was there when my grandma and her daughters, including my mother, preserved the fish for the rest of the year,” she said. “It was wonderful. Mostly it was the sound of the water crashing and rushing over and through the rocks that marked a visit to the falls.”

But in 1957 the falls were submerged by the construction of The Dalles Dam.

Concerns about the precarious global water situation and the sacredness of water led Sister Sue, along with Associate Sally Duffy of Spokane and Sister Mimi Maloney of Olympia, to serve on an 11-member international committee of SNJMs who spent months researching water issues. Sister Mimi and Sally maintain the SNJMs’ online lending library, which includes water resources, at

Among the committee’s findings and observations:

• Almost 50 percent of the developing world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and more than 884 million people use unsafe sources of drinking water, according to UNICEF.
• In Haiti, Holy Names Sister Lise Brosseau, said, “We learned that a family of six consumes from 10 to 15 boquittes’of water (7-gallon containers) every day … one boquitte weighs 30 pounds.” Thousands of women and their children hand-carry the buckets of water back home from water supplies that might be more than a mile away. “Even the smallest children of 5 or 6 carry their 1-gallon bucket of water on their heads while accompanying a big sister or a mother in this daily chore,” she said.
• Water has become the “blue gold” of the 21st century and is touted by the World Bank as a potential trillion-dollar industry, says Maude Barlow, who is a senior advisor on water issues for the United Nations and the national chairperson of The Council of Canadians. Barlow’s research has documented the corporate abuse of aquifers in Bolivia, which has a direct impact on the rural poor.
• Water-related education projects involving SNJMs already are taking place in board rooms and at shareholder meetings, says the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, Seattle, co-sponsored by the SNJMs.
• Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching provide points for theological reflection about water as a public good. Resources, including Scriptural references and prayers, are in the booklet “Educational Materials for the SNJM Corporate Stand,” available for downloading at www.

The Congregation urges the public to join the SNJMs in their pledge to use water as a human right and a public good. Here are things that individuals or groups can do to protect water resources:

• Drive less: air pollution from car exhaust eventually becomes water pollution.
• Use as little bottled water as possible.
• Conserve water: fix leaky faucets or taps, limit lawn watering and take short showers.
• Take the “one-ton challenge” to reduce your carbon footprint. The challenge may be downloaded from www.snjmusontario. org/download_waterdocuments.html
• Recycle – and buy recycled, environmentally friendly products.
• Learn and study with others how to defend “water for all” as a human right. The SNJMs’ free booklet, “Educational Material for the SNJM Corporate Stand: Water is a Human Right and Public Good” may be downloaded from Other free resources are available that same page.
• The Columbia River Pastoral Project launched by 12 Catholic bishops of the Northwest and Canada culminated in a pastoral letter issued by the bishops in February 2001. The letter, “The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good,” is available to download in English and Spanish:

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