Sister Esperanza Rico, CSA, left, and Sister Rose Kowalski, CSA, minister in Waspam, Nicaragua. Sister Rose, originally from Belguim, Wis., has served in Nicaragua for more than 30 years. Sister Esperanza, from Matagalpa, Nicaragua, has worked as a teacher in various Nicaraguan communities for more than 50 years. The Sisters of St. Agnes teach and administer in schools in several communities in Nicaragua, as well as providing health care in rural villages and urban clinics. The congregation's 2013 Annual Fund Appeal is in support of its ministries in this second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Photo was taken in Waspam, Rosita.
Despite nearly half of its population living in poverty - households surviving on less than $2 a day - the people of Nicaragua are strong in faith, family, and tradition. Still, for nearly seven decades, many of them have turned to the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA) for help. Since 1945, CSA has established and maintained ministries in Nicaragua, reaching out to people living in impoverished and isolated rural villages and urban areas plagued by high crime rates and unemployment.
Today, many of the sisters minister in the fields of education, health care, pastoral, and social services. Their work and dedication to the Nicaraguan people has helped to provide direct assistance, as well as to lay the groundwork for other charitable organizations to establish a network of support services for many who would otherwise have little or no access to medicine, education, and many other essential services.
In support of its vital ministries in Nicaragua and in conjunction with the celebration of Saint Agnes' Feast Day on Jan. 21, the congregation has initiated its 2013 annual fund appeal to assist in sustaining and expanding CSA ministries in this second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
"CSA's presence in Nicaragua embodies our call to serve and empower others, especially those who are most vulnerable," explained Sister Joann Sambs, general superior of the congregation. "The sisters have truly been enriched by our relationship with our Nicaraguan sisters and the people whom we serve. The congregation's commitment to maintain its ministries and support our sisters remains very strong."
With an average monthly salary of between $100 and $150, the sisters work in schools, parishes, clinics, and communities that desperately need assistance. However, the cost of maintaining these ministries continues to rise.
"The schools and hospitals in which our sisters minister are only able to provide small stipends," noted Sister Joann. "Thus, the congregation provides most of the necessary resources to sustain those ministries - health care, living expenses, education, and transportation. Those who choose to support the annual fund appeal help our sisters to continue to teach students in village schools or to provide medical care to mothers and babies in rural clinics."
While the combined annual salaries of all of the sisters in Nicaragua is about $35,000, the overall cost of maintaining those ministries exceeds $600,000 annually.
"As a congregation, we have made a number of sacrifices to build and maintain ministries over the course of our history," continued Sister Joann. "There is a very strong connection between the people of Nicaragua and the congregation, as well as the wonderful relationship that has developed from the sister parish relationship between Rosita, Nicaragua, and Holy Family Parish of Fond du Lac.
"The goal of our annual fund appeal is to keep our sisters in their ministries in Nicaragua," she added, "and to encourage and empower them, as well as the people whom they serve. Without the help of our friends and supporters, the sisters would not be able to continue in their work, and the people in the communities where the sisters serve would be without the care that they need.
"There are many people in the Fond du Lac community and beyond who have been long-time, generous supporters of the congregation," she concluded. "The annual fund appeal is a wonderful opportunity for them to continue to partner with the sisters, while it is also an invitation to many others to learn more about the congregation and to become partners in mission and ministry as well."
For more information about CSA ministries and the annual fund appeal, visit the Website at www.csasisters.org; or call 920-907-2311.