14th Annual

Anti-Trafficking Prayer Vigil

Marilyn McGoldrick, CSJ

Sisters, associates, agrégées, and partners in mission gather to spread awareness of human trafficking.

Since prayer to end human trafficking is one of the core elements of the coalition’s mission, The Boston Anti-Trafficking Coalition gathered in January 21, 2024, for the 14th Annual Prayer Vigil to end human trafficking.  Coalition members include:  Sisters Joanne Bierl, Medical Missionary of Mary, Mary Jane Cavallo, Sister of Notre Dame, Betsy Goodwin, Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Margaret Meyer, Medical Missionary of Mary, Mary Lou Simcoe, Holy Union Sister, Judith Sheridan, Marist Missionary Sister and Marilyn McGoldrick, Sister of St. Joseph.

It is fourteen years since we first gathered for this prayer vigil, and we would love to be able to say that Human Trafficking has been eradicated, but we know that this is not so.  However, as discouraging as this may seem, we continue to be uplifted by glimmers of hope.

Left: Betsy Goodwin, OSF

Above: Mary Ellen O’Connell, CSJ, Jackie McCarthy, CSJ, and Lois Connors, CSJ


  • Perpetrators of HT are arrested, convicted and punished for their crimes as we read more frequently in the news.

  • Reports of HT keep its reality before the public and raise the awareness that this is truly a form of modern-day slavery.

  • While sexual exploitation of young women and girls is more readily known, the reality of labor trafficking is growing, and perpetrators are being made to compensate their victims. There is also an increased awareness and acknowledgement that young men and boys are also exploited sexually, for labor and as child soldiers.

  • Many of those present have supported women/girls who are victims of human trafficking by participating in one of our projects: creating over 400 “Bags of Love” for women transitioning from victim to survivor. These Bags that are lovingly prepared contain clothing, toiletries, a gift card, snacks and a personal note to a woman/girl offering love, encouragement, and support to the woman/girl who receives a bag.  They are distributed where they are most needed with the help of our partners in the FBI, Homeland Security, Safe Houses, Arch Street, and individuals (some of whom are survivors) working directly with women/girls who are transitioning from victim to survivor.  In the foyer “Bags of Love” were ready to be distributed by Homeland Security. These may travel to the six New England States and perhaps beyond. Later that week, we prepared six Bags of Love for project REACH in Waltham that were also distributed to victims of Human Trafficking. 

Sisters, associates, agrégées, and partners in mission gather together in the Motherhouse Chapel for the vigil.

We are often told by the people who distribute the bags that the women/girls who receive them are touched that they are receiving something freely given with nothing expected of them in return except to heal. These, along with the presence of people who gathered on January 14th are just some of the glimmers of hope. They do make a difference. All who advocate and donate to end human trafficking make a difference.

And so we gathered – all of us: members of Religious Congregations, partners in mission, representatives of parishes, Homeland Security, Alliance (formerly the US Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking), friends, survivors and mentors to raise awareness about the reality of human trafficking and to stand in solidarity with all the women, men, and children who are victims of this heinous crime. And we stand also with all those who advocate for them, for an end to Human Trafficking. 

As an integral part of our afternoon prayer, Mary Ann Ponti, Director of Outreach and Community Engagement at St. Anthony Shrine, Arch Street, Boston, shared from her experience and her heart about Boston’s most vulnerable population. As a licensed Drug and Alcohol counselor, she has been working in Human Services serving the homeless population of Boston since 2009.  Prior to serving this most vulnerable population at Arch Street and at Pine Street Inn, Mary Ann lived in New York City and worked in financial services.  As we listened to Mary Ann, we were invited to be still… Aware of all that we carry and what brought us here…aware of the Presence of God within and among us.  What Mary Ann shared served as a focus for the rest of our prayer as we brought to that prayer our experience and our heart.