· Vatican City ·

The witness of Sr Wakahiu, Head of the Catholic Sisters Initiative

Empowering women religious as voices of change

 Empowering women religious as voices of change  ING-026
28 June 2024

“In our fast-paced world, we must celebrate the incredible work of dedicated women religious, and empower them to continue racing forward.” Sister Jane Wakahiu is a true woman of hope, not just for Catholic sisters, but for all those who strive to make a difference in the world.

“As Catholic sisters, we are called to serve those who are most vulnerable. The Hilton Foundation’s support allows us to amplify our efforts and reach those who need it most. Our commitment to alleviating suffering and fostering positive change continues to inspire and empower millions around the globe,” according to Sister Jane Wakahiu. Sister Jane, a member of the Little Sisters of St. Francis and Associate Vice President for Programs at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, as well as Head of the Catholic Sister Initiative, brings a unique perspective to the world of philanthropy. She recently sat down with Vatican News to discuss the important role the Hilton Foundation plays in empowering Catholic sisters around the globe.

The power of communication

Asked why the Catholic Sisters Initiative focuses on training religious sisters in communication, Sr. Jane points out the importance of properly communicating the Gospel.

“Communication is central to everything we do. This is especially true for those who serve the Church,” she said. The Catholic Sisters Initiative recognizes this new reality, she noted, calling Catholic sisters silent forces for good who dedicate their lives to humanity. Yet, she added, their voices are often lost.

“Unlike even a decade ago,” Sr. Jane explained, “in today’s world, communication is the cornerstone of effective ministry. It matters how we connect and share the message of faith.”

The ability to share the message of hope, advocate for the marginalized, and connect with communities relies on clear and compelling communication.

“Equipping our sisters with the skills to communicate effectively is no longer a luxury,” said Sr. Jane. “It’s a necessity. Catholic sisters are becoming powerful voices for social justice, education, and peacebuilding.”

Walking the talk

Regarding the specific ways that the Catholic Sisters Initiative empowers sisters in communication, Sr. Jane noted that it offers a variety of programs. “These range from workshops on social media engagement to media training initiatives,” she said. “We organize workshops and training in various communication fields, from social media and digital storytelling to media literacy and effective grant writing.”

“These skills empower sisters to share their stories, raise awareness about the needs of their communities, and ultimately, secure funding for their crucial work. We also facilitate opportunities for sisters to collaborate and learn from each other’s experiences.”

Success stories

Turning to the impact of the Catholic Sisters Initiative, Sr. Jane’s face lit up with a smile in recognition of the many religious sisters who benefit from the Pentecost Project, which trains sisters in communication in collaboration with the Vatican Dicastery for Communication. “We’ve witnessed incredible changes,” she said. “Sisters who once struggled to navigate the complexities of social media are now effectively utilizing it to connect with their communities and raise awareness about critical issues. Others have honed their communication skills and found powerful voices as advocates for the voiceless.”

Beyond numbers

“While a decline in the number of sisters is a reality, we should not overlook the bigger picture,” she stated. “We must shift our focus to the vitality, quality and impact of those actively serving, celebrate their dedication, and empower them with the resources they need to continue their vital work,” added Sr. Jane. “Their impact on the world is undeniable.”

A ray of hope

“There is so much good work being done,” Sr. Jane concluded.

“The needs are great, and the opportunities for service are boundless,” she said. “Let’s focus on amplifying these stories, encouraging young women to consider a life of service, and supporting the sisters who are already changing the narrative, by ensuring that the legacy of alleviating suffering continues for generations to come.”


By Sr Roselyne Wambani Wafula, fsp