Our Mothers, Our Heroes

Our commemoration of Mother’s Day offers us an opportunity to acknowledge the great contribution of women in our lives. From our own mothers, who gave us life and nurtured us as we grew, to our grandmothers, sisters, wives, daughters and friends, we all can be grateful for the love and wisdom women bestow on us.

Around the world, my colleagues at Catholic Relief Services have witnessed the key role played by women in families living in the poorest rural communities. Statistics bear this out:

• Of the world’s 1.3 billion poor people, it is estimated that nearly 70 percent are women.

• One in every four households in the world is now headed by a woman.

• Women in the developing world are responsible for between 60 and 80 percent of crop production.

• In most countries, women work approximately twice the unpaid time men do.

In many ways, mothers are heroes. Often it doesn’t seem dramatic. Yet at times the day-to-day care they give their families can be very heroic—even sacrificial. Think of the women who take in children orphaned by AIDS, children who may be related to them or may live in their community. Or the mother who participates in a saving and lending community so she can start a business to improve the life of her family.

At other times, mothers perform extraordinary deeds. I can think of one such mother I met recently on my trip to Haiti—my colleague Magalie Rigaud, who is in charge of logistics for CRS Haiti. She makes sure that shipments of vital relief supplies reach their intended destinations. It is a crucial job in our Haiti operation.

On January 12, Magalie worked a regular day, then left the office to pick up her twin boys and do a bit of grocery shopping on the way home. She and her boys were in the pet food section, getting food for the family dog, when the massive earthquake hit. The roof of the store collapsed on the shoppers inside, trapping Magalie and her sons. Luckily, the stacks of dog food created a kind of cave that saved their lives. But they could not get out. She was trapped with her boys and several other shoppers.

You’d have to meet Magalie to believe her. She refused to give up hope, despite the dire circumstances. She encouraged her fellow captives, praying with them and telling them that since they did not die in the initial shock of the quake, God did not intend for them to die that day. She kept their spirits up until, several hours later, they were rescued from the rubble.

Anyone would expect that Magalie would take at least a few days off after that harrowing experience. But you see, Magalie knew there were people who needed the vital relief supplies in CRS’ warehouses, supplies that would soon be shipped to Haiti. So despite an experience that would have caused any of us to take weeks off of work, she was soon back on the job, making important contributions to CRS’ efforts.

Magalie’s courage and grace under pressure is an inspiration to us all—as is her dedication to the mission of CRS and to the people of Haiti.

I would like to wish you a very happy Mother’s Day. And as always, thank you for your continued support and your prayers.

Ken Hackett

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