Human Trafficking

Live Presentation April 1, 2019

Sister of Mercy, Jeanne Christensen, offered a presentation on this crucial topic. She serves as the Justice Advocate against Human Trafficking for the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community. The session included time for questions and discussion. Detective Derrick Wilczek from the Overland Park Police Department was also available to speak and answer questions on the reality of human trafficking right here in Overland Park and what is being done in our community.

Q. What is Human Trafficking?
A. Modern Day Slavery

The two forms of human trafficking are:

Sex Trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion.
Labor Trafficking in which persons are forced to labor against their will.

What you can do

• Become well informed
• Build awareness about the issue and how it can be addressed
• Contact your elected legislators
• Partner with others who provide assistance to victims
• Talk with Children and young adults, peers, parents, friends and family about this issue

Who Are the victims?

There is no consistent face of a trafficking victim.

Trafficked persons can be:

• rich or poor
• men or women
• adults or children
• LGBTQ persons
• runaway youth
• legal or undocumented immigrants

If you see something suspicious:

Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

Call 911 if danger is eminent

Online Resources

Kansas City Area Partners

The Agony in the Garden: A Mother’s Prayer Guide

The following is a guided meditation on the Mystery of the Agony in the Garden, prepared specifically for wives and mothers. You may wish to use this as a starting point to enter into your own prayer.  The Fruit of the Mystery of the Agony is conformity to God’s will.  How is God inviting you to conform to His plan for your marriage and family?  Are parts of His calling difficult or even painful at times?  How are you being invited to say “yes” to God’s will in all circumstances? 

From the warmth of Your intimacy, from the comforts of the upper room and the last supper, You lead me into the dark night of Your agony.  Having filled me with the bread of Your heavenly body and the chalice of Your salvation, You now offer me a new cup, the cup of Your suffering. 

Your agony calls me to be profoundly still, fully awake, and willing to wait with You.  I look into my heart, and find myself hopelessly lacking.  So much of me is not ready.  I find my soul cluttered with attachments.  My fiat is feeble, and my heart is slow. 

Like Your twelve apostles, I am divided.  Most of me is not yet ready to pray with You through the night of Your agony.  Yet I also find, budding within, an emerging part of myself who longs to drink the cup of suffering with You.  This new “me” – this small but growing self – is invited to stay at Your side, to pray in agony with You, to experience sorrow with You, and to comfort You in some small way.   

Though willing, I often find myself asleep, imperfect in my vigil.  You invite me out, beyond the limitations of my comfort.  Divided, imperfect, and yet so deeply desiring, I answer.  Your Mother lends me Her “yes” when mine waivers.  I find my voice inside of her words, inside of Your words, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” 

So many times I have prayed for Your cup of suffering to pass from my lips, but now Lord, I beg to drink it with You.  Even if my capacity remains small and my resolution wavering, You can work Your miracle of life born through death within me. 

I lay down all that my heart has previously tried to manage, manipulate, or control.  As a mother, I lay down areas where my children struggle, fail, or suffer.  Rather than frantically trying to “fix” them, I release them to You.  I relinquish my desire to control; I still myself at Your side, awake and waiting, trusting You and Your plan. 

As a wife, I lay down the intricacies of my relationship with my husband.  I give You our good times and difficult times.  I release my expectations of my husband from tightly grasped fists.  I entrust him to You; I entrust our relationship to You, the joyful and sorrowful parts together. 

Finally, I lay down my total self.  I give You my preference for comfort over suffering, pleasure over pain, and recognition over a hidden life.  I give You my circumstances – all I have prayed You would change, and all I so desperately try to change myself.  I sit with you here, in the darkness that surrounds us, in the darkness I encounter deep within myself.  I say with You, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” 

Jesus, grant me the grace to remain with You in darkness.  Teach me to be profoundly still, fully awake, and ready to wait at Your side.  Prepare my lips to drink the cup of suffering with You; prepare my heart to trust you in all circumstances. Not my will, but Your will be done.  

Total Giving

By Marissa Brown

I imagine Jesus at the Last Supper, reclining with his friends around a table, contemplating the life he had lived thus far.  He is aware of the trials and suffering that lay ahead and knows that in a few short hours these friends, his chosen ones, will fall asleep when he needs their prayers and support most, deny him to others and in the most grievous way, and one will betray him to those who will send him to his death. 

In this pivotal moment of Jesus’s life, with all of this knowledge, He picks up the bread and the wine and gives his beloved apostles the beautiful gift of the Eucharist. Can you imagine loving others as Jesus did?  Knowing that his apostles will break his heart, disappoint him, leave him alone to suffer, and deny their love for him in front of others – yet Jesus loves them enough to give himself.  In his time of greatest betrayal, he gives them a gift to take out into the world and change the lives of countless people. 

One Sunday a couple of months ago, I was watching Fr. Michael during the consecration and in his silence after blessing the bread, I began to think about the love Jesus has for us.  His love for us is so profound, that in his final moments of peace on this earth, he gave his apostles one of the great keys to our salvation. He gave of himself for us, knowing how many of us would reject him, dismiss his teachings, and turn to life of sin and loneliness.   Yet, he gave anyway. 

As I contemplated this in prayer, I began to think of the perfect timing Christ choose for this gift. He could have instructed the apostles many times, over many different meals shared together, but he choose that night, the last night, the night that several of his friends would be tested, and one friend had already sold Jesus to his enemies.  

We should take this timing and apply it to our own lives.  When we love our children, extended family, friends, and neighbors, we should do it with agape love, a sacrificial and total love.   We are invited to love completely, knowing that in return our gifts to others and our love for them may be rejected. We should give anyway. We may be dismissed.  Our morals and values –lessons we hold as precious — might be laughed at, looked at as old fashioned, or deemed not progressive enough for the world in which we now live.  Hold true to them anyway.

Pray that in your times of greatest need, staring down a road you know will be treacherous and scary, that you still can demonstrate how to love and live with suffering just as Jesus did in his last days. You can show the world that in your pain, there is still room to look beyond yourself, to touch your loved ones with gifts they can carry on in your absence.  

Look to Jesus and the gift of the Eucharist and His perfect timing.  Know that until the end of your life, sharing your faith with those close to you, grabbing onto them and showing them the path to Heaven, will be your greatest legacy.  During this Lenten season, pray that Jesus will show you in small ways how his life, and his sacrifice, and his perfect timing will bless you with lessons to pass on to those around you and help pave the road to eternal life.  

Advent Ideas 2018

by William O’Leary

Advent isn’t just about celebrating Jesus’s Birthday and his coming 2,000 years ago but it’s also about him coming again to judge the living and the dead. It’s a time to help us spiritually prepare for that. It’s never too early with your kids to focus on this. Also, Advent is about living in the presence of Jesus in the present moment.

Here is a really good video explaining “What are we preparing for – The 3 Comings of Christ”

1) I’ve attached this Family Advent Prayer Packet that you could do at dinner (or before bed) with the Advent Wreath. Check it out here.  

3) Don’t forget to Celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th.

2) Various Advent Ideas from the following websites: Websites with ideas

3) Also some story book recommendations

4) Advent Sacrifices –

5) The St. Andrew Novena that is prayed from November 30th – December 24th. My Kids love praying this Novena!

6) Sign-up for the Advent Reflections that send one for both kids & adults – sign-up here

7) More great ideas Here

I hope you find the resources valuable! Take a little time to look over these so your family can have an Advent to Remember and grow in faith.

Mr. O’Leary is the Director of Youth Faith Formation at Church of the Ascension.  You can read more from him at


By Sarah Streitwieser

The Joy that Mary and Joseph experience when they find Jesus in the temple is not unique to them.  Rather, it is an experience that is often repeated in the spiritual life.  We are all invited to “find” Jesus – “Seek and you shall find” (Mt. 7:7).  Sometimes we find Him already with us; sometimes we have to experience distance or loss before His presence can be perceived. 

There are many reasons and purposes for which we might experience a “loss” of Jesus in the spiritual life.  Sometimes we create distance by our own sin, concupiscence, or apathy.  Or, we may feel spiritually distanced from God during seasons of desolation in which God is trying to grow us in some new way.   Discernment during these seasons of loss is often difficult; it is challenging to understand what is happening or why distance is occurring. 

The experience of feeling the nearness of God again, after such a season of loss, can be overwhelmingly joyful, but it can come with questions too.  Consider the description of the interaction between Jesus and His parents after they found Him in the temple:

When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he said to them.  (Lk. 2: 48-50, emphasis added)

I am reminded again here of the personhood of Mary and Joseph.  They are not single faceted characters; rather, they are living, breathing, and feeling people.  Even in their holiness and perfection, even in their total devotion to Lord and Son, they do not fully understand.  Their joy comes with question, and their question comes with trust. 

Reflect on a time in your own life when you have felt distance from God.  What joy did you experience when the season ended?  What other emotions did you experience along with joy? 

For more on the Joy of finding Jesus, click the link below.  Share your prayer with your family, and come back next week for something new! 

Joy in finding Jesus

Losing Before Finding

By Sarah Streitwieser

The story of finding Jesus in the temple leads me to wonder about all of the other stories and intricacies of Jesus’s early life.  What did the Holy Family’s experience when they lived in Egypt?  Were their basic needs (food, shelter, and clothing) always easily attained, or did they struggle and sometimes go without?  What would it be like to join the Holy Family for a “normal” day, or sit with them for a meal?  How did they pray together, work together, and live together?  Were Mary and Joseph’s parenting responsibilities and experience similar to other parents’? 

For years I thought that lack of objective answers to these questions meant that they were not worth asking.  But lately I find that I am able to draw nearer to Jesus and closer to Mary and Joseph, when I allow myself to wonder and imagine.  Too often I have glossed over the particulars of their lives and forgotten their humanity and personhood.  For it is people – actual humans like you and me – who must eat, sweat, toil, lose, laugh, and live.  The Holy Family experienced all of these things similarly to us; they lived, died, rejoiced, grieved, loved, lost, and experienced. 

Too often I have prayed the mystery of finding Jesus in the temple without first experiencing the loss of Him by His parents.  Or, I have cloaked their personhood in a sort of unreasonable detachment that does not fully experience loss, pain, fatigue, or worry.  Rather than gloss over what I do not know, I look to my own emotions.  How would I feel if I lost my child for 3 days?  How might Mary and Joseph’s experience be different from or similar to my own? 

When Mary first finds Jesus she says of herself and Joseph, “Your Father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48, emphasis added).  From this I assume that Mary and Joseph’s experience of losing and finding Jesus must not be entirely different than my own experience might be. 

With Mary and Joseph seek to feel the full weight of loss, without glossing over feelings or letting holiness reduce humanity.   Equate this to a personal experience of loss.  Have you ever felt like you “lost” Jesus in your daily life?  What was this experience like?  How long did the season last, or is it still ongoing?  In retrospect, do you see a purpose or cause for the “absence?”

Click the link below for more on Finding Jesus in the Temple.  Remember to share your prayer experiences with your family.  Come back next week when we will explore the Joy of Finding Jesus. 

Finding in the Temple

The Price of Obedience

By Sarah Streitwieser

Obedience is another virtue that seems to be no longer in vogue among secular social ideals.  For most, the thought of obeying to an outside authority – whether that be God or another person – would be an affront to one’s personhood.  We live in an era where personal truth and expression trumps all else.  We aspire to be self-directed, independent, and in control.  Where then is there room for obedience in the modern vernacular? 

The sort of obedience that we see displayed by Mary and Joseph (and later Jesus), is not an acquiescence from their own wills.  Their obedience is not self-deprecating; it is self-giving.  Mary does not lose herself (or her Son); she offers herself and dies to herself.  In some sense one must first possess their own life in order to actively lay it down.  Perhaps by this, true obedience is not an act of weakness, but an act of strength, yielded or given. 

In the mystery of the presentation we encounter Mary and Joseph as they offer their Son to the Lord.  As Hannah before them, they present Jesus to His Father – not in idol ceremony, but as total gift.  In obedience they follow every prescription of the Law.  In love they make total gift of self and Son. 

In order to consider the true weight of Mary’s obedience, I find that I must first consider the person of Hannah.  For more on Hannah and the price of obedience, click the link below.  Share your insights with your family, and come back next week for something new! 


Not Fully Knowing

By Sarah Streitwieser

The Presentation marks another mystery in which Mary is the recipient of lively, weighty, and (presumably) unexpected conversation.   In each early moment of Jesus’s conception and birth, it seems that someone is “dropping in” on Mary with astonishing announcements or sweeping proclamations.   

In the Annunciation, Mary is visited by Gabriel and asked to become the Mother of God, “Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).  In the Visitation, Mary is unexpectedly greeted by Elizabeth, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).  At the Nativity, the Holy Family is visited by shepherds, who share their story of angelic contact.  We are not privy to the details of exactly what was said, but we are told that Mary and Joseph “were amazed by what had been told (to) them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:18) 

Now in the Presentation, Simeon greets the Holy Family with what must have sounded like another strange and unexpected bidding.  Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph together, then he turns, looks only at Mary, and speaks to her alone.  “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). 

Mull over these words.  What do they mean?  Mary, though sinless and perfectly faithful, is not all-knowing.  Perhaps she does not yet know the meaning of this prophecy either.  It is clear that this prophecy (perhaps not unlike all of the announcements she has received thus far), contains notes of joy and sorrow together.  “Fall and rise … sign and contradiction … heart will be pierced.” 

How does Mary receive and react to round after round of unexpected, life-altering information?  How does she behold that which she may not yet completely understand?  Does she know what is coming her way, or like us (albeit, infinitely more faithful), does she wade through life’s mysteries with only partial information, only able to make sense of her circumstances retrospectively? 

Throughout the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, we see Mary and Joseph question and wonder with perfect faith but not total understanding: “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34), “they were amazed at what had been told to them” (Luke 2:18), “the child’s mother and father were amazed at what had been said about him” (Luke 2:33), and “But they did not understand what he said to them” (Luke 2:50). 

Mary is endlessly receptive – even when news is unexpected, difficult, or incomplete.  I heard the statement recently that “love always receives.”  In the Presentation, receptivity means that Mary is willing and ready to joyfully accept the prophecy of Simeon, even without complete understanding.  Personally, I find that Mary is much easier to relate to when I realize that (like me) she does not have foreknowledge or complete understanding of her circumstances.  This is part of what makes Mary so beautiful.  Trusting God through life when we don’t know all of the eventualities or outcomes – that is true faith. 

The phrase that is written twice to summarize the early events of Jesus’s life is, “Mary kept all of these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, 51).  Not only does Mary receive the (sometimes difficult) words and prophecies of God spoken through others, but she keeps them, cherishes them and reflects upon them in her heart. 

For more on the Presentation, click the link below.  Share your thoughts and prayers with your family.  Come back next week for something new!

The Presentation


By Sarah Streitwieser

Detachment is the spiritual fruit that is associated with the mystery of the Nativity.  But what exactly is detachment, and how does it differ from callousness or apathy?  Certainly the Holy Family was neither callous not apathetic, yet we can rightly assume that they were radically detached.  But what exactly does this mean and how would our lives be different if we were detached? 

Detachment can also be thought of as poverty of spirit.  But, it seems that from our modern perspective, poverty of spirit is a very underappreciated and misunderstood virtue.  Imagine what would happen if you took a random survey asking your neighbors and friends, “Would you like to be poor in spirit?”  What do you think the typical response would be?  I would expect to hear a resounding “No.”  Why is this?  What do you think it means to be poor in spirit?  Does one have to be monetarily poor to be poor in spirit?  Is spiritual poverty the same thing as detachment? 

In my experience, detachment can best be understood through the observation of my own attachments.  Personally, I tend to not be aware of my attachments until they are tested.  This is to say, I usually do not even know I am attached until the object of my attachment is taken away from me.  This “pruning” process is a great grace offered by God (although admittedly it does not always feel so great in the moment!).  “Every branch that [bears fruit] he prunes so that it bears more fruit” (John 15:2).   

I often notice that my attachments create small pangs of interior disquiet or unrest when they are removed or provoked.  For example, perhaps I observe one of my children behaving in a way that is the very opposite of how I want them to act.  I feel flushed with embarrassment and overwhelmed with the need to control or correct the situation.  Whatever interior peace I once experienced has now completely vanished. 

This is an opportunity to explore my own attachments.  Perhaps I am embarrassed because I want others to think well of me, and I am attached to my own reputation.  Perhaps I want to control the situation because I want to be the perfect mother or have perfect children, and I am attached to my own desired excellence.  The opportunity to explore interior unrest helps me to identify and behold my own attachments.  However, only God has the power to remove them. 

Being a rather attached individual, I can only imagine what it must feel like to live unrestricted by attachments.  I think that it would be radically freeing.  I imagine that one living with open hands and hearts (not full of wants or entanglements) would be free to follow God completely and without reservation.  Empty spiritual pockets and a trim spiritual waist line (i.e. poverty of spirit) would make one more agile and available for God’s call. 

For more on detachment, click the link below.  Share your prayer with your family.  Come back for something new next week! 


No Room

By Sarah Streitwieser

Do you ever find it difficult to imagine the Nativity with fresh eyes and an open heart?  Does it seem particularly challenging to avail yourself to new insights from a story you have (most likely) heard so many times? 

Perhaps more than any other story or Biblical encounter, the mystery of the Nativity invites us to wonder.  Imagine Joseph and Mary (who is perhaps already in the early stages of labor) as they enter overcrowded Bethlehem.  “No room,” is their only greeting.  This is my first “stop” when meditating on the Nativity.  I find myself in the innkeeper’s words, “No room.”  I see myself overcrowded with pride, often too busy to receive the Christ Child.  Here I ask for the grace to be still and open, to be uncontrived and humble like the stable – not so full as Bethlehem. 

Now Imagine Jesus newly born – literally the God of all creation embodied in a downy-skinned, heart-faced infant.  Imagine His legs curled up in fetal position and His little feet, puffy and rounded out, so many months away from being ready to walk.  Perhaps His arms are flailing because He does not yet have the capacity to control His own limbs.  Mary swaddles Him to help Him rest.  What would it be like to cradle God, made present to the world as an infant? 

Take a moment to behold this beautiful spiritual reality, now, plunge the scene into actual human reality.  Consider the dirty stable, perhaps the “mess” of birth, the muck of the manger, the noise of animals, and the smell of manure.  Next, imagine the shepherds – scruffy, unpolished, and unbathed – crowding in the already cramped quarters.  How ordinary – even less than ordinary or well below average – the initial moments of Christ’s human life must have seemed. 

With the shepherds, I want to empty myself of possessions and attachments, so that there is room enough in my arms to receive my Infant Lord.  Like the manger I want to be humble and empty, so that there is room for me to hold Him. Too often I am like Bethlehem and the innkeeper, crowding out Jesus with task lists and schedules.  “No room,” I say, with my calendar in hand. 

The guided meditations linked below can be used as an aid to enter into the mystery of the Nativity.  Meditate on the parts that speak to you; skip over the sections that don’t.  Share your thoughts and prayer with your family.  Come back next week for something new. 

The Nativity