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Feature Articles

Global Vision Keeps Unfolding
By S. Louise Akers

S. Donna Steffen (right) with Fidel Castro at a State Banquet given in honor of the NGO conference in 1984. Sisters Donna and Louise Akers were present along with over 300 Central American and Caribbean women and 17 others from the U.S.

Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. In the most significant changes in our policy in more than 50 years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.  - President Barack Obama

When I heard these words I immediately thought of S. Stephanie Lindsey. She was a bridge builder, not only between the U.S. and Cuba but between many other countries and cultures. I thought this would be a good time to make the connections between the Sisters of Charity and this monumental event! I believe it’s evident a global vision continues to grow within our Congregation.

Cuban Relations (A brief history)
On Jan. 1, 1959, Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro ousted a dictatorship and claimed their country’s sovereignty. Immediately, covert destabilization strategies as well as an all-out military invasion were orchestrated to bring the new government down. U.S. policy, then and since, could not conceive of a nation in its sphere of influence being allowed to follow its chosen path. In July 1960, the U.S. suspended its quota of Cuban sugar. Six months later, Washington broke diplomatic relations with Cuba. In 1962, a blockade and trade embargo began. Thus began decades of attempts to destabilize, overthrow and discredit the Cuban revolution.

S. Donna Steffen, with S. Louise Akers, were participants in a preparatory regional conference for Central American and Caribbean women in 1984; 19 were from the U.S.

“Being present for the roll call of nations as the women from the various Latin American and Caribbean countries entered the hall where the NGO conference was held was extremely moving. During the conference I was surprised to find that the women from the various countries saw Fidel Castro almost as a hero. From their perspective, the people of Cuba had food and housing that many in their own countries lacked.

“The country is a beautiful island nation. Yet, even when I was there in 1984, the impact of the embargo hurting the people, the economy, and the development of the country was evident.”

S. Caroljean Willie attended the International Christian Peace Conference in Havana.

“I visited schools both on the Cuban mainland and on the Isle of Youth. There were a number of schools here that Castro founded to educate teachers for developing countries. We also had the opportunity to visit a prison (not political prisoners) and one of the things that impressed me was that there was no system of parole, but all prisoners had a full-time job for which they received a salary which helped their families while they were incarcerated. I also learned that only about 7 percent of those released return to prison. In the U.S. it is closer to 40-50 percent.”

And we ask: As the global vision keeps unfolding, what is next? For the Sisters of Charity? For the United States?