Seasonal Reflection: Human Trafficking Awareness

Jeanne Michaud Features

Following this year’s Super Bowl game, the leader of the Women’s Rights Team within the Social Justice Ministry at St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J., — close to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, where the game was played — has written on a subject that she believes needs ongoing attention: the elimination of human trafficking, which increases around major events, such as the Super Bowl and political conventions. In addition to those provided here, resources to eliminate human trafficking can be found on the Justice and Peace page of the HNP website.

What can we, as Catholics and concerned human beings, do to further the fight against the plague of modern-day slavery now that the Super Bowl hype and the “big game” are finally over?

Prior to the Super Bowl, the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking used the increase in sex trafficking in the New Jersey and New York area to highlight the problems and realities of sex trafficking. There was an all-out assault that included newspapers, TV, Internet, Facebook, Twitter and billboard advertisements as well as numerous major local events. The campaign was a success. Awareness was raised, trafficked children were identified and rescued, and traffickers and johns were arrested.

For northern New Jersey, where the Super Bowl was played in MetLife Stadium, and nearby New York City, this was a one-time opportunity. Awareness of sex trafficking was heightened but the work is not done. Memories are short and we, as a society, with the help of media hype, have become accustomed to moving on to the next “big thing.”

Raising Awareness During Lent
Why not use the approaching Lenten season to raise awareness of the scourge of sex and labor trafficking? Why not do so in a manner that lays the groundwork for ongoing efforts, rather than a one-time campaign for Lent 2014? We can, and should, use the teachings of Jesus as well as Pope Francis’s statements as a starting point.

Resources are available through the websites of reliable and respected organizations. These include the previously mentioned NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Polaris Project, a leading organization in the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

An organization called Slavery Footprint offers a website  that asks a single question: “How Many Slaves Work For You?” By answering a few questions, individuals can discover their connections to modern-day slavery and become aware that child slaves were likely involved in the making of their cotton shirts and cell phones, and the chocolate they enjoy.

Protecting the Vulnerable
Experienced speakers are available for presentations on numerous topics, including discussions about state laws and law enforcement efforts, how people — especially children — are vulnerable to trafficking, and what help is available once a person escapes from a trafficking situation. Excellent books, movies (both dramas and documentaries), and videos are easily accessible.

The many opportunities for awareness-raising are most effective when they are carefully selected and combined to produce an approach that is targeted to the needs and interests of a specific group or audience. For the parish setting, consider forming a core group that becomes educated about human trafficking and its many aspects which can then develop a strategy that is best for the parish. Whatever the chosen approach, become informed, become aware and act against human trafficking.

In 2010, at St. Mary’s, I completed the JustFaith program at St. Mary’s and agreed to form and lead the Women’s Rights Team within the Social Justice Ministry. Our focus is the trafficking of women and children in the U.S.

With the full support of Frank Sevola, OFM, pastor, St. Mary’s became a member of N.J. Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Coalition membership has strengthened our focus and resolve, and provided networking and educational opportunities as well as recommendations for joint effective action. For more information about our trafficking initiatives, please contact us at

— Jeanne Michaud is founder and leader of the St. Mary’s Parish Women’s Rights Team. The opportunity to within the Social Justice Ministry and the feeling of community at St. Mary’s inspired her to join the parish.

Editor’s note: The HNP Communications Office welcomes friars to submit reflections about holidays, feast days and other topics of a timely nature. Those interested in submitting an essay for consideration for a future issue of HNP Today should contact communications director Jocelyn Thomas by email at In the previous issue, Paul Santoro, OFM, wrote on Catholic Schools Week.