U.S. State Department Honors Nun in South Sudan for Efforts in Education for Girls

In this photo taken on Jul. 30, 2017, girls take a break at the Irish-run Loreto Secondary School, the region’s only all-girls boarding school where staff require each girl’s guardian to sign a form promising not to remove the child from school until graduation, in the town of Rumbek, South Sudan. The world’s youngest nation is well into its fourth year of civil war, and although child marriage has been a long-standing practice here, the government and aid agencies say the conflict-driven poverty and severe food insecurity are pushing people to desperate extremes. (AP Photo/Mariah Quesada)

There is a mission school in the heart of South Sudan where girls’ voices and giggles are replacing the frequent cracking of Kalashnikov rifles.

Amid the long-running conflict in Africa’s newest nation, the Loreto Secondary School is thriving in Rumbek, the capital of Western Lake, a state in the center of the country, under the tutelage of four Loreto sisters from Kenya, India and Ireland. Sister Orla Treacy, a 46-year-old Irish nun, is the school’s principal.

Maintaining the school in the shadow of a seemingly unending civil conflict is an act of courage and sacrifice for Sister Treacy, who received a Women of Courage Award for her efforts in Washington, D.C, yesterday (Mar. 7) as part of the State Department’s International Women’s Day celebration.

Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland stands with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and First Lady Melania Trump as she is awarded the 2019 International Women of Courage at the Department of State in Washington, Thurs., Mar. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Since 2013, South Sudan has experienced a deadly conflict among different factions, drawing in other African nations to try to broker peace. The conflict has killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions of others. It has frustrated development while conspiring with other challenges such as poverty and culture to lock women and girls out of school.

But Sister Treacy’s school enrolls more than 300 girls from across the country and has become the country’s premier boarding school.

Besides the high school for girls, there is a coeducational primary school and a health care unit that focuses on providing services for vulnerable women and children. Without the Loreto schools, many of the students would have already been married off.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and first lady Melania
Trump pose with the 2019 International Women of
Courage Awardees at the Department of State in
Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2019. From left, Sister
Orla Treacy of Ireland, Razia Sultana of Bangladesh,
Naw K’nyaw Paw of Burma, Khalida Khalaf Hanna
al-Twal of Jordan, Olivera Lakic of Montenegro,
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, First Lady Melania
Trump, Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru, Magda
Gobran Gorgy of Egypt, Moumina Houssein Darar of
Djibouti, Marine de Livera of Sri Lanka, and Anna Helga
of Tanzania. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Women of Courage award recognizes ten women annually from around the globe who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness, and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially in promoting women’s rights. Sister Treacy has dedicated her award to the young women of South Sudan.

“Our students embody all that is courageous — they are young women of vision, strength and hope. Young women who dream of a better country for themselves and their families, who are prepared to challenge old structures and work towards making South Sudan great,” Sister Treacy said in a statement ahead of the award.

Born in 1973 in the town of Bray in Wicklow County, Ireland, she joined the Institute of Blessed Virgin Mary, popularly known as Loreto Sisters, at the age of 23.

In 2006, she arrived in South Sudan with four other nuns on an assignment to set up a mission in the town of Rumbek. Two years later, the Loreto school opened to serve Rumbek’s expansive Catholic diocese, which had only two other secondary schools.

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Source: Religion News Service

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