The Helpers of the Good Shepherd, an order of religious sisters dedicated to helping victims of sexual exploitation, drew praise from Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid for their witness to the dignity of women. The order recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of their founding with a Mass celebrated by the cardinal.
The charism of the sisters focuses on “promoting, restoring, and respecting the dignity of women,” Osoro said. They work to provide homes for victims of sexual exploitation and organized slavery. The sisters operate Villa Teresita Homes, which are small communities of sisters living alongside women fleeing sexual exploitation and their children. The homes are dedicated St. Therese of Lisieux.
Cardinal Osoro noted in his homily that the Helpers of the Good Shepherd were founded “to eliminate the exploitation of women who are treated as objects, and who suffer a lack of respect for their dignity.” “You have given the best of your lives to improve the lives of those who are victims of trafficking, exploitation and organized slavery,” he said.
Cardinal Osoro also stated that the lives of the sisters and their programs are “for redemption and liberation,” and said that “every woman is a bearer of love, a teacher of mercy, a builder of peace, a communicator of warmth and humanity in this world which often judges the value of a person with the cold criteria of exploitation and profits.” “God offers life so that we can make an offering of it always to others. That is what you Helpers of the Good Shepherd are doing,” the cardinal said.
He encouraged the sisters to to announce Christ as witnesses, reminding them that “what is opposed to the true faith is not unbelief but the lack of witness in our lives.” The cardinal invited those at the Mass to “translate into deeds the beauty and joy of the Gospel” and thanked the sisters for their work. “There's no disconnect between what we often say with words and what we live out in our everyday lives,” he said.
The Helpers of the Good Shepherd had their beginnings in Pamplona, Spain, in 1942. Isabel Garbayo, their foundress, opened the first Villa Teresita home, forming a small community of consecrated women, with a special concern for serving the most disadvantaged and marginalized women.
Garbayo wanted all women to know that “the home that we offer them is the home of God, to which all are invited, welcomed with joy and gratitude by sisters who love them, and look upon their arrival at the home as if a treasure walked in.” The Helpers of the Good Shepherd have homes in the Spanish cities of Seville, Pamplona, Valencia, Madrid, and Las Palmas and conduct emergency interventions through a hotline they have established.