Home Diocesan News Diocesan Catholic women’s conference learns about human trafficking at annual gathering
Diocesan Catholic women’s conference learns about human trafficking at annual gathering Print E-mail
Written by Louise McNulty, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 02 June 2017 13:05

NORTH CANTON – When Canton Police Detective Joe Mongold asked his audience how many of them were not previously aware that the human trafficking of youth was so pervasive in their own state and cities, many hands shot up.

“There was quite a reaction,” said Sophie Filigno, president of the Youngstown Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (YDCCW). The detective was one of three speakers who addressed the organization’s annual conference at St. Paul Parish here May 17. “It is a sad topic but is something that our members need to know about.”

The daylong conference drew more than 40 women and a scattering of men.

Tackling the topic were Mongold, a detective in the juvenile division of the CPD, as well as afternoon speakers Humility of Mary Sister Karen Bernhardt of PATHS (Partners Against Trafficking Of Humans Stark), and Jim Knight of the Stark County Prosecutors Office.

Besides explaining the imminent dangers and vulnerability of children and youth in the human trafficking equation, Mongold, the married father of three, spelled out some solutions.

He debunked the Hollywood images of traffickers and customers in foreign countries like those in the “Taken” movies starring Liam Neeson and the portrayal of prostitutes and their treatment in “Pretty Woman.”

He told his audience to forget such movies, which ignored the women and children suffering from enslavement and being brutalized right here at home. He said solving the problems required “faith-based help” which, he added, “is better than government action, which is so often wrapped in bureaucracy” and delay.

Asked what members of his audience could do to help solve the problem, Mongold noted:

1. “Try to curb the demand for those enslaved [for sex or labor] by raising principled children.” He noted the challenge in that, due to the pervasiveness of Internet sites that tempt the young.
Parents, he continued – and grandparents when they spend time with their grandkids at their home – must make an effort to monitor and limit young people’s time and choices online.

2. “Encourage education on the issue for youth” especially vulnerable young girls. Targeting young people in unstable and abusive family situations, traffickers act kind and caring while actually manipulating the victims, he explained.

3. “Look for signs of young people being abused.” When this is even just suspected, he said, those suspicions should be reported to local police or a national hotline. (Sister Karen passed out brochures and stickers with the phone number 1-888-373-7888).

4. “Get awareness training.”

5. Help as a volunteer or mentor at local shelters such as Hannah’s House or Rahab Ministries.

Materials presented to the audience by the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) suggest additionally that members might write a check or donate needed supplies to local shelters.

Glinda Berecek of Massillon St. Joseph Parish Parish summed up the reaction of many when she commented that the topic is indeed pertinent.

“Drugs and child abuse are getting so much media attention now because so much is going on,” she said. “April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it seems appropriate that in May, the month of celebration of Mary our Mother, we should be discussing the dangers and things we can do about it.”

YDCCW president Filigno, of Canton Christ the Servant Parish, agreed. That is why, she said, with the guidance of Sister Karen, she chose that topic for the annual conference.

The YDCCW’s agenda for the day included both old and new business, notices on upcoming fund-raisers such as the Harvest Moon Luncheon & Style Show, which will be sponsored by the Stark Deanery CCW on Oct. 6 at the Shady Hollow Country Club, Massillon.

Other topics shared were the leadership commission report which encouraged women to foster more participation in NCCW in their parishes and suggested making sure they themselves receive and read the “many interesting articles in the Catholic Woman Magazine.”

The business end of the meeting was punctuated by a continental breakfast that started the day and a catered lunch after the 11 a.m. Mass.

At the Mass, Msgr. Lewis Gaetano, pastor of Christ the Servant, the principal celebrant and homilist, emphasized that Christianity is not just something to “tell others about but something that should be shown by the way we speak and act.”

He added that just as Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., was with the group in prayer, those attending should pray for him as he guides his diocesan flock.

Concelebrants included St. Paul pastor Msgr. James “Jay” Clarke; Father Joseph Witmer, spiritual advisor of the YDCCW; and Father Thomas Cebula, senior pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel at Walsh University here.


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