Transforming the Lives of Families and Communities Across the Globe

Challenge and Context: Resources and Opportunities in Transformative Work

The global Catholic sisterhood is a vibrant network of 700,000 vowed women religious rooted in their profound faith and belief in the dignity of the human person. Catholic sisters are committed leaders and advocates for the communities they serve to foster for peace, equity and justice. Their hands-on ministries and partnerships bring dignity and hope while dramatically improving the lives of youth, families and communities around the world, particularly those who are marginalized and suffering from structural injustice and disadvantage. Catholic sisters work to educate children, provide care to those in need, promote peace and advocate for justice, while standing alongside individuals experiencing oppression. With over 700,000 dedicated sisters worldwide, their work, services and partnerships with the Church span over 100 countries, 250,000 Catholic schools, 50,000 social service organizations, 20,000 healthcare facilities and 16,000 senior/elderly care facilities. 

Sister Regina (left) and Sister Doctor Carren (right) stand in the corridor of St. Mary’s Mission Hospital in Kibera, near Nairobi, Kenya. Sister Regina is a nurse and works alongside Sister Doctor Carren. Mission Hospitals like St. Mary’s are responsible for providing 40% of healthcare services in Kenya and most are run by Catholic sisters.

Examples of the sisters’ work abound across the world. In recent years, sisters have assisted within war-torn regions of Nigeria, providing education and health services to those who may not have otherwise received it from state-sponsored organizations. In South Sudan, Catholic sisters support individuals and communities trying to recover from displacement and long-term trauma caused by war, conflict and injustice. And within the last year, Catholic sisters remained at the forefront of the COVID-19 response, providing care and support to individuals on nearly every continent. 

Sister Lucy, who manages the St. Charles Lwanga Primary School in Kibera, near Nairobi, Kenya, walks with students at the school following a game of soccer during recess time. St. Charles Lwanga Primary School also offers job training for older students.

Despite their unique ability to advance humanitarian efforts, Catholic sisters face constraints to building strong leadership bases and transforming local communities. Sisters’ organizations and ministries are not typically well-funded, and sisters themselves are rarely compensated equivalent to their lay peers, given that most sisters provide essential services in under-resourced communities. From management to finance to technical skills, education and training opportunities are often limited, hindering organizational growth and sustainability. Gender equity movements have generally failed to benefit from the distinct and valuable voices and perspectives of Catholic sisters. Policy and funding-decision forums overlook sisters and their knowledge of complex development issues and deep understanding of marginalized and under-resourced groups. Systemic inequities have led to many congregations of aging sisters left without adequate support and care following a life of service. 

What We Do: Expand the Global Work and Reach of the Catholic Sisters

Our founder, Conrad N. Hilton, maintained a deep respect and admiration for Catholic sisters. Our support of sisters builds upon this legacy by providing resources to strengthen the skills of individual sisters, reinforcing the leadership and sustainability of congregations while fostering collaborative networks among Catholic sisters worldwide. 

Our Current Focus

  • Provide access to resources, education and training 
  • Support the human development work of Catholic sisters
  • Support partnerships and collaborative networks for innovation and scaling solutions
  • Support building data management platforms, research and evaluation practices

We believe when Catholic sisters have access to opportunities to further their education and formation, sufficient financial resources, an equitable place and voice at decision-making tables, and support to grow their local, national and global networks, that people will continue to benefit and witness improved outcomes to some of the world’s most urgent and complex challenges. Our approach supports Catholic sisters’ vitality and their ability to advocate for meaningful change.  

Based on community input and guidance, we:

  • Develop sisters’ education, formation, care and well-being. 
  • Leverage sisters’ unique expertise in identifying the needs and challenges of communities and in crafting more effective solutions.
  • Recognize, leverage and apply sisters’ exceptional skills within partnerships and cross-organizational collaborations that will scale their ability to address the spiritual, mental and other health needs of those suffering injustice.
  • Include sisters at the decision-making table—primarily when it directly affects them—to bring their expertise and unique voices to the conversations about resource allocation and priorities.
  • Invest in data to support and advocate for sisters’ priorities.
  • Support models for sustainable care for the health and lives of elderly sisters.

The Impact of the Work: An Empowered Sisterhood Network and a Global Movement 

Our approach aims to ensure that the world benefits from the uniquely healing and deeply human-centered experiences and perspectives of Catholic sisters. Supporting sisters to have greater access to resources, opportunities for continuing education and formation, an equitable place and voice in decision making forums, and more robust networks worldwide—will allow the Catholic sisterhood to learn, share best practices and leverage collective impacts across networks. This will deepen and expand their centuries-long legacy of incredible humanitarian potential as they transform the lives of children, youth, and families to live with hope, dignity, and respect for all. 

Learn More

Meet the Catholic Sisters Team