Forty students from three nations came together in July for the SNJM Youth Justice Forum, an intensive week of study and service inspired by the legacy and spirit of the Sisters of the Holy Names.

All 40 girls, who attend SNJM-affiliated schools throughout the U.S., Canada and Lesotho, were included in the surprise announcement of Holy Names University‘s Marie Rose Durocher Youth Justice Leadership Scholarship awarding them four years of full undergraduate tuition at the university, which hosted the gathering.

It was the fourth SNJM Youth Justice Forum, which connected the students with Sisters and lay people who led them in an exploration of the Sisters’ corporate stands on the right to clean water, against human trafficking and for the human rights of migrants and refugees. The girls participated in service projects throughout the city of Oakland, helped to clean Lake Merritt as part of their study on water (pictured above) and visited the Oakland Museum.

They listened to a panel of Holy Names Sisters and Associates, including Sisters Joan Doyle, Fran Kearney, Mary Haupt, Anna Keim and Mary Rogers and Associates Marilyn Mackinnon and Mary Scott. Each of the panelists shared their experiences of the SNJM charism and thoughts on the future of religious life.

The students left the forum grateful and renewed in their work towards justice. All of the groups will return to their schools to carry out a service project that they discussed and planned during the forum.

In a Facebook video filled with messages of appreciation, many of the students spoke about how deeply they were affected by their experiences with the Sisters.

“It means so much to us, and I think that by recognizing the love and devotion you have to all of the corporate stands, we ourselves will be able to bring that love back into our communities,” said a student from St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, OR.

“It has brought a light out of me, and it has brought a change,” said one of the students from Lesotho. “ …I am indeed saying that I am going to take matters into my own hands. I am going to act and I’m going to bring change to other people.”

Click here to visit the SNJM Youth Justice Forum Facebook page.