Megan Sweas

Writer, Editor, Student of Life


Megan Sweas

Italian convents act as safe houses in trafficking portal

Published in Global Sisters Report, January 12, 2015

The girl was waiting at the sisters’ gate one morning in August.

Before her 18th birthday, Elizabeth had already traveled across the Sahara and the Mediterranean on her way from Nigeria to Europe and spent six months in a brothel in Denmark. She was being prepared to start working on the streets of Italy when she found her way to Casa Rut, a safe house for trafficking victims. Continue reading “Italian convents act as safe houses in trafficking portal”

To New Adventures… Highlights from 2014 & Best Wishes for 2015

Happy New Year! I hope that you had a wonderful 2014. It was a full year for me.

My first book, Putting Education To Work: How Cristo Rey High Schools Are Transforming Urban Education, was released in August, and two weeks later, I was on a plane to Italy for an International Reporting Project fellowship. Continue reading “To New Adventures… Highlights from 2014 & Best Wishes for 2015”

Ministering to unaccompanied immigrant children

Published by Global Sisters Report, June 19, 2014

Eight shelters in the Chicago area hold 450 immigrant children who crossed the border illegally and without a parent or guardian.

Once a month, an interfaith group visits one of the shelters to present a program with a theme like home or gratitude. The children draw pictures and sing a simple song. The adult leaders invite the children to light a candle. “You can tell that some of them really make that a time when they are praying,” said Benedictine Sr. Benita Coffey, one of the volunteers.

But the ministry is momentary. Volunteers are not to form personal connections with the children, and by their next visit, most of them will have moved on. Most likely they have been sent to live with family while they await their deportation proceedings.

As lawyers, social workers and volunteers, women religious and their partners help care for the growing number of unaccompanied alien children entering the United States. Their access to children, however, is increasingly brief. With thousands of immigrants overwhelming an already broken system, people of good will do what they can do to serve each individual in front of them. …


National Catholic Reporter also published a story on policies toward unaccompanied alien children on the same day.

How to treat unaccompanied immigrant children at center of policy debate

Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 19, 2014

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati first found out that children were crossing the U.S. border alone in the early 2000s, when their mission took three Central American girls into their El Paso home.

The girls crossed the border when Immigration and Naturalization Service handled “unaccompanied alien children,” as the government refers to them. INS separated out minors, but they were still put in handcuffs, foot shackles and a waist chain, Sr. Janet Gildea said. “They treated them just like criminals.”

Yessenia Vásquez, a Guatemalan teenager who stayed with the Sisters of Charity, was not unlike the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest border of the United States this year. She was escaping an abusive situation and feared for her life. Continue reading “How to treat unaccompanied immigrant children at center of policy debate”

Immigration officials call on churches, nonprofits to help detained families

Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 10, 2014

As more Central American migrants cross into the Southwest United States, the Department of Homeland Security wants community organizations to help care for detained families.

Two planes carried 270 detained immigrants to El Paso, Texas, for processing over the weekend. The immigrants, all members of families, are being released while they await deportation proceedings.

Churches and nonprofit organizations are working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure that the families have access to food and services upon their release, said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, at a press conference Monday.

Immigration officials reached out to Annunciation House, which serves migrants, to warn of the influx of immigrants into El Paso, Garcia said, praising the collaboration. “We need your help; we want your help,” he said they told him. “We want these people to be treated like human beings.”

ICE has been releasing families from custody because of a lack of detention facilities, but it has come under fire in recent weeks for its treatment of released migrants. …


Evangelical crisis hotline finds new future with Catholic diocese

Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 6-19 issue

IMG_5820For her three-hour volunteer training session, Louise Dunn does not have any props. She only turns to illustrate a concept on the white board once. And yet she has the full attention of 22 trainees for the New Hope Crisis Counseling Center, a faith-based suicide prevention hotline.

“I will tell you, the first calls you will get with New Hope, you will remember,” she says. “They’re profound.”

New Hope is more than 45 years old, but for many of the Catholics in the room, the training is their introduction to the program. A year ago, the evangelical ministry was just days away from shutting down before being saved by Catholic Charities. The survival of New Hope represents both the need and potential for a more robust faith-based response to mental health.

Saving the program

On the other side of Orange County, megachurch pastor Rick Warren has used the loss of his son, who died by suicide last year, to turn attention to mental health. His Saddleback Church partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Orange to host the largest gathering on the topic in March.

But mental health is not a new issue for churches.

New Hope started in 1968 at a young Garden Grove Community Church, one of the original megachurches. …

Read more in the digital edition of NCR

Interfaith group speaks out in wake of Santa Barbara shooting spree

Published by The Washington Post, The Deseret News and
Huffington Post via Religion News Service, May 10, 2014

IMG_5974LOS ANGELES — An interfaith group representing 15 organizations spoke out against gun violence Thursday (May 29) in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting spree in Santa Barbara.

Religious organizations have lobbied for stricter gun control in the wake of mass shootings, and this latest effort was no exception.

“We are here this morning to stand with the multitude of groups across the United States who are advocating for sensible, common sense laws to limit the effects of gun violence,” said Steve Wiebe, co-chair of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative. “Our faith traditions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — spur us to peaceful solutions as we recognize the inherent worth of each individual life.”


Tucson diocese rescues schools in partnership with new Notre Dame program

Published by National Catholic Reporter, March 20, 2014

Omar Pro Montaño looked into sending his daughter to Catholic school years ago, but he couldn’t afford the then $5,200 tuition at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Tucson.

“If I was financially set, it would have been a no-brainer,” Pro Montaño said. “I would have gone with a little less to make sure she went.”

But at that time, Pro Montaño was in school so that he could take care of his family. He is a barber and his wife is a prep cook, and money has always been tight for the family of five. Pro Montaño wants better for his kids. Amirah and her little brother, Omar, earned good grades in the public school. He and his wife keep them busy and out of trouble through sports and activities. …


Note: Only available to subscribers. To read this story, contact Megan.

Conference takes aim at Christians’ silence on mental illness

Published by National Catholic Reporter, March 31, 2014

Saddleback Church GatheringLake Forest, Calif. — When Deacon Tom Lambert speaks about his experience parenting a child with mental illness in parishes around the country, people come up to him after Mass crying with stories of their own to share.

“It was the first time they felt comfortable enough to tell that story,” he said, addressing The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church on Friday at Saddleback Church.

Nearly a year after the suicide of Saddleback pastor Rick Warren’s son, the evangelical megachurch, the Catholic diocese of Orange, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) partnered to break Christians’ silence on mental health issues through the daylong conference. About 3,300 evangelical Christians and Catholics attended the gathering, and more than 6,000 watched live online, according to a news release about the event.

As pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, Warren grieved the loss of his son, Matthew, in public. “Kay and I have always known that someday we would be spokespeople for mental illness because God never wastes a hurt,” Warren said. …


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