A vision and a partnership

How the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary (SNJMs) helped us grow

In February of 2002, a group of twelve immigrant Latina women came together to create change in our community with the guidance of Bridget Cooke and Sister Barbara Raymond of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary (SNJMs).

Bridget and Barbara worked with the Latino community at Centro Cultural hoping to address the unique challenges faced by immigrant Latina women. They found that many Latina women living in the region were extremely isolated. They often came from rural villages, spoke different languages, and weren’t encouraged to mingle.

Together, Barbara and Bridget began to hold weekly meetings for these women. These meetings evolved into a pilot project for an education program that became the core component of our current organization. Each weekday morning, they studied math and English and created a community of support. The women could share their stories and dreams while they developed skills in parenting, sewing, and leadership. They called their group Adelante Mujeres, Spanish for “women rise up, move forward.”

Adelante Mujeres was created by a group of strong local Latina women and their allies. The SNJMs played a crucial role in the early success of our organization. Photo circa 2002.

The women of Adelante had a vision. They wanted access to education, both for themselves and for their young children. Within a few months, it became clear that the group would need a space and a mission of its own.

Sister Judy Bertoli and Sister Barbara Raymond of the SNJMs offered their home in Forest Grove as the birthplace of the organization. Alejandro Tecum, our current Sustainable Agriculture Manager, joined Adelante as a math instructor, and Reverend Brendan Filbert and the community at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church generously offered classroom space.

From this humble beginning, our Adult Education and Early Childhood Education programs were born.

Adelante Mujeres grew in Sister Judy and Sister Barbara’s Forest Grove home and spread from the dining room table, to the living room, to the kitchen. Its staff and allies began to occupy every corner of the house.

After five years, when the organization had outgrown the Sister’s home, the SNJMs funded moving expenses and first year’s rent on a new office. In total, the SNJMs generously provided us with secure office space to ensure our success during the first six years.

The SNJMs also played a vital role in the development of our ESPERE program, a workshop that teaches essential skills in compassion and conflict resolution, and provides emotional support to our students.

Sister Barbara Raymond, SNJM (left), pictured here with our Executive Director Bridget Cooke, continues to be a strong advocate for Adelante Mujeres.

In addition, The SNJMs have funded numerous grants for ESPERE, allowing us to offer crucial emotional support to Latina women in our community. The SNJMs funded an English translation of the ESPERE Workshop so we can share this transformative program with an even wider population. They currently fund the program’s leadership staff.

As we grow, the SNJMs still serve as an essential partner in helping us forward our mission. Although Sister Barbara Raymond has retired from full-time involvement, she remains an important ambassador and a strong advocate for our cause.