Nun’s help for transgender women gets pope’s blessing
Thursday, August 20th, 2020
- Pope Francis has promised to pray for a nun and the transgender women the nun is helping.
Discalced Carmelite nun Mónica Astorga Cremona wrote to Pope Francis telling him about the inauguration of a new housing complex she has established to help transgender women living in poverty. The new 12-studio apartment complex in Neuquén, Argentina, is part of a permanent housing solution for about twelve people between the ages of 40-70.
The pope, who is an old friend of Cremona, replied to her letter saying “God who did not go to the seminary or study theology will repay you abundantly” for the work you have done. He told her he is praying for her and the transgender women she is assisting, adding, “Don’t forget to pray for me. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin guide you.”
“This must serve as a kickoff, because if a nun could make her dream a reality, then how much more can the government do!” Cremona says.
The new complex was built on land donated to Astorga Cremona’s monastery by the district. It was funded by the local provincial government and built by the Provincial Institute of Housing and Urban Development, costing around 27.6 million pesos to build. It was then immediately handed over to the Order of Discalced Carmelites for administration.
Many of the people who will live at the complex have been prostitutes, selling themselves to get by. However, with quarantines imposed due to the coronavirus ( COVID-19) pandemic, those who were prostitutes have been unable to work.
As part of the inauguration ceremony, Cremona accompanied each new tenant to their doorstep. “They couldn’t even hold the key because of the crying,” she said.
The new condos are not “a refuge nor a trans home,” Cemona says. They are houses given as if they were a loan, “as if it were a rent, but without paying anything and without installments.” So long as the tenants comply with the regulations, which are the same as any rental, they are able to stay for life. If after three warnings, however, a tenant continues to break the rules, they have to leave.
Four of the new tenants have moved in with their partners. However Cremona said if they die, their partners will be asked to leave, as the complex is specifically for transgender people.
Cremona, who serves as the superior of her community, lives in the cloistered monastery of Santa Cruz and San José de Neuquén. For the past 14 years she has worked with transgender women, encouraging them to stop addiction and helping them to get out of prostitution by teaching them other trades.
This article is one more sign of the compassion of Pope Francis for the poor and the marginalised of the world. This work of Sister Monica is perhaps a natural extension of her untiring work for prostitutes and destitute women in Neuquén, Argentina, where she has taken up the cause of housing transgender women specifically – at a time when such a ministry might well have been officially frowned upon by the Church
Being supported by Pope Francis – a friend of Sister Monica from his time in Argentina – is a mark of his, and her, devotion to ministry to the poor and outcast of society. This demonstrates the determination of this Pope to show love and compassion to those people least able to care for themselves, and who are subject to ridicule and exclusion for simply being who they are in their particular class of society.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand