St. Catherine's Mission
An Open Introduction
Your interest in the topic addressed here speaks to your strength and goodness in a time of turmoil. Thank you for your time and attention. Please allow me to introduce myself to you, and to place my trust in you regarding the circumstances I am about to describe.
My name is AnnaMaria Cardinalli, and to offer my background, I hold a Ph.D. in Theology from Notre Dame, where I watched the unfolding of the events of 9/11 and felt called to serve my country. I was an international counterterrorism analyst for the FBI before I was selected for a transfer of duty to the Joint Special Operations Command and deployed to Iraq in 2008. I subsequently deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 as the Senior Social Scientist on the first Human Terrain Team embedded with the Marine Corps, and as one of the few women whose research required regularly patrolling with infantry teams, I also served as a trainer and founding member of the USMC Female Engagement Team. Ours was the first official involvement of women in an operational capacity "outside the wire."
These experiences filled me with love and admiration of our military, and upon returning home, I was commissioned a Navy intelligence officer. I served in a counterterrorism capacity with my joint unit until vision and neurological complications occurring in the line of duty rendered me unfit for service.
While deployed in Afghanistan, I researched and authored the military report titled “HTT-AF6 Pashtun Sexuality,” which exposed the utter prevalence of the sexual slavery of boys in Afghanistan and their particular danger in the ranks of Afghan military, police, and insurgent organizations. The unclassified report was leaked and quickly publicized in a number of international news sources. I authored the book Crossing the Wire: One Woman's Journey into the Hidden Dangers of the Afghan War in response to some of these stories.
Hear a radio interview about the topic here:
The initial response to my report by commanders on the ground was to take action and issue orders that American troops should seek to identify and assist the victimized boys. By 2011, international pressure generated by the report forced Afghanistan to enter into an agreement with the United Nations to ban the practice within the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. However, the eventual response from higher up within the administration involved a shocking reversal--categorizing the sexual slavery of children, a blatantly criminal offense even under the currently unenforceable Afghan law, as a cultural issue which was to be overlooked and even uncriticized in the name of tolerance.
As if to further emphasize the bizarre evil of this position, an exemplary Green Beret, Sergeant 1st Class Charles Martland, was recently threatened with removal from the U.S. Army for physically defending a boy from his captor in the literal midst of torture. I assisted the American Centers for Law and Justice in their research for Sergeant Martland's defense, and the outcome was finally favorable to the Sergeant and to the future of the issue. The Martland Act, now before congress, seeks to protect service members who might defend children in the future, and a congressional inquiry, for which I have provided testimony, is currently underway to investigate the extent and gravity of the issue on U.S. bases. Perhaps most importantly, my work was in front of the UN again at the recent General Session, and this time the Human Rights Council acknowledged the accusation of their own inaction in preventing the abuses in Afghanistan according to their own standards.
This is the extent of our progress on the legal and governmental fronts, and on that of public awareness. Still, even these solutions are heartbreaking in their ineffectiveness. They look and feel like action, but bear absolutely no impact in the lives of individual children victims. I have tried to make clear the hidden atrocities in Afghanistan, but elsewhere, the horror is vividly evident, and still no action is taken. The Christian and religious minority children orphaned by ISIS are at the world’s highest risk for trafficking, sexual exploitation, torture, and execution. Even with military victory over ISIS more assured, the decimation of the remaining Christian populations of the Middle East remains nearly unabated.
One of many like it, though often ignored, the news report linked here tells the story of 33 young children who were executed for practicing their faith on Palm Sunday of 2017. They were shot while chanting together "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." Regardless of what our individual beliefs might be, it seems only right that people of goodwill categorically reject the genocide of any population for the practice of their religion. May we be moved to action by the steadfast bravery of these little ones.
I am reaching out for assistance and alliance in a more concrete solution—at least in the lives of individual victims. I am associated with a uniquely prepared and positioned emerging organization of Catholic Sisters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where an incredibly meaningful property lies vacant. It was once an orphanage and school founded by Saint Katharine Drexel herself. It has precisely the facilities, already in existence, that we would need to provide a loving home, recovery from trauma, innovative educational solutions, and entrepreneurial futures for the orphaned children we could rescue from this violence—as well as at-risk children aging out of the foster system here at home.
Through our emerging Sisters, we have some very promising, truly amazing sources of grant funding via technology training sources that will help us in the maintenance of the property & its benefit to local children, allowing us in turn to ensure the orphanage’s future for the children from overseas as well.
One of the most exciting reasons we are actually prepared to execute this project where other orders of Sisters would not be has to do with the extent of our continuing close involvement with the military, special operations, and paramilitary contracting/federal community. These alliances would allow for the safe rescue, escort, and transfer of children out of captivity. Through additional connections with other military service organizations, we also have agreements whereby the labor and materials that would be needed for any restoration of the property (plumbing, painting, roofing) could also be donated by motivated veterans who, like me, are tormented by the fact that, through our policy, we were forced to leave children behind to face danger in places we once fought to secure.
Finally, this story has a personal side. My mother, myself, and a number of beautiful, like-minded souls are seeking the approval of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to found the Society which will execute this project, called Familia Victricis (www.familiavictricis.org). Under my mother's amazing leadership, we’ll be an incredibly inclusive community with a mission of art and charity—and the task of keeping these precious children safe. With immense joy and with the permission of my spiritual director, I was permitted to take private vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in accordance with the Principles of Foundation of Familia Victricis on Easter Sunday of 2017! What a journey it has been from the uniform to the habit (figuratively, that is—our Society won't always wear one), and I realize there is not a place where I could be more fulfilled or more centered on the right mission.
Please pray for our success, explore the site to learn the details of our partnerships and plans, and if you have any thoughts to share, please get in touch!
UN Human Rights Council Acknowledgement
Inspector General Inquiry Announcement