Kim Ritter of Nix Conference & Meeting Management has been responsible for orchestrating LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) conferences. Her work with the Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph encouraging the Millennium Hotel in St. Louis to sign the ECPAT-USA Code of Conduct against the commercial sexual exploitation of children opened her eyes to the atrocities of human trafficking. This experience profoundly impacted Kim, as seen in excerpts from her interview with Sr. Camilla D’Arienzo.
During August’s assembly in Orlando, Fla., you described the impact of this collaboration on your work and your life, especially with regard to your efforts to oppose the trafficking of women and children. Would you share that with our readers?
As I began to work for the women religious, my life began to change. I realized how powerful you could be as women and how effective you were when you communicated with love and compassion. I was constantly surrounded by strong, intelligent, loving women who allowed the Holy Spirit to move them into their decisions. What an amazing revelation that you can fully and freely give yourself to God and allow him to direct you. The U.S. Catholic sisters have made me a better woman, a better mother to my daughters, and have given me a new vision on allowing the Holy Spirit to lead my life.
Why does this [human trafficking] issue matter so much to you?
Honor God, help people. As Catholics, and as I want to teach my children, we are taught to help people. I believe all girls should have the opportunity to become strong, successful women and that no one should ever have to be sold for sex. It was the most horrific thing I had ever heard, and I knew I could not tolerate this atrocity. I began to research the issue, speak with local law enforcement and advocates. The media picked up on the fact that I was able to identify hotel brands from the photos I saw of girls for sale online. At that point, the Holy Spirit took over, and I had a voice. The simple meeting planner that had been influenced by the sisters and the love and protection of her children had a voice, and I was ready to do whatever the Spirit had intended.
What in your faith is most important to you?
My children are grown and in college now, so I find myself realizing — pulled, really — to fighting this atrocity. I have realized I am not in control of my life. I realize that the Holy Spirit has a job for me on this earth. So, I have faith that I am to follow this path as long as I can continue to influence those around me. So the most important thing to me right now is surrender. I am his vessel and I can’t wait to see where he takes me next.
Do you have a favorite Scripture passage or Bible story?
YES! When I first started doing this, people thought I was crazy. I was talking to a Sister of Mercy, and I told her I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I had to do it. She gave me Isaiah 43:19, and I have carried it with me for the last four years. I had no idea how true this verse would be: “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
What does your faith offer you? Ask of you?
People always ask if I am scared because of what I am fighting. I go places on the streets and in the city I should not go, and I speak out. I am not afraid. This is my job on this earth, and I have faith that this is the life I am supposed to live. So my faith offers peace in all situations.
What causes you sorrow?
Knowing that when I go to sleep tonight, countless girls are going to be raped and tortured and that some man, some john, is going to pay money to inflict this treatment on another human being, especially a child. The degradation of our society causes me great sorrow.
What gives you hope?
People talking about trafficking. People asking me about trafficking. Articles and news stories about trafficking. This gives me hope that awareness is rising and that more people will join us in the fight to combat sex trafficking.
Learn more at Sr. Camille D’Arienzo’s National Catholic Reporter article: Work with LCWR led to advocacy to end human trafficking.