Sister Monica Astorga is a Discalced Carmelite nun who lives and works in the Argentine state of Neuquén. She is carrying out a ministry in that state to offer welcome and support to transsexuals who are trying to leave behind a life of prostitution.
A few years ago, this work started to have a notable impact, and as the media in the region have amply reported, Pope Francis wrote her an email recently letting her and her convent know that he carries them in his heart, “along with the people you work with.”
The pope’s mail is related to the building of 15 houses that will be homes for people being helped by the ministry. In addition, as reported by the AICA News Agency, the pope heard about the opening of a home for the elderly that will be staffed by them.
This ministry was born 11 years ago, when Romina, a transsexual involved in prostitution, asked for help, wanting to leave prostitution but unable to get any other work.
A few years ago, Sr. Astorga told La Mañana, a local Neuquén newspaper: “Romina had gone to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in the Progresso neighborhood to tithe, and when they asked her what her job was, she answered that she was a prostitute, because as a transsexual, she couldn’t get any other work. They asked her if she needed help, and that was when (…) they contacted me, and asked if I could help her.”
When Sr. Astorga met Romina and listened to her, Romina asked the Carmelite nun to help her leave prostitution behind. Then, Romina told her there were many others in the same situation. The first thing the nun did when she called them together, as she explained during the interview with La Mañana, was invite them to the chapel to pray.
During the more than 10 years that she’s been involved in this work, Sr. Astorga has tried to give this “most marginalized” segment of society hope, by means of professional training and other activities. By building these homes, she is trying to respond to the desire expressed by Katy, one of the people she works with, who, when talking about her dreams, said that she dreamed of “a clean bed to die in.”
Sister Astorga obtained some city-owned lots to build the new homes, but the neighbors, confusing their arrival with an attempt to take over the property illegally, reacted negatively. Sister Astorga, explained La Mañana, went patiently from house to house “calming people down.”
In a previous letter, the pope had already encouraged her, writing that “in Jesus’ time, lepers were rejected like that. These people are the lepers of today. Don’t desist from this ground-breaking work that has fallen to you.”
A Walk on the Holy Side: Nun Helps Transgendered Find Christ