Our Voices

‘With This Light’ panel examines Honduran nun’s social justice legacy

The Catholic faith, feminism and human rights work in Latin America have long been important to Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

They’ll all converge in a new way May 22, as Kennedy, bestselling author of Being Catholic Now, takes part in a panel alongside the “With This Light” film team discussing the documentary on Sister Maria Rosa Leggol, known colloquially as the “Mother Teresa of Honduras.”

Joining Kennedy on the panel include “With This Light” executive producer, social impact investor and entrepreneur Jessica Sarowitz, directors Nicole Bernardi-Reis and Laura Bermudez, Kathleen Rogers of GSD Group, and Carolina Diaz of Notre Dame Academy Girls High School, as well as Karen Robinson, Program Director of RFKHR’s Speak Truth to Power Human Rights Education Program.

Leggol, who died of COVID-19 in 2020, was a Franciscan nun who dedicated her life to protecting orphaned and abandoned children of Honduras. Her cause for canonization currently is underway.

For more than 70 years, Leggol fought to eliminate childhood poverty in Honduras, helping more than 87,000 children and their families escape the vicious cycle of poverty and abuse by providing them with shelter, food, education, and vocational training.

“She was a real ripple of hope,” Sarowitz said in an interview, “fighting and writing wrongs within a very patriarchal society.”

Sarowitz said she and a female film crew were driven to help people better understand Leggol’s “profound social justice wins over decades.”

The film follows two young women and their journeys and experiences at Reyes Irene School for Girls.

Its release comes two years after Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and partners Red Lésbica Cattrachas won a historic case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that found the government of Honduras responsible for the extrajudicial killing of transgender woman and activist Vicky Hernandez.

The government has since begun to implement a series of reparations, including a public apology last year to Hernandez’ family.

Leggol grew up in an orphanage and, at the age of 6, met two Sisters of St. Francis . At 21, she joined the order. After initially working as a nurse, her passion for helping poor children in Honduras led her to open group homes for vulnerable children.

Leggol opened her first orphanage in 1964; she started the nonprofit organization Sociedad Amigos de los Niños (SAN) in 1966. In time, her work grew to build more than 500 homes across Latin America.

The panel examines the Honduran community’s response to Leggol’s passing at 93 and her legacy; it also sets forth steps watchers can take to become human rights defenders in their own community.

“She was unshakeable in her faith til the very end,” Sarowitz said.

Register for the film here.