Katie Coldwell

Year Joined MKLM: 2010
Country: Brazil
City: Sao Paulo
Focus: Civil and Human Rights, Healthcare, Education, Pastoral
Project(s): Instituto de Terra, Trabalho e Cidadania – Institute of Land, Work and Citizenship
Vivencia da Saude – Women’s Health Class
Project Goal: Provide legal and social services to foreign women in Brazilian prisons. Provide basic self-care education for new arrivals in prison through the Archdiocese of São Paulo.

Personal Data:

Katie is from the diocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul where she was a parishioner at St. Benedict the Moore Parish in Milwaukee, WI. She graduated from Marquette University with a dual degree in Social Welfare and Justice and Theology and participated in campus ministry leading student retreats as well as the RCIA program; she also worked with the Iraqi Student Project, helping displaced students from Iraq. She worked as a caseworker for the Milwaukee Center for Independence as well as lived full time in a Catholic Worker Community. In addition to her professional life she spent 5 months in South Africa working in a township with teenagers affected and infected with HIV/AIDS.

MKLM Ministry:

Katie worked at both the Instituto de Terra (Institute of Land), Trabalho e Cidadania 9Work and Citizenship) and the Vivencia da Saude. She was part of a special team that worked with women who are foreigners in prison. Women come to Brazil from over 33 different countries and are imprisoned in Brazil. 99% of the time they have committed is drug trafficking. These women are mothers and daughters, sisters and aunties, nieces and cousins – all with their own unique story. Many of these women do not speak Portuguese, and need extra support to get their needs met. Oftentimes, their rights as prisoners are overlooked because they are foreigners.

This ministry provides social/legal services for the women in prison. This includes, making phone calls to their families, helping write letters, sending emails, making contact and collaborating with the consulate. Much of Katie’s time was spent looking up legal processes, making phone calls to families, and doing intake questionnaires with women that recently arrived in prison. The team becomes the hands and feet for these women outside the prison walls. She visited one prison every week, and then 3 other prisons about once a month, She spoke with the women who are foreigners, who needed extra assistance that the government was not providing for them.

The second ministry was through the Prison Pastoral of the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo, where she gave health classes to women who are foreigners in prison. We worked with the women who were new arrivals to the prison helping them creating coping strategies for survival, while caring for their health. We used yoga, meditation, stretching, games and discussion to educate women about their bodies and their health. These women have access to only 1 partime doctor for about 600 women, so self-care techniques are really important.

Learn more about Katie’s ministry by watching this video: Youth in Mission

Current Work:
Katie is currently is doing Graduate Studies at the University of Notre Dame.