St. Irenaeus shines the light on human trafficking

Supporters at. St. Irenaeus Health Ministry shines a light on human traffficking. Courtesy photo

St. Irenaeus Health Ministry’s Bridge of Light: Human Trafficking to Human Triumph Ministry held a Solidarity Walk and Prayer Vigil on Monday, February 7th at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church in Cypress. Fifty people attended, including Cypress Mayor Paulo Morales and two representatives from CarePortal, Pastor Domingo Mota, Area Director and Timothy Abbott, Regional Director.

The evening started with meditative chanted Taize prayer in the church and scripture reflection by Deacon Jerry Pyne. He noted that the problem of human trafficking may seem overwhelming. However, “If we can change one life, we’ve changed the world.”

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the United States. The victims of sex trafficking are 98% women and girls. Posters were displayed that showed alarming statistics: Only 1% of victims are rescued; Every 30 seconds someone becomes enslaved; Human trafficking generates an estimated $150 million USD annually.

Courtesy photo

After prayer and singing in the church, participants were given candles to carry during the prayerful, silent procession. There were four stations along the way where prayers were said aloud and information was given about worldwide sex trafficking and labor exploitation. St. Josephine Bakhita, who was sold into slavery as a child, was asked to assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery. St. Bakhita is the patron saint of human trafficking.

Her feast day is February 8th, which is also the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. Local stories about commercial sex trafficking and the importance of buying fair trade goods were shared. We learned how to recognize human trafficking in our own community that may be hidden or in plain sight.

After the procession walked to the last station, we entered the Education Building. Monica Kovach, Chair of Bridge of Light Ministry, thanked everyone for coming and gave more information about the purposes of the evening: to increase awareness of human trafficking in our midst; increase education about the types of human trafficking; to learn the warning signs to prevent human trafficking, to report suspected human trafficking on the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1– 888-3737-888, and to commit to take action against human trafficking.

She advised us to trust our gut if we have reason to believe that human trafficking is occurring and report it. Professionals will investigate the situation. Reports are anonymous. Then, two representatives from CarePortal, So Cal Area Director Pastor Domingo Mota, and So Cal Regional Director and Timothy Abbott, told us about the online tech platform that connects child-serving agencies with church community resources to help meet the needs of children in crisis and, perhaps, keep children from entering the foster care system, help children within the foster care system, and help youth transition after foster care.

Unfortunately, 71% of human trafficking victims were previously in the foster care system. CarePortal helps at-risk families who don’t have family support systems. It forms relationships and gives physical practical support to families in need.

Courtesy photo

Each request of assistance is first vetted by a child-serving professional before it is put on the CarePortal platform. The requests are from people within a ten-mile radius of the church, which is the point of care. CarePortal is a way to proactively prevent human trafficking because, if a family can be stabilized, the vulnerable youth are less likely to enter foster care, which reduces the risk of aging out of the system at 18 and becoming trafficked.

Many become incarcerated, trafficked, and homeless. Examples of CarePortal common needs are beds, cribs, couches, strollers, car seats, money toward rent, etc. Confidential information about recipients is not put on the website. We were encouraged to join the St. Irenaeus Church CarePortal Response Team by emailing Learn more at

Cypress Mayor Paulo Morales spoke briefly about human trafficking and the difficulties of prosecution. He introduced two policemen who gave their personal accounts of cases in our area and discussed the Cypress Police Department’s collaboration with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force after their initial investigation. We were advised to call 911 if there is imminent danger, otherwise report on the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, 888-3737-888.

The Mayor said to include as many details as possible, such as the license plate number. Monica closed the evening by urging us to take action: SIGN THE LETTER to Governor Newsom requesting veto of SB 357 which repeals the crime of loitering with the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense in public areas for pimps, sex buyers and victims, SIGN UP to become a St. Irenaeus CarePortal Responder, JOIN the Bridge of Light Ministry to stay informed about human trafficking or BECOME a member of our Orangewood Team that provides lunches to the vulnerable and at-risk youth at Orangewood Foundation in Santa Ana.

The evening closed with a prayer by Deacon Jerry Pyne for the victims of human trafficking. We want to thank all those who made this powerful event possible, including Monica Kovach, Carol Reed, Donna Kriessel, Betty Borowski, Rosalie Valles, Mayor Morales, Deacon Jerry Pyne, Sr. Gemma Pires, Joe Tucciarone, Rorie Ramirez, Elaine Brewster and Rick Tkach. If you have any questions, please contact Monica Kovach at 310-490-6113.

St. Irenaeus shines the light on human trafficking