March 5, 2012

There was a time when Imelda Vera and Maria Villagrana, immigrants from Mexico, were afraid to confront an injustice in their lives.

But no more.

As members of a grassroots organization known as the Women's Justice Circles at their parishes in Washington state, they have learned that injustices can be overcome through knowledge and numbers.

Vera, 41, and Villagrana, 44, both mothers of five and legal residents, have been involved in justice circles for several years.

Both are leaders in the movement that spans 55 Catholic parishes in 42 cities in Washington and Oregon.

The circles help poor and marginalized women address their needs through community organizing based in Gospel values.

Vera said the circles help women understand their rights and responsibilities in society and to take action to overturn an injustice they might experience.

"When we started a circle I realized women together can do more than anyone can do on our own," she said of her work in Spokane, Wash.

A native of Guanajuato, Mexico, Vera has helped people tackle unsafe housing that immigrant families often confront as they settle in their new homeland.