St. Catherine’s is a project of Familia Victricis, a 501c3 not for profit, EIN #82-2819403.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about a critical mission during this unique time of great need. This is, if you will, your recruiting letter, like one I once received, seeking your participation in this mission. Those with hearts like yours, who seek to respond with real action in times of crisis, constitute the ranks of history's heroes. Please allow me to share the story that led this letter to you.
My name is AnnaMaria Cardinalli, and friends call me CC. If you ever happened to have heard my name, it was probably in the context of music. I’m an opera singer and a concert guitarist. That, however, was often a public facade helping to conceal my real work, which I now rely on your help to continue. Following the events of 9/11, after graduating from Notre Dame with a Ph.D. in Theology, I joined the FBI as a counterterrorism analyst.
Once the war in Iraq began, I was selected for transfer (TDY) to the Joint Special Operations Command and deployed to Iraq. Every day, I witnessed our forces saving the innocent lives of good people, and I longed to do the same in uniform myself. So, upon returning home, I applied for a Commission in the U.S. Navy. Then, as the war in Afghanistan unfolded, an incredible opportunity to be of the kind of service I had witnessed presented itself.
Just as the Marines began to take the far tribal reaches of Taliban-controlled territory, I accepted a federal position as the Senior Social Scientist on the first Human Terrain Team (HTT) embedded with the USMC. I also jointly trained and served on the first USMC Female Engagement Team (FET). HTT and FET work both involve patrolling villages, usually with infantry and medical teams, in order to interact with local communities and gain perspective on their cultural context.
The problem is that I did begin to understand the cultural context of the war we fought, and it was horrifying. Boys as young as preschoolers were taken from their mothers and trained to fight for warlords while being sexually abused until the age at which they grew beards. In neighboring countries, if the children happened to be of some minority class, usually Christians, their fate in slavery was much worse, up to and including crucifixion for boys and stoning for girls if forced conversion was not achieved.
The work I did to bring this to the attention of my commanders was released on WikiLeaks and was soon reported through major news sources. While such work being leaked with my name associated put an end to future covert positions in the intelligence field, it was a blessing more important than my career because it brought the world’s attention to the issue. To clarify the reporting, I was offered a book deal and wrote Crossing the Wire: One Woman’s Journey into the Hidden Dangers of the Afghan War (Casemate Publishing and Open Road Media).
On American soil once again, I felt my life’s calling revolved around the protection of these innocent children. As a Catholic, I took vows in an emerging order of sisters who shared this passion, and I rolled up my sleeves to do more. My report, along with the book, resulted in the passage of a U.N. resolution against the recruitment of children into Afghan military and police forces, and I gave congressional testimony on the issue when an investigation was demanded.
However, a subsequent meeting of the UN revealed no progress on enforcing the resolution and an incoming US administration deemed the sexual abuse of children a “cultural issue” that must be respected. (See here.) Needless to say, the trafficking, enslavement, and sexual exploitation of children is not a cultural issue but a criminal one. It is a violation of Afghan law, a war crime, and, due to its efficacy in forming radicalized fighters, a security threat to the U.S.
This failure to help save the children from their abusive circumstances, however, taught me an important lesson. I didn’t need to appeal to government and international authorities to protect the most vulnerable. It didn’t work. I simply needed to protect as many individual lives as I possibly could. Finding myself now service disabled from the long-term effects of a TBI and eye injury in Afghanistan, I sought new ways to do this.
I opened a licensed private investigative firm in the U.S. and shortly realized, when desperate clients reached out to me, that human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children is as tragically prevalent on our own suburban doorsteps as it is overseas. In an average U.S. town, a child is typically approached by traffickers within 48 hours of leaving home or foster care, and children with the most difficult or abusive circumstances have the greatest likelihood of leaving their home or care setting.
They are also the least likely to ever be reported as missing. These beautiful, innocent children simply “disappear.” They can be saved from a horrible fate only if someone intervenes in the narrow window of that first 48 hours and offers a place of safety and security. St. Catherine’s is working to offer that and so much more–enough to mean all the loving care necessary and a lifetime of opportunity to the young people who come to us.
Santa Fe, NM, my hometown and the place where I founded the PI firm, is a hotbed of the difficult circumstances that snare children into trafficking because of the nearby crossroads of illicit trades. In our state, amphetamine and opiate addiction rates are among the worst in the U.S., international cartels traffic drugs and children indiscriminately, and the current border crisis has increased this activity exponentially. We are also a state which welcomes refugees from international conflicts such as the U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan and the current war in Ukraine. However, we do not have nearly as many facilities as needed to keep these vulnerable populations safe from traffickers.
There has to be an answer to all of this in Santa Fe, and there can be. My organization and our brilliant and generous associates have worked to compile the most amazing resources to help lend real solutions to these problems. Through partnership with an amazing construction company, we will be able to afford the building costs for a beautiful “village” for children at risk. We are now working to purchase some rural property outside of Santa Fe. If we can accomplish that property purchase, then we have, at our disposal for the children and free of charge:
world-class trauma treatment and trauma-informed childcare,
comprehensive healthcare including vision, dental, and specialist attention,
food donation from amazing partners in the hunting and outdoors industries,
education from Kindergarten to College,
amazing entrepreneurial training and opportunities,
certifications for in-demand tech career skills like coding,
professional coaching in matters like financial responsibility and homeownership,
vocational and trade training through supportive programs,
optional Navy Cadet Corps and Sea Scouts units for citizenship building and constitutional education,
training in a variety of sports and the arts for witch Santa Fe is renown,
enrichment opportunities greater than those found at the finest private boarding schools,
and much, much more.
Rancho Santa Catarina
We are especially proud that 96% of the cost of the ongoing care of our children is already covered, and we have many plans in place to insure our own sustainability in covering those 4% of costs which remain while providing employment opportunities for our students and graduates. This is in addition to the astounding reality that the planning and construction of the facility itself is being, in a great part, donated!
The lynchpin now to a safe and healing new life for children facing the risks my life’s work has identified is the acquisition of the land to create the facility that will become their loving home. I am writing to ask for your help in making this facility a reality, and invite you to learn more about the programs we have in place at www.stcatherinesmission.org. While we originally had the hope of acquiring the “old” St. Catherine’s boarding school property in Santa Fe, we are open to any property that will serve the purpose nearby.
If such a property were large enough, we could potentially expand our supportive services to certain adults, particularly homeless veterans, in separate housing. A large inexpensive property just outside Santa Fe would likely be rural, and therefore, we are now excited and prepared to expand our operations to include ranching to both help sustain the mission long term and provide amazing therapeutic and work-training opportunities for the Santa Catarina family.
Any degree of help or support in acquiring the property would provide the turning point in our ability to save young lives at risk. Thank you for your care, for your open heart, and, if it is possible and you are so moved, for your response. Again, Familia Victricis is a 501(c)(3) not for profit, EIN #82-2819403, so donations are tax-deductible.
If you decide to serve with us on our team, the mission really is possible!