Called to Act

Called to Act

Catherine GriebelAfter you graduate from Saint Mary’s, says Catherine Griebel ’99, “You’re called to do something with your education. I don’t know if it’s Catholic guilt or a guiding principle, but that idea really is with me all the time.”

She’s joking about the guilt, but not about doing something. As a case manager for Safe Horizon, an agency that assists violence victims in New York City, Griebel has daily opportunities to put her education into action. In her job she provides counseling and support to survivors of human trafficking—individuals who have been forced to work for little or no pay, coerced into debt, abused, or sexually exploited.

Many of her clients are immigrants who came to the U.S. for a better life and instead found themselves in conditions of modern day slavery. “As a case manager I work with victims to provide a sense of stability and security after the crime has occurred,” Griebel says. Gradually, Safe Horizon moves survivors “from crisis to confidence.”

How did a nice English Literature and Spanish major end up in a job like this? After Saint Mary’s, Griebel earned a master’s in international development from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2003, she won a Fulbright award to spend a year examining how international treaties on human trafficking are enforced in Chile.

When she returned to the U.S., she wanted to work directly with people affected by the problem. “You can have laws against trafficking, but if you don’t have resources to support survivors, it’s really hard for them to navigate the system.”

Griebel says the seeds for her work were planted in college: “The liberal arts curriculum at Saint Mary’s gave me a well rounded, almost ‘3-D’ sense of problems that many Catholics and people in social justice communities care about.” Political science classes with Professor Marc Belanger sparked her interest in Latin America. Studying abroad in Seville and classes with Professor Gerald Gingras honed the Spanish language skills she uses daily. And, literature studies with Professor Tom Bonnell taught her “that there was always a human story.”

Griebel stays in touch with her professors. Last year, she helped Belanger lead a Saint Mary’s study program in Honduras. On a recent visit to campus she reflected, “The faculty are unmatched in their combination of talent and the interest they show in their students—they really care what happens to them and how they use their education after they’re here.”