Home » Features » ¡Si, se puede! Pearl McGivney SL (Loretto President 2012-2019) left a legacy of commitment and compassion in Florida

¡Si, se puede! Pearl McGivney SL (Loretto President 2012-2019) left a legacy of commitment and compassion in Florida

Posted on October 29, 2020, by Christina Manweller

In the early 1970s Pearl McGivney traveled to California to work with
nonviolent organizer, activist and labor leader César Chávez. Pearl opened a legal aid office in Salinas. She fought for justice alongside farmworkers, helping to organize boycotts and strikes.

After several years, César asked Pearl to take up organizing work in Florida. Once on the ground, she found that families’ basic needs overrode the push to unionize and she founded Centro Campesino in Auburndale. Centro Campesino’s goal, according to Alicia Zapata CoL, who worked with Pearl in Florida for 28 years, was to “listen to the people and respond to their needs.”

The center hosted a food bank, started a housing committee, assisted women who were victims of domestic violence, provided aid with immigration issues. They organized dinners at churches where locals could socialize with migrant families and arranged Mexican dance classes for youth to help preserve their culture.

Above: Pearl McGivney SL, in red, standing second from right, at her going-away party in
Auburndale, Fla., before moving to Denver to assume her role as President of the Loretto
Community in 2012.
Photo: Alicia Zapata CoL

¡Si, se puede!

The ¡Si, se puede! (Yes, we can!) sign hanging on Pearl’s office door during her presidency was a reminder of the work done, and the work still to do.

As this issue went to press, Pearl died at the Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, KY. More than 100 people, many who knew her from her work in California and Florida, attended the online wake and funeral.

Christina Manweller

Christina Manweller

Editor of Loretto Magazine, Christina’s nonfiction and poetry has appeared in numerous publications. For many years she served as Director of Communications for a Colorado-based peace and justice organization. Her background also includes English and writing instruction at a local community college, digital and print design work, and photography. One of her joys is visiting the Loretto Motherhouse once or twice a year.
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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!