The 39th annual Preston Ecumenical Progressive Dinner will take place on the evening of Wednesday, June 12. The annual event held at several churches was started by a group of friends with different religious background in order to promote a more ecumenical community. Topics of the speakers who have participated in the event have recently addressed topics ranging from precious gemstones to the orphan train.

This year, the dinner will begin at the United Methodist Church at 6 p.m. with the salad course. The main course of ham loaf with trimmings will begin to be served at Christ Lutheran Church beginning at 6:45 p.m. This year, the strawberry shortcake dessert and speaker will be held at St. Columban's Catholic Church. Though the food is what may draw the stomachs of many area residents, it is the surprising, yet serious talk that will occupy the minds of those who attend.

Two Sisters from the Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester, Sister Anne Walch and Sister Briana McCarthy, will broach the topic of human trafficking in Minnesota. Event organizer Gerrie Daley encouraged anyone who is a teenager or older to attend. Sisters will discuss not only the crime of human trafficking, but the impact it has had on the state and region.

The Sisters of Saint Francis have been traveling around the state and even the nation to help raise awareness of what they report to be largely hidden crime. Daley said she had learned about the issue through a Rochester Post-Bulletin article.

"I graduated from the same high school as Sister Anne, so we knew each other growing up," Daley shared, explaining that the connection further caused her to consider bringing the Sisters to Preston to speak.

According to Daley, both the Methodist and Lutheran churches in Preston have been having discussions on what they can do to help out with the problem of human trafficking. According to a fact sheet put out by the Sisters, the human trafficking industry nets $34 billion per year and has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Upwards of 700,000 people are trafficked globally each year with 17,500 of those being sent into the United States each year.

Considered the "modern-day slavery," human trafficking has not left Minnesota untouched. The Sisters will present figures on the local industry at the presentation such as the ranking that places Minnesota 13 in the nation for being a center for human trafficking. The Sisters consider "our fight against human trafficking . . . one of the greatest human rights causes of our time."

Stories will be shared by the Sisters including a recent one from Rochester where 18 individuals were arrested for soliciting prostitution, which has been a major cause of human trafficking. Part of the Sisters of Saint Francis' mission is to "act and speak courageously on issues that oppress and marginalize members of society, especially women." They draw their inspiration from their faith and also from Saint Francis of Assisi, their patron saint.

In their announcement, the Sisters said those who attend the presentation will learn quite a bit about human trafficking through a video, a presentation and discussion. They will also hear how the Rochester Franciscans are collaborating to eradicate this modern-day form of slavery.

Finally, they will also find out how victims of human trafficking are being rehabilitated and what kind of support they need once they are on their own. "We think it's not happening in our area, but it is," stated Daley, "If there is anything we can do to stop it, that's what we should be doing."