Little Sister speaks at Congressional reception
- Created on Friday, 29 June 2012 14:48
On June 28 three Little Sisters attended a Congressional reception sponsored by the Government Relations Office of the Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB). Held in a gathering space in the Capitol, the purpose of the reception was to highlight the many ways in which Catholic organizations and ministries serve the common good and needy persons from all walks of life, as well as the impact of religious liberty issues on the Church’s outreach ministries.
Sister Constance Carolyn, communications for our U.S. homes, presented our mission. The text of her talk follows.
“Good evening and thank you to the USCCB for giving us this opportunity to speak about our ministries. I come before you on behalf of over 300 Little Sisters of the Poor, 2,500 elderly Residents and countless collaborators in our 30 homes in the United States.
I’d like you to meet Anna. She is 91 years old and has been a Resident of our home in Chicago for eight years. Before Anna came to live with us we often saw her at Holy Name Cathedral. She didn’t just frequent the Cathedral — she lived there, in the basement, known to regular Mass-goers as Chicago’s own version of the elderly prophetess Anna, praying day and night in the Temple.
“Anna’s disheveled appearance made it obvious, at least to us, that she needed our help. And so we tried to coax her to come live with us. For a while she declined our invitations. Though very poor in our eyes, she felt needed at the Cathedral. She had her routine … and her independence.
“Finally in 2004 Anna agreed that she could no longer make it on her own and so she moved to our home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. It was then we discovered that this humble old woman who lived in the church basement had a master’s degree in nursing, and that she had worked for the Chicago board of education helping to develop the Head Start program. Anna was someone. She had a personal history and accomplishments; she also had a unique personality.
“As a Resident of our home, Anna found purpose volunteering in the kitchen. Now nearly bent in half, she spends most of the day in the chapel. She is probably there right now, praying for the cause that has gathered us this evening.
“Like Anna, the majority of elderly persons admitted to our homes are female — as we all know, women typically outlive men. Most don’t come to us until they are in their 80’s or 90’s, because they try to make it on their own as long as possible. All come seeking what Anna sought — a home where they will be treated as individuals, where their personal stories and their preferences will be respected, where they will find security, kindness and personalized care, even while remaining as autonomous as possible.
“This is our mission — to offer the neediest elderly a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as members of our own family and accompanied with compassion and dignity until God calls them to himself. We share the conviction of our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, “Never forget that the poor are Our Lord.”
“Because we care for the poor, most of our Residents are Medicaid recipients. Yet Medicaid covers only about half of our operating expenses. We rely heavily on private and corporate philanthropy to make ends meet. Obtaining adequate funding is a constant struggle. The proposed fines for non-compliance with the HHS Mandate represent for us an unsustainable financial burden.
“Beyond the HHS Mandate, we Little Sisters of the Poor have serious concerns related to health care and religious liberty. If the federal government succeeds in enforcing this Mandate, we worry that there is nothing to stop it from rationing health care to seniors, or including euthanasia on the list of required “preventive services” as a way of eliminating the costs associated with our rapidly aging population. As more states legalize physician assisted suicide, we fear that someday we may be required to offer it as an alternative to palliative care. Assisted suicide and euthanasia are morally reprehensible to us. Being forced to participate in them would mean the end of our mission in this country.
“We have been caring for the elderly poor here in the U.S. since 1868. The first Little Sisters to arrive on American soil were amazed at the warm welcome and generosity of the people of this country. Here in Washington, Congress provided much-needed funding on three separate occasions in the 1870’s and 80’s, helping us build and expand our first home on H Street. This financial support enabled us to care for native Washingtonians, European immigrants and newly emancipated African Americans alike. The Little Sisters of the Poor came to America — and we have stayed here — to care for the neediest elderly of all faiths and cultures. Not because they are Catholic, but because we are.
“We have never faced religious persecution in this great nation. But as Little Sisters of the Poor we are not strangers to religious intolerance. We were founded in the aftermath of the French Revolution and our Sisters have been forced to leave several countries, including China, Myanmar and Hungary, because of religious intolerance. We pray that the United States will not be added to this list. During this Fortnight of Freedom we pray that God will continue to bless America and our mission to the poorest elderly for many years to come. Thank you.”