On behalf of the National Religious Vocation Conference, I want to congratulate and to thank you for the positive portrayal of women religious you have featured in recent issues of America (e.g., 11/15/04, 1/3/05, 1/17/05). The American church owes tremendous gratitude to our religious sisters, who with profound faith, hard work, little money and great ingenuity substantially contributed to the Catholic institutions and ministries we proudly celebrate today.
Although they are now fewer in number, they continue to inspire us with their stories of love, fidelity and sacrifice in the service of God’s people. In a culture that promotes a distorted value system of sex, greed and power, may the stories of these generous, faith-filled women encourage others to consider religious life as an alternative life option that, when lived with joy and integrity, can be both exciting and fulfilling.
Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C.
I wonder why America did not include another group in its shaded box (To Help Tsunami Victims) on page 6 of the 1/17 issue. Surely as a Jesuit publication, it would not be out of line for you to toot your own horn in this instance. Sojourners, on its Web site at sojo.net, had the highest praise for the Jesuit Refugee Service. The following excerpts, taken from the site on Jan. 6, explain why this organization (and also World Vision) is a smart choice.
Sojourners is partnering with two faith-based relief organizations to deliver assistance to the victims of the tsunami in Asia: Jesuit Refugee Service and World Vision.
Long before this tragedy, both organizations had a strong presence in Sri Lanka and Indonesia among the poorest of the poor. Jesuit Refugee Service, for instance, had established strong, viable projects among displaced communities in these respective regions. They are now in phase 1’ of their relief efforts, delivering emergency relief kits.’ And long after the media coverage is gone, J.R.S. will be seeding sustainable development projects. Remarkably, 100 percent of your donations will reach the victims in Asia. In other words, no agency costs will be deducted.
Sojourners urges you to give generously to Jesuit Refugee Service and World Vision. These faith-based organizations have become our hands to deliver the compassion that we all feel toward the homeless and hungry in Asia at this moment.
I did not appreciate the importance of the separation of church and state until these past few months. As I see it, the wall of separation is to protect the church from being encroached upon by the state, but it is also to protect our freedom to practice our religion from encroachments of the religion of the majority.
Here in Eastern Kentucky, where I now live, I have learned what it is like to be in a minority. I am a liberal Catholic surrounded by fundamentalist Christians, good people all but totally sure that they know exactly what God wants, including who is to be president. They also decide who is saved and not saved and what every word of the Bible means. I can only imagine what Jews, Muslims and persons of other non-Christian religions must feel.
Terry Golway wonders why people seem afraid to speak of their beliefs (Matters of Which We Dare Not Speak (1/17). Here there is a great deal of what I call God-talk. People speak of bringing Christ to others, meaning telling them about Jesus. I would rather have people be Christ to others, as apparently Msgr. James J. Finnerty and others do. I cringe at so much God-talk. People have the right to speak for themselves, but I resist others’ too facile attempt to speak for God. There is already too much of that in the world.
The Saint of the Sock Drawer, by James Martin, S.J., (1/3) brought back memories.
When I was about 10, my older brother Gene became seriously ill and was confined to a hospital in Wichita, Kan. Our family lived 20 miles from the hospital, and Mother and Dad spent most of their days at Gene’s bedside. Each evening my siblings and I would eagerly await the return home of our parents. Our first question always was, How is Gene? The news was not good day after day, as Gene’s condition gradually worsened. One evening the message was: The doctor said that Gene is not going to get well. He is going to die. Then my Dad told us: Gene is not going to die. We are going to pray him well.
One of the sisters in the hospital had told my parents about St. Jude, the patron of hopeless cases, and had also given them some prayer leaflets with the prayer In Hopeless Cases. That night we began praying a novena to St. Jude. Gene was going to get well, and we were determined to pray him well.
Before too many days, Gene’s condition changed and he was on his way to recovery. Our happy family continued to pray for his health, and soon the doctor had to take back his words. He said, Your son is going to get well. My Dad must have looked at the doctor in a way that meant, Well, what did you expect after we put Gene in St. Jude’s care?
This was not only a powerful lesson for a 10-year-old to learn about the power of prayer, but also an invitation to rely on the intercession of the saints.
Irene Hartman, O.P.
The article The Health Care Crisis, by Michael D. Place, (12/13) does a good job stating the problems of our nation’s health care system and outlining the several guiding principles for a transformed system. There is also much concern over the uninsured. But it does not discuss the costs of either the present health care system or a transformed system.
Health care for all is a noble goal, but it cannot be met without considering costs. Any service available to all must have reasonable costs. So we need to find out where all the money is now going: doctors, nurses, hospitals, drugs, health insurance, malpractice insurance, defensive medicine, trial lawyers, needless expensive procedures, etc. But we also need competitive market forces, e.g., competition.
We need to consider some basic facts. Health insurance is essential because health care is so expensive. Any system that provides service at no cost to the recipient will be abused and will go broke. Insurance itself contributed to rising health care costs because the recipients did not seek the lowest costs and also because more money in the health care system meant more money to the insurers, who gave little evidence of any effort to restrain costs.
Regardless of how much money is made available for health care, college education or anything else, it will never be enough.
Thanks to Msgr. Robert W. McElroy for his clear and balanced discussion in Prudence and Eucharistic Sanctions (1/31). The fact that many of our bishops are lacking in prudence has been demonstrated in other areas requiring administrative decisions, not the least of which is their callous disregard of the victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy.
As long as church leaders are chosen without consultation with lower clergy and laity and largely on the basis of acquiescence with sexual teachings long rejected by the faithful, prudential judgment is likely to be in short supply.
Robert M. Rowden
San Rafael, Calif.