Standing Up for Life from Coast to Coast

Our Little Sisters on both coasts participated in the events surrounding the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C, and the newer West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco. It was an especially busy week in Washington as we welcomed a group from Catholic University of America for their MLK Service Day on Monday, then welcomed high school groups from Columbus, Indiana and Green Bay, Wisconsin on Thursday prior to the Vigil Mass for Life. Then on Friday the snow came!





Our HHS Journey Continues

It’s been a busy week to say the least!

The long journey upon which we find ourselves as a result of our opposition to the HHS Contraception Mandate has taken some unexpected turns. One of them came this week as we accepted an invitation from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to attend President Obama’s final State of the Union address.

I refer to our journey as one on which we find ourselves because it is surely not one we sought out. And we have been so surprised by how long and winding it has become! As Little Sisters we are not political beings. We usually live our lives very far from the public eye, especially when that eye takes the form of media cameras focused directly on us!

But that is where we found ourselves Tuesday evening as we made our way first toward the Speaker’s office, and then toward our seats in the balcony of the Congressional chamber. The evening began with a reception in the Speaker’s office, where we met some truly inspiring people like the 4 year old who sent care packages to servicemen and women, a diverse group of “front-line poverty fighters” from around the country, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff!

No doubt this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us (and we don’t mind that at all). We were honored to be guests of the White House for the Papal welcome back in September, and we were equally honored to be guests of Speaker Ryan for the State of the Union.

More than a few people asked us our impressions of the President’s speech, but commenting on such things is well beyond our expertise. There was one passage that stood out for me, however, no doubt because the President evoked Pope Francis’ visit to our nation. This is it:

“We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that ‘to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.’”

We pray that these words may reflect the true situation in our country and ask you to pray that the outcome of our Supreme Court case will allow us to return to our quiet lives of humble service to elderly persons in need. Our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan used to say that “Making the elderly happy is what counts.” Making them happy is what really matters to us.





No One Should Have No One at Christmas

Note: After this column was written Providence arranged that I find three other Christmas ads, all European, featuring lonely old people and relationships. Could God be trying to give us all a message in a subtle, yet startling way? Links to the ads follow this article.  (Sr Constance Veit, l.s.p.)

Each year British retailer John Lewis creates a seasonal buzz with its creative, emotionally charged Christmas advertisements. This year the department store chain has teamed with Age UK, Great Britain’s largest charity for senior citizens, to raise funds and awareness of the scourge of loneliness among the elderly today. The heart-wrenching commercial depicts a young girl reaching out to an elderly “Man on the Moon” and ends with a simple yet haunting slogan: “No one should have no one at Christmas.”

What does a British ad campaign have to do with us? When I saw the ad it struck me how much it is in synch with Pope Francis’ repeated appeals on behalf of the eldest members of our society. “It’s brutal to see how the elderly are thrown away,” he proclaimed earlier this year; “it is a brutal thing, it is a sin!” Pope Francis recounted a visit he paid to a retirement home one August. He met a woman who told him about her large family, and when he asked her about the last time her children had come to visit she replied, “for Christmas.” “Eight months without being visited by her children — abandoned for eight months!” he exclaimed. “This is called mortal sin!”

Our Holy Father issued a similar plea during the Festival of Families in Philadelphia earlier this year: “We have to care in a special way for children and for grandparents.… Taking care of grandparents and taking care of children is the sign of love — I’m not sure if it is the greatest, but for the family I would say that it is the most promising — because it promises the future. A people incapable of caring for children and caring for the elderly is a people without a future, because it lacks the strength and the memory needed to move forward.”

Christmas is the perfect time to take our Holy Father’s urgings to heart. The holidays can be lonely and stressful for many people — even more so for the elderly who have limited mobility and limited resources, who have outlived their loved ones, or who have been virtually forgotten by children and grandchildren caught up in the material distractions that have come to define the Christmas season in our culture. The irony is that not only do the elderly deserve our attention and care, but spending time with them can enrich us even more than it does them.

Pope Francis suggests that cultivating meaningful family relations is not as complicated as we might think. “Love is shown by little things,” he said during his final homily in America. Such simple gestures “get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, by brothers and sisters. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion.… Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home.”

Age UK and others charities devoted to the elderly began reporting a significant upswing in donations and gestures of solidarity toward the elderly as soon as the John Lewis ad appeared on television and social media. If a secular ad campaign can inspire thousands of people in Great Britain to be more attentive to lonely seniors this Christmas, how much more should Pope Francis’ words and example during his visit to the United States motivate us to reach out to the elderly with our caring presence this Christmas and throughout the new year dedicated to mercy. Such familial love and solidarity would be a most beautiful and lasting fruit of Pope Francis’ first visit to our nation. Let's make sure that no one has no one this Christmas!


Watch a similar ad from Germany:



And a similar ad from Spain:



Finally, a touching ad from Switzerland:







Try a Little Tenderness

December was a busy month, but one thought from Pope Francis really stayed with me. Our Holy Father was giving an interview for the official Jubilee Year publication, Credere.

Here’s the thought that caught my attention: “When I see the sick, the elderly, a caress comes spontaneously to me. A caress is a gesture that can be interpreted ambiguously, but the first gesture that a mother or father does with the newborn child, is the gesture of ‘I wish you well,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘I want you to get ahead.’”

Our Holy Father evoked the famous homily of Pope Saint John XXIII, the “address to the moon.” “One evening,” Pope Francis said of John XXIII, “he greeted the faithful saying: ‘Give a caress to your children.’ That image became an icon of the Church of tenderness.…”

Pope Francis’ words helped me to see in this Christmas season all the gestures and activities through which our many collaborators show tenderness to our elderly Residents. Take a look! 




































Black Friday

















As we look forward to Thanksgiving and our American "Black Friday," let us keep in our prayers all those who were touched by France's "Black Friday," as Paris' Cardinal Vingt-Trois referred to the recent terrorist attack in the City of Light.


CLICK HERE to read the Cardinal's homily at a memorial Mass held at Notre Dame Cathedral on November 18.