On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a global pandemic, and since then, the world — and the Church — has been turned upside down, as more than 1.5 million people have died from the virus, including nearly 300,000 in the United States.
While the pandemic cast a dark cloud over the year 2020, other storms rolled in. In May, the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis sparked monthslong protests demanding an end to brutality against Blacks by law enforcement officers. Throughout the year, a contentious presidential election drove a wedge further between an already divided country.
Despite unprecedented times, there were beacons of light that shone through the darkness — men and women whose witness of faith inspired the Body of Christ. We are pleased to honor them for their selfless service to the Church as Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year for 2020.
LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR
Courageously fighting for the right to live out their mission of service
By Montse Alvarado
The Little Sisters of the Poor are the kind of Catholic order of women religious you only hear about when you need them — when you are facing difficult times. Their mission to serve the elderly poor and dying is not one that is featured in Hollywood films. They do the work of serving those on the margins so they can prepare to receive the promises of Christ in a loving, warm community. When you walk into a Little Sisters home, hope and laughter fill your heart. Unless you have visited one of their homes (which I encourage everyone to do once COVID is behind us), it’s impossible to imagine the joy that emanates from the residents’ faces and the deep love they have for the sisters, who are their family.
This alone would be enough to make the Little Sisters of the Poor deserving of being included among Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year, but it’s their defense of their faith, which motivates their ability to love and care for their residents in this way, that is even more admirable. Used to doing their work out of the limelight, they stepped up and fought the most powerful government in the world at the Supreme Court — twice! — for the right to practice their faith according to their conscience. Quiet advocates became fearless spokespersons overnight, inspired by faith and qualified “for a time like this” (Esth 4:14). And the Lord would ask even more of them still.
As the COVID-19 epidemic targeted the most vulnerable and forgotten, especially the elderly in their care, the Sisters not only protected their homes but led the “A Million Families, A Million Rosaries” initiative from their homes around the world, encouraging all to pray for a cure for the coronavirus. Teaching us through their example of what Catholicism should look like — faithfulness to the Church, strength in the Eucharist, and service to family and community — the Little Sisters of the Poor are the best of us as they show us how to love the least among us.
Montse Alvarado is vice president and executive director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.