U.S. bishops disappointed in abortion-funding provisions in Senate health care bill

In a letter just released at 6 p.m. today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the Senate to make essential changes in its health care reform bill in order to keep in place federal law on abortion funding and conscience protection on abortion, protect access to health care for immigrants and include strong provisions for adequate affordability. Read the letter here.

Catholic Charities USA opens centennial celebration

From now through September, Catholic Charities USA will be celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Against the backdrop of the U.S. Capitol, the celebration opened Nov. 19 with a reception for 300 people at the Newseum, one of Washington’s newest and most interactive museums.

Catholic Charities used the kickoff of its centennial year to honor one of its longtime supporters, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick with the first of 100 Centennial Medals. The agency will present 99 more medals to supporters, staff members and others affiliated with the nationwide network of social service agencies by the time the centennial observance ends. But they won’t necessarily have such a grand celebration or glitzy location, because plans call for the medal to be awarded locally at Catholic Charities agencies, board meetings and small, private gatherings.

In presenting the medal, Father Larry Snyder, CEO of Catholic Charities USA, said Cardinal McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washignton, has kept the deep needs of America’s poor and forgotten foremost in his ministry.

In his usual self-deprecating way, Cardinal McCarrick said his mother, if she were alive, wouldn’t have believed a word that Father Snyder had to say about him.

Turning serious, he commended the people gathered for their passion for justice and commitment to the poor, and urged them to continue to fight poverty in any way possible, especially in today’s economically uncertain times.

St. Damien: A model for public servants

When Congressional leaders, ambassadors and others gathered in a U.S. Senate hearing room to honor St. Damien de Veuster Nov. 19, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva compared the work of the Belgian-born saint to that of public servants.

Bishop Silva noted that St. Damien — known for his work in Hawaii with victims of Hansen’s disease, or leprosy — was a healer, community organizer and advocate, builder, engineer, band leader and funeral director.

Mosaic of St. Damien de Veuster

“He worked tirelessly for 16 years in a place most people would not even think of visiting for fear of being touched by the dread disease of leprosy,” Bishop Silva said. “Even when he himself contracted the disease, he went on working, never feeling sorry for himself or thinking of his own needs, because the needs of those he served were paramount in his mind and heart.”

The bishop said it was fitting that, for decades, a statue of the newly ordained saint had stood in the U.S. Capitol.

“His image reminds all who come here as public servants of the tireless dedication that is required of those who offer themselves to lead the people as legislators,” he said. “The tasks and issues here are at least as complex and overwhelming as those that faced Father Damien. His statue reminds our public servants to keep going and to never lose hope, even when they seem to be overwhelmed and discouraged. His heroism inspires a similar heroic service in all of us.”

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