Healing and teaching go hand-in-hand for Sister Diana

Religious orders of women are known far and wide for two important apostolates, education and healing. Teaching and nursing sisters and brothers are legendary around the world. Take a moment to meet a Dominican sister who unexpectedly found herself the lone medical practitioner in a community of teachers.

Vanderbilt Medicine, the alumni publication of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, this issue profiles an alumna, Dominican Sister Mary Diana Dreger, a Long Island, N.Y., native who entered Cornell University as a pre-med student. After taking a year off and falling in love with teaching, she became a high school math and science teacher. Then she had a serendipitous encounter in Virginia with some Dominican sisters from Nashville, Tenn. The next thing she knew she was in the novitiate in the motherhouse of the Dominicans’ St. Cecilia Congregation.

A few years later, after Sister Diana took her final vows and was still teaching, the prioress general said, “I’m thinking of sending you to medical school.”

“Teach. Pray. Heal.” by Kathy Whitney is a great story of faith, commitment, trust and a bit of the unexpected from the hand of God and Mother Superior.

Get bald for kids on St. Paddy’s Day

What are your plans for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day? If you are like most North Americans, you’ll be accessorizing yourself out in green, putting on silly hats, visiting your neighborhood pub, eating someone’s idea of Irish food — usually bad — drinking beer that might be green (God only knows who came up with that), and anticipating calling into work the next morning with a hangover.

A cool organization has another idea. How about getting your head shaved?

Yesterday’s Chronicle of Philanthropy notes that a new twist on an old feast day gets volunteers to get their heads shaved to raise money to fight cancer in children. This St. Patrick’s Day, almost 28,000 men and women have signed up get shorn and pony up a donation for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. So far this year, the volunteer-driven foundation has raised some $10 million that it funnels to researchers looking to find cures for the pediatric cancer, the leading disease-caused death of children in the United States. A number of Catholic schools across the country have signed on and are preparing to get clipped.

The Chronicle reports that over the years, St. Baldrick’s has raised over $100 million for childhood cancer research. That’s a lot of hair and a lot of hope.

When you think about it, what better way to show solidarity with a child who may have lost his or her hair through cancer treatments than losing your hair too? You’ll save a bundle on hair care products and won’t have to worry about that green leprechaun’s hat wrecking your hairdo.

Charitable giving dips, but some Catholic agencies holding on

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported this week that giving to the 400 largest charities in the U.S. is down overall 11 percent this year. That’s the worst drop in the two decades since the Chronicle began ranking its Philanthropy 400. Collectively, the 400 top charities raised over $68 billion last year. That’s a lot of giving, but still about $7 billion less than 2008.

The Chronicle list includes charitable organizations that raise funds from private individuals, businesses and foundations. It does not consider government funding, for example, research dollars or student support. The rankings are based on 2009 data.

Ten Catholic institutions made the top 400 this year. They include social service agencies, health care organizations and universities.

(CNS/Bob Roller)

The only agency in the top 10 is Catholic Charities USA, ranking No. 3. It brought in $1.28 billion last year, a 5.2 percent increase over the prior year.

Three other service agencies are in the 400. They are (with ranking, funds raised in 2009 and percentage increase or decrease from 2008): Catholic Medical Mission Board (No. 52) with $279 million, up 35.5 percent; Catholic Relief Services (No. 67) bringing in $240 million, up only 0.7 percent; and the Phoenix-based St. Mary’s Food Bank (No. 152) raising $127 million, up 53.5 percent.

Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Home in Nebraska (No. 160) brought in $121 million, up a nice 130.8 percent.

The lone Catholic health care system in the 400 — the San Francisco-based Catholic Health Care West (No. 237) — saw $82 million in giving, up 1.4 percent.

Five higher-education institutions made the list. They are: University of Notre Dame (No. 88) with $198 million, down 25.6 percent; Georgetown University (No. 99) with $181 million, up 2.7 percent; Boston College (No. 230) raising $84 million, down 16 percent; St. Louis University (No. 261), new to the list this year, raising $73 million, up 56.7 percent; and finally Fordham University (No. 267) bringing in $70 million, up 4.5 percent.

Other agencies charities that have old or close Catholic ties making the list include United Way, Food for the Poor, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, Covenant House, Habitat for Humanity and St. Jude’s Hospital.

The debate continues on abortion and health care

Anyone who closely followed the debate in March over whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did or did not leave open the possibility of federal funding of abortion will want to read this new analysis by Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University who served in the 1990s as director of planning and information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. Alvare addresses point by point the arguments raised by Timothy Jost of Washington and Lee University School of Law in his rebuttal of the USCCB legal analysis of the health reform plan and takes Commonweal magazine to task for relying too heavily on Jost.

This is a debate likely to continue for a while. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the USCCB pro-life committee, said recently that constant vigilance will be needed as the health reform law is implemented to be sure no federal funds go to pay for abortions.  We wrote about his comments here.

Alvare concludes that the USCCB’s stand that the health reform plan “fell morally short remains measurably more convincing than Commonweal’s and Jost’s conclusion that the bishops were too scrupulous and alarmist in their reading” of the bill. Read her full article here and see whether you agree.

Follow-up: Both Commonweal and Jost have issued lengthy responses to Alvare’s article. You can read them here and here.

The bishops look back — and forward — on health reform

Those who followed the ins and outs of the health reform debate — and especially the Catholic participation in that debate — will be interested in reading a new statement by the chairmen of the three U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees most involved. Called “Setting the Record Straight,” the statement reviews the various USCCB actions in the effort to achieve health reform that would be “in accord with the dignity of each and every human person, showing full respect for the life, health and conscience of all.” The three — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the pro-life committee; Bishop William F. Murphy of the Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development; and Bishop John C. Wester of the Committee on Migration — said some hoped the bishops might be persuaded to abandon some of their key concerns “in response to political pressures from left or right.” There was “never any chance” of that happening, they said.

The statement came on the heels of a May 20 letter to House members from Cardinal DiNardo urging passage of a bipartisan bill that he said would fix some of the health reform law’s flaws on abortion and conscience rights. You can read that story here.

Bishops assess health reform law, executive order

Bishops are continuing to comment on the new health care reform law and President Barack Obama’s executive order intended to guarantee that no federal funding goes to abortions under the new system. And the buzz is overwhelmingly negative.

Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, N.D., says the law’s shortcomings in terms of abortion funding and conscience protections are “grave and serious matters” that are not resolved by the executive order. “Where the executive order purports to fix shortcomings in these areas, it is highly likely to be legally invalid; and where the order is highly likely to be legally valid, it does nothing to fix the shortcomings,” he said in a March 30 statement. Bishop Aquila also refers readers of his statement to a legal analysis of the law and executive order by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of General Counsel.

Meanwhile, Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, urged Catholics to look at the health reform debate from a religious/moral perspective rather than a political one.  “Imagine if the political price for the passage of health care reform were the reintroduction of racial segregation in Southern schools,” he writes in the Catholic Chronicle, Toledo diocesan newspaper. “This would rightly lead to moral indignation and block passage of the bill.  However, the murder of 50 million unborn children in our country is seen as a legitimate ‘choice’ and is tossed about like a football in the political field.” Read his full column here.

Catholic hospitals make Thomson Reuters top 100 list

Thomson Reuters has released its annual list of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals. Listings of medical centers, universities, companies to work for, etc., are always dubious at best. Rating agencies use different criteria and different metrics, but no one ever complains when they get a top spot.

Thomson Reuters has published its 100 Top Hospitals list for the past 17 years. This year, 17 Catholic hospitals or medical centers made the list. By category, they are:

Major teachings hospitals: Providence Hospital and Medical Center, Southfield, Mich.

Teaching hospitals with 200 or more acute-care beds: St. Vincent’s Indianpolis Hospital, Indianapolis; St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Edgewood, Ky.; St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Baptist Hospital, Nashville, Tenn.

Large community hospitals with 250 or more acute-care beds: Memorial Health Care System, Chattanooga, Tenn.; St. Thomas Hospital, Nashville, Tenn.; and Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, Tyler, Texas.

Medium-size community hospitals with 100-249 acute-care beds: St. Vincent Carmel Hospital, Carmel, Ind.; St. Francis Hospital-Indianapolis; Mercy Hospital Clermont, Batavia, Ohio; and St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center, Youngstown, Ohio,

Small community hospitals with 25-99 acute-care beds: St. Elizabeth Community Hospital, Red Bluff, Calif.; St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital, Howell, Mich.; St. Joseph Mercy Saline Hospital, Saline, Mich.; St. Joseph Hospital, Tawas City, Mich.; and St. Mary’s Jefferson Memorial Hospital, Jefferson City, Tenn.

The full list and the benchmarks used to make the list are published in Modern Healthcare.

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