Seminarian: God wrote straight with crooked lines

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Anthony Federico is one of three seminarians from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, studying at Theological College in Washington. But he’s the only one of them to inadvertently create an internet outcry.
Federico, who is 33 and in the third year of his theologate at Theological College, grew up in Connecticut, a big fan of the National Hockey League’s Hartford Whalers, who have since decamped to Charlotte, North Carolina. He was possibly an even bigger fan of baseball’s New York Yankees – so much so that he couldn’t watch the opening game of the World Series as he was still mourning the Bronx Bombers’ playoff exit the week before.

Anthony Federico, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., poses for a photo inside Theological College in Washington Oct. 25. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Not only was Federico a fan, he was a participant: hockey, baseball, soccer, swimming and tennis, from youth leagues to high school at Notre Dame in West Haven, Connecticut. At Providence College, Federico majored in theology – not the keenest choice for finding a job in the big, wide world.
However, his passion for sports landed him a job at ESPN back in his home state. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Federico said he saw it as “vindication” that he could get gainful employment despite his theology major. He worked there seven years, first in the tape warehouse finding and shuttling vintage footage where it needed to go.
Then Federico got an assignment in ESPN’s “mobile group” in digital media work – a job he considered a plum. “It was the right place at the right time,” he said, as cellphone usage was exploding.
Then came the incident that changed Federico’s career path.
In 2012, a little-heralded guard named Jeremy Lin, a Taiwanese-American, started playing terrific basketball for the New York Knicks, gaining international fame. Those in the know started gushing about Lin’s emergence.
Eventually, Lin’s star dimmed. ESPN had a story ready to go about it. It was Federico’s task to write the headline. He wrote “Chink in the Armor” never intending it, he said, to be an ethnic slur against Lin.
But the damage was done, the blowback immediate and intense, and the fallout inevitable. Federico got fired within days from the only job he’d had his adult life.
Federico, the eldest of five siblings, moved back in with his parents, who did their best to shield him from “the daily hate mail and death threats,” he said.
Over time, Federico picked himself up dusted himself off. In a meeting he attended with representatives of a start-up in Stamford, Connecticut, just to give advice, he walked away with a job offer to be a consultant.
As opposed to working at ESPN, which nearly always entailed the late shift, Federico worked days for the startup. He told CNS he’d walk around Hartford on his lunch hour, taking in the sights.
He came upon a church that had a weekday Mass at 12:10 p.m. After dismissing the thought at first with “I’m not a daily Mass goer,” Federico went inside one day and got hooked. Soon, colleagues asked him what he was doing with himself during his lunch hours. “Come and see” was his reply.
So they went. And saw. And discussed. Few of them were Catholic, and they posed serious questions about Catholic belief and practice. “These are brilliant people,” he said. “I had to go home and look at the Catechism (of the Catholic Church)” to frame suitable answers for the next day.

Anthony Federico, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., poses for a photo inside the recreation room at Theological College in Washington Oct. 25. In 2015, the former sports journalist was the college’s darts, pool and ping-pong champion. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

On another visit, he noticed the “struggle” of the parish priest, who was in the confessional before the noonday Mass, but did not have enough time to hear everyone’s confession before he had to prepare to celebrate Mass. “I thought, ‘If we just had more priests … ohhhh, I get it, Lord,’” Federico recalled.
That was the moment he knew his vocation.
“I had a good deal. I was making money, traveling a lot. I thought I had the life I was supposed to have,” Federico said. “I was content with my life, but not happy.” He added family and friends were “surprised, but not shocked” with his decision.
Federico said he had considered priesthood as early as age 15, but always distanced himself from the idea. When he went to the Hartford archdiocesan vocation office, the personnel knew him already – not from his ESPN notoriety, but because he had applied a couple of years before only to be “nervous, scared, afraid” of following through. “I was looking at it through the no’s, not the yes,” he added. This time “I am doing this in freedom,” he said.
This marks Federico’s fifth year at Theological College, which is the national diocesan seminary of The Catholic University of America and directed by the priests of the Society of St. Sulpice. His first two years were for an undergraduate grounding in philosophy, as well as to acclimate to seminary life.
And while he’s getting his classwork in, and living in rectories and learning from pastors during the summers, Federico hasn’t renounced his love of sports.
He said he and his fellow seminarians have won four intramural championships at Catholic University, which is across the street from the seminary. Theological College also won the Vianney Cup, a soccer tournament for four East Coast seminaries.
And while some laypeople participate in “Iron Man” triathlons – swimming, bicycling and running – Federico was the 2015 winner of the “Iron Seminarian” competition that takes in the decidedly different pursuits of darts, pool and ping-pong.
“People think seminarians live in some dark building and walk like this,” he said, imitating a slow, straight walk with palms pressed together at chest level. “We have a great culture here.”
And, if all goes according to plan – provided it’s God’s plan – Federico will be ordained to the priesthood in spring 2019.

(Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.)

Seminarian summer assignments announced

Every summer, seminarians studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Jackson are assigned to ministry in a parish or service center as part of their formation. Bishop Joseph Kopacz has approved the following assignments for this summer:

Deacon Nick Adam– Jackson St. Richard Parish
Deacon Aaron Williams – Meridian St. Patrick and St. Joseph Parishes

Andrew Bowden – Our Lady of Victories, Cleveland
Juan Carlos Camacho – St. Therese, Jackson
Andrew Nguyen – Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University

Adolfo Suarez-Pasillas and Cesar Sanchez-Fermin – St. Dominic’s hospital, Jackson
Hayden Schmitt & Tristan Stovall – Catholic Camp in Pontotoc

 

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Service as deacons makes better priests

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The ordinations to the transitional diaconate of Nick Adam and Aaron Williams were joyful celebrations for all who have nurtured their vocations throughout their lives. Most of all we are grateful to their families of origin, and especially their parents, who planted the seed of faith in baptism and raised them in such loving ways that they were open to the call of the Lord Jesus to follow him in the vocation of ordained ministry.
Surrounding the newly ordained deacons and their families at Saint Patrick’s in Meridian and in the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson were many others who accompanied them through the years. Seminarians and faculty, priests and deacons, parishioners from around the diocese and friends, all part of the Body of Christ, the people of God, who embraced them in a joyful expression of faith, hope and love in both Eucharistic liturgies.
On the path to priesthood the transitional diaconate passes quickly and Deacons Nick and Aaron then will be ordained as priests for the Diocese of Jackson. Yet the enduring character of the diaconate will remain as a distinguishing mark of the priesthood. They have been configured to Christ the Servant as deacons and will strive each day by God’s grace to follow the Lord who came, not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20,28) As I have done, so you must do, (John 13,15) are the timeless words of Jesus at the Last Supper after he washed the feet of his disciples.
They will serve the Lord in a threefold manner: in his Word, as heralds of the Gospel and preachers, as ministers of the sacred mysteries at the altar and as dedicated disciples of charity and goodness in manifold ways. This ministry of service will deepen their call to become priests who will be servant-leaders with the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.
Deacon Nicholas Adam was ordained on the feast of Saint Patrick, March 17, and the name of the great missionary apostle to Ireland was added to the Litany of Saints. Besides the gift of corned beef on a Friday in Lent, the gift of Saint Patrick’s inspiring words nourished the Eucharistic celebration of ordination. Like the Irish missionary who came from elsewhere to evangelize and serve, so Deacon Nick has embraced the people of Mississippi, having come from another land to the east.
Who am I, Lord, and what is my calling, that you worked through me with such divine power? You did it, so that whatever happened to me, I might accept good and evil equally, always giving thanks to God. God is never to be doubted. He answered my prayer in such a way that I might be bold enough to take up so holy and so wonderful a task, and imitate in some degree those whom the Lord had so long ago foretold as heralds of the Gospel, bearing witness to all the nations.
Heralds of Good News indeed. The ordained deacon is given the Gospel of Christ at the culmination of the ordination ceremony to bear witness to the nations in the 21st century. “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read; teach what you believe; practice what you teach.”
On the following day Deacon Aaron Williams was ordained at the Saturday evening liturgy of the third Sunday of Lent. As the Gospel of John narrates, Jesus sat down to rest at Jacob’s well at the same time the Samaritan woman arrived with her bucket. As we know the encounter transformed the train wreck of this woman’s life. She arrived dragging her bucket in the noon day heat which we know a little bit about in our Mississippi summers, and departed with winged feet into her new life as a missionary disciple. She understood that the Messiah did not need a bucket to immerse her in the spring of water welling up to eternal life. She is our paradigm during Lent as we thirst for the Lord to stir the waters of our own Baptism, knowing that he is already waiting before we arrive.
Another outstanding saint invoked during the Litany of Saints in the ordination liturgy is Saint Ephrem, a deacon of the Eastern Church who lived in the fourth century. He loved the liturgy and composed an enormous compilation of hymns and poetry which are replete with biblical wisdom and theology. He is a fitting intercessor for Aaron who loves the liturgy and has also written liturgical pieces. The following is from the works of Saint Ephrem and we recognize the harmony with the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman.

The breath that wafts from some blessed comer of Paradise
gives sweetness to the bitterness of this region,
it tempers the curse on this earth of ours.
That Garden is the life-breath of this diseased world
that has been so long in sickness; that breath proclaims that a saving remedy
has been sent to heal our mortality.

Thus it is with another spring, full of perfumes,
which issues from Eden and penetrates into the atmosphere
as a beneficial breeze by which our souls are stirred;
our inhalation is healed by this healing breath from Paradise;
springs receive a blessing from that blessed spring which issues forth from there.
‘If you knew the Gift of God’ are the words that Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman revealing his deep thirst for her faith and salvation. We celebrate the Gift of God through faith, and the hope that does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5,5) May the Lord renew our faith during this season of Lent as we follow the Samaritan woman from darkness into the light of a new day.

Diocese welcomes two deacons on path to priesthood

JACKSON – Deacon Nick Adam, left, Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Deacon Aaron Williams leave the cathedral after Williams’ ordination Saturday, March 18. See details of both ordinations on pages 8-9. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

JACKSON – Deacon Nick Adam, left, Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Deacon Aaron Williams leave the cathedral after Williams’ ordination Saturday, March 18. See details of both ordinations on pages 8-9. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Friday, March 17, and again Saturday, March 18, the Diocese of Jackson gained two transitional deacons. Deacon Nick Adam, the youngest of eight, first pursued a career in broadcast journalism. Deacon Aaron Williams, a native of Jackson, became an altar server at age five and went to seminary directly out of high school.
The calls may have come differently, but the end result was the same. Deacons Adam and Williams both hope to be ordained into the priesthood next summer after spending a year in service to parishes.
Deacon Adam was ordained at Meridian St. Patrick Parish where he first discerned his call. He was working at television station WTOK as a sports and news anchor. He will spent the next year at Jackson St. Richard Parish.
Deacon Williams, ordained in his home parish of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, will spend his transitional year in Meridian serving at St. Patrick and St. Joseph Parishes.
See Bishop Kopacz’ shares his reflection on the ordinations here. Read more about Deacon Aaron Williams here and Nick Adam here and continue to pray for these men and the other seminarians preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Jackson.

Fostering the call: Extension offers boost for Seminarian Endowment

By Maureen Smith
Catholic Extension Service has honored the Diocese of Jackson with the opportunity to partake in its Seminarian Endowment Challenge. The goal of this challenge is to help the diocese cultivate its long-term financial ability to fund the increasing cost of seminarian education by offering matching funds for new or increased dollars raised toward seminarian education.
Ten seminarians are currently in priestly formation for the Jackson diocese, attending St. Joseph and Notre Dame Seminaries, both in Louisiana. The cost for educating each seminarian is between $34,000 and $50,000 each year, depending on which school they attend.
Within the upcoming months, the diocese will begin asking the faithful to relieve some of this burden by donating to the Seminarian Education Endowment. Thanks to this challenge from Catholic Extension, each gift can go even farther. Catholic Extension has agreed to award this diocese $25,000 if donors raise $100,000 in new or increased donations by December 31. Groups of people can donate, but the donation must be a new one, not a renewal from last year, and it cannot come from an organization such as the Knights of Columbus.
The diocese is obligated to pay the schooling for seminarians, as they in turn give their lives to us as priests. Fostering this endowment is critical to help these men complete their discernment and formation as well as being a catalyst for local vocations.
The Office of Stewardship of Development will be hosting several brunches in honor of the seminarians throughout the spring, but anyone can donate at any time. To learn more about how the challenge contact Rebecca Harris, Director of Stewardship and Development at 601-960-8477 or by email Rebecca.harris@jacksondiocese.org.

From anchor desk to altar: Deacon Adam discerned call in Mississippi

By Maureen Smith
MERIDIAN – Nick Adam moved to Meridian to be a sports anchor. By his own admission, he practiced his faith, but never considered a deeper commitment before he landed in Mississippi. His time at St. Patrick Parish, under the direction of Father Frank Cosgrove, changed all that. He started to hear a deeper call.
Friday, March 17, on the feast of St. Patrick, he was ordained into the transitional diaconate in St. Patrick Church. He will be ordained into the priesthood next summer.
During the homily, Bishop Joseph Kopacz spoke of the parish patron as one of the greatest of all evangelizers. He also spoke about this history of the diaconate and how these men of service are so important to the work of the church. At the end of the homily, Bishop Kopacz invoked the prayer known as the breastplate of St. Patrick, a call to bring Christ into the center of all we IMG_2136_cdo.
Deacon Adam’s sister, Julie Bordes said Adam, the youngest of eight siblings, was always the peacemaker of the family. “With so many siblings there was always something. He kind of had to keep us together and he was the youngest. If he said ‘oh…’ or if he started crying about something we would all turn, look, feel guilty and act right,” she said. “I think it’s special in so many ways that as a youngest child he is going to now take that leadership role and be over a parish,” she added.
Bordes said the family did not suspect that he had a call, but in a way the siblings were not surprised when he announced his plan to enter seminary. “We were just so proud of him when he went into communications and was a sports anchor and a news anchor and he gave us each a call and said ‘you know, I think I might go into the priesthood’ and we just really couldn’t be prouder.”
Deacon Adam had to go back to school to earn a theology degree and learn about parish and church administration. Bordes said she knows he has the right personality for the job. “Ever since he was a little child he was so kind and nurturing. He always used his voice to help others and I just feel like he has found his place. He seems completely at peace,” she said.
Bordes said Deacon Adam’s vocation has been a blessing to the whole family that now the whole diocese gets to share. “He comes off as not very shy, but I think in his heart he is and that is sort of unique because it shows his true passion that he continues to talk and mentor and preach I would urge everyone to get to know him. He is such a fun guy. I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and they have truly learned that priests are not just someone that stand up at Mass every Sunday, they like to watch football games, they like to run they are silly, they will tackle and play, so that has been special for our family as well with so many nieces and nephews,” said Bordes.
While ordinations into the priesthood still take place in the cathedral, Bishop Joseph Kopacz has started ordaining men into the transitional diaconate in their home parishes. Nick considers St. Patrick as his Mississippi home parish since he discerned hiIMG_2420_cs call here.
Denise Huntley is a parishioner at St. Patrick. She said she is thankful Bishop Kopacz was willing to ordain Deacon Adam in Meridian. “This has just been wonderful because we knew Nick before he even thought about becoming a priest and to watch him discern and grow in his faith and make the decision to become a priest – it’s just awesome to be here to celebrate this momentous occasion,” said Huntley.
“We look forward to the final ordination next year. There are not enough people going into the priesthood so to personally know someone like Nick – he’s an amazing young man and he’s going to make a wonderful priest,” said Huntley.
Deacon Adam will spend his transitional year at Jackson St. Richard Parish.

Deacon Williams’ love for liturgy bloomed early

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Julia and Mike Williams joined the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle when Julia was pregnant with her son, Aaron. He started serving as an altar server at age five and has loved liturgy ever since. On Saturday, March 18, Aaron was ordained into the transitional diaconate on his way to the priesthood.
“I was thinking about that today – he’s 25-years-old and we have been going to that church for 26 years. I am sure it means a lot to him, and it means a lot to me,” said his father of the ordination in his home parish.

IMG_2901Julia Williams said she encouraged her son to explore his vocation early, but both parents said they would have supported any decision he made. “I always felt like he had it (a vocation) and I was never going to discourage him. A lot of people kept saying ‘he’s young and he’ll change his mind,’ but I said I am not going to discourage him. If that’s what he wants, I am here to support him, especially when he got into junior high and people were like ‘is he going to grow out of it now?’ I said, if he’s wants it – then I am with him,” said Julia.
Williams said some parents worry about missing out on something if their son decides to become a priest, but she sees it differently. “I think it’s a real honor and a blessing to have a son who’s a priest. I’m overjoyed.” she said.
Mike Williams, Aaron’s father, felt the same way. He said he is proud of both of his sons and he just wanted them to find the vocation right for their lives. “I’ve never had a concern about it. You know, he’s going to be taken care of. And he’s going to take care of people. We have two sons and both of them – whatever they wanted to do we just got behind them,” he said.
Deacon Williams entered the seminary right out of high school. In addition to his regular studies at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, he is earning a masters of liturgy from St. Murdelin Seminary in Chicago. Deacon Williams’ love for liturgy and liturgical music runs deep. He plays the organ and arranges hymns for the seminary schola, or choir.

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Bishop Joseph Kopacz recalled one of history’s great deacons and musicians, St. Ephrem, in his homily. Ephrem was a father of the eastern church who used songs to combat the many heresies of his time. The bishop pointed to the importance of music and liturgy in the life of the church.
Barbara and Donnie Tynes watched Deacon Williams grow up in the cathedral. They said they could see his devotion to liturgy early. “Aaron has always stood out, even when he was in high school. He was always so reverent. Everything he did, all the Holy Week services,” said Barbara.
“He was so prepared, so involved,” added Donnie.
The couple said they hoped Aaron’s vocation would carry him into the priesthood and are glad to see him take this next step.
“It’s kind of like your own children graduating or moving on to something else and you’re just so proud of them that they can overcome these hurdles to make it to where they did,” said Donnie.
Deacon Williams will serve in Meridian at St. Patrick and St. Joseph Parishes before he is ordained into the priesthood next summer.

Teens seek vocations through SEARCH retreat

By Abbey Schuhmann
High school juniors and seniors from across the Diocese of Jackson gathered at Camp Wesley Pines near Hazlehurst Nov. 11-13 for the fall diocesan SEARCH Retreat. SEARCH is a Catholic youth retreat that models the Cursillo retreat for adults but designed for youth in grades 11th-12th who have a strong desire to deepen their faith and relationship with Christ.
A retreat “for teens, led by teens,” SEARCH is an experience like none other with a strong focus on vocations. It engages youth in a special way and calls them to live out their Catholic faith in a bold, real, active and healthy way.
SEARCH first started in this diocese in the 1970s but interest in it declined in the 1980s. In 2003, Father Mike O’Brien and Father Frank Cosgrove approached Jackson St. Richard parishioners Ann and Jeff Cook and encouraged them to re-introduce the SEARCH retreat to the diocese.
Having lived in Austin, Texas, and participated with multiple SEARCH retreats there, the Cooks coordinated bringing in a team from Austin to lead the first SEARCH retreat in nearly 20 years for our Diocese in January 2004. The first youth staff from the diocese led the next SEARCH retreat under the leadership from volunteers, Ann and Jeff Cook in May of 2004.
During the past 13 years, the diocese has held more than 25 SEARCH retreats under the leadership of the Cooks.
Much of what happens in the retreat is kept a mystery but a few things are certain – you will have fun, you will be challenged to grow in your faith and chances are you will make a few new friends.
The retreat team is primarily made up of a youth staff from teens who have previously attended a SEARCH retreat. Once a teen attends a SEARCH retreat weekend, he or she has the opportunity to apply to staff future retreats.
The adults who are present throughout the weekend serve “behind the scenes.” It is the teens who lead this retreat. The SEARCH model really gives our youth the opportunity to demonstrate and carry out servant leadership. This retreat would not be possible without the help of adult volunteers who have served in this ministry for so many years.
We are especially grateful to Ann and Jeff Cook for continuing to serve as the volunteer, adult SEARCH coordinators. Without their dedicated service, this ministry would not be where it is today.
The SEARCH ministry is alive and well in the diocese and the SEARCH family continues to grow through each retreat.
The Office of Youth Ministry is currently looking at dates in 2017 for future SEARCH retreats. We are always looking for adults who are open to serving in the SEARCH ministry. If you are interested, contact Abbey Schuhmann, coordinator for the Office of Youth Ministry, abbey.schuhmann@jacksondiocese.org, 601-949-6934.

Teens on SEARCH retreat take time for prayer outside. (Photos by Abbey Schuhmann)

Teens on SEARCH retreat take time for prayer outside. (Photos by Abbey Schuhmann)

Young people on the Search retreat spend time at liturgies such as this one. Tim Cook and Ellie Smith led music during the retreat.

Young people on the Search retreat spend time at liturgies such as this one. Tim Cook and Ellie Smith led music during the retreat.

Called to Serve: Pray for seminarians, priests, religious

During National Vocations Awareness Week, we ask you to keep the seminarians, priests and religious for the Diocese of Jackson in your prayers. Here is a look at orders serving in the Diocese of Jackson.

Brothers:
Congregation of Christian Brothers, C.F.C
Franciscans, O.F.M.
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, S.T.

Priests:
Priests of the Sacred Heart, S.C.J.
Diocesan Priests
Franciscan Friars, O.F.M.
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, S.T.
Norbertine Fathers, O.Praem.
Redemptorist Fathers, C.Ss.R.
Society of the Divine Word, S.V.D.
St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart, S.S.J.

Sisters:
Adrian Dominican Sisters, OP
Congregation of Humility of Mary, CHM
Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, CSA
Dominican Sisters of Racine, WI, OP
Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, WI, OP
Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL, OP
Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, OSF
Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN, OSF
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, FSPA
Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, MGSpS
Order of the Discalced Carmelites, OCD
Sisters for Christian Community, SFCC
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Atlantic Midwest Province, SSND
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central
Pacific Province, SSND
School Sisters of St. Francis, OSF
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, SCN
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, US/Ontario Province, SNJM
Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, S.H.Sp.
Sisters of the Living Word, SLW
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, South Central Community, RSM
Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, PBVM
Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, OSF
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, CSJ
Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, SSJ
Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA, CSJ
Solitary, Diocese of East Anglia, UK
Union of Presentation Sisters, PBVM

Guest Column: At life’s end, your best gift

By Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p.
As a resident of Washington, D.C., I have been closely following the campaign to legalize assisted suicide in our nation’s capital.
At the same time, my siblings and I have spent the last two weeks at my mother’s bedside in a hospital intensive care unit in my hometown. For days, I’ve been watching the physicians and nurses tending, with incredible focus and professionalism, to my mother, who is unconscious. No clinical sign has been left unexamined; no potential treatment option left undiscussed. Witnessing all of this has given me a lot to think about.
Such attention to detail; so many resources spent on a single life – and the lives of each of the other critically ill patients in this and so many other hospitals – how can we explain such an intense level of financial and human investment in the sick and elderly?
For me the answer to this question is obvious: Each human life is worth our care and attention because every person has been created in God’s image and likeness and is thus endowed with inviolable dignity and worth. As Pope Benedict XVI often said, “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary” in God’s plan.
Every human life is sacred, even when the individual is unaware or no longer values life.

Sr. Viet

Sr. Viet

To those who are advocating for the ability to cut short the lives of the sick and elderly, and to those who express the desire to end life on their own terms, we must offer a heartfelt response: Even if you no longer value your own life, we do. We value your life because you are inherently worthy of love and reverence. There is no need to prove your usefulness or your personal worth; you are valuable simply because you are, and because you are a fellow child of God.
The sick, disabled and elderly play an essential role in our human community, in part, because they draw us together and teach us, through their state of dependence, how to be more loving. This was highlighted by Tracy Grant of The Washington Post, whose reflection about caring for her terminally ill husband went viral several weeks ago.
Grant referred to the time she spent caring for her husband as the best months of her life. Prior to her husband’s illness, she wrote, “I had yet to discover the reason I was put on this earth. During those seven months, I came to understand that whatever else I did in my life, nothing would matter more than this. Even though I really didn’t know how this would end.”
“Some days were more difficult than others,” Grant recalled, “but there were moments of joy, laughter, tenderness in every day – if I was willing to look hard enough. I found I could train myself to see more beauty than bother, to set my internal barometer to be more compassionate than callous. But I also discovered that with each day, my heart and soul grew more open to seeing this beauty than at any other time in my life.”
Grant believes that she “will never again be as good a person” as she was when she cared for her husband. “I am a better person for having been [his] caregiver,” she concluded. “It was his last, best gift to me.”
My siblings and I returned home to share a home-cooked meal dropped off by an old friend. We watched the World Series and talked about all we’ve been through with my mother so far, as well as our own wishes and intentions in such a situation. If my mother had chosen to check out early, we, her children, would not have these weeks together to shower her with our love and grow up a little more, together. This may be her last, best gift to us.
As you consider your end of life wishes think twice before you deprive your family members and friends of your last, best gift.
(Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p., is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.)