Have you ever noticed how popular the word “casa” is among Catholic people who are striving to lessen the pain that they find around them in our battered society? Casa Esperanza, Casa Marienalla, Casa this and Casa that. I think that it might be that the word sounds so peaceful and welcoming and these special programs need to generate that image as they reach out to people in trouble.
One of my favorite casas is Casa Esperanza de los Ninos in Houston and it is in the process of celebrating 30 years of extraordinarily effective work – awesome work, in fact! Thirty years ago, back in 1982, Kathy Foster, a young woman working in a halfway house for emotionally disturbed mothers and their children, was painfully aware that more and more children were finding themselves completely abandoned. Maybe there was only one parent and death entered the scene. Maybe it was the local police or the Immigration Naturalization Service that would separate a single parent from a child. Kathy saw the problem and decided to do something about it. Gathering a few dedicated friends with limited resources, she secured the use of one four-bedroom house and opened the doors of Casa Esperanza de los Ninos. Then the miracle began to unfold.
Kathy opened a development center in 1985, an in-house medical clinic in 1986, admitted the first child with HIV/AIDS in 1987, made the first adoption in 1988, placed its 100th adoption in the year 2000 and in 2008 opened a new “Casa” neighborhood – seven large homes in one location. I cannot do justice to the extraordinary accomplishments that Kathy and her co-workers achieved. However, it is well to point out that the Casa was featured on the NBC Today Show last year and that Kathy was inducted in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. If anyone ever deserved that honor, she did. Casa now operates ten separate homes and in each of them the children are cared for in a loving, secure family manner. A great number of lives have been changed because of one woman’s vision and generosity. Congratulations to Casa and thank you, Kathy.
Last year’s budget for Casa Esperanza de los Ninos is nearly $6 million!
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Sr. Heloise Cruzat, O.P.
Yesterday I mentioned the tremendous respect and appreciation I have for the Catholic Sisters in the United States. My reasons are very personal. From elementary school and throughout my professional life, sisters- both individually and as groups- have been extraordinarily influential in my life and work.
Let me start with Sr. Louis, a native of Galveston, who when she was teaching me and my 7th grade classmates at All Saints Elementary in Houston, Texas, gave me a jump start for high school. She was an effective teacher and took very special interest in every member of the class, even though there were about 40 of us!
In some ways, all of the boys in the class were young thugs, but nobody ever failed to obey her. She was never mean. She was simply talented, dedicated, and…beautiful. That latter point had a real effect on those 7th grade boys! And not just the boys, from that class came 2 Sisters (one of whom became the Major Superior of her Domincan Order- Sr. Heloise Cruzat, pictured above), and 3 priests, one of whom became a bishop.
The class was so close, that we have continued to have class reunions, and Sr. Louis attended these reunions until her death two years ago. What a gift in my life! What a gift in so many lives!
God Bless the Sisters!
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The pro-life struggle in the United States has now been going on for a half century since January 22, 1973 to be exact. Happily, this struggle for life is no longer waged just by the Catholics because there is an ever-increasing number of people willing to work to solve this divisive problem.
It would be impossible to be a Roman Catholic with normal horse sense or intelligence and not know about the Catholic Church’s extremely strong commitment to the pro-life cause. We are united on that. However, we are not united on what kind of a response we ought to take as a group or as individuals.
I was impressed by an article in America magazine two weeks ago by a new convert that documented and stressed his commitment to the pro-life cause. However, he went on in a very thoughtful way, and I think fair way, to say that sensitive, hardworking pro-life people turn their co-religionists off by making this the only issue on which they are involved. The author, a Mr. Ronnie Rubit from Houston, Texas, states that while he is constantly pressured into this or that pro-life activity, he is never called upon by the same people to join in the distribution of blankets and hot soup with sandwiches to the homeless, and is not asked to participate in weekend home repairs for the elderly and the disabled or other such efforts.
It is interesting to see a recently converted Catholic challenging his older co-religionists to mount an across the board attack on poverty and injustice, and stresses that abortion is certainly a major pro-life issue but so is hunger and so is an unjust legal system and so is wage theft and on and on and on.
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Most of us live very ordinary lives. We do the same things that our neighbors do. We live in the same environment and culture. We all have troubles, we all have moments of joy, and the vast majority of us get through to the end. I do think, however, that something happens periodically in my life that is very unusual.
Last Saturday I drove to Houston to attend the 75th year marking the 1937 first grade class of All Saints School. That is right – the first grade. We had 16 members and with spouses and a few children, the group ran over 30. We have known each other for 75 years. I am very proud of my first grade class. We entered grammar school in the depth of the Depression. Three members of the class became priests and one of them became a bishop. One girl became a nun and was elected major superior of her community. We were all poor but several members became wealthy and all of us have managed to do much more than just “get by.” We are in different places in life but we all share that memory of that little school in the Houston Heights, the values that we learned there and those are the values that we have all tried to live by over the last 75 years.
Let’s hear it for the first grade of class of 1937!
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