Bishop issues challenge to Sullivan winners: 'Teach compassion for the poor'
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - Congratulating the 1999 Bishop Sullivan Award winners as people who "in their own areas of expertise have contributed way beyond the norm," Bishop Raymond J. Boland challenged those who work to relieve human suffering in Kansas City to involve more young people more deeply in the work of compassion for the poor.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Bishop Raymond J. Boland presents the Bishop Sullivan Award for Ministries with Persons with Disabilities to Juanita and Bill Thompson, a hearing-impaired couple who lead Scripture study groups and perform a vareity of services for other hearing-impaired
In remarks at the annual Diocesan Catholic Charities banquet May 28 at Rockhurst College, Bishop Boland recalled how his volunteer work as a teenager in his native Ireland exposed him to poverty he couldn't otherwise imagine.
The Bishop said he volunteered with the St. Vincent de Paul Society to deliver mattresses to tenement residents in his native Limerick, Ireland. The next week, he said, "all the mattresses were gone. We found out that they had pawned them. They were hungry. We had the unenviable task of collecting all the pawn tickets and redeeming them."
That first-hand experience as a youth taught him that people in his own city were suffering, Bishop Boland said. It is a lesson that today's young in Kansas City need to learn, he said.
Noting that Confirmation candidates in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are required to complete 30 hours of community service and to write a letter to him about that experience, the Bishop urged charity workers to help make that experience meaningful.
"In some parishes, they bring young people to the liturgies in the city, to serve in soup kitchens or in the jails and detention centers," he said. "It could be a condescending act, and we need to avoid that. But many write in their letters that they never knew this (poverty) existed. They didn't know children could go to bed hungry in a city with the lowest nemployment in its history. But none of them, to my knowledge, have ever asked the question, 'Why?'
"So my challenge to all of you is to devise some system where more and more of our young people . . . can experience life in all of its expressions, and then ask them to go and talk to others and ask, 'Why?'" Bishop Boland said. "Otherwise, we are going to continue to mark time unless we have a vast infusion of people who care."
The 1999 Bishop Sullivan awardees include "men and women who have been doing this for years," he said.
The winners were:
- Children's Mercy Hospital in the category of Child Welfare Services for providing training in health issues at no cost to parents who are adopting children through Catholic Charities.
In accepting the award, Michael Begleiter praised Kansas City as "a city that has a sense of community, and Children's Mercy as "an institution that cares for children without regard of ability to pay."
"All of us at Children's Mercy work diligently," he said. "It's always nice to be receive recognition."
- Father Norman Rotert, pastor of Visitation Parish in Kansas City and former Diocesan vicar general, in the category of Community and Neighborhood Organization for helping to establish the Kansas City Church/Community Organization, which provides a structure for people to resolve neighborhood and community issues.
"I am convinced we need mediation structures so that people are participating in the decisions that affect their lives," Father Rotert said. "Church-based community organizing is a key structure."
- Elinor Delay, retired Catholic Charities communications and public relations officer, in the category of Communications, for her longtime service to Catholic Charities.
"A particularly satisfying part of my job," Delay said, "was the constant exposure to Catholic social teaching, the unfolding before my very eyes of the documents calling for the preferential option for the poor, the sick, the hungry and the elderly."
- Dr. Alfred Davis, a Kansas City physician, in the category of Health Care for his role in getting the Missouri Essential Community Provider Bill, which opened access to health care to inner city residents, through the Missouri Legislature.
A graduate of the former Blessed Sacrament School in Kansas City, Davis thanked the "many mentors he had as a child who "not just showed me the way, but said I could do it."
"A lot of the information I received at Blessed Sacrament are the basic tenets that have guided me through life - love, honor, devotion, treat others as you would like to be treated," he said.
- Tom Devine, a Kansas City architect, in the category of Housing for his donated services in designing apartment projects operated by Catholic Charities for the elderly and the disabled.
"I am grateful to Catholic Charities for the opportunity to serve as an architect on elderly and handicapped projects," Devine said.
- Frank Reiger, retired Chief Pretrial Service Officer for the Western District of Missouri, in the category of Mental Health Services.
Reiger said the office has used mental health counselors from Catholic Charities to work with people charged with crimes for more than 21 years, and said his award belongs to them.
"Counselors have a tremendous task, and they still perform it outstandingly," he said. "I wish I could take this plaque, cut it up and share it with all the counselors of Catholic Charities."
- Bill and Juanita Thompson, members of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Independence, in the category of Ministry with Persons with Disabilities.
The Thompsons, who are both hearing impaired, volunteer with the Bishop's Commission for Ministry with Persons with Disabilities, including transportation services, and ministry to the ill.
In addition, they lead a monthly Scripture study for the hearing impaired, using The Catholic Key's Scripture page as a guide.
"We are very appreciative and happy," said Bill Thompson in sign language, interpreted by Becky Turner. "We thank and praise our beloved Lord., because the Bible has written: 'Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight.'"
- Mid-America Assistance Coalition, a metropolitan-wide information clearinghouse for social service agencies, in the category of Parish Social Ministry.
MAAC Director Jan Markeson said the coalition provides a "strengthening and coordinating role" in order to maximize the assistance available through agencies such as Catholic parish food pantries.
"By sharing information with many agencies, we can work as one giant service provider," she said.
- Kay Donohue, a longtime peace activist and volunteer, in the category of Peace and Justice.
Donohue thanked the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for the support and structure it provides to those involved in the work toward international peace and justice.
"Peacemakers believe it is possible to solve problems without violence," she said. Citing U.S. complicity in the suffering of people in trouble spots such as Iraq, Central America and East Timor, Donohue said, "As Christians, we have to ask ourselves what is our responsibility when acts like these are carried out in our name."
- Gary Miller, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Holden, in the category of Rural Social Ministry.
Miller was instrumental in helping to establish the parish's food pantry in 1995.
Miller thanked Catholic Charities, his pastor Father Ernie Gauthier, and "the community we live in for their moral support."
- The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, past mayor of Kansas City and pastor of St. James United Methodist Church, in the category of Social and Civic Leadership.
Rev. Cleaver said the recognition wouldn't have been possible without the work of others.
"I express appreciation to Catholic Charites for the Sullivan Award," Rev. Cleaver said. "But I also express appreciation for the work of so many fantastic people who worked so hard that I might receive the credit."
- Neal D. Colby Jr., director of the Diocesan Office of Social Concerns and former head of the Diocesan Catholic Charites office, for his 33 years of work with Catholic Charities.
Colby called the people with whom he worked at Catholic Charities his "heroes." "They are the people who give us confidence, wisdom and guidance to take on things we might not otherwise do," he said. "I thank each of you."
- Brenda Files, who received the award from the Catholic Charities St. Joseph Branch Office posthumously. Files, who died of cancer last fall, helped establish after-school programs for children, and work skills training programs for women in some of St. Joseph's most impoverished neighborhood.
In accepting the award, Files' daughter Toni Enyard said her mother left a legacy.
"My mother did a lot for children, and a lot of children looked up to her," she said.
- Donna Nieckula, a professor at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, who received the award from the Catholic Charities Warrensburg Branch Office.
Nieckula was honored for promoting awareness of Catholic Charities programs and encouraging CMSU students to work with Catholic Charities as they completed their studies.
She praised the work of Susan Loyd, supervisor of the Warrensburg Catholic Charities office.
"Susan Loyd has been one of my greatest inspirations," Nieckula said. "In our frequent discussions, one thing she said once has always stuck with me: 'It's a rare person who gets the opportunity where their work is also their passion.'"