National Adoption Month is About Supporting Families

efandtgOn this week’s show, Monsignor Sullivan speaks with Emily Forham of Spence-Chapin about her agency’s adoption services to families and children as well as the changes happening in the adoption field. Also on the show is Professor Thomas Groome of Boston College to discuss the Vatican’s family survey in preparation for the upcoming synop in October 2014.

Listen to JustLove on Saturday at 10am EST on SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio on The Catholic Channel 129.

More Than a Random Act of Kindness – A Deliberate Deed of Human Solidarity


need examples of goodness and light to strengthen me.  In my journeys I see too much darkness. I suspect you do too.  Let me share one deliberate deed of human solidarity which I am blessed to know, and for which I give thanks this Thanksgiving 2013.

I know a family – a talented professional hectic single mom, Denise, and her 10-year-old daughter, Tiffany.  Through a lot of hard work by Denise, a little luck and circumstances they are pretty comfortable.  They live in a very nice large house, too large – by their own admission.  Tiffany is in private school with all the extracurricular accoutrements that have become de rigueur.  Maybe they’re not 1% er’s, but closer to that end of the spectrum than the other.

About three months ago, Denise learned of a family who had fallen on sad and difficult times.  Another single mother, Juana and her three daughters, Maria 9, Isabella, 11, and Diana, 13, suddenly found themselves without a husband, father and breadwinner.  He died unexpectedly of a serious illness. This widowed mother used to care for the family while her husband worked to support them.  She had few marketable skills. Now the family could no longer afford their home.

Denise immediately felt the instinct to help. Her Plan A was to provide money so the family could rent another apartment and get back on their feet. But Denise quickly realized this apartment would have put the girls in a very mediocre school district.

Then she came up with Plan B.  Denise invited them to live rent free with her and Tiffany in their too-big house in a basement apartment.  This apartment was better, and more important, located in a superior school district where Juana’s three girls could enroll.

Denise did not stop there.  She and Tiffany shared their own “extras”- clothes and blankets – that became the “basics” for Juana, Maria, Isabella and Diana. She helped Juana find part-time work.  Even more, Denise and Tiffany allowed Juana and her daughters to share their lives.

Not surprising, yet key, every step of the way Denise tries to make sure the help she gives is not condescending.  Instead it is genuine, respectful and empowering

Let me add some icing onto this true story (names changed).  I regularly communicate professionally and personally with Denise, yet I learned about this by accident.  In a recent conversation, as an aside, Denise mentioned Juana’s name. So I asked who Juana was.  Only then did Denise tell me – with no great drama, expecting no applause.  She began, “Oh, I have this family living with me…”

Not a random act of kindness, rather this is a deliberate deed of human solidarity.  Here is an individual, human and Christian, who takes seriously Jesus’ message and example that love requires sacrifice and giving of one’s self.  I give thanks for Denise this Thanksgiving 2013.  I’m hoping and praying her example will encourage (or guilt) me into giving more, and better.  Maybe you will be inspired as well.  Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Listen to the full story:


20131117-191506.jpgTalented young people of Cardinal McCloskey Services entertained their family, friends and supporters in White Plains on Sunday afternoon. Their performances were complimented by a pre-show display of paintings in a broad range of talent and styles. The young artists interpreted their painting to those attending the event. The young people who were part of the show and displays participated in the range of programs provided by Cardinal McCloskey Services. This event provides the opportunity for these young people to demonstrate their creativity and talent which many times is overshadowed by the difficulties they face.

Homily on Frances Xavier Cabrini

Frances Xavier Cabrini

Over the past year, our country has debated how we should treat foreigners and immigrants. How do we treat those who come here with the right immigration papers? How do we treat those who are here without the right papers- estimated now at 12 million individuals living and working in the United States?

This debate reminds me of the biblical story of Jesus and the lepers.  In this story, ten men suffering from leprosy, the most dreaded disease during biblical times, approached our Lord, calling out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Jesus cured them all yet only one special person, a Samaritan – a foreigner — returned to thank Him.

Today, November 13, 2013, we celebrate the feast day of one of the first great immigrant saints: Frances Xavier Cabrini.  Frances Xavier Cabrini herself knew why she needed to work so robustly with the Italian immigrant community here to serve their needs, to assist them, to empower them because she, herself as an immigrant, was sent here by the Pope, and similar to the Samaritan was treated by the Irish dominated church here as an outsider. They wanted no part of her. They didn’t think that she had anything to offer here. They were told repeatedly by the Pope that they had to accept her and allow her to work with immigrants. Today, she serves as an incredible example for the church in the United States that we are a church of immigrants, we are a church that needs to be open to immigrants and in fact through our institutions, our church, our schools, our parishes, our charitable organizations, we quite frankly have turned a significant corner in being in the forefront of welcoming immigrants and being a light to the rest of our country in regard to the need for fair and humane immigration laws.

In gratefulness for that I would propose that we hold this Italian woman, herself once rejected, finally exalted as a saint.  Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini has called the church in America to be one that follows the command of Jesus, the command to welcome the stranger.

Listen to the homily:

Pope Francis Announces Big Synod Meeting on Families in 2014: Broad Transparent Agenda & Grassroots Input

survey3Why all the “buzz” about this two-phase synod meeting beginning in 2014 on the challenges facing families?  (FYI – Synod is a fancy word for a meeting of Bishops and experts around the world called by the Pope to consider an important issue.)  Frankly, there are usually pretty boring and tedious – even when substantive.  I have a couple of thoughts why this Synod on the family should be different:

  • Putting questions on-line and inviting “survey-monkey” responses by anyone with internet access is new for synod meetings. It demonstrates transparency that many would claim is uncharacteristic of the Catholic Church. Everyone can see that the agenda is not ostrich-like.  Major hot-button and important issues are covered.  Same-sex marriage and living together without being married are two topics asked about in the survey.  Surveying real people actually experiencing the goods and bads of families is exciting.  An important caveat!  An accurate description and survey of the current state of affairs alone does not give you the answers. On the other hand, you rarely get the right answers without it.
  • Families are fundamental.  Children are born into them; we live in them; we work to support them and we grow old in them.  I often say Catholic Charities would be out of business if everyone had a good family and a decent job. (The job part is for another post.) Tragically, we know the deep hurt and suffering when families don’t work.  Sadly, this happens far, far too often.

This Synod meeting is on target:  a good and comprehensive agenda and everyone can get a say!   I expect this to be a needed win, not only for the Catholic Church, but also for the common good. Listen to more about it.

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry on Pope Francis’ “Cracking Open the Door to Change.”

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry on Pope Francis cracking open the door to change
While in Rome last week, I felt the enthusiasm and warmth at Pope Francis’ audience with more than 100,000 in St. Peter’s Square.  It’s both fun and instructive to hear someone “outside the fold” comment on Pope Francis’  initial  months on the job.  MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s take is crisp, perky and upbeat.  Listen to her report.

Rome Mission with UJA FED of NY: Papal Audience

Pope Francis PA2The President of the UJA FED of NY, Alisa Doctoroff, along with 20 leaders of the federation participated in Wednesday’s Papal Audience as special guests of the Vatican’s Secretary of State. Alisa Doctoroff spoke to Pope Francis of the strong collaboration with Catholic Charities in New York on behalf of the poor – a central concern of both the Jewish and Catholic communities. Pope Francis spoke of the lasting importance of charity in his remarks to the audience in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis spent considerable time walking among those gathered – especially those in wheelchairs and their families. The amount of time he spent personally greeting individuals attending the audience far exceeded the time of his formal remarks. The diversity of those at the Papal audience and the use of multiple languages demonstrated the “Catholic” or universal aspect of the Catholic Church.






Rome Mission with UJA-FED of NY

Rome Mission With UJA-FED of NY

I was honored to spend Tuesday afternoon learning about the oldest Jewish community outside of Israel – the Roman Jewish community. As I walked through the Jewish Ghetto with the leadership of the UJA-FED of NY, I experienced both sadness and hope. Sadness of the tragic and sinful history of anti-semitism in which Catholics, shamefully, have played a significant part. Hope that as we come to recognize this past, we have set a new course for the future and continue to walk that course together. Over the next few days I will share more of this very important mission to Rome with, as Pope John Paul II, our elder brothers and sisters in the faith.


I was inspired at lunch on Friday with Team Catholic Charities.  The lunch was organized by one of Catholic Charities dedicated and generous Trustees.  It was a chance to meet together and say thanks to the ten people who, in addition to running today, are raising $25,000 to help needy families of all religions assisted by Catholic Charities.  Team Catholic Charities runners have come from near, Manhattan – the Pastor of the St. Peter’s parish next to the World Trade Center, and far, the Philippines – a doctor and her husband.  I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the runners for running – but not inspired enough to even think about joining them next year.  I was also impressed that they were willing to reach out to their friends and family to ask for contributions to provide help for families in need through Catholic Charities.  Good luck to all.  Thoughts and prayers for a safe, fun and fulfilling day. Meet Team Catholic Charities.