Receiving an award recognizing their works of service, members of the Little Sisters of the Poor stressed the need for loving attention and care for the elderly, particularly by the youth. “I urge you to fight against the tendency to marginalize and abandon the elderly, to commit what the Pope refers to as ‘hidden euthanasia’,” Sister Constance Veit, the Little Sisters’ U.S. national communications director, said Oct. 10. She spoke at an awards ceremony at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, where the Little Sisters were awarded the Poverello Medal in honor of their service. Sr. Veit said that the elderly “have become the contemporary outcasts” of society at a time when their numbers are increasing. The elderly will make up 19 percent of the U.S. population by 2030, she said. She called for a “covenant between generations” to join young and old together. Franciscan University president Father Sean O. Sheridan, T.O.R., said the Little Sisters offer “the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family, and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.” The Poverello Medal is named for St. Francis of Assisi, who was called Il Poverello, “the little poor man.” It commemorates those who show strength of character and Christian charity in their love for and service to the poor. Sister Loraine Maguire, provincial superior of the Little Sisters’ Baltimore Province, accepted the medal on behalf of the sisters. “I see in this medal the symbol of all the things that matter: to be poor, little, humble, and merciful to all those we serve; to treat others as Christ himself, and to live in a manner that reflects his very life,” she said. Twelve Little Sisters from their Chicago, Brooklyn and Baltimore provinces attended the ceremony, as did trustees of Franciscan University and other guests. Sr. Veit recounted the example of St. Francis of Assisi, who would find the courage to embrace a leper. She also cited the work of Little Sisters foundress Jeanne Jugan, whose charity began in earnest when she welcomed a blind, partially paralyzed elderly woman into her small apartment. Past recipients of the Poverello Medal include Bl. Mother Teresa and Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., who passed away on Oct. 3. The Little Sisters of the Poor currently run more than 200 homes for the elderly throughout the world. Founded in 1839, their mission is to provide physical, spiritual and emotional care for the low-income elderly and dying in communities throughout the U.S. and across the globe. The Little Sisters of the Poor are presently plaintiffs in a prominent religious freedom legal case challenging federal mandates requiring that they and other religious employers offer employees insurance coverage for sterilization procedures and contraceptive drugs, including some that have abortion-causing effects.
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