Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
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Empathy tames the emotional roller coaster of pastoral planning
Plutchik Wheel of Emotions With all of the talk about possible consolidations of deaneries and parishes, finding new purposes for underused buildings and otherwise looking for new ways to carry the f...

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Four-year 'encuentro' process begins in the U.S
Leaders in ministry to U.S. Hispanic Catholics stand in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in 2016 with the Encuentro cross. They are from left: Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, national coordinator of the ...

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Archbishop recognizes parish volunteers with St. Joseph Medal of Appreciation
Written by Shelley Wolf
Grasping her program booklet and St. Joseph Medal of Appreciation, Claudette LaFlamme of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Waterbury talks to Father Roberto McCarthy after the ceremony on March 19. (Photo b...

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Lauralton Hall names new president and head
Written by Administrator
MILFORD – The Lauralton Hall Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Elizabeth Miller as the next president and head of the college-prep, all-girls’ school on High Street. Miller succeeds...

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Students take sweet approach to helping the homeless
Written by Administrator
Students in the life skill program at Windsor Locks High School pose for a photo on March 21 with Father Robert A. O'Grady, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Mary parishes in Windsor Locks, wh...

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Cardinal Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, dies at 86
Cardinal William H. Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, places a zucchetto on his head as he prepares to offer the opening prayer during a prayer service for Catholic and Jewish leaders hosted by...

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Empathy tames the emotional roller coaster of pastoral planning
Empathy tames the emotional roller coaster of pastoral planning
Four-year 'encuentro' process begins in the U.S
Four-year 'encuentro' process begins in the U.S
Archbishop recognizes parish volunteers with St. Joseph Medal of Appreciation
Archbishop recognizes parish volunteers with St. Joseph Medal of Appreciation
Lauralton Hall names new president and head
Lauralton Hall names new president and head
Students take sweet approach to helping the homeless
Students take sweet approach to helping the homeless
 Cardinal Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, dies at 86
Cardinal Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, dies at 86

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WASHINGTON (CNA/EWTN News) – As states around the country consider legalizing physician-assisted suicide, death with dignity looks markedly different for patients under the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

In her 27 years with the order that cares for the elderly poor, Sister Constance Veit says she has never seen or heard a resident of their homes asking for a lethal prescription.

"I think that's because they are surrounded with a caring human and spiritual presence in our homes," she told an audience at the Heritage Foundation.

Sister Constance was part of a recent panel in Washington, D.C., on caring respectfully for the elderly sick. The event was titled "Living Life to Its Fullest." End of life care was placed in the national spotlight late last year, when 29 year-old Brittany Maynard publically announced her decision to take a lethal prescription rather than suffer terminal cancer.

In describing her situation, Ms. Maynard used terms that Sister Constance says she has never heard from the people under her care, like "purposeless prolonged pain" and "prolonged involuntary suffering and shame."

"I have never heard any of our residents use the word 'shame' in the context of their suffering and dying," she said.

Ms. Maynard's story caught the attention of many and brought about a national debate on physician-assisted suicide, which is already legal in some states. The Colorado state senate defeated an assisted suicide bill back in February, but other states are considering similar bills.

The Death With Dignity National Center is pushing for these laws around the country, including in Connecticut.

Critics say the laws would unfairly pressure the elderly and disabled to end their lives. They charge such laws would normalize suicide as a solution to problems and decrease respect for life in American culture.

Caring for the elderly in their final days, the Little Sisters of the Poor say that a resident of their homes and his or her loved ones can experience a tremendous amount of good in their last days together that would be lost if they decided to take their life prematurely.

As is true for the elderly people St. Joseph Residence in Enfield, which is run by the Little Sisters, patients of the Little Sisters are cared for and pain is relieved; all that can be done for the sick patient is attempted. The patient is accompanied around the clock.

"I would say that the room of a dying person almost becomes the spiritual center of our house at that point for those days," Sister Constance said. "Our home is their home."

The sisters make sure to provide a "peaceful, prayerful presence" for the dying resident "for as long as it takes until they make that passage from this life to the next."

And it can be a rich time of healing for the family. Sister Constance recalled how the sisters kept an eight-day vigil for one dying woman. Although she was not conscious, members of her family reconciled with each other during that time, and some even came back to the faith who had fallen away.

"There's so much to be shared, learned, and gained through these intense moments that you cheat people out of when a life is ended prematurely," the sister reflected.

"The majority of the family members involved with the residents who pass away in our homes experience it as a moment of grace and a thing of beauty," she added, "it's rare that they feel it was anything other than a very powerful spiritual and human moment."

Other members of the panel voiced concerns about physician-assisted suicide laws.

Farr A. Curlin, M.D., the Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities at Duke University School of Medicine, said the laws will bring new and grotesque questions to the national conversation.

People might start asking a terminally-ill patient, "Why are you staying alive?" he said. Those patients might start feeling useless to society and will "feel the pressure to exit the scene."

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