Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Three Remarkable Women: A Mom, a "Queen," and a Kennedy

It's Wednesday - a picture perfect day here in Chicago. I hope that, wherever you are, God's splendor is revealed to you in surprising ways.

As some of you may know, I was born and grew up in Massachusetts. The passing this week of Eunice Kennedy Shriver reminded me of my childhood days in Woburn, Massachusetts. My family of eight lived in a relatively poor, racially mixed neighborhood. There were several caucasian families, many Puerto Rican families, and an African-American neighborhood adjacent to our own. 

My mother and our next door neighbor, Mrs. Queen, were real proponents of justice for the poor. I don't believe they realized how influential they were at the time. I remember one day these two women visiting a "slum" just up the block from where we lived. There was an Hispanic woman who lived in that hovel with her many children. My mom discovered that there was no water in the toilets in their apartment. She and Mrs. Queen together began to "fight city hall." I remember opening the local paper one evening and finding a photo of my mom and Mrs. Queen on the front page. They were standing behind the mayor of the city as he sat at his desk reviewing photos these two women had brought him, photos that showed the deplorable conditions and obvious dangers of that building. The headline read "Residents Fear Conflagration." These women were advocates for the poor in our neighborhood, poor families who lived their lives as victims of an absent slumlord (or slumlady in this case). Eventually, the building was razed and my mother kept in touch with the lady with all those children for a number of years.

This was the kind of place Massachusetts was back in the 1960s and 70s. Probably the most prominent Massachusetts family—the Kennedy family—inspired others to reach out to the poor. Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a person who epitomized this kind of care. All of the testimonials I am reading about her make me feel proud to call her my Catholic sister. I will remember her and the Kennedy and Shriver families in my prayer.

May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

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