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Catholic Sisters' Letter in Support of Healthcare Reform Bill

On March 17, 2010, prior to the historic vote on healthcare reform, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, released the text of a letter to Congress supporting healthcare legislation from organizations and communities representing tens of thousands of Catholic Sisters. This letter (text below), which was delivered to each Member of Congress, came just days after a statement in support of passing healthcare reform by Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association. NETWORK strongly supported both statements and worked on all levels to promote passage of the healthcare bill that extended healthcare coverage to millions more people while eliminating unjust practices in the healthcare field.

This is the text of the letter that was sent to all Members of Congress:


Dear Members of Congress:

We write to urge you to cast a life-affirming “yes” vote when the Senate health care bill (H.R. 3590) comes to the floor of the House for a vote as early as this week. We join the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), which represents 1,200 Catholic sponsors, systems, facilities and related organizations, in saying: the time is now for health reform AND the Senate bill is a good way forward.

As the heads of major Catholic women’s religious order in the United States, we represent 59,000* Catholic Sisters in the United States who respond to needs of people in many ways. Among our other ministries we are responsible for running many of our nation’s hospital systems as well as free clinics throughout the country.

We have witnessed firsthand the impact of our national health care crisis, particularly its impact on women, children and people who are poor. We see the toll on families who have delayed seeking care due to a lack of health insurance coverage or lack of funds with which to pay high deductibles and co-pays. We have counseled and prayed with men, women and children who have been denied health care coverage by insurance companies. We have witnessed early and avoidable deaths because of delayed medical treatment.

The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans. While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all. It will invest in preventative care. It will bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children. And despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.

Congress must act. We are asking every member of our community to contact their congressional representatives this week. In this Lenten time, we have launched nationwide prayer vigils for health care reform. We are praying for those who currently lack health care. We are praying for the nearly 45,000 who will lose their lives this year if Congress fails to act. We are also praying for you and your fellow Members of Congress as you complete your work in the coming days. For us, this health care reform is a faith mandate for life and dignity of all of our people.

We urge you to vote “yes” for life by voting yes for health care reform in H.R. 3590.




Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA
LCWR President
Leadership Conference of Women Religious


Joan Chittister, OSB
Co-Chair Global Peace Initiative of Women
Erie, PA


Leadership Team
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas


Leadership Team
Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Sr. Mary Persico, IHM
Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Scranton, PA


Sr. Susan Hadzima, IHM
Councilor for Missioning and Community Life
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Scranton, PA 


Mary Pelligrino, Marguerite Coyne, Rosanne Oberleitner, Carolyn Bodenshatz
Leadership team
Sisters of St. Joseph
Baden, PA 


Sr. Helen McDonald, SHCJ
Province Leader
Society of the Holy Child Jesus
Philadelphia, PA


Vivien Linkhauer, SC
Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, United States Province
Greensburg, PA


Leadership Team
Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia


Sister Barbara Hagedorn, SC
Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati
Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio


Marilyn Kerber, SNDdeN
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Canonical Representative, Ohio Province


Sisters of St. Francis
Tiffin, Ohio 


Leadership Team
Sisters of the Precious Blood
Dayton, OH


Nancy Conway CSJ
Congregation Leadership Team
The Congregation of St. Joseph


Joan Saalfeld, SNJM, Provincial
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary
U.S.-Ontario Province


Jo'Ann De Quattro, SNJM
Sisters of the Holy Names
U.S.-Ontario Province Leadership Team


Josephine Gaugier,  OP
Adrian Dominican Sisters
Holy Rosary Mission Chapter Prioress
Adrian, MI


Kathleen Nolan, OP
Adrian Dominican Sisters
Office of the General Council


Joan Mumaw, IHM – Vice President
On behalf of the Leadership Council
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Monroe, MI


Corinne Weiss,
Servants of Jesus Leadership Team
Saginaw   MI


Beatrice Haines, OLVM
President, Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters
Huntington, IN


Eileen C. Reid, RJM
Provincial Superior
Religious of Jesus and Mary
Washington DC


Sister Cecilia Dwyer, O.S.B.
Benedictine Sisters of Virginia


Sr. Dorothy Maxwell, Councilor
Sisters of St. Dominic
Blauvelt, New York


Adrian Dover OP
Dominican Sisters of Houston, Texas


Francine Schwarzenberger OP
Dominican Sisters of Peace
Denver, Colorado 


Rose Mary Dowling, FSM
Franciscan Sisters of Mary


Margaret Byrne CSJP - Congregation Leader
Teresa Donohue CSJP - Assistant Congregation Leader
Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace


Sr. Carmelita Latiolais, S.E.C.
Sisters of the Eucharistic Covenant


Sheral Marshall, OSF
Provincial Councilor
Sisters of St Francis  


The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes
Sister Joann Sambs, CSA
General Superior


The Leadership Team of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis
Sister Jane Blabolil, SSJ-TOSF
Sister Michelle Wronkowski, SSJ-TOSF
Sister Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF
Sister Linda Szocik, SSJ-TOSF


Sr. Mary Genino (RSHM), Provincial
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary
Western American Province.


Debra M. Sciano, SSND
Provincial Leader
Milwaukee Province, School Sisters of Notre Dame


Sister Liz Heese
School Sisters of St. Francis
US Province, Milwaukee, WI


Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA, President
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
La Crosse, WI 


Sharon Simon, OP
Racine Dominicans


Maryann A. McMahon, O.P.
Vice President
Dominican Sisters of Racine, WI


Agnes Johnson, OP
Vice President
Racine Dominicans


Pat Mulcahey, OP
Prioress of Sinsinawa Dominicans


Theresa Sandok, OSM
Servants of Mary (Servite Sisters)
Ladysmith, Wisconsin


Sister Maureen McCarthy
School Sisters of St. Francis
U.S. Provincial Team
Milwaukee, WI 


Dolores Maguire
Sisters of the Holy Faith
Northern California LCWR Region XIV


Patricia Anne Cloherty, PBVM 
Leadership Team, Sisters of the Presentation, San Francisco


Pam Chiesa, PBVM
Sisters of the Presentation, San Francisco


Gloria Inés Loya
Leadership Team
Sisters of the Presentation, San Francisco


Gloria Marie Jones, OP
Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose
Congregational Prioress and Council


Mary Litell
Provincial Councilor
Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity St. Francis Province


Sr Claire Graham SSS
General Director
Sisters of Social Service
Encino CA


Sr. Gladys Guenther SHF
Sisters of the Holy Family
Congregational President
Fremont, CA


Sister Patricia Rayburn, OSF,
Provincial Minister, Sisters of St. Francis,
Redwood City, CA


Sisters of St. Louis, California Region


Marianites of Holy Cross    
Sr. Suellen Tennyson, MSC
Congregational Leader
New Orleans, LA


Sister Clare of Assisi Pierre, SSF
Sisters of the Holy Family
New Orleans, LA


Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Sister Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, O.Carm.
Sister Andree Bindewald, O.Carm.
Lacombe, Louisiana


Sr. Mary Elizabeth Schweiger, OSB
Mount St. Scholastica
Atchison, KS


Janice Cebula, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa


Mary Rehmann, CHM
Congregation of the Humility of Mary
Davenport, IA 


Sr. Joanne Buckman, OSU
Usruline Sisters of Cleveland


Jean Masterson, CSJ
Congregation of St. Joseph
Cincinnati, OH


*Correction: NETWORK led the effort to lift the voice of Catholic Sisters in the public debate about healthcare reform. Our letter stated: “As the heads of major Catholic women’s religious orders in the United States, we represent 59,000 Catholic Sisters in the United States who respond to needs of people in many ways.” The President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who represents the leadership of more than 90% of the Catholic religious women’s congregations in the United States, was one of more than 50 of our signatories. She alone represents more than 53,000 Catholic Sisters. Leaders of individual congregations also signed on to the letter. We stand behind our statement as representing the views of the overwhelming majority of Catholic Sisters. The real numbers we should be focusing on are the more than 30 million Americans don’t have health insurance and the 45,000 people who die each year due to lack of coverage. Daily in every part of our country, Catholic Sisters experience the suffering of these Americans and their families. It is out of this experience of pain that we spoke of our Gospel values and the mandate for reform.