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Keeping Faith

In 1948, “it was out of this world for a registered nurse to become a midwife,” says Cecilia Buser. But that is what she did, inspired by her work in maternity wards to learn how to provide quality pre-natal and maternity care for women. “It was the best decision I ever made.”

She attended the Catholic Maternity Institute in Santa Fe, N.M. She was an early member of the American College of Nurse Midwives, founded in the 1950s. She worked in New Mexico and Alaska before her retirement in 1973. Now 91, she lives in Kansas City, Mo.

In 1990, Buser, who served as a nurse in World War II, joined Veterans for Peace. “My opinion was we cannot continue war,” she said. “We’ll destroy the earth, but won’t have any problems solved.”

Sometimes her volunteering makes her life “like a merry-go-round,” but Maureen McCormack, 57, says it’s all part of her call to spread God’s mercy.

Ten years ago, McCormack, a former Sister of Mercy, began ABC Quilts in Brooklyn, N.Y., a project that has provided 75,000 handmade quilts to at-risk babies, those born with HIV, to substance-addicted mothers, or into abusive homes.

McCormack, a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn, has begun another ministry -- care of the dying and their families. “It’s a privilege to be with a person at their time of death,” she said. “It’s so beautiful to witness.” She has also been exploring issues of justice in the cost of funerals. “It upsets me so much to see people taken advantage of at this time,” she said.

In his 53 years of work in Brazil, Oblate Fr. Edmund Leising came to realize “it was not enough to ‘give the fish’ ” to the poor, he said. “Neither was it really Christian to ‘teach how to fish’ in polluted waters -- the real problem is structural and institutional.”

Leising, 80, decided to begin with the churches, which he saw competing with each other rather than working together. In 1976, he formed the Ecumenical Center for Action and Reflection, known as CEAR in Rio de Janeiro. CEAR brings together local religious groups of various denominations and nongovernmental organizations and provides training in development projects, eventually leaving the newly created local groups to run on their own. Projects initiated by CEAR include day care centers, literacy programs, health centers, agricultural training, handicrafts, theater and recreational programs.

Send suggestions for Keeping Faith to Teresa Malcolm at NCR. Her e-mail is tmalcolm@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, January 14, 2000