Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Speaking of heroes

Heaven gets the better end of this stick: Patty Crowley, superCatholic, died last weekend. It's hard to offer a better example of a modern Catholic: theologically informed, socially aware, totally dedicated. Her Chicago Tribune obit is pasted below.

Significantly, the Trib omits her anger about Humanae vitae, Paul VI's encyclical on birth control, which signalled the first rollback of Vatican II's reforms, not so much because of its content but because of its process. Although the birth control commission he appointed strongly favored a change in the teaching on birth control, he discarded their recommendations and went out on his own. The chasm created between the church's teaching as proposed and the practice and belief of the people of God has yet to be mended.

Of course the line for which Crowley is famous (which perhaps doesn't do her justice) is her response to a priest on the birth control commission, who wondered what would happen to the millions sent to hell for using birth control if the teaching changed:

Marcelino Zalba, S.J.: "What then with the millions we have sent to hell, if these norms were not valid?"

Patty Crowley replied: "Father Zalba, do you really believe that God has carried out all your orders?"

Too bad she wasn't a bishop.

Patricia Crowley 1913-2005
Activist `changed many lives'
By Brendan McCarthy,Tribune staff reporter

November 27, 2005--Patricia "Patty" Crowley's strong beliefs led her to start social movements, open shelters and counsel convicts. A determined woman, she tried to cure social ills with more than temporary bandages.

Homeless women on Michigan Avenue? Mrs. Crowley helped establish Deborah's Place, a Chicago agency for homeless women.

Lonely female inmates in the Metropolitan Correctional Center? Mrs. Crowley counseled them and taught them to crochet during weekly visits that spanned three decades.

Disconnect during the 1940s? Mrs. Crowley helped found the Christian Family Movement, a Catholic lay group that combined study of Scriptures with social action. It spread worldwide.

"If she felt there was an injustice or something wrong somewhere, she would try to fix it," said Jane Clark, longtime friend and member of the Christian Family Movement. "She was fiery. She could always get things done. She changed many lives."

Mrs. Crowley, 92, a devout Catholic activist and social reformer, died of Parkinson's disease Wednesday, Nov. 23, in her Chicago home. Her resume includes a long list of humanitarian and outreach efforts. To understand the plight of homeless women better, Mrs. Crowley slept on a mat on the floor of the homeless shelter twice per month.

"She felt we were called to do things for others, especially those that have less," her daughter Sister Patricia Crowley said. "She was a woman of action."

Today, a supportive housing complex in the 1500 block of North Sedgwick Street bears her name.

"You get a better idea of what it's like to be in someone else's shoes if you see them and talk to them," Mrs. Crowley told the Tribune in 1988.

Mrs. Crowley's biggest accomplishment--at least, the one for which she is most recognized--was the creation of the Christian Family Movement. Throughout the 1940s, Mrs. Crowley's husband discussed social issues and values regularly with a group of married men. In 1949, Mrs. Crowley helped form a women's group. Soon after, the men's and women's groups, about seven couples total, joined to form the Christian Family Movement.

"We began to analyze what feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless--what did all that mean we should be doing?" Mrs. Crowley previously told the Tribune.

Mrs. Crowley and her husband were among three married couples--and the only American couple--to take part in the Papal Birth Control Commission, an international panel named by the Vatican in 1964 to study birth control.

Mrs. Crowley was born in Chicago and graduated from the Convent of the Sacred Heart in 1932, her daughter said. She graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., in 1936. In 1937, she married Patrick Crowley, whom she met at a Good Friday mass at the University of Notre Dame. The couple had five children. Her husband died in 1974.

Other survivors include three other daughters; Mary Ann Kono, Cathy George and Theresa; a son, Patrick; a brother, John Caron; a foster son, Al Augustine; 10 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

Copyright (c) 2005, Chicago Tribune


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