Archive for November, 2009
Former Jesuit, Congressman Cao Discusses Using Ignatian Discernment to Reach Health Care Vote Decision
A Vietnamese-born lawyer, the first Vietnamese-American to be elected to Congress, and a former Jesuit seminarian, Anh “Joseph” Cao is the current U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district and was the lone Republican to vote for landmark health care reform on November 7, 2009.
Cao spoke with National Jesuit News about the process of discernment that he uses in reaching decisions as a U.S. congressman, how those decisions are grounded in his background in Ignatian spirituality and why he didn’t chose the party line in voting for health care reform.
Our Q&A with Congressman Cao is below:
National Jesuit News: As a Jesuit scholastic, you experienced the Spiritual Exercises, a foundational piece of Ignatian spirituality from Jesuit founder Ignatius Loyola. Now, as a congressman, do you find that you use the Ignatian principles of discernment as you reach your political decisions? Has a grounding in Ignatian spirituality helped shape your political decision making process?
Cao: I still use the Ignatian methods almost every day, from examination of conscience back to the methods of the 30 day retreat. I do that very often. Using the whole process of discernment to see where the Sprit is moving me has been extremely important, especially in my recent decision to support the health care reform plan. The Jesuit emphasis on social justice, the fact that we have to advocate for the poor, for the widow, for those who cannot help themselves, plays a very significant part. But at the end of the day, I believe that it’s up to, at least from my perspective, understanding what does my conscience say, how is the Spirit moving me. I use that almost every day in my decision making process. The issues that we contend with in Congress affect every single person here in the United States, so I want to make sure that my decisions are based on good principles and good morals.
For example, right before the [health care] vote, I actually went to Mass and I prayed. And the theme of the day was one of the readings from Isaiah. The priest gave the homily about be not afraid, so I really felt a personal touch during this homily, that this homily was meant for me. I was going through a lot of turmoil, debating on what was the right decision, knowing the fact that if I were to vote ‘yes’, I would be the most hated Republican in the country. [laughs]. So, it was a tough discernment process but I felt during the Mass that it was speaking directly to me. It gave me the strength to say ‘yes, you have to make the right decision’ and ‘be not afraid’ to do it because ‘I will go before you’ so that is why I supported the bill knowing the fact that I would be the only one.
National Jesuit News: As the lone Republican to vote in support of the health care bill, you showed what many would call courage and independence. Even getting elected in a predominately Democratic area shows your uniqueness. What gives you the strength to follow the path that you’ve decided for yourself?
Cao: The question, ultimately, is ‘what is God’s will for me in my life?’ I see everything in life as a gift. I’m not too attached to my position. I’m not too attached to being a U.S. congressman. I see myself as being there to serve God, to do what is God’s will in my life, and if things happen to change, the next year or two, then I’m pretty happy and pretty satisfied. That’s how I approach my life, one day at a time and make sure that each and every day, what I do is according to how God’s will is for me on that day.
National Jesuit News: The health care debate could at times be very divisive, especially around the matter of abortion. The Bishops lobbied heavily around the legislation when it came to abortion policies in regards to health care. What are your thoughts on how Catholics should approach the health care issue?
Cao: We need health care reform because the reform process is intended to help those who cannot help themselves. But also we have to make sure that some of our core moral values are not compromised and that was the drawing line for me. No matter what happens, strong anti-abortion language has to be included in the bill. I stated several months back that by supporting the bill, it would probably mean the end of my political career, but I just cannot support a bill that would go against my moral conscience. I would not support a bill that would support federal funding of abortion. During the negotiations, I made that specifically clear to the House leadership that we cannot support any reform bill that would provide federal funding for abortion.
Former Jesuit Seminarian Congressman Cao Talks About the Lasting Legacy of the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador
Anh “Joseph” Cao is the current U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district and was the only Republican to vote for the Affordable Health Care for America Act on November 7, 2009. Last December, Cao defeated nine-term Democratic U.S. Representative William Jefferson, in a district that hasn’t elected a Republican since 1890.
A Vietnamese-born lawyer, the first Vietnamese-American to be elected to Congress, and a former Jesuit seminarian, Cao talked with National Jesuit News about why he spoke in support of a recent House bill commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. On today’s anniversary of the murders of the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador 20 years ago, we are publishing the interview with Cao on what the legacy of the Jesuit martyrs has meant to him.
Tomorrow, we will publish more from our interview with Cao, including his answers to using the Ignatian process of discernment in reaching tough decisions as a U.S. congressman, how those decisions are grounded in his background in Ignatian spirituality and why he didn’t chose the party line in voting for landmark health care reform.
National Jesuit News:You recently spoke in support of H.Res. 761 to commemorate the lives and work of the Jesuits and their housekeepers who were killed 20 years ago in El Salvador. During your speech, you mentioned that they had greatly impacted you and your decision to become a Jesuit. Can you talk about their legacy and their impact on you?
Cao: It was 1989 when that happened, and I was a junior in college then. And I was discerning at that time whether to become a priest. When I read the news about the Jesuits in El Salvador and what they were doing, I basically decided at that moment that I would want to join the Society of Jesus because of the courage of these priests, these people that worked in a foreign land, to become missionaries, to do the will of God in those foreign lands, it just really touched me. I believe it was at that particular part of my life when I decided, yes, this is what I want to be and I contacted a Jesuit that I knew and asked him what was the process to enter the Society.
El Salvador is marking the today’s 20th anniversary of the Jesuit Massacre of 1989, when government troops murdered six prominent Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter. Click here to see pictures from the commemorative activities in the country.
On Nov. 16, 1989, six Jesuits, along with a housekeeper and her daughter, were killed by members of the El Salvadoran military at the University of Central America Pastoral Center in San Salvador. The Jesuits had been labeled subversives by the Salvadoran government for speaking out against its oppressive socioeconomic structure.
To mark the 20th anniversary of their murders, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 761, “Remembering and commemorating the lives and work of (the Jesuit Fathers, their housekeeper and her daughter) on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of their deaths at the University of Central America Jose Simeon Canas in San Salvador, El Salvador.” The resolution was sponsored by Rep. James McGovern (D) of Massachusetts.
Killed in the attack were Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., 59; Amando Lopez, S.J., 53; Joaquin Lopez y Lopez, S.J., 71; Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., 50; Juan Ramon Moreno, S.J., 56; Segundo Montes, S.J., 56; Julia Elba Ramos, 42, the housekeeper of the Jesuit residence, and her daughter Cecilia Ramos, 15.
In remembrance of those who lost their lives, various Jesuit apostolates, including colleges, universities and parishes, are commemorating November 16th, 2009 with memorials, Masses and religious services. A list of institutions participating appear below with events listed if available. Please check back regularly as this list is ever growing.
Jesuit Father Uwem Akpan’s appearances at Jesuit schools across the country continues with appearance this Saturday at Georgetown University, Wednesday at University of San Francisco and Thursday at Loyola Marymount University. Jesuit Father Uwem Akpan, author of Say You’re One of Them, the current Oprah’s Book Club selection, is visiting Jesuit colleges and universities across the country to discuss his book, the intersection of spirituality and art, and his life as a Jesuit priest and author. Fr. Akpan’s talks, which will include a reading from his collection of short stories that were recently #1 on the New York Times list for fiction, will be free and open to the public.
After his participation in a live, in-depth discussion about his book with Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper that was simulcast on Oprah.com and CNN.com, Fr. Akpan appeared this week at Loyola Chicago and Boston College. If you missed the webcast, you can watch Oprah and Say You’re One of Them author Uwem Akpan and their in-depth discussion about his book, the challenges facing children in Africa and more here.
|Saturday, November 14, 20091:30pm
3800 Reservoir Rd NW
|Wednesday, November 18, 20094:00 pm
University of San Francisco
Xavier Hall, inside Fromm Hall
2053 Fulton St
San Francisco, Calif.
|Thursday, November 19, 20094:00pm
Loyola Marymount University
William H. Hannon Library
Von der Ahe Family Suite
1 LMU Drive
Los Angeles, Calif.