For nearly 30 years, I have served the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, a community of religious women whose ministry is health care. For the first part of my association with them, I served at HSHS St. Mary's Hospital in Streator, and in this present chapter of my life I serve at their motherhouse here in Springfield. I have been a communicator of their health care mission and, more importantly, the deeper purpose of the sisters' legacy to those who continue their ministry through Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS).

Today I share information about the upcoming observance of Catholic Sisters Week (CSW). I am honored to speak on behalf of our local communities of women religious who will participate in the annual observance to remind us of their unique ways of serving others, along with acknowledgment of an issue of the present time, namely hunger. Furthermore, I am honored to be the bearer of an invitation from the sisters to you.

The Catholic Sisters Week national organizers have found a fitting way to describe the observance. Fifty-two weeks a year, women religious throughout the United States see the face of Jesus in those they serve by being united with people who are impoverished and immigrant. Sisters teach children, fight injustice, heal the sick, share spirituality, empower women, defend the planet, promote peace, create community and offer hope. During one week – March 8-14 – these same women religious take the opportunity to bring forth an awareness of their ministries in the communities they serve in a unique way. I am pleased to share that here in Sangamon and Christian counties the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Ad Gentes, Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception, Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph and Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union are collaborating in this annual observance with an initiative of Feeding Hungers.

The year of 2021 makes clear there are many among us who need all kinds of nourishment for physical and spiritual hungers. The sisters in our region respond to those hungers every day. They recognize and often partner with others who do the same. During Catholic Sisters Week, they invite you to do so, too. During this week-long observance, the sisters encourage you to join them in feeding the hungers of our world. You can do so by supporting a local or area breadline, food pantry or micropantry with monetary donations or food. This feeds the obvious hunger and need for food that people are facing in these challenging times.

The second step is an invitation to acknowledge other types of hunger people face amid the pandemic – unemployment and other hardships. Can you join the sisters by feeding hunger through emotional support for the lonely, spiritual support for the lost, financial support for the unemployed, or physical support for those challenged by circumstance? In feeding these hungers, together we can bring a sense of hope to those who are in need and, in turn, practice the sacred gift of compassion. While we do these deeds because we care, we must acknowledge that the deeper reason we respond is because we are called by the gospel to show love to others. Yes, it's all about love.

While the effects of 2020 remain with us in 2021, there is light ahead on the path and we can be bearers of that light. Let us make a difference. Let us build a better world. Let us do our part in feeding hungers.

Brian Blasco of Springfield holds a master's degree in communications from University of Illinois Springfield. As of March 1, 2021, he serves as the HSHS Illinois Division Director - Mission Integration. He previously served the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis as the director of communications and provincial archivist at their Motherhouse, Springfield.

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