DIAGNOSIS CRITICAL: The Urgent
Threats Confronting Catholic Health
Care, by Leonard J. Nelson III. Our
Sunday Visitor Publishing Division.
345 pp. $29.95.
Reviewed by JOHN M. TEW, M.D., a neurosurgeon
with the Mayfield Clinic and
clinical director of the University of Cincinnati's
Neuroscience Institute (UCNI). Before
cofounding UCNI, he was a professor and
chairman of UC's Department of Neurosurgery.
After being named "best anatomist"
in his class at Wake Forest School of
Medicine, he did a neurosurgical residency
at Harvard University-affiliated Massachusetts
General Hospital and Boston Children's
Hospital and fellowship training in
micro-neurosurgery in Zurich.
AFTER 40 YEARS as an attending surgeon
and educator working in and
around a Catholic health-care system,
I thought I was relatively informed
about the current forces confronting
Catholic hospitals. I was wrong!
Leonard J. Nelson's book
is very important for Catholic
and all men and women
interested in the health care
delivered in our Catholic
hospitals. Health care has
become a highly competitive
business that threatens
the mission of one of the
last bastions for cultivation
and preservation of the
"culture of life," as highlighted
in John Paul II's
1995 encyclical, Gospel of Life (Evangelium
This book provides a highly informative,
in-depth discussion of all the
political issues which present an enormous
conflict for and divide the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB), Catholic politicians and
Catholic voters. Exit polls indicated that
a majority of Catholics voted in the last
presidential election for Barack Obama,
an ardent supporter of pro-choice.
This book focuses on the struggle to
preserve a distinctly Catholic health-care
tradition in the United States.
Catholic hospitals and clinics are being
transformed from their religious ministries
to giant, multistate business
enterprises governed by lay and non-Catholic leaders.
Leonard Nelson does a masterful job
of providing examples of two mega-health-care systems, Ascension
and Providence, which
evolved from small mission-based
religious orders that
originated in Europe and
founded the first hospitals
in the United States. Today,
Ascension and Providence
are the largest not-for-profit
hospital systems in the
In each case, the systems
have struggled mightily to
conform to norms of the
USCCB's Ethical and Religious
Directives for Catholic
Health Care Services and to
prepare for the potential
consequences of the Freedom
of Choice Act (FOCA),
legislation now in the Congress.
All thoughtful people interested
in the sanctity of
human life should read
with care this information-packed
In the spirit of the dedicated Catholic
women who founded and inspired the
original identity for health care in our
nation, this book challenges us to find
new and unique ways to carry their
ministry into a new century.
You can order DIAGNOSIS CRITICAL: The Urgent
Threats Confronting Catholic Health
Care from St. Francis Bookstore.
BEFRIENDING DEATH: Henri Nouwen
and a Spirituality of Dying, edited
by Michelle O'Rourke. Orbis Books.
144 pp. $18.
Reviewed by JUDY BALL, an editor now
retired from St. Anthony Messenger Press,
who worked with newsletters, American
Catholic Radio and www.AmericanCatholic.org. She freelances for publications
such as National Catholic Reporter.
THE WISDOM of Henri Nouwen, the
Dutch-born priest who became a
much-loved spiritual writer
throughout the world, enriches
the pages of Michelle
She does a fine job of pulling
together Nouwen's published
writings on death and
related topics. She also
shares her own insights as a
nurse and lay pastoral minister,
along with the touching
memories of some of his
closest friends. The result:
Henri Nouwen comes alive
in Befriending Death.
Truthfully, I'd be just fine with "all
Nouwen all the time." But, of course,
that's not possible. Initially, I experienced
some frustration at having to
share his insights with the several other
contributors to Befriending Death.
But, stepping back now, I am willing
to concede that the finished product
offers more than enough "Nouwenisms"
that we can all use as we approach
death. And I now see that
hearing about Nouwen can be as valuable
as hearing from him.
It helps, for example, to learn that
Nouwen spoke openly of his own
doubts and limitations that sprang
from early childhood; that he was
known to struggle with depression; that
he grew immensely in working with
the poor and the "differently abled" at
the L'Arche community in Canada; that
a near-fatal accident with a van in 1989
empowered him, perhaps for the first time, with a deep awareness of God's
And it doesn't hurt to hear from editor
O'Rourke and from Nouwen's
friends, who knew and loved and
learned from the man. As his spiritual
legacy, they, too, have something to
say. They learned from the master.
Who of us could not use help as we
think about and prepare for our death?
This book is intended to give us strength
for the journey, to see ourselves as
God's beloved children and to live full,
rich lives until God calls us home.
A few Nouwenisms for the road:
• Befriending our death comes
through befriending life.
• We spend our lives trying to prove
we are lovable, attractive, powerful,
rich...when, in fact, God has already
• Death is a friend who wants to welcome
• Our greatest vocation is to live our
one life cycle gracefully and carefully.
• How we face the question of our
death is not as important as the willingness
to raise the question in the first
It would be understandable—but a
mistake—to dismiss this book as a
downer. For me, it was uplifting,
empowering, liberating. It touched me
deeply and helped move me forward
on my own journey. It might be wise to
have a box of tissues with you as you
read it (likely, more than once).
To which I say: Thank you, Henri
Nouwen and all those who contributed
to Befriending Death!
You can order BEFRIENDING DEATH: Henri Nouwen
and a Spirituality of Dying from St.
NO MORE SECRETS: A Family Speaks
About Depression, Anxiety and
Attempted Suicide, by John and
Patricia Gallagher. Team of Angels,
Box 561, Worcester, PA 19490 (www.speakingaboutdepression.com and
www.teamofangels.com). 155 pp.
Reviewed by JOAN McKAMEY, editor of
Every Day Catholic, a monthly publication
for adult faith formation from
St. Anthony Messenger Press. She interviewed
John Gallagher for its October 2009
issue on suicide.
MOVING PAST the shame and stigma
of mental illness and suicide attempts
is a major step toward emotional and
relational healing. John Gallagher took
an important step toward personal and
family healing after reading
of a courageous 19-year-old
survivor of a suicide attempt
much like John's.
This young man had
shared his story in the hope
of preventing others from
attempting suicide. Following
that lead, John decided
to break the silence he had
imposed on his family for
the nine years since his own
suicide attempts. This book
is part of their healing
The Gallaghers' "picture-perfect" life
was threatened by impending layoffs at
John's workplace. Worse than the possible
loss of livelihood is what worry
about this did to John. He was in such
a state of anxiety and depression that
he attempted suicide twice—first, by
inhaling car-exhaust fumes and, second,
by jumping from the third floor of
a hospital. Focused only on ending his
suffering, he was unable to think of
the effects his actions would
have on his family.
John entered treatment
for anxiety and depression
and received care for his
shattered legs. He was on
the mend, but his family
still had a lot of healing to
do. His wife, Patricia, wanted
to talk about what had
happened, but John didn't
want to talk about it or want
anyone to know about his
suicide attempts. Their four
children—Robin, Katelyn, Kristen and
Ryan—were told to say that their father
had been in an accident or had fallen
down the stairs.
It was as if, Katelyn writes, everything
had been turned upside down.
She asked to do the pictures for the book. Her efforts appear here, along
with many other family photos. On a
page with the heading "Why These Pictures
Are Upside Down" are two photos—both upside down. One is of the
family at Ryan's First Communion. The
other is of their house.
No More Secrets was a collaborative
effort, making it unique because of the
many perspectives and experiences
shared within it. John, Patricia, their
four children and Patricia's mother each
contributed a chapter. No More Secrets is
the Gallagher family's acknowledgment
that something traumatic happened to
them and that sharing their story is a
means to their own healing—individually
and as a family—and an effort to
reach out to others. They hope that
their story will keep other families from
experiencing similar pain.
No More Secrets is a self-help book of
a different kind. It's not written by
experts in the fields of depression, anxiety
or suicide. It is a very heartfelt and
sincere sharing of the "expert" experiences
of seven family members whose
stories are intended to offer consolation
to those struggling with these issues
and to encourage them to seek professional
Beyond the personal stories contained
in the first part of the book, No
More Secrets offers "Frequently Asked
Questions About Depression" and an
extensive list of resources: organizations,
self-help groups and Web sites.
The final section of the book is a
collection of encouraging stories and
uplifting responses to a number of
questions the Gallaghers posted on the
Internet. Topics range from "What to
Do When You Are Sad" to "What
Money Can't Buy."
The book includes a reading-group
guide, information about the "Team of
Angels" pin and prayer ministry, and
the family's new effort to reach out
through group presentations about
depression. This effort is called the
"Real Dads. Real Men. Real Families.
Real Depression Campaign."
Sharing a story of this nature is a
courageous undertaking. No More Secrets will speak words of encouragement and
consolation to those who suffer from
depression or anxiety and their loved
ones. It doesn't answer the question of
why bad things happen to good people,
but it does offer a story of hope for
times when such things occur.
You can order NO MORE SECRETS: A Family Speaks
About Depression, Anxiety and
Attempted Suicide from St.
EWE, by R.W. Metlen. Paulist Press.
80 pp. $16.
Reviewed by CAROL ANN MORROW,
author of the illustrated book Forgiving Is
Smart for Your Heart, published by Abbey
Press. She was assisted by seven young
people between eight and 10 and their parents.
LESS THAN FAMILIAR with actual
sheep, I do count them on my way to
slumber. My closed eyes find them uniformly
white, fluffy and easy to cuddle.
Ewe contains no such animal. While
the principal character remains unseen
until the final four pages, the sheep-like
character is skinny and angular, gets
sheared for no apparent reason and
wears an unlikely costume both for
warmth and for modesty.
Just to be certain of my farm facts, I consulted the dictionary about ewe. As
I suspected, the ewe is a mature female.
This is troubling as regards the plot of
this book, purported to connect with
"readers of every age." At least, it troubled
me, since "Ewe" doesn't look in the
least feminine (though I may be stereotyping
here) and is certainly not very
mature (in the moral sense).
To add to my personal confusion, a
secondary title page proclaims "Psalm
23," but the back cover promises "A
fun retelling of an age-old parable,"
surely that of the lost sheep (i.e.,
Lastly, the rescuer is named David,
and I felt sure it was one far greater
than even the biblical David.
I hasten to add that none of this
troubled my young review assistants a
bit. In an oral reading, of course, ewe and you are homophones. Everyone
understood the double meaning immediately
and delighted in it, especially
when they pictured themselves in the
predicaments of a thoroughly contemporary
sheep lost in an urban
neighborhood, wandering down a dark
and dangerous alley.
This made the sharing of words and
illustrations (done by the author) quite
Where I wanted cuddly, they enjoyed
bug-eyed and trembling. One
mother noted that the blurring of gender
helped everyone to identify with
the short, skinny mammal whose oft-dangling
toes vary between three and
four on each foot, though the sheep of
my dreams have hooves.
The appeal of the book for me was
the persevering love of the mostly invisible
shepherd for this scrawny excuse
for a sheep. Had the creature been actually
adorable, constant love
would have been less amazing.
That is a powerful spiritual
In the context of appreciating
the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
which was why
my assistant reviewers and I
were gathered together, it
was truly the essential message:
"No matter how far
you go, no matter where you
go to, no matter when it
occurs, or what you may do...I will
always and forever love you, Ewe." This
wondrous love was communicated
more powerfully than I could have
done without the book's assistance.
I had first thought phew, but now
recommend Ewe to you.
You can order EWE from St. Francis Bookstore.
BLEEDER, by John Desjarlais. Sophia Institute Press. 272 pp. $14.95.
Reviewed by JEAN HEIMANN, freelance
writer, retired educator, psychologist and
oblate with the Community of St. John.
IT'S NOT OFTEN that you come across
a book that captures your full attention
on an emotional level, and challenges
you intellectually and spiritually, too.
Bleeder was such a book for me.
In Bleeder, we are introduced to Reed
Stubblefield, a classics professor on
sabbatical. He is recovering not only
from the physical wounds of a gunshot
accident in a school shooting, but
also from the emotional wounds of his
wife's recent death. He retreats to a
rural Illinois cabin to write a book on
But the town of River Falls is filled
with the ill and infirm—all seeking the
healing touch of the town's new parish
priest, reputed to be a stigmatic. Skeptical
about religion since his wife's
death from leukemia, Reed is reluctantly
drawn into a friendship with the
priest, Father Ray Boudreau, an amiable
Then the priest collapses and bleeds
to death on Good Friday in front of
horrified parishioners. Is it a miracle
or is it a bloody murder? Reed needs to
know because the police say
he is the prime suspect.
Once Reed is identified as
the prime "person of interest"
in the mysterious death,
he seeks to discover the truth
with the help of an attractive
local reporter and
In his third novel, author
John Desjarlais presents the
reader with an exciting and
suspense-filled mystery that
is difficult to put down. A gifted writer,
Desjarlais captures the reader's attention
from the very first page with his
sharp imagery, gripping plot, vivid
characters, amazing climax and satisfying
Bleeder uses sharp imagery, which
is descriptive yet concise. For example,
Desjarlais writes: "Two squad cars
blocked the street at both ends, their
blue and red lights flashing like
In this mystery written in the first
person, Desjarlais introduces us to a
variety of well-crafted and colorful
characters as he works through clues
and dead ends, casting suspicion on a
number of people, challenging readers
to ponder their motives and to try to
What makes Bleeder uniquely Catholic
is that, in addition to the practical
mystery contained in the plot, there
is a mystery that Dejarlais delves into
on a higher level—the spiritual level—
which he explores through the suffering
that Reed Stubblefield, Father
Boudreau and other characters encounter.
In Bleeder, Desjarlais contemplates
the mystery of "undeserved
suffering" from a Catholic point of
Bleeder is an exciting and thought-provoking
Catholic mystery that I thoroughly
enjoyed and one that I highly
recommend for all adults.
You can order BLEEDER from St. Francis Bookstore.