Tend to the lambs, he said, treat your fellow man with dignity and respect.
Literally and figuratively, he was preaching to the choir.
It can be argued that there are few in this world doing a more sincere job of caring for others than the Little Sisters of the Poor. Bishop Winter was on hand Sunday to help celebrate the 140th anniversary of the order in Pittsburgh, an event featuring Mass followed by visitors’ tours of the Brighton Heights facility.
“Their presence and their work speak to the word of God,” Bishop Winter said.
Bishop Winter observed the Sisters’ work on a personal level: His father, also William, lived at the home for nine years, until his death in 1985.
“He loved it here, there was so much to do. One time we were flying kites, another time we went to an ice cream social,” he said.
Stanley Zubik, father of David Zubik, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, is among the 93 current residents.
The congregation was founded in 1839 by Jeanne Jugan, a French woman who was later beatified by Pope John Paul II and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI.
The first American home was established in 1868, in New York City. In Pittsburgh, where 10 sisters are aided by lay staff, there have been three homes run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The first, according to Mother Judith Meredith, was by the river in the Allegheny West part of the city. Then the sisters moved to Penn Avenue, finally making their home at the current address in 1932.
It’s an impressive facility, with three levels of residence for the elderly poor, ranging from independent living to hospice. The magazine U.S. News & World Report recently named it one of the top 39 nursing homes in the country.
Between the 140th anniversary and the national recognition, Mother Judith said, the sisters are planning a big year of events. Because their mission is taking care of the elderly, and about half of their $6 million operating budget is obtained through Medicaid, the congregation relies on generosity of donations as well as fundraising events.
Upcoming events include the annual Rock-a-Thon. Last year's Rock-a-Thon — in which 50 rocking chairs were provided to rock for donations — raised $68,000 to purchase therapeutic whirlpool bathtubs.
Bob and Linn Pusateri were touring the facility for the first time Sunday. They are longtime donors, a family tradition going back to Bob’s father, Frank. Frank Pusateri worked for a produce company in the Strip District in the 1960s and 1970s when the sisters would make their weekly Tuesday visits to ask for food.
“We were happy to come here today because Dad always had a soft spot in his heart for the Little Sisters of the Poor.” Bob Pusateri said.
Mother Judith's involvement with the Little Sisters of the Poor began when she was a high school student in Kentucky and volunteered on weekends.
She said she felt attracted to the obvious joy they felt in helping others, something that makes the sisters' lifelong mission the proverbial labor of love: “People we take care of can finish up their days with a great feeling of love and acceptance and affirmation and security.”