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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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She reminded me of my Aunt Betty

Dr. Christopher Lillis and Sister Mary Ellen Lacy took part in Tuesday’s program on expansion of the Medicaid program.

I confess that I was probably biased toward Sister Mary Ellen Lacy when I heard her speak yesterday. She reminded me a lot of my Aunt Betty.

Sister Lacy is a Catholic nun in the Daughters of Charity. She spoke yesterday at a church in downtown Fredericksburg in support of the proposed expansion of the Medicaid program.

Sister Lacy said after her talk that she joined the religious order late in life after a successful career as a nurse, lawyer and nursing home administrator. My aunt did something similar.

My aunt was a policewoman in Washington, then joined the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. She worked at their residential treatment center for adolescents in Baltimore, where she was known as Sister Mary Eugenia. To us kids, she was simply Aunt Betty.

As I walked back to the office yesterday,  I thought about Sister Lacy’s language and the arguments she made. Usually when I hear or read about the Medicaid expansion, the language is partisan and economic, a reflection of powerful interests. Not Sister Lacy’s.

Her language was personal. To her, health insurance makes people healthier, so she favored extending the Medicaid program to more of the poor. She reminded her audience of the biblical call to heal the sick and of our obligation to help the least among us.

“As faithful people we are responsible to each other,” she said. “We are our brother’s keeper, and we will be asked what did you do for the least of these.”

She added that financing should not be a problem.

“Where your heart is, there so your treasure lies,” she said. “How we spend our money is what we believe is important.  If your priorities are in the welfare of our neighbors, we will spend our budget on things that promote the welfare of all.”

She closed with what she said was a story from the Muslim tradition:

“Past the seeker as he prayed came the disabled, the beggar and the beaten,” she said. “Seeing them, the holy one went down into deep prayer and he cried, ‘Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?’

“Out of the silence, the seeker heard a voice: ‘I did do something about them. I made you.’ ”

It sounded like something Aunt Betty would say.

(Today’s print story about Sister Lacy’s visit can be seen here.)