Sunflower Seeds logo

Sunflower Seeds


Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

The Cardinal and the Pediatrician

I have found two new people to admire. One is a Cardinal and the other a pediatrician.

The Cardinal is Joseph Tobin, recently appointed by Pope Francis to be the archbishop of Newark, NJ. Prior to this appointment, Tobin served as archbishop of Indianapolis, IN from 2012-2016. Why do I admire this new Cardinal in the church? For several reasons.

First, I like his positive spin on politics. Tobin encourages all citizens—including Catholics—to become more involved in politics. He says, “If I could change anything it would be to restore the luster to the word politician.” He reminds us that the word politician comes from the Greek polis that originally meant “the people.” Says, Tobin, “A politician is somebody who works for the common good.”

Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R

The Cardinal also says we should not refrain from discussing “hot-button” issues with others. We should not say, “I want to know what you think about this particular issue, and then I’ll decide whether I’m going to talk with you anymore.” Tobin, like Pope Francis, encourages us to talk with each other—especially with individuals who think differently than we do. Tobin himself does this. For example, when he was archbishop of Indianapolis, the Governor of Indiana was Mike Pence (now Vice President). Pence announced that all Syrian refugees would be banned from settling in Indiana. Tobin, a prominent voice against immigration bans, asked to meet with Pence. Pence agreed. Tobin brought along the director of Catholic Charities, the director of the diocesan Refugee Resettlement Program, and an Iraqi refugee named Ali. Ali had settled in Indiana a few years back, had earned a university degree, and was gainfully employed. Ali was proud to tell the Governor that he was an American citizen and he hoped someday his family could join him in this country. At one point Pence told Tobin that Indiana would not pay for any more refugees. Tobin replied, “OK, if you’re not going to pay for them, we (the Church) will find the money.” The refugee families, said Tobin,  would not be a burden on the state.

At the end of their meeting, both Pence and Tobin agreed to pray about the issue and for each other. They also agreed not to talk to the media about the specifics of their meeting. Says Tobin, “We still talk to each other. We don’t throw punches or anything.”

In his talks and encyclicals, Pope Francis is “fostering a culture of encounter.” Obviously, Tobin supports this in both word and deed. Tobin believes that religion is not something we do for an hour on Sunday. Instead, “Religion is a lifestyle. It means that what I believe influences the way I live.”

Another person I admire is Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician serving in Flint,

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

Michigan. In 2014 the city of Flint switched its water source from the Detroit system to the Flint River—in order to save money. Soon people began to complain of the smell, appearance, and taste of their tap water. One civil engineer studied the water and reported that it contained dangerous levels of lead. Such levels were known to cause brain damage in children. Despite his evidence, government leaders insisted the water was safe.

At this same time, Dr. Hanna-Attishi also began to notice alarmingly high levels of lead in the children she was treating. She decided to conduct her own study with the help of several colleagues. They were shocked by the data. Rather than wait to publish their findings in a medical journal (it would have taken too long), they called a press conference and presented their results. Immediately some officials questioned the doctor’s research and accused her of inciting “mass hysteria.” But the doctor stood her ground. “We knew our numbers were right,” she said later. With the help of the news media, she was soon vindicated, and the scope of the terrible tragedy was made known. As a result, two officials resigned and President Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha, who is the daughter of Iraqi immigrants, was praised for her courage and perseverance. She said humbly, “If I can inspire a generation of strong women who are ethical and who are stubborn and who care about their communities, that would be worth it.”

A Cardinal and a pediatrician. Both devoted to serving others, especially those in need. Both gifted with courage and perseverance. Little wonder I admire them—and wish I could be more like them.

We all need strength and courage to deal with the trials of daily life. This song, “You are My Strength” by Hillsong reminds us of the source of our strength: our loving God. The accompanying pictures from space underscore the vastness and beauty of God’s creation. Let us pray for strength for all those suffering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey… and strength for those who are serving them in their need.


What are your thoughts on Cardinal Tobin and Dr. Hanna-Attisha?

Are there other people whom you admire? Why do you admire these individuals?

PS: I will be making my annual retreat September 1-7. Therefore there will be no new post on my blog on September 4. My next post will be Monday, September 11. I promise to pray for all of you during my retreat. Please pray for me too. Thank you and God bless you! 

12 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. Melannie! I can remember reading in the newspaper about a Catholic cardinal standing against Indiana’s governor and the governor’s refusal to let Syrians into the state. I recall thinking “now that’s a true man of God!” I was also proud to be a Catholic. Thank you for fleshing out the story. A similar thanks for talking about Dr. Hanna-Attisha. What an amazing woman! To serve God is not to err on the side of safety but err on the side of love.

  2. Good morning, Sr. Melanie!
    I wish you a peaceful and prayerful retreat. Please say a prayer for teachers and students starting a new school term.
    I admire Fr. James Martin, SJ, for his ministry through social media, reaching so many, but especially for starting a conversation about the LGBT community and the church, which has not always extended a hand of welcome. His book, “Building a Bridge – How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity” challenges both groups (really one as there are many LGBT Catholics) to reach out. He has taken many vicious posts on his Facebook page and Twitter for this and been accused of heresy and more. His book has been reviewed in America and other publications. I am grateful for Cardinal Tobin and Dr. Attisha, who I met early last year, and all who step out of their comfort zones for the sake of others.

  3. Wish there were more Cardinals, Bishops, Ministers, Rabbis, Politicians and Persons of all faith who will raise their voices (not their fists) to condemn every discrimination and injustice in this “democratic” country. However, all of us have to look into our own hearts and souls if we remain silent and indifferent when our leaders do not have the courage to speak against the erosion of our country’s moral values. This quote is from the Theologian and Pastor Deitrich Bonhoeffer who died in 1945 at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp. “Silence in the face of evil is evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

  4. Great article Melanie!! People such as the Cardinal and yourself remind me that although I am frequently at odds with the hierarchy of the American Catholic Church, it is my church as well. Kudos to the pediatrician – what a wonderful strong woman to have the backs of the most vulnerable among us. Your blog is a breath of fresh air. Mary Jane

  5. Your posts are my daily devotions. You inspire conversations & points to ruminate upon in days ahead. Thank you for all you do with Sunflower Seeds. Blessings upon you & your colleagues on your retreat. I will miss your post but thank goodness for the archives. I enjoy going back & revisiting previous topics & songs.


  6. Melannie, what an insightful article! Makes me want to show it to everyone I meet. Thank you. Depend on my prayers as you experience all the good graces of your special time of retreat. I have had the privilege of being in one of your retreats and still use some of your shared wisdom. Enjoy and know that you can stand tall beside your cardinal and your pediatrician.
    Blessings in abundance. Elizabeth

  7. You amaze me each week with such
    uplifting subjects, just like today.
    Another two amazing stories. You beat all!!!
    Thank you so much for taking your time to
    do this.
    My prayers go out to our neighbors in
    Houston. May God bless them all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Blog Posts

(Please note: Today’s reflection deals with a very disurbing topic: war. Some of you may find this reflection very difficult to read. I understand. I found it very difficult to write.) Memorial Day will be celebrated next Monday in the U.S. This is the day set aside to remember and

Today I’m sharing with you a famous prayer/poem/ written by St. John Henry Newman. But first, a few words about this saint canonized by Pope Francis in October 2019. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was born in London, England, the eldest of six children. His father was a banker. As a

Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

Subscribe to Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Upcoming Events

Finding God in the Ordinary and Amazing: An Afternoon with Sister Melannie

Sunday, May 19, 2024 – 1:30 – 4:00 Central – via zoom

Sponsored by the Portiuncula Center for Prayer – Frankfort, Illinois

Fee: Donation

For details visit: [email protected]

Weekend retreat at Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center, Pulaski, PA
October 11-13, 2024

October 11-13, 2024

Details to follow

Retreat with the Sisters of Loretto, Nerinx, KY
September 8-13, 2024

September 8-13, 2024

Details to follow

Retreat at Lial Renewal Center, Whitehouse, OH
August 11-18, 2024

August 11-18, 2024

Retreat at Heartland Center for Spirituality, Great Bend, KS
April 14-19, 2024

April 14-19, 2024

Details to follow