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“In the 1950’s, the mentally retarded were among the most scorned, isolated and neglected groups in American Society. Mental retardation was viewed as a hopeless, shameful disease, and those afflicted with it were shunted from sight as soon as possible.”1
What began as a summer camp at her Maryland farm in 1968, developed into the first Special Olympics which attracted 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada for competition.
The idea was born when a mother telephoned Eunice Kennedy Shriver and complained that she could not find a summer camp for her child. Mrs. Shriver recalled the telephone conversation this way in an interview with NPR: “I said: You don’t have to talk about it anymore. You come here a month from today. I’ll start my own camp. No charge to go into the camp, but you have to come and pick your kid up.”
“She set out to change the world and to change us” her family said, when she died, “and she did that and more.”
At the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghi,China, a crowd of 80,000 cheered and welcomed 7,000 athletes, a country with a history of severe discrimination against anyone born with disablities.
The program has now grown to three million athletes in 180 countries.
Eunice Kenndy Shriver (puni-Euni, her family nick name)died on August 11, 2009 at age 88.
Eunice, the middle child in a family of nine, grew up with a sister Rosemary, who was mildly retarted. She detested the practice of keeping people with mental disabilities sedentary lest they injure themselves, or of keeping their existence a secret.
“When the full judgement of the Kennedy legacy is made – including J.F.K.’s Peace Corp and Alliance for Progress, Robert Kennedy’s passion for civil rights and Ted Kennedy’s efforts on health care, workplace reform and refugees – the changes made by Eunice Shriver may well be seen as the most consequential.” U.S. News and World Report said in its cover story of Nov. 15, 1993.
So, should Eunice Kennedy Shriver be considered for Sainthood? Consider this:
In the Catholic Church the formal process of sainthood involves a complicated process taking time, money, testimonies, and miracles, and the church follows a strict set of rules in the process.
First, to determine who qualifies, the Vatican looks to its Congregation for the “Causes of Saints”. Typically, a would-be candidate’s “cause” is presented to the local bishop by his or her admirers who persuade him that the life of the candidate was a model of holiness.
Once the applicant is approved as a candidate, an appointed postulator interviews those who knew the individual. Personal testimonies, letters, and writings of the candidate’s are put together. A relater then sifts through this information and prepares a position paper. If the volumes of evidence prove a life of “heroic virtue”, the person is given the title “venerable” by the Pope.
The next title, beatified (blessed), is attained if it can be proven that a miracle occurred after the death of the candidate, the result of someone praying to that person for help.
To finalize a canonization, it must be established that a second miracle occurred. (Martyrs are the exception. The pope can reduce their miracle requirement to one or waive it altogether.) Most often prayer requests are for a physical healing.
Verifying a miracle is considered the most difficult hurdle in the process. Just deciding what constitutes one causes debate. A life of heroic virtue is obviously easier to establish than a healing that results from prayers.
Editors note: I’d like to cast the first vote for her as “An American Saint.”
1. The Kennedy Family, and the Story of Mental Retardation…Edward Shorter
By Michael J. McCurdy, Founder/Publisher HealthNewsDigest.com