Monday, June 24, 2013

Hospice of Acadiana Founder Receives National Jefferson Award

Acceptance Speech to talk about Hospice of Acadiana at the 2013 Jefferson Awards in Washington D.C.
 Incredible visit with Professor Elie Wiesel who shared his reflections on life and peace at the Jefferson Awards in Washington D.C.  This was a moving event.
 Joyce and Father Louis.
Receiving the 2013 Jefferson Award in Washington, D.C. for Community Service in helping to found Hospice of Acadiana 30 years ago.  This program has been a real gift to our community, serving now over 18,000 people.

It all began with the death of a beloved grandmother.  On the day of his graduation from college in 1977, Fr. Louis Richard’s grandmother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.  Seven months later, she succumbed to this illness, while he was away in Belgium, having begun his graduate theological studies for the priesthood. 

The following month in Belgium, Fr. Richard attended a symposium on “Death and Dying” by a British physician named Dr. Ciceley Saunders, who is the founder of the modern day Hospice movement and a contemporary of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  Dr. Saunders invited Fr. Richard to come spend his next summer working at St. Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, a London suburb.   Dr. Saunders said that so often when people are diagnosed with a terminal disease, they are “given up on” since there is nothing to cure them.  She says that is when “care must truly take over”.

Working at St. Christopher’s was the experience that galvanized Fr. Richard’s commitment to care for the dying.  He resolved to return to the States and upon ordination work with others to establish a similar program in the Lafayette community.  Meeting with other community volunteers, Fr. Richard helped to found Hospice of Acadiana in 1983.  It’s philosophy and mission has not wavered in these past thirty years: all dying people and those close to them should have access to appropriate and highly professional care and support, when they need it, wherever they need it and whoever they are.  While there are many other for-profit programs in the country today, Hospice of Acadiana remains the oldest program in Louisiana and one of only two non-profit programs that accept all patients, regardless of ability to pay.

Fr. Louis Richard, a Roman Catholic priest, is currently pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Broussard, La.  He also serves as Chancellor of St. Thomas More Catholic High School and St. Cecilia School.  Among his other volunteer activities, he has been the chaplain for Acadian Ambulance Service for 30 years.

He recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive the 2013 Jefferson Award for Public Service, going there as Louisiana’s ambassador for community involvement, in recognition of his efforts to help found Hospice of Acadiana.

Permission to use any of the pictures from the Awards Ceremony-Fr. Richard’s Facebook account.  Better quality pictures are available:

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