Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

CUSA offers positive, mutual support for the chronically ill, handicapped

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the June 12, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Many Catholics have probably not heard of Catholics United for Spiritual Action. If they have heard of it, they might think it’s a group diligently pursuing a spiritual life – and they would be right.

CUSA is unique in that its members have either a physical or mental handicap which they offer together in shared, supportive prayer for spiritual benefits of their combined suffering.

CUSA’s operation is simple. Each group has about eight members. One member will mail or e-mail a note to the next member, who adds a note and sends it to the next member, and so on down the list. Each group has a spiritual advisor, a patron saint and a motto. There are groups all over the United States and some in Canada.

Perhaps the most noted recent member is Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago.

A member closer to home is Father John Birk, chaplain at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Pasco. He suffers asthma with several allergies and has been a CUSA member for over 30 years. He is a spiritual advisor for four CUSA groups.

The purpose of a CUSA group is to encourage, sustain and support people with disabilities. According to the group’s web site, “CUSA is a lay apostolate of hope and joy for handicapped and chronically ill people.”

Testimonies on the web site reflect the purpose. One man who is badly mutilated and bedridden found meaning for his life in CUSA. “Since I joined CUSA, I found that I’m not a nothing. Not at all, man. I have meaning,” he wrote.

CUSA was founded in 1948 by Laure Brunner, a woman who was homebound for more than 45 years. She modeled it after a French organization to which she had belonged when she lived in Brussels. The group celebrated its golden anniversary in 1997.

Persons with disabilities who are interested in CUSA can contact Anna Marie Sopko, 176 W. 8th St., Bayonne, N.J. 07002; e-mail; or Father Birk, 509-546-2346; e-mail, frjbirk@

The group also has a web site.

While most members are Catholic, people of all faiths are welcome to become members. There is an annual membership donation of $10, but even that is not required.

Cusans take to heart these Scripture verses found in the First Letter of Peter (Chapter 4:12-13): “Beloved, do not be startled by the trial that is taking place in you...rejoice insofar as you are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice with exultation in the revelation of his glory.”

Father Birk said that by uniting in CUSA, “and collectively offering their crosses of suffering to Christ for the benefit of mankind, Cusans help themselves and each other, spiritually and fraternally.”

Another benefit, as Father Birk explained it, is the diversity of people who are CUSA members.

“I’m a letter writer, always have been, and I enjoy hearing from (people) in different parts of the country,” he said. But in CUSA he finds another blessing, the kind that comes from helping others: “It has been a very satisfying ministry ... over the years,” he said.

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