Translating Faith Into Action

Honored For Embodying Their Faith

Spirit of Care and Compassion causes Irvine Lawyer and Pasadena Psychologist to Succeed

Los Angeles, Calif. – Spirituality is rarely equated with success in one’s career. But for one lawyer, John Alcorn of Irvine, Calif., and one psychologist, Marie Kanne Poulsen, Ph.D. of Pasadena, Calif., their spirituality is at the heart of their success. And on Wednesday, March 24, 2010, they will be honored with the Faith in Action and Holy Child Spirit Awards by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif.

Hearing A Call
In 2007, after founding and successfully running his own law practice for close to 30 years, John Alcorn decided to take a one-year sabbatical to travel to Ghana, West Africa and give a year of unpaid service at the Tamale Institute of Cross Cultural Studies (TICCS), a teaching and research center of the Catholic Church that offers courses in language-learning, culture-learning, and learning for appropriate ministry and development.

Alcorn decided to do this after he learned that Father John Kirby, SVD, who had founded and run the Institute since its beginnings, had skin cancer and may not be able to continue administering it. Because there was not a priest available to take over, the Bishop was considering closing it. But with Alcorn’s help, that never happened.

“God has blessed me with so much in my life that I knew it was time to do something in return,” shares Alcorn. Once he arrived in Ghana, Alcorn took on the day-to-day functions at TICCS, managing the finances and scheduling. He also developed an administration manual to ensure that those who came after him had a clear, administrative guide for how the center operated.

But that spirit of care and compassion isn’t just limited to Alcorn’s year of service in Ghana. The mission of Alcorn’s law practice, the Law Offices of John R. Alcorn, is to help people solve U.S. immigration problems. Alcorn provides pro bono immigrant legalization services for priests of the Society of the Divine Word order and personally pays the legal fees for many indigent immigrants who are served by his firm. In addition, he’s an active member of his local Rotary Club, having helped to raise $20,000 that was used to purchase and donate 240 wheelchairs to another Rotary Club in Sonora, Mexico, where many of the residents had crawled on the ground their whole lives or had been unable or unwilling to leave their homes due to the stigmas that were attached to their conditions.

Translating Faith Into Action
For his generous, compassionate, and caring spirit, Alcorn will be presented with the Faith in Action Award by his seventh grade teacher, Sister Pat Phillips, SHCJ. The Faith in Action Award recognizes those who exemplify the characteristics of Cornelia Connelly, the Founder of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus.

Alcorn was taught by the Sisters of the Holy Child at St. Anastasia’s School in Waukegan, Ill. and credits them with shaping his faith. “The Sisters had a profound impact on my life: spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. They imparted in me a deep respect for the mystery of both God’s being and His love for us. I would not be the man I am today had I not been the beneficiary of eight wonderful years of kind and caring instruction of the Sisters of the Holy Child,” says Alcorn.

Sister Helen T. McDonald, SHCJ, Leader of the American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, says, “John embodies the Holy Child mission and spirit. Our faith shouldn’t be something that is separate from us or something that we just think about once we come home from work or school. Our faith is something that infuses every action we make. That is why we are thrilled to recognize John and Marie. They both embody the Holy Child spirit and motto of ‘Actions Not Words’ in all they do.”

Aligning Mission, Spirit, & Career
Spanning more than four decades, Marie Kanne Poulsen, Ph.D. has dedicated her career to helping infants, young children, and their families thrive in spite of medical, developmental, and environmental challenges. An advocate for women and children, Dr. Poulsen does all she can to ensure that they are given the opportunity, support, and resources they need to thrive—and she does it with tremendous empathy and gentleness.

Sister Sheila McNiff, SHCJ says, “Marie has stature in the academic and medical fields, but leaves her heart open with compassion to the everyday persons who come to her University clinic and Childrens Hospital.”

For example, during the 1980s, millions of children were born to women who were addicted to crack cocaine and other drugs. These babies had sensitive, disorganized nervous systems—often crying when sung to, refusing to suckle, and even being unable to cuddle. Babies born to crack-addicted mothers were taken into foster care. Dr. Poulsen developed a ‘Baby and Me’ program to support mothers and infants who were separated at birth. The goal of the program was to ensure that mothers were able to bond with their babies so that they would not be reunified later as strangers.

“The heroines in my life are the mothers who conquer the insatiable need for crack in order to care for their babies and give them a better life than they had. To overcome their drug addictions meant that these women had to give up all their friends who were using crack and go it alone,” says Dr. Poulsen. “It has been 20 years since the crack epidemic hit its peak. Crack has diminished, but methamphetamine abuse is rampant. And hundreds of grandmothers are raising little ones. So the work goes on.”

Dr. Poulsen embodies the Society’s adage of “meeting the wants of the age,” or in laymen’s terms, responding to the needs of our time. As a result, she will be presented with the Holy Child Spirit Award, which honors individuals who exemplify the characteristics of service unique to the Holy Child tradition such as justice, compassion, social action, and a desire to “meet the wants of the age,” as the Society’s Foundress, Cornelia Connelly, directed.

“For decades, the Sisters of the Holy Child have been committed to helping women and children develop the tools and skills needed to overcome obstacles such as poverty, illiteracy, and abuse so they can live full and faith-filled lives. Our mission is to help others believe that God lives and acts in them and in our world. Simply by the way she lives her life and by the way she cares for those with whom she works, Marie embodies this same commitment to the Holy Child mission and spirit. It is our honor and privilege to recognize her,” says Sister Helen.

In addition to her hands-on work, Dr. Poulsen develops programs, designs and conducts research, and trains interdisciplinary professionals. She has co-authored several books, written numerous articles and book chapters, and given countless presentations. Holding two Governor’s Appointments—one to the California Early Intervention Coordinating Council and one to the Child Development Policy Advisory Committee—she tirelessly champions policies related to the mental health of infants, young children, and families. She was an invited participant to the 1999 White House Conference on Mental Health and she serves on numerous national, regional, and local boards and advisory committees.

Reaching Beyond to Serve Others
Today, Dr. Poulsen is both the Chief Psychologist of the University of Southern California’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, Calif.

Dr. Poulsen’s three children and three grandchildren attended Mayfield Junior School, with the girls going on to attend Mayfield Senior School of the Holy Child Jesus. Located in Pasadena, Calif., both schools were founded by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus. “My husband and I raised our family with the Holy Child philosophical commitment to foster the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional gifts of each of our children, so that they in turn would make meaningful contributions as parents and members of the community. As a mother, I have been blessed with the support that allowed me to reflect on the significance of such a role and to support the development and spiritual well-being of our children. It is within this context that I chose how I would endeavor to live the Holy Child philosophy of trying to ‘reach beyond self and render service to others,’” says Dr. Poulsen.

All are invited to attend the Holy Child Awards Dinner during which Alcorn and Poulsen will accept their awards. John Alcorn and Marie Kanne Poulsen, Ph.D. will accept their awards on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 6 p.m. at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif. Press is invited. Representatives from the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, as well as the honorees, are available for interviews. For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Kim Cavallero at 610.626.1400 or 610.348.3106.