Bush picks former associate of Mother Teresa to run religion-based initiative

Friday, February 1st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush has chosen an advocate for the aging who once worked with Mother Teresa to head his revamped effort to provide federal funds to religious charities.

Bush's selection, Jim Towey, served as Florida's director of health and rehabilitative services under the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles. Towey worked with Mother Teresa's ministry for more than 10 years and in 1996, founded the advocacy group Aging With Dignity.

The president announced Towey's appointment Friday during a brief ceremony in the Roosevelt Room. He said Towey brings ``a servant's heart'' to the job.

``He understands there are things more important than political parties, and one of those things more important than political parties is helping to heal the nation's soul,'' Bush said. ``There is nothing more important than helping the hopeless see hope, helping the addicted see a better life.''

Towey responded: ``I'm deeply grateful to God and to you, sir, for entrusting me with this honor to serve my country, particularly those Americans who are hurting and in need. Mother Teresa introduced me to this joy that comes from befriending those in need, and discovering their tremendous dignity. ... I am delighted, I am grateful and I am looking forward to the work.''

Towey succeeds John J. DiIulio Jr., a Democrat who resigned last fall after struggling with Congress and religious conservatives over the direction and procedures of the program.

Bush placed the White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives under the rubric of his new focus on volunteerism, which is headed by former domestic policy director John Bridgeland.