Search Results for: Meet Our Sisters – South Central

Sister Ministers on “Sacred Ground” in Savannah

July 19, 2018

Sister Donna Marie consults with social worker Tammie Lovett (left) and nurse Hannah Shambayati about plans for a patient.

Sister Donna Marie consults with social worker Tammie Lovett (left) and nurse Hannah Shambayati about plans for a patient.

By Karel Lucander

As a Sister of Mercy, Sister Donna Marie Coward is part of a close-knit faith community. But Sister Pat Coward, her younger biological sibling, makes this sisterhood even more special.

“I entered first in 1965, and I think my call may have influenced Pat,” Sister Donna Marie says. “But I believe being taught by Sisters of Mercy in Baltimore, Maryland, from elementary through high school, really inspired us both to move that way.” Read More »

Helping co-workers turn Mercy charism into action

May 3, 2018

By Amanda LePoire

After years in education, Sister Marilynn Wittenauer is helping Mercy co-workers put the Mercy charism into action outside their workplaces.

Sister Marilynn Wittenauer and Sharon Neumeister, director of Community Health and Access for Mercy Neighborhood Ministry, prepare packages of toiletries and essentials. Staff at Mercy Neighborhood Ministry distribute the packages during their outreach efforts in the St. Louis community.

Sister Marilynn Wittenauer and Sharon Neumeister, director of Community Health and Access for Mercy Neighborhood Ministry, prepare packages of toiletries and essentials. Staff at Mercy Neighborhood Ministry distribute the packages during their outreach efforts in the St. Louis community.

For the past nine years, Sister Marilynn has served as the co-worker volunteer coordinator for Mercy Neighborhood Ministry (MNM) in St. Louis, Missouri. The ministry connects economically poor people with health and social service resources. In 2008, the director of MNM wanted to connect Mercy co-workers interested in volunteering with agencies needing assistance. Sister Marilynn stepped into the role, and today, more than 750 co-workers have volunteered.

“It’s a real credit to co-workers,” Sister Marilynn says. “After putting in a full day’s work—for most, not sitting behind a desk—they have to be really committed to wanting to serve.”

Sister Marilynn meets with area agencies to determine their needs and how Mercy co-workers can help. She publicizes the opportunities to co-workers and then schedules the volunteers, now with the help of an online system developed by the Information Technology Department of the hospital that MNM is connected to. She also follows up with thank-yous and a reflection tool for volunteers.

Read More »

Humor, can-do attitude go a long way at convent

April 5, 2018

By Beth Rogers Thompson

Sister Judy Gradel’s welcoming smile and warmth immediately make a visitor feel comfortable at McAuley Convent in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can feel the embrace of the convent’s homey environment.

Sister Judy has been extending Mercy hospitality and a can-do attitude as McAuley’s administrator and community life coordinator since September 2005.

Previous ministries

Prior to that, she ministered in education, as a teacher and an elementary school principal. At her alma mater, McAuley High School in Toledo, Ohio, she taught math and earth science. Later, she taught math for 18 years at McAuley High, which is next door to the convent in Cincinnati. “I loved teaching, the thinking involved, especially in calculus, and the performing aspect of teaching,” Sister Judy says.

Sister Judy Gradel (left), administrator at McAuley Convent in Cincinnati, confers with Joyce Jostworth, assistant administrator.

Born in Toledo, she met the Sisters of Mercy when she attended McAuley High School there. “I always wanted to be a teacher, and the sisters were excellent teachers,” she says. “That, their dedication, and their lifestyle were what first attracted me to religious life.” She entered the Sisters of Mercy in Cincinnati in 1963.

For two years somewhere in the middle of the teaching, Sister Judy ran an emergency service center in Covington, Kentucky. She felt she did a good job of stacking food, straightening donated clothing and record keeping, but eventually decided that the best of her talents lay elsewhere.

Today, as convent administrator, she supervises all the employees and helps to see that the sisters’ needs are met. “The employees are devoted to the sisters and treat them with such respect and gentleness,” she says. Read More »

Humble Mercy Healthcare Roots Blossom in Savannah

March 15, 2018

By Karel Lucander

Sister Margie Beatty

Sister Margie Beatty talks with coworker Linda Royal. Image courtesy of St. Joseph’s/Candler.

In the mid-1800s, Savannah, Georgia, was a popular port for sailors—many sick after months at sea. A local doctor approached the Sisters of Mercy for their help with nursing. Four sisters, who were trained as teachers, accepted this challenge. They began nursing in a two-story house that became a makeshift hospital, with no running water or stairway, only a pump in the yard and rope ladder hanging from the top story. These sisters climbed the rope ladder many times daily, hauling up water, medicine, food, and whatever else they needed to treat their patients.

“It’s inspiring for us to have this example of our ancestors,” says Sister Margie Beatty, vice president for mission at St. Joseph’s/ Candler Health System in Savannah. “We have many, many challenges in health care today. But then you remember how those sisters who were not trained as nurses [managed].”

Supporting a Strong Team

With a master’s degree in education from Marquette University, Sister Margie is carrying on the tradition of transitioning from the classroom to health care. She taught high-school English for 13 years, was a chaplain at a city jail for women for nearly a decade and served in leadership for the Sisters of Mercy for 15 years before being recruited by St. Joseph’s/Candler President and CEO Paul Hinchey. As vice president of mission since 2001, she supports those working in pastoral and palliative care, ethics and outreach efforts.

“I have great people on my team—very creative, cooperative and willing, but it seems there’s never enough time. I wish I could slow down the clock,” Sister Margie says.

With 15 sisters working at the hospital, their dedication to the Mercy mission is contagious. “People really seem to like working in a faith-based organization. It’s more than a job, and they’re really participating in the healing ministry of Jesus,” she adds.   Read More »

Care for the Sick, Shelter the Homeless: Mercy Ministries Embraces the Works of Mercy in Laredo, Texas

March 1, 2018

By Karel Lucander

Sister María Luisa Vera

Sister María Luisa Vera

Being a good listener and deescalating crises is the key to Sister María Luisa Vera’s success as president of Mercy Ministries in Laredo, Texas. Since 2006, Sister María Luisa has juggled administrative duties, personnel issues, executive and board meetings and bottom-line reports and also represented the Sisters of Mercy at community events. But primarily, she oversees a health clinic and domestic violence shelter. Her calm demeanor and matter-of-fact sensibility allow her to effectively shepherd a team of nearly 60 employees.

“When a situation arises, I take a deep breath and figure out how to fix it,” she says. “In the health system we say, ‘Let’s huddle and not let things get really bogged down.'”

Providing the Best Possible Care

With her guidance, Mercy Ministries runs a much-needed health clinic, 24/7 shelter for women and children and mobile health unit that provides visits to 14 underserved rural communities in an effort to reach patients with transportation limitations. Patients receive primary care and diabetes or blood pressure checks along with education about prevention through early detection.

The clinic is not free, but nurse practitioners and visiting doctors offer affordable care. Specialty physicians also work with the clinic, providing referrals at reduced rates. Thanks to a generous grant, counseling services and exercise classes also are available now. Many patients do not have financial resources and/or medical insurance.

“We help them get back to health and their jobs,” Sister María Luisa says. “Our patients work, but insurance doesn’t necessarily cover them. If they have an appointment but get a call to go to work, they are going to choose to work.”   Read More »

Globetrotting Sister Applies International Insights to Mission Work

February 1, 2018

By Karel Lucander

Sister Cheryl Erb at Mercy Health, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Sister Cheryl Erb is senior vice president of mission integration with Mercy Health in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“No matter where we reside, each day we welcome the same sun and the same moon. This presence of God puts us in solidarity, even with everyone around the globe,” Sister Cheryl Erb says.

“Beyond the mystique of the mist and the effervescence of the people of Ireland; beyond the desert beauty and the innately religious persona of India … there exists a hunger, a search and a desire to enliven one’s religious experience and connect the word of God to everyday life.”

Ministered Across Continents

After teaching high school for 27 years, Sister Cheryl traveled throughout the world-to Ireland, Slovakia, Africa, India, New Zealand, and other countries-ministering for 12 years with RENEW International to rejuvenate Catholic communities. She then began ministering in health care. These previous ministries provided valuable insight and honed leadership skills for her current role as senior vice president of mission integration with Mercy Health in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“One of the subjects I taught in high school was cultural anthropology. Who would have thought this high school teacher would then be in the bush of Africa, living and working among the people? It was very transformative,” Sister Cheryl says. “I think it has helped my ability to create meaningful relationships.”   Read More »

Walking the Journey with Pediatric Patients and Families

January 4, 2018

By Amanda LePoire

Sister Judy Carron caring for a baby

Sister Judy Carron meets with a family whose sons are undergoing treatment at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. As coordinator for the hospital’s Footprints program, Sister Judy supports families whose children are being treated for complex medical issues.

Sister Judy Carron wasn’t interested in religious life until she felt drawn to it while working “hand in hand” with the Sisters of Mercy as a student nurse at St. John’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Today, Sister Judy walks hand in hand with pediatric patients and families on a long, difficult journey.

In 1979, Sister Judy combined her experience as a pediatric nurse and a hospital chaplain when she joined the Pastoral Care Department at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. During her tenure as chairperson of the hospital’s Ethics Committee, the committee realized patients and families needed more services related to palliative and end-of-life care. A focus group of parents gave the committee the direction for what would become the Footprints program, where Sister Judy has ministered since its inception in 1999.

Poem Inspired Name

“They said they needed someone to walk the journey with them,” Sister Judy recalls. With a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Footprints was born and named for the well-known poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. An interdisciplinary team, including doctors, nurses and pastoral care staff, offers physical, emotional and spiritual support to children facing complex and terminal illnesses and to their families.

“The journey is a hard journey, it’s a scary journey,” Sister Judy says. “We’re an extra layer of support for them.”   Read More »

Paying It Forward: Sister Saved by a Stranger Spreads the Mercy Mission

December 6, 2017

By Karel Lucander

Sr. Elizabeth with Pope Saint John Paul II

In 1988, Sister Elizabeth participated in a special mass with Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Along with her uncle, who was a bishop in Vietnam, she also had a private moment with the pope. “I never dreamed in my life of this occasion,” says Sister Elizabeth. “Pope John Paul had lived in a communist country, so he knew the hardship for priests and bishops. He hugged my uncle in tears.”

In 1975, when Communist troops took over Saigon, Sister Elizabeth Bui-Thi-Nghia fled her native South Vietnam. She and 31 others left on a small fishing boat with enough food and water for five days. By the ninth day, with all resources depleted, famished and dehydrated, they said their goodbyes to one another.

“But then a miracle of God happened,” Sister Elizabeth says.

An elderly Buddhist passenger asked sister to put on her religious habit over her clothing. He took her to the bow of the boat and held her so she could stand. The captain of the Hai Lee, a large vessel nearby, saw her.

“The captain was Catholic, and he had two priests and a sister in his family,” Sister Elizabeth said. “His ship made a U-turn to rescue us, and he was the one who came and carried me onto his ship. The first thought I had was I had entered into heaven.”

Helping Fellow Refugees in Australia

After being rescued, this sister of the Vietnamese order (Sisters of the Holy Cross) went on to southern Australia. Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of Australia, she arrived on Mercy Day, September 24, 1976. Before leaving Vietnam, Sister Elizabeth was director of an orphanage and a teacher. She began ministering to her fellow Vietnamese refugees in Australia as a founding member of the Indo-Chinese Australian Women’s Association Inc., incorporating pastoral care and welfare support in housing, employment, education and counseling. She received additional training as a teacher, eventually establishing and becoming principal of the Lac-Long Vietnamese Ethnic School, which by 2003 had more than 2,000 students in six locations. After receiving her dual master’s degrees in social work and in family counseling, she developed educational and cultural programs for Vietnamese families, which helped them cope with prejudices they experienced as refugees. During her three decades in Australia, Sister Elizabeth was also instrumental in helping to build a beautiful Vietnamese church and community facility. While there, she received several awards for her services to ethnic welfare and the community. But it was time to consider something else.   Read More »

Discovering Their Potential: Helping Ensure a Bright Future for Young Men and Boys in Jamaica

November 2, 2017

By Karel Lucander

Sister Susan shows these two young apprentices how to properly wrap meat in the butcher shop of St. John Bosco Career Advancement Institute.

Born and raised on the snowy banks of Copper Island in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Sister Susan Frazer now ministers in the balmy breezes of Jamaica. Jamaica’s laid-back rhythm allows her to juggle three ministries simultaneously with her positive attitude and robust sense of humor.

For 42 years, Sister Susan has directed the Alpha Institute in Kingston and the St. John Bosco Career Advancement Institute (formerly Home for Boys), about 60 miles away in Mandeville. Both ministries serve boys and young men.

“The day-to-day operations are not mine. A good leader has to step away and let [people] do their jobs, not micromanage,” Sister Susan said. “Those sisters who were in charge of me in my earlier years allowed me to see a dream and go toward it. You can only bring people to their potential by giving them their head and allowing them to do things their way, not your way.”

A Closer Look at Alpha Institute

The Sisters of Mercy founded the Alpha Institute 137 years ago as a residential school for boys, but three years ago it transitioned into a day school for 15- to 19-year-olds. Here some 110 inner-city kids turn applied skills into paying jobs, including woodworking, printing, landscaping and barbering. The boys also supplement their education in math and reading.

But the star here is Alpha’s music program. What began as a fife and drum corps moved to brass and percussion and eventually became a famed training ground for renowned trombonists and trumpeters who are now successfully working as professional musicians in Europe. Alpha’s broadcasting program, with a fully equipped radio studio, allows students to prepare for careers as on-air talent or sound system and production engineers at alphaboysschoolradio.com.   Read More »

Putting Compassion First: Meet Sister Dorothy Thum

October 19, 2017

By Karel Lucander

Sister Dorothy stands outside Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center in Fremont, Ohio.

Sister Dorothy stands outside Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center in Fremont, Ohio.

“To be able to walk in the shoes of the people we serve and to be open to the needs they have for healing—that is why we’re here,” Sister Dorothy Thum says.

As senior vice president of missions and values integration for Mercy Health in Toledo, Ohio, Sister Dorothy works with the ethics and spiritual care staff and provides mission formation for members of the boards, senior leaders, directors, managers, physicians and front-line staff. She also oversees palliative care and community outreach for the region of seven hospitals.

Spirituality is Central

Mission formation is the spirituality component crucial to every facet of Mercy Health. During orientation, new employees—whether working in physicians’ offices or outpatient cancer and emergency centers—are introduced to this mission, which emphasizes the core values of excellence, human dignity, sacredness of life, service, justice, mercy and compassion.

When meeting with senior leaders, Sister Dorothy also shines a light on the works of founder Catherine McAuley and Marguerite d’Youville, founder of the Grey Nuns, whose order founded St. Vincent Medical Center, a member of Mercy Health in Toledo. “Our mission calls us to be a healing ministry for anybody who comes to us. And we have a special love for the poor and underserved, just as Jesus did, as Marguerite did and as Catherine did,” she says.

Reaching Out to the Underserved

Mercy Health operates several clinics for the underserved in Toledo. To help teach community members about healthy living, Starting Fresh is a program that offers educational sessions and provides nutritious groceries to participants. “They become a support group for each other,” Sister Dorothy says.   Read More »