Search Results for: Meet Our Sisters – South Central

Sister Mary-Anne Brings Heart to Mission Services

October 17, 2018

By Karel Lucander

Members of St. Joseph/Candler’s Emergency Department Medical Home team (from left): Jackie Lambert (full-time E.D. Medical Home coordinator, who began as a student health coach), Sister Mary-Anne Plaskon and Selmman Padridin (Georgia Southern University M.H.A. graduate intern).

Members of St. Joseph/Candler’s Emergency Department Medical Home team (from left): Jackie Lambert (full-time E.D. Medical Home coordinator, who began as a student health coach), Sister Mary-Anne Plaskon and Selmman Padridin (Georgia Southern University M.H.A. graduate intern).

Deepening the faith of teenagers was her passion. For decades, she worked in youth ministry and religious education. At one parish, she designed a curriculum for junior and senior high school youth attending public school. With a master’s degree in theology, she also completed the layperson’s associate program through the Sisters of Mercy. She remained in the program for 17 years before becoming a sister. Read More »

An oasis for the economically disadvantaged

September 20, 2018

By Karel Lucander

Sister Paula Cockerham (right) meets with a student at St. Mary’s Community Center in Savannah, Georgia. As financial coach and adult educator, she helps those living in the area navigate a road to financial self-sufficiency.

Sister Paula Cockerham (right) meets with a student at St. Mary’s Community Center in Savannah, Georgia. As financial coach and adult educator, she helps those living in the area navigate a road to financial self-sufficiency.

She was working in research and development in chemistry and physics at a Fortune 500 company when, at age 29, she first met a Sister of Mercy. Through that sister, she connected to a group of sisters working close to her home, among the economically disadvantaged. She knew at once that these women understood her values. She would travel with several of them on mission trips to Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala before entering the Sisters of Mercy in 1994. Read More »

Nazareth House lifts hearts

September 6, 2018

By Karel Lucander

Sister Mary Vernon Gentle (center) watches while Gianna (lower right) puts the finishing touches on her tower with the assistance of catechist Sophia (left). Gianna looks forward to building a different tower each week.

Sister Mary Vernon Gentle (center) watches while Gianna (lower right) puts the finishing touches on her tower with the assistance of catechist Sophia (left). Gianna looks forward to building a different tower each week. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities)

The young woman was pregnant and struggling for answers. She had been told her baby most likely would have Down syndrome, and her doctor advised ending the pregnancy. But she consulted Sister Mary Vernon Gentle. “I told her I could not advise her in that direction,” Sister Mary Vernon says. After careful consideration, the young woman decided to carry her pregnancy to term and had a healthy baby without the chromosomal disorder. As associate director of Nazareth House in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, Sister Mary Vernon has encountered this scenario, and many similar ones, during the 50 years she has ministered in the diocese.

“Pregnant mothers have come to me to learn more about special- needs children. We are often contacted when their babies are born with disabilities,” she says. “That’s a hard phone call for them to make, but they are glad we are here, doing what we are doing.” Read More »

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 »