Search Results for: Meet Our Sisters – South Central

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 »

Sister Carol Ann Shines Her Light in a Troubled Neighborhood

September 21, 2017

By Karel Lucander

Part of Sister Carol Ann Callahan’s ministry is the St. Augustine Wellston Center’s food pantry, which serves 375 families a month.

Part of Sister Carol Ann Callahan’s ministry is the St. Augustine Wellston Center’s food pantry, which serves 375 families a month.

Sister Carol Ann Callahan ministers as a social worker at St. Augustine Wellston Center, just a few miles from Ferguson, Missouri, where the tragic shooting of Michael Brown took place in 2014. Wellston, north of St. Louis, is an economically poor, crime-ridden and drug-riddled city. St. Augustine Wellston is an outreach center, serving members of five Catholic parishes that collapsed into one more than 25 years ago. Along with Sister Carol Ann, the staff includes two sisters from nearby Notre Dame Elementary School (now closed), two men who transport furniture and supplies and many volunteers. The volunteers help sort clothing and household items, fill grocery bags and do countless other jobs. Read More »

#MakeMercyReal through Friendship

September 18, 2017

By Beth Rogers Thompson

Sister Nancy Nance helps Lorraine Giannini assemble chocolate Kiss flowers at Cherubs Candy Bouquet in Belmont, North Carolina.

Lorraine Giannini arrived in Belmont, North Carolina, as a crying 8-month-old in her parents’ arms. Today, at age 54, she has lived at Holy Angels longer than any other residents.

The Giannini family lived in Brooklyn, New York. Lorraine’s parents brought Lorraine, who was born with Down syndrome, to The Nursery (as Holy Angels was known then), where she grew up and thrived in the care of Sisters of Mercy.

When Friends Become Family

As a resident in one of Holy Angels’ first group homes, Lorraine developed a lasting bond with Sister Nancy Nance, who is vice president of community relations at Holy Angels and was a caretaker at the group home for 16 years. Sister Nancy’s relationship with Lorraine and her family has grown over the past 30 years.

“We’re very grateful. We feel very blessed,” says Karen Jarvis, Lorraine’s sister and guardian, who is a speech and language pathologist with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. Read More »

Cradling the Futures of High-Risk Babies

June 15, 2017

By Karel Lucander

A photo of Sister Cecile Sakaley, RSM

Sister Cecile Sakaley

While the inner city pulses outside the hospital, Sister Cecile Sakaley calms a colicky and crying newborn, holding him tightly in her arms. This infant, like many she comforts, is going through drug withdrawal. His mother is an addict, and his life has begun with a struggle.

“You have to hold these babies really tight to you,” she says. “Many cry and have tremors and are given Methadone and weaned off gradually.”

Helping Newborns Undergoing Withdrawal

As mission and family services coordinator at Mercy Health – Children’s Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, since 2008, this is what Sister Cecile spends much of her day doing and what she calls “my dream job.”

“Our NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] rarely has a day without a withdrawal baby,” she says. “These are the babies that need a lot of help. Because of their suffering, I’m so drawn to them … they need it the most, to be loved and held. I also work with moms who are going through withdrawal. They have to comply with community resources to assist them with withdrawal. Some give up their babies because they can’t take care of them, but others hope for reunifications.”

In her current ministry, Sister Cecile helps with premature babies and pediatric patients. Accompanying mothers to ultrasounds, being a Eucharistic Minister to patients, and helping school-age patients keep up with their studies are just a few of her responsibilities.

Many Multiple Births

Working at the region’s primary trauma center, Sister Cecile says she sees many multiple births (“we always have twins”). Once, she worked with a woman who was addicted and gave birth to triplets. Because her smallest baby (19 ounces) did not have parents/visitors interacting with her, Sister Cecile became her “primary bonder.” She constantly held the baby, who was suspected to be deaf and blind because she made no eye contact. After a day, the tiny girl looked Sister Cecile in the eyes and then began looking at everyone.

“She was never blind or deaf,” Sister Cecile says. “In six months she was moved to pediatrics where she was nicknamed ‘Miss Nosey’ because she didn’t want to miss anything. She was later reunited with her triplet siblings and her grandmother.”

Finding her Niche

An image of a mandala

When she is not at Mercy Health – Children’s Hospital, Sister Cecile enjoys drawing mandalas.

For more than four decades, Sister Cecile ministered as a teacher and principal. During her sabbatical in 2007 she realized her passion was working with abandoned, abused and neglected children. When she started at Mercy Health – Children’s Hospital, she began tutoring school-age patients with serious illnesses such as cancer. But God had other plans. There were not enough patients with this need, so the hospital administrator told Sister Cecile to “go find your niche, and we’ll rewrite your job description in three months.” She says, “People started asking me to do things and I always said yes. By the end of three months my job description covered labor and delivery, NICU, pediatrics and much more.

Volunteers as a Cuddler

When she is not on duty, Sister Cecile is still drawn to the NICU. Every other weekend she volunteers as a “cuddler,” cradling more infants. “When I hear babies crying I always say, ‘That’s music to my ears!’”

Captivating Generations at St. Peter’s Catholic School

June 1, 2017

By Karel Lucander

Sister Mary Lee McCrady tutors students in math at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

Sister Mary Lee McCrady tutors students in math at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

Because families tend to stay in the small, rural community of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Sister Mary Lee McCrady has taught hundreds of students and their parents. She has been at St. Peter’s Catholic School for 35 years, teaching math in nearly every grade. But in 2008, when she turned 65, she stepped out of the classroom to become a part-time tutor as well as supervisor of recess and the after-school, extended-care program.

“I was able to connect with students in an entirely different way. I didn’t give them grades, I didn’t give them homework; it gave me a whole different slant. I realized some of the quiet ones really come alive at recess,” Sister Mary Lee says with a chuckle.

Technology Affects Learning

With 52 years of teaching experience, Sister Mary Lee says that not only has the life of the family changed since 1965, but also today’s students are savvier.

“Technology has given them more opportunities to learn, and this has made them smarter than children 30 years ago,” she says. “Children know a lot more coming into school because of technology, and as a teacher, it challenges you.”

Listening Key to Excellent Teaching

“Listening well helps you meet a student’s needs because that helps you really understand his or her circumstances. Each child is an individual and has a lot to say,” says Sister Mary Lee, who entered the Sisters of Mercy in Cincinnati in 1960. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in teaching from Edgecliff College and a master’s degree in religious education from Aquinas College.

Considering another transition

Education has been central to her life. But now as she prepares to turn 75, she considers leaving school to dedicate more time to volunteering. In her Irish Catholic family of 12 children, there was always an emphasis on serving others, she recalls.

Supervising students during recess provides Sister Mary Lee with a different perspective. “I realized some of the quiet ones really come alive at recess,” she says with a chuckle.

Supervising students during recess provides Sister Mary Lee with a different perspective. “I realized some of the quiet ones really come alive at recess,” she says with a chuckle.

“My dad, who worked hard at the steel plant, had a strong faith and instilled that if friends or neighbors needed something, you helped them,” she says. “I think in teaching I found that being helpful was serving in the best way I could. I’ve been reading Matthew Kelly’s Resisting Happiness, and it resonates with me. Soon I’ll be making another decision for my life cycle, and the question is: ‘What are you waiting for?’ There are so many things I could do in the parish. I would love to take communion to people who can’t get to church. People who need a ride—that is something I could still do. It could really be life-giving for me. But while I am in school, time is always a factor.”

Keeping her creative spirit alive

Sister Mary Lee loves to paint with watercolors—when she’s on a retreat or contemplating a passage, she keeps her art book handy. She also enjoys working crosswords and other puzzles, and has a passion for the Sugar Crush game on her Kindle.

“It’s the problem-solving challenge that gets me going,” this longtime, beloved math teacher explains.

Opening the Gate for the Next Generation

May 4, 2017

By Karel Lucander

Sister Rose Marie Golembiewski attends “Clean Water for the World” at the University of Toledo campus with a few of her friends. Proceeds from this fundraising event will help developing world communities erect basic water systems.

Sister Rose Marie Golembiewski attends “Clean Water for the World” at the University of Toledo campus with a few of her friends. Proceeds from this fundraising event will help developing world communities erect basic water systems.

Young women studying psychology, journalism or speech pathology can work in these fields and still answer another call. As a vocation animator for the Sisters of Mercy in Toledo, Ohio, Sister Rose Marie Golembiewski talks with young women about such opportunities and more.

“I tell them, ‘Whatever you’re getting your degree in can be your avocation as a Sister of Mercy, and the young women are surprised at times,’” says Sister Rose Marie, who has served in this ministry since 2011. “I plan various activities with them and educate them about the sisters. Our meetings are built around their time and their schedules.” Read More »