By Sister Dorothy Verna, CSJP
At the present time, I participate in two healthcare-related ministries: I have been able to continue my nursing career at a local medical facility which provides free primary care to individuals without insurance, and I provide pastoral care to the residents of a CSJP-sponsored nursing home. I was a professional nurse before entering the Congregation, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve in a healing ministry. As a recent graduate of Seattle University's Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies Program, I am expanding my ministerial repertoire to include pastoral companioning to individuals in need of spiritual support.
The primary care center (we like to avoid the term "clinic" because of the historical negative associations with it) is staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners, nursing supervisors, staff nurses, social workers, laboratory personnel, administrative coordinators, and Spanish-speaking interpreters, most of whom are volunteers. Many of our patients are non-English speaking immigrants who suffer from numerous physical and psychological problems. In addition to our interpreters, we have access to much needed translation services to communicate with patients from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. We enjoy the support of the four local hospitals, including our CSJP-sponsored hospital, to provide charity care when hospital-based services are required. The center is financed through donations and grants, and there is a focus on holistic, high-quality, respectful care.
Pastoral care visiting in the nursing home setting brings me into contact with a diverse group of elders and their families. I am not only present to elders with a fully-functioning mental status who can converse easily, but also to residents with a range of brain injury and dementia. My background in geriatric nursing has been particularly helpful in facilitating communication and connection with frail elders suffering from dementia. I am following in the footsteps of sisters from previous generations who served at the home, so staff members are very comfortable in approaching me for spiritual support as well.
My Congregation and local community support my ministry commitments in many practical and prayerful ways. My sisters remind me, "What you do for the least of these, you do for me" (Mt. 25:40.)
"So Christ is our model and in order to imitate Him we have to do strange things – things that seem almost inexplicable, but at the last days, when our work is taken off the loom of life, we shall see the beauty that comes into our soul by this work."
Mother Evangelista (Honoria Gaffney)