Take heart; we are in good hands

Sr. M. Ramona Wolcenski
November 9, 2017
Hope on a gloomy day
November 20, 2017

By Sister Nancy Surma, OSF

In the three years that our former sponsored ministry, Sylvania Franciscan Health, has become part of CHI, I have still had the opportunity to support Mission Integration in what is now CHI Living Communities, the eldercare ministry that provides a continuum of care from independent living through skilled nursing.  In that time, the Franciscan Sisters who were Directors of Mission Integration at three of our original facilities moved into other positions.  In two of the new facilities that are now part of this CHI ministry, Sisters from other congregations retired.  I must admit, my initial feeling was one of dismay, since I knew finding another Sister would be next to impossible.  My fears were groundless.  In all five locations, I was able to find vibrant, committed, well-educated and creative lay people to step into the role.

I brought the group of the leaders in mission integration and spiritual care within CHI Living Communities together in Sylvania over three days for reflection and sharing.  We now number five religious women and nine lay persons.  Very few of the group had met any of the others in person, but that was not a hindrance.  It was a powerful time to say the least.  The atmosphere right from the start was one of trust and deep openness.  The group shared at a depth of spirituality that awed me.  Ideas flowed on how our ministry can be more effective.  Laughter and joy filled the room.

A few days after, I received an email from one of the participants, Aram Haroutunian, the Director of Mission Integration and Chaplain at The Gardens of St. Elizabeth in Denver.  What he had to say touched my heart.

“Over the past week, I got to spend three days among monks, and then three days among nuns. [My wife] has said this for years and I will say it here: these folks are amazing. AMAZING.  The space they hold for us reassures me. Knowing they are praying en-courages me. Their vision and ingenuity astound me. Their hard work humbles me. Their centered presence stills me. Their appreciation of beauty, literature, and art inspires me. Their hospitality welcomes me.  Their love challenges me, reaching out to the other: the stranger, the migrant, the immigrant, the prisoner, the oppressed, the forgotten. Their real-ness and humanity comforts me. Their joy lifts me.  And quaffing beers with them relaxes me and makes me smile. I wish everyone – especially younger folks – could see what we see. I know celibacy is not for everyone, but dang, they live a beautiful life. And they’re aging. Younger novices are slow to join their ranks. I hope and pray that changes. For centuries they have played an invaluable role in our world. We need them.”

While I am saddened at the aging of my own community and our gradual withdrawal from active ministry, I take heart in the lay people coming behind us who minister with the same commitment and energy.  All of us are called by our baptism to minister in Jesus’ name.  Our authority and inspiration come from the same God.  My experience with the gathering in Sylvania showed me clearly that our focus on mission and values is in good hands.  We need our lay partners in ministry.

Sister Nancy Surma

Health and Human Services

surma-nancySister Nancy is a native of Detroit and was taught in grade school by the Sylvania Franciscans. Her early years were spent teaching and administering at the junior high and high school level. Life took a turn, as it so often does, and she served as administrator in four different Catholic colleges and universities, earning a doctorate in higher education administration along the way. She currently works for Sylvania Franciscan Health, the Sisters’ sponsored health and human service ministry, in the world of mission integration. Sr. Nancy lives with three other Sisters in a house that is filled with laughter and love.

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Sister Mary Thill
3 years ago

I enjoyed meeting the wonderful folks you brought to Sylvania…an almost impromptu pizza party at Greccio their first night.
They sure gave me hope for the future for the Mission and place of the laity in our health care system.
Welcome aboard!

Sister Irenaeus
3 years ago

Dear Sister Nancy, Thank you for this wonderful sharing. Thank you, all of our Sisters and our Lay partners for your dedicated love, support and service to our elderly, infirmed and aging persons. I truly believe our work will never cease;, our Franciscan Spirit and values continue to live in those who carry on our work. You continue to inspire, lead and guide our partners in Mission with us. The words and thoughts of Aram were very moving. We Sisters and Religious have an awesome calling and our work is humbly acknowledged by those who work with us and see… Read more »

Sister Maria Pacelli
3 years ago

Thanks for sharing this experience with us, Nancy. I ‘m happy to hear that so many lay ministers are involved in mission integration, too. Keep up the good work!

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