By Sister Nancy Surma, OSF
I’ve moved a lot in my life, living in seven different states in the course of various ministry positions. The first move was coming to the convent and moving from Detroit, Michigan, to Sylvania, Ohio. I was only 18-years-old at the time—just out of high school, afire with the thought I could become a Sister like those I admired so much from my elementary school days at Ss. Peter and Paul Grade School on the west side of Detroit.
I remember a sense of energy and excitement the day my family brought me, but also a feeling of deep sadness at the thought of leaving my loving parents and the three siblings I was close to. My father, who was driving the car, asked me if I was crying so much, why I didn’t just stay home. It was hard to explain why the call of my vocation won out over the call to stay with my beloved family. But I knew in my heart it was the right choice for me.
Over the 50 years since that day, I’ve been called to different places, at first by an envelope from the Motherhouse, later by a phone call from a Sister or a listing for an open position. Each of those responses had a mix of wanting to stay and feeling called to go.
So it has been with this latest move from Sylvania to northern Kentucky. When Sylvania Franciscan Health, the sponsored health ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis, became part of Catholic Health Initiatives last November, those of us in the corporate office of SFH knew that our future in the office was going to come to an end. The services we provided were a duplicate of what CHI offered, and part of the reason for joining the larger Catholic system was to take advantage of greater efficiency. The SFH leaders who worked with the Leadership Team of the Sisters knew they were negotiating away their jobs, but their focus was on the good of the ministry. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position in the National Mission Group of CHI, working out of the regional office in Erlanger, Kentucky.
June 29 saw me move down here, leaving three other Sisters I had lived with for seven years of sharing joys and sorrows, routines and surprises, to move into an apartment alone. And I went from an office of 12 people who knew each other and worked closely together to a large, national organization with 90,000 employees in 19 states. It’s the same mix of excitement and sorrow that I felt during that first move. There are ups and downs to my days. My brain feels overworked with all it has to learn. I miss the people I left behind. I am more tired than usual. But I also have been warmly greeted here, and I genuinely look forward to my new ministry.
I’ve been thinking about a poster someone once gave me. “When we leave a place we love, we take something of the place with us, leaving something of ourselves behind.” I know I’m a better person for having lived at Greccio and worked at SFH. I hope the people there can say the same about my time with them.