A bit about myself: I am the eldest of 6 in my family of origin, with a large extended family--45 first cousins! I felt drawn to the Society because of the clear centrality of Jesus in its spirituality, and its contemplative charism; I entered after graduating from LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school in Syracuse, New York. My earlier teachers were Franciscan Sisters, for whose influence I am still grateful.
I entered the Society at Kenwood in 1958, made my first vows in 1961, and was professed in Rome in 1966, in the probation of "la confiante obeissance." Through 1970, my ministry was teaching and some administration, at Kenwood, Greenwich, and Noroton. In the 1970s I was a member of two of our communities which established a contemporary form of contemplative life with ministry to religious and laypersons--first Abba House of Prayer in Albany, and then Ephpheta House, near Detroit. The latter ministry led me naturally to pastoral ministry, since the Archdiocese of Detroit requested our presence in parishes. In my first parish, St. Rita's in Detroit, I helped to develop a lay ministry to senior citizens, especially those sick and homebound in the parish. After several years, I pursued a degree in pastoral ministry (M.Div.) at Immaculate Conception Seminary in the Archdiocese of Newark. In 1982, when we became one province in the US, I moved to Houston, Texas, where I served as Director of Religious Education in 2 parishes; Our Lady of Guadalupe, (ministering in Spanish and English), and St. Anne's.
After a sabbatical, I realized that I was called to some quieter form of ministry. I considered chaplaincy or spiritual direction. I had some training in both, and had done a limited amount of spiritual direction in parish settings, as well as frequent group retreat work. I was drawn to my present ministry after receiving my first professional massage from a Carmelite religious who was an Registered Nurse and a massage therapist. The initial attraction was intuitive but profound. I could not explain to anyone why I wanted to do this, and at first, the idea was not greeted with enthusiasm! I tried to dismiss it and to do "things for which I had been trained" for a few years. I eventually became quite depressed. I discovered, in the course of undergoing therapy for the depression, that I was not honoring a deep call--and so I again requested to study massage. The initial training was basic and fairly short term, but very practical, and it went well. So, offering therapeutic massage has been my principal ministry since 1993.
From the time I received permission to study massage, I have received immense and consistent support from the Society for this ministry. It is a wonderful extension of prayer because it is quiet, holistic, and because it requires me to learn constantly from clients, as well as other healthcare professionals. There are elements of both art and science in the practice of massage. It makes physical, emotional, and spiritual demands, and so it also requires me to live in as balanced a way as possible. In the course of these years, I have ministered to pregnant women and their babies, to persons close to death, to men and women struggling with issues of depression, recovery from abuse, bereavement and loss.
Since 2002, when I survived a bout of cancer that was diagnosed early, I have been doing massage with our elder sisters at Kenwood. I find it a great privilege to work with our nursing staff in supporting these beautiful elders, some of whom were my superiors, teachers, and mentors. The greatest personal gift in this ministry, for me, is that it calls me to a moment by moment dependence on Jesus so that I might be His instrument of healing and peace for those whom I touch. Of course, I find Him in each person who entrusts herself to my care.
Looking back, I realize that my baptism into this ministry occurred in my family. My Mother taught me to massage her feet when I was 6 years old. When I was 9, she taught me to massage my severely handicapped and wonderfully bright cerebral palsied little sister, Mary Margaret. The last thing I did for each of my parents before their deaths was to give them a massage--years before I received professional training. One year, on my retreat, I felt called to become "a little gesture of Love." My confirmation in this ministry came through the Society, which has educated me throughout my life, and has given me the desire to manifest the love of the Heart of Jesus in all that I do. The eucharistic aspect of this ministry unfolds whenever I touch the Body of Christ in another, especially, now, in my Sisters. Sometimes, I anoint with fragrant oils those who are sick, or close to death. I am amazed and humbled that God has called me to this vocation within our vocation, and I am so happy when I hear of other rscj who minister in holistic health. As members of the Society, this ministry brings a special tonality to our educative charism, one of being the sweet odor of Jesus Christ, in a spirit of humble service and compassion.