Giving Spiritual Care a ‘Profoundly Sacred Experience’

May 2, 2017

Handing on The Spirit: Sisters in Ministry is a series of writings that feature our Sisters in action! The Sisters share how their ministries advance the Society’s mission and hand on our Holy Child values — compassion, confidence, creativity, respect, and joy — to others.

By Sandra Lincoln, SHCJ

Sister Mary Sullivan greeted me with a welcoming smile at the door of Fair Acres Geriatric Center’s Administration Building in Lima, PA. Mary is the Coordinator of Spiritual Care at Fair Acres. She and her part-time assistant, Linda Sofia, and over 150 volunteers offer pastoral support to more than 750 residents and their family members, and the staff. Mary visits each resident building at least once a week, spends time with new residents, and with the help of her assistant, coordinates the volunteers. During my visit, we walked through one of the older residence buildings where Mary greeted folks with a “Hello, how are you today?” They responded to her cheerful presence with smiles and waves.

St. John’s Episcopal Church started Spiritual Care at Fair Acres over 100 years ago. Today, their members continue to offer services and friendly visits; however, Mary and her team of volunteers provide the spiritual services. They serve many faiths by offering counseling, prayer, or advice for specific problems or simply providing a compassionate ear. For critically ill residents, Mary and her volunteers offer an attentive presence and trained listening skills to the individuals and their families as they help them through their fear or grief. Mary also helps the nursing staff, providing emotional and spiritual support to them as they care for the critically ill and dying.

Fair Acres volunteers come from all walks of life and area churches. Mary says, “We are blessed to have our Spiritual Care volunteers who offer their time, talent and treasure to the residents through companionship, religious services, Bible Study, rosary, music and more.” She shares that “It is a profoundly sacred experience for many of the volunteers and for us.”