Struggling with my homework when I was a student at our local Catholic high school, I asked my mother to help me get started on an assignment. I was to write a paper on “serving others,” and she stated something that I have never forgotten: “Service is the rent we pay for living.” This was probably not an original quote, but it was one I had never heard before, and it did give me a direction for my paper. As I look back, my mother’s statement also gave me a direction for using my free time. How better to “pay my rent” than volunteering?! Surrounded by needs in my jobs, church, neighborhood, and community, it was never hard to find a bit of service to offer.
Raising a family, working as a registered nurse, going back to school—it seemed there was not much time left over for volunteering, except for maybe just an hour here and there to help clean the church, help with an activity at my children’s school, work at a bake sale. But then, I retired! My final nursing job was staffing the nurse’s office at Saint Benedict’s Monastery for nearly 13 years. During this time, I got to know the sisters and love the Benedictine way of life. I continue to volunteer in my church, community and neighborhood, but my favorite volunteer ministry is at Saint Scholastica Convent (SSC).
My assignment at SSC is to “chauffeur” sisters to medical appointments one day a week! This is a wonderful way to spend one-on-one time with them. We always start the trip with a prayer, the Memorare, and many sisters add, “Our Lady of the Highways, pray for us” (that petition was new to me!). Our drives to the clinics are filled with chatting, sharing stories and, often, concerns about the upcoming appointment, knowing I respect their right to confidentiality. I feel privileged to be in the presence of these wise women whose faith and outlook on life are amazing.
Since I know so many sisters from my job at the monastery and because I am a nurse, the sisters seem comfortable having me with them for exams, providing a “second ear” to remember the doctor’s comments and orders. I feel it a privilege to have their trust and confidence. Don’t tell Sister Marina, the volunteer director at SSC, but sometimes we take the long way home from appointments and drive past the nearby Munsinger/Clemens Gardens to peek at the flowers! In addition to driving at SSC and helping with some of their parties, I help at the monastery with mailings and events, but my hours there are only a small part of the overall volunteer hours given to the sisters.
Having served as chair of Saint Benedict’s Volunteer Advisory Board, I am in awe when I see the number of reliable, consistent volunteers—men, women and students—who give their time week after week, all year long.
Mary Anne Kieser
This blog was first published as an article on page 33 in the 2019 edition of Call magazine. Mary Anne continues to love volunteering for the sisters.
Photo: Sister Marlene Schwinghammer, dean of SSC, speaks to Mary Anne at a volunteer appreciation event. Taken by Sister Nancy Bauer