By RENEE WEBB
As a college student entering her senior year at Benedictine College, Atchison, Kans., Katherine Dea is hanging out with other seniors this summer.
This Sacred Heart of Templeton parishioner is spending her summer working at the Mullen House for the Aged located in Denver as part of the Live in Service program offered by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“They invite young ladies to apply for a job working with them over the summer,” said Dea. “If you are accepted to the job, you live with them in one of their homes. The Little Sisters of the Poor have homes for the elderly. They have nursing care, assisted living and apartments.”
She is working with three other young women who live in community with the sisters at the Mullen Home.
“We are able to eat here with the residents and we serve them. We are able to spend time praying with and getting to know the sisters as well,” said Dea, who is majoring in theology and minoring in business and psychology.
Having never worked much with the elderly, Dea said this has been a new experience for her.
“I’ve been making a lot of elderly friends here,” Dea said. “It’s so amazing how many stories they want to share. There is one moment every day where I am either close to tears because how beautiful their story is or I’m dying of laughter because of how hilarious they are.”
Monday through Friday her day begins with Morning Prayer with the sisters, followed by serving breakfast to the residents. Tasks range from seeking donations, assisting with patient care, visiting with the elderly, getting the elderly to Mass at the chapel and helping with activities such as bingo or crafts. They participate in Evening Prayer at 5 p.m. with the sisters, followed by serving residents dinner.
Dea and the other participants of Live in Service have evenings and weekends off. On Sunday evenings they eat with the sisters and have recreation with them.
“The more I think about it and pray about it, it’s really perfect that I am here during the Year of Mercy, because it’s helping me to see how important it is to give mercy to others,” Dea said.
The Little Sisters constantly tell those in the Live in Service program that each resident is Christ, so they are ministering to Christ.
Dea pointed out she wanted to participate in Live in Service to help her figure out the path of her future.
“In the broad sense, I wanted to discern religious life. I wanted to see it up close,” she said. “Growing up I didn’t have a lot of religious sisters who I could get to know. The idea was almost foreign to me and as a Catholic, I know that is something we need to be open to. Not knowing what the religious life is like, it’s hard to know whether or not you are called to it.”
The experience has allowed her the chance to get to know religious sisters, work with them and see what it is like to give one’s life to the Lord in service.
“I can’t imagine a better situation than this. The sisters take such good care of us and I’m learning so much by being around these people that have so many different life experiences to share. The elderly just want to be talked to and loved,” Dea said. “It has helped me to grow in mercy and grow in patience.”
Dea learned of the Live in Service program after the Little Sisters of the Poor from Kansas City visited her school.
“I thought this would be a good opportunity to work, to serve and to discern what the Lord might be calling me to,” she said.
Dea has had the chance to see other religious communities and has learned there are differences between the orders.
“It has really opened my eyes to how many different ways there are to serve,” she said. “It has helped me open my heart to the possibility of becoming a religious sister. If that is what God wants, I would be willing to do that. That being said, it’s not clear to me what he wants. I am taking it one day at a time.”
Little Sisters of the Poor, she noted, was started in France by St. Jeanne Jugan who was committed to serving impoverished elderly.
“The sisters actually take a vow of hospitality, which is really unique,” said Dea. “They vow to be comforting and hospitable to people. Their mission is to make sure that people don’t die alone. The residents are surrounded in love and I think it’s because the sisters have given their lives to Jesus.”