We asked our Sisters to tell us about a time when they most felt like a Sister of Charity. Below is the response from Sister Karen Helfenstein.
I wonder if anyone can name a time when they felt most what it is like to be a surgeon or the spouse of the particular person you married or name a time when someone felt most like a star athlete.
One time when I felt most like a Sister of Charity is difficult to identify. My life orientation is a whole fabric of relationships with people, relating to world events and relating to our dear Earth. Times of difficulty that call for compassion make me most aware that I am a Sister of Charity. I think, I wonder, I ask, “What can I do to help?” Often, reflecting after an event I realize how amazing it is to be a Sister to a person in distress. Consoling family members of patients who died suddenly; sitting beside the bed of a dying patient with no friends or family; at an outdoor candlelight vigil each December 21 to pray for and remember those who died on the streets; caring for those hurt or lost in the attack on the World Trade Center; nursing anyone, children with special needs, newborns, suddenly ill 30-somethings, praying at home alone and with the four amazing women with whom I share community life. As I touch and recall the needs of the world, my sisters and brothers, near and far, I feel most like a Sister of Charity.
Being a Sister of Charity means being ready to meet the next person with full awareness that each one is a child of God, maybe troubled, maybe excited, maybe weary, sad or triumphant; it means being ready to meet each person where they are, one by one, day after day.
Religious life frees me to be available to people and to listen to their insights and stories of courage and hope as they discover their own inner resources. They help me to grow in my awareness and sharing stories we both find our way in the world. Religious life continues to stretch me to reach a level of understanding and inclusion of all people, even those whose company I may not choose or enjoy. Vincent de Paul’s universal charity for every person was the ideal that won my heart when I was young and pondering “to be or not to be” a Sister of Charity. In Vincent’s approach everyone counts. Each has a place, each of us can play a part, in extending the reign of God. Some provide direct service, some care for the sick, welcome strangers, visit the homebound or imprisoned, befriend those living on the streets; some teach, some influence those who are in positions of power in our city, our country, our Church. Some nurture relationships with those who can financially support works of Charity.
It’s a beautiful way to live my life. Days begin with prayer among my Sisters; we move out to our various ministries and return back at the end of the day, sharing our stories, holding each other in prayer. We own a legacy that we hold for a short time until we pass it on to the next generation. And, for me personally, it’s a walk with a dear companion, my God, Holy Mystery, who finds the way forward walking beside me every moment.
Our gift to the future is our example of our lives lived in community and dedicated to the well-being of others.