“Who in the world would want to be a nurse!?” I hear this all the time when I mention what I do for ministry in the province. Why indeed! It did not come to me overnight or in a vision as some may think. Nor did it come from a whim or passing fancy that grabs one today but is gone tomorrow. No, it comes from who I am as a person and how the gifts God has endowed me with can be used for the greater glory of His glory of His name. I have an abundance of gifts with which God saw fit to bless me.
Any one of them I could have focused on to use in ministry, yet through much prayer and reflection I was shown that I was meant to be a nurse in and for the Province of Mid-America and beyond.
Health care runs in my family, as I like to say. From my maternal grandfather, a country doctor for 50 odd years, to my mom, who was a medical records librarian, to her sisters, one of whom is a nurse and another a medical laboratory inspector. I always told my sisters that one of them should carry on the tradition. Never would I have thought I would be the one to do it.
During my second year of post-novitiate when ministry formation was to begin, several occupational tests were administered to me since I was unsure of what I was called to do as Capuchin friar. The results showed strong leanings toward chemistry, math, art …. and nursing! This was a shock to me, yet I did not know how nursing could be formed into a particularly Capuchin ministry.
Spending a lot of time reflecting on the beginning of the Capuchin Reform in the 1500?s, I began to think a little differently. The first friars of the Capuchin Reform became well known in Italy, especially in the area around Camerino for their unselfish care of those dying during the Black Plague which was sweeping across Europe at the time.
When Bro. Blaine Burkey heard I felt called to study nursing, he gave me a copy of the story of our Capuchin brother, Blessed Jeremiah of Wallachia. Jeremiah was a simple man who spent most of his life caring for the sick and afflicted friars in Naples and Pozzuoli. What a great model to have for one who cares for others! Jeremiah was always cheerful in his dealing with the ill and others.
As I studied for a nursing degree, I was reminded that the spiritual side of a person is so important in their overall well being. Jeremiah surely helped those whom he cared for by steering them to greater spiritual health through his own deep relationship with God and the Blessed Mother. I prayed I could be half the man Jeremiah was.
Taking the health of the friars to heart means that I feel called to care for all of them in some way. I hope to carry this help to them where they are, not just to have them come to the infirmary when they are ding. This help means meeting with the friars and discussing their health care needs, medications, treatments and also finding the help they need in their own areas. But this is to be done with joy of heart, so that helping others, the poor and the sick, I am helping Jesus, and/or being Jesus to them.
Prior to formal nursing studies, my main focus of Capuchin formation had been toward those who were dying and had no one to care for them. Those with AIDS and other terminal illnesses draw me toward them, since they are the poorest of the poor and those in most need of being shown God’s tenderness and love. I hope to work with Hospice someday since I feel this is the greatest way of caring. It will hopefully reveal to me a greater way of dying to myself so as to gain greater closeness to God.