May 4, 2012

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Bishop’s column a reminder of Little Sisters’ care

Shirley Vogler MeisterRecently, I cut out a guest column from the March 25th issue of The Indianapolis Star. The headline was “Health-care mandate puts ministries in jeopardy.” It focused on the Little Sisters of the Poor, and was written by Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.

For many years, I was a volunteer for the Little Sisters at the St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis.

This was around the time when my mother was abused at a Belleville, Ill., facility. My sister, Beverley, monitored Mom’s care there, and I monitored my husband Paul’s mother’s care at an Indianapolis facility. Paul’s mother was also mistreated there.

I found myself frequently coming and going between Illinois and Indiana.

At the facility in Indianapolis, I met a woman, Janie, who lived at an apartment building adjacent to the nursing home.

Janie monitored her daughter’s care and I monitored Paul’s mother’s care. Then Janie and I were horrified to learn about some serious abuse issues there, too.

When we confronted the authorities, they suggested that we become part of the training sessions for nurses and aides. We accepted, and suggested much needed improvements.

At some point, I heard about the Little Sisters of the Poor and their ministry to the elderly. I talked with Janie about becoming volunteers there.

The volunteer coordinator suggested that we start a discussion group in the facility’s library on Mondays, and we did. That’s when we realized the difference between our loved ones’ facility and the St. Augustine Home.

We loved the residents and marveled over the wonderful care provided at the St. Augustine Home. It was a blessing for us to be volunteers.

We marveled at the love that the Little Sisters gave their residents. In all the time that we volunteered, Janie and I never witnessed anything wrong, and we had access to all areas of the home.

While volunteering there, we could feel God’s love all around us through the Little Sisters and their staff. We never found anything wrong. How could this be so wonderful?

Then we realized that the Little Sisters took care of the residents as though they were Jesus or Mary! We loved the serenity, beauty, cleanliness and godliness.

Both Janie and her daughter eventually died in peace there. My husband’s mother died at the other facility before we could transfer her to the St. Augustine Home.

After Janie’s death, I still volunteered for the Little Sisters. However, one day when I was getting ready to leave for the St. Augustine Home, I reached for the doorknob but instead found myself on the floor. I was stunned!

“How did I get there?” I tried getting up and realized how weak I was. Then I cried because I realized that the symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis, which I had been diagnosed with years before, had returned. The disease causes weakness in various parts of the body.

Unfortunately, I could no longer drive so that was the end of my volunteer time at the St. Augustine Home. However, when possible, I donate money to the Little Sisters so I am still helping with their ministry to the elderly poor. I love doing that!

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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