SOAR! President Sister Kathleen Lunsmann shares the story of a recent trip.
One of the highlights of my ministry with SOAR! is visiting convents that have received grants. I see how the grant funds have been used and hear firsthand how the generosity of our donors really benefits the lives of the Sisters.
The week of January 9th, I traveled to five sites with Elizabeth Góral-Makowski, director of development. We visited the retirement residence of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart in Malvern, PA; the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth in Convent Station, NJ, and in New York, we visited the Daughters of Divine Charity in Staten Island, the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, and the Dominican Sisters of Amityville. We truly were grateful for the Sisters’ hospitality to us.
The Sisters came up to us at each site to thank SOAR! and its donors for the grants that bring safety, dignity, and quality of life to them and their communities. Believe me, you could feel the love in the gratitude they expressed!
At every convent or Motherhouse I visit, It warms my heart to see how well the Sisters care for each other in community. Whether it’s helping drive other Sisters to doctor’s appointments or making sure a Sister who’s hard of hearing is engaged in discussion at meals are just two of the many ways these Sisters show they are sisters.
For the communities that may be smaller or have lay staff assistance in nursing or skilled care units, the staff can’t say how much they love caring for “their Sisters” enough! The feeling of a loving family is truly touching. The Sisters are loved by so many, including our friends and benefactors.
There is life and vibrancy in each house. The massive Motherhouses built 100 or more years ago, are increasingly difficult to maintain. But the Sisters are finding creative ways to bring life and use to the buildings and grounds. Two of the Motherhouses have special leaning centers where 100s of women come each year to study and improve their English language skills. One has a kindergarten and an independent school, and several have organic farms that provide food for the Sisters and for local people in need. Some have organized community gardens giving opportunities to families to grow their own produce.
We also met Sisters who had been teachers, principals and administrators, who volunteer in the development offices of their congregations to read and pray intentions and to write notes to donors.
As the average age of religious continues to rise and more and more need some assistance, SOAR! provides grants that fund items that help elderly Sisters be part of and remain with their loving communities, with their sisters.
As I look at SOAR! and its mission, the projects we funded in the 1990s and early 2000s still have relevance today. Things like handrails, bathroom renovations and accessible vans have made such a difference in the lives of the Sisters. These are projects that have LIFE – windows continue to keep Sisters warm in winter, cool in spring, handrails mean that Sisters can be active and safe, and accessible vans means that visits to the doctor are safer for the Sister and the driver. These are just some of the needs that congregations across the United States apply for each year.
The fact that these projects are life-giving for years beyond the grant is something of which each person who donates to SOAR! should be proud. The gifts you give help aging Sisters of today and tomorrow.