Ministry Highlight

 

Sister Eileen Mary Coleman, IHM, by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

"Mixed together, we can never be separated.”  

Eileen Green smile
Sister Eileen Mary Coleman

jane gaughan and haiti children
Sister Jane Gaughan

Lynn Coleman went to St. Patrick’s School, Olyphant and had Sister Charles, IHM, for French and thus, Sister Eileen Mary Coleman learned to love a language that would eventually make her the perfect candidate to lead the Tri-IHM/OSP Haiti Committee (now along with Sisters Jane Gaughan and Susan Hadzima) for the IHM Congregation in Scranton.

As the writer of this profile, I’m praying I can find the words to describe what has found a home in the deepest part of Eileen’s heart and is currently breaking it – the Haitian Little Sisters of St. Therese and the plight of the people of Haiti. This is not a hurricane or an earthquake story. As Eileen says, “In Haiti, they are always rebuilding.” But, this is a “teachable moment.” So, I made a choice to profile Eileen’s life or tell the story she prays we’ll never forget – even when she’s no longer here to tell it. When in doubt… go with legacy.

In 1992, the IHM Sesquicentennial Committee decided it would include an Outreach to Haiti component. It took the form of “twinning.” While twinning was a popular program for parishes, the IHMs were the first religious congregation to do so and we were also the first to twin with another religious congregation. The Haitian Little Sisters of St. Therese was selected because it’s Haiti’s oldest indigenous congregation. Sister Bernadette, then their “General Responsible,” was so excited, she exclaimed: “Our foundresses in heaven will bring us together!”

The formal framework of the Haiti Outreach Project is financial. Each congregation makes an annual monetary commitment to the Little Sisters. However, that’s not as simple as it sounds. The banking system in Haiti is so poor that the church/religious congregations there have created their own bank. A deposit is made; then call the Little Sisters; they find a way to travel to the bank to get it; they pray they get home without being robbed and find a safe spot to keep it.

Since 1995, Eileen, the sisters on the Haiti Committee and others who have responded to their pleas have been busy building a “house of love” around that framework. Eileen hasn’t just worked to find the money to send them (including a $100,000 grant!) but she’s visited there many times despite the danger in doing so. It’s the many years of our personal visits to Haiti and their visits here; the emails and the phone calls that the Little Sisters say are the most valued aspect of our twinning relationship. Ironically, it was their last visit here for the project’s 20th anniversary that ended in a fall that broke Eileen’s hip and began her journey of increasingly diminishing physical strength. Because it’s been too dangerous to travel to Haiti, right now it’s still Eileen who is getting the calls, reading/sharing the emails, hearing their pain while continuing to be inspired by their faith and perseverance and praying the IHM commitment will continue on even when she's not able.

As we consider our emerging future; plan for direction; re-commit to the challenges of racial justice and the climate crisis and recall St. Alphonsus’ call to ‘proclaim God’s unconditional love to the poor;' one does wonder if now is also the time to go even deeper into our commitment to Haiti and the Little Sisters for our own good.

Anchoring our hearts in the home of the poorest country in the world may teach us all what we have been saying we want to become, and it will make my former French teacher very happy and relieved!

Donations for the Little Sisters of St. Therese in Haiti can be sent to the IHM Development Office, 2300 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA 18509. Please note, "Haiti."

"When we stand with people who are poor and
marginalized, whether that's in Haiti, in Peru,
in downtown Scranton, in New York City, in our
neighborhoods, we run a risk: the risk that, when we
stand with the poor, they may shake us into a new way of
seeing; they may challenge us to move from learning their
names to standing beside them in the struggle for justice.
This is what solidarity does to us: we begin to claim the
deep, hidden sigh of our neighbor as our own."
- Sister Chris Koellhoffer, IHM


me, Denise, Bernadette
Sisters Denise, Bernadette and Eileen
Mary Coleman


eileen and susan
IHM Sisters Eileen Mary Coleman
and Susan Hadzima

eileen and students


Collaboration Takes Many Forms in IHM Mission in Sicuani    by Sister Ancilla Maloney, IHM

The death from Covid of Father David Garate Salina brought much sadness to the diocese of Sicuani last May. But Sister Eileen Egan was happy to be able to take over his class in Apologetics that he had been teaching to the five seminarians. Working with the pastor of the Cathedral parish of San Felipe, which is actually a mission church, Eileen also designed an on-line course on St. Mark to follow the Sunday readings of the liturgical year B. The culmination of this program will be the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation. She had developed booklets for each of the 70 participants with questions that focused on the Gospel of each Sunday Mass up until the beginning of Advent. Eileen had also developed a similar program last year which focused on the Gospel of Matthew and culminated in the reception of the Sacraments by 100 participants. To date, the churches in the diocese are not yet open due to the high rates of COVID.

DSCN9972Sister Eileen Egan and seminarians

Sister Ancilla Maloney is also teaching English to the five seminarians. She has also been approached by mothers seeking help for their children. Fourth grader Abraham hadn’t gone to school since March of 2020 as instruction was by cell phone and his family didn’t have enough cell phones for the five school-aged children. Twins Will and Francis are in second grade and can’t read. (Sister Eileen is also tutoring a second and a third grader because neither can read.) This situation is probably multiplied by thousands of other children in the provinces of Peru where families are mostly poor and education is by cell phone. Often there is no WIFI signal for children in the mountains and they simply have dropped out of school. IHM Associate Delfina Hualla Condori shared that she should have 20+ students in her class but only five are coming. IHM Associate Casilda Morocho’s husband is teaching first, second, and third grade students from the mountains by phone long distance. Imagine that! Students in the cities or in particular schools have access to learning presented by their teachers on computers via the internet. Even though Ancilla couldn’t open the library for the 25 to 30 children who usually came every day, thanks to a donation from Partnerschaft families in Weiher Germany, there are four computers in the library which seven children come to use each day.

DSCN9952Sister Ancilla Maloney and student

With the exception of two priests busy in their mountain parishes, Eileen and Ancilla are the only two native English speakers in the region. Early in Ancilla’s time in Sicuani, she was approached by the Directors of Diocesan Programs and different communities of sisters for help writing grants in English for various projects. These included two vans for disabled children, an X-ray machine for a diocesan clinic, support for the Office of Social Justice, a dormitory for abused and abandoned girls and help to build an Alternative High School in a mountain community. At present Ancilla is working with a group of Franciscan Sisters from El Salvador. The Sisters have encountered many, many poor, sick, crippled, blind, abused and or abandoned elderly folks in their pastoral visits. Consequently, they plan to build a residence for them and Ancilla is working to secure grants for this project called Divine Providence House.

SicuaniJune2021

During her years in the Congregation, Sister Norma Poma has been taught English in her formation by Sister Michael Marie Hartman, experienced some classes in New York City at the Berlitz Language School and then studied for several months at Marywood University. During the months of pandemic, Norma has also been enrolled long distance in a Master’s program in psychology in Sede Sapientia University in Lima. English is one of the requirements for her program. One day when I was in the room where Norma had just finished her class, her cell phone kept ringing. All the students in her class wanted to partner with her for a group project and were trying to get to her first!!! Her education at Champagnat University in Lima has also prepared her to be a leader in the projects in her psychology program, spending many hours helping other students in her classes. Norma is also working with Yanet Sucapuma helping her plant and harvest the corn crop on land the sisters were able to purchase with donations from Partnerschaft in Germany to help provide food for the girls in their House of Studies. At this point, Yanet’s family has purchased half the land.

DSCN9989Sister Norma Poma Arpi


Sister Dolores Dunn, IHM

DunnDolores-2

Art Therapy is a non-verbal, non- threatening form of communication. Any spark of human spirit, no matter how small, has a right to be nurtured and developed. Each person investigates and explores this ability throughout life. The use of Art Therapy and the Creative Art Therapies assist a person's emotional release and personal adjustment. Creative Therapies help promote independence, flexibility of thinking, group dynamics and social interaction. Each person has a mental picture of himself which is different from the way others see him. This image depends upon one's occupation, sense of values and feelings of self-worth.

Expressing one's image is an important part of creativity and personal validation. It is only when the individual self is accepted that true self-expression can happen. The greater the individual's development, the greater the freedom of expression. When the creative process is cultivated, there will exist motivation and achievement.

Creative Art Therapy activities enable an individual to express his conscious and unconscious self spontaneously, to settle conflicts, to foster self-awareness and personal growth.

Sister Dolores believes that health professionals are called to be healers. "We are invited to live, share and be caring individuals. We can go forth with a message of unconditional love, forgiveness and individual validation."

She further notes, "As a response to a changing and materialistic culture of unrest and instant gratification, we can be strong anchors of faith that spread a healing peace. What more healing way than through the creative art therapies?"

At the Senior Medical Mental Health Unit at Moses Taylor Hospital, Sister Dolores and the health professionals who serve there engage each patient in the Creative Art Therapies on a daily basis. Art therapy, music therapy, exercise, cooking, spirituality groups, pet and child therapy, make up the unit milieu for the patients during their hospital stay.

It is said that persons in old age reflect on their life's journey and experience feelings of satisfaction and integrity or dissatisfaction and despair.

At the same time, symptoms of Alzheimer's/dementia, anxiety, mood and psychotic disorders many times can begin to emerge causing much distress. These issues are a definite barrier to verbal communication of feelings and personal needs.

Art therapy and creative therapies provide meaningful therapeutic opportunities for our patients to foster health, communication and self- expression, promote the integration of physical, emotional, cognitive and social functioning, enhance self-awareness and facilitate change.

When verbal barriers are present, we can communicate best through the creative art therapies!

The deep faith and courage of our patients are so very evident. As a registered Art Therapist and Certified Activity Therapist, Sister Dolores remarked that she feels privileged to "respectfully tread on the sacred space and to daily touch the hearts and souls of those she serves as they travel the final part of their life's journey."

Sister Dolores has served as a certified art and activity therapist at Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, PA, since 1996.


Sister Amy Zychal, IHM

Sr Amy ZychalTeacher, principal, development director, case worker, Congregational Leadership, medical patient, administrative assistant if you’re counting, this is my seventh career! You might think I’m wishy-washy, but in reality, except for teaching, all changes were made in response to a need. My education, life experiences, family background and sense of humor have allowed me to be flexible and available to accept new and unexpected challenges. I have been richly blessed.

After a major health incident and recovery in 2014, I realized by late summer that I needed to be able to serve in some capacity. The school scene was not an option. At the same time, a wonderful IHM woman, Sister Dolores Filicko, who had served as Administrative Assistant for FOP was thinking about retiring. My learning curve for this ministry was a steep one! I am not by nature a “techie” and had much to learn. Sister Dolores was the perfect tutor.

Now starting my seventh month in this ministry, I have gained many new skills and thoroughly enjoy the adventure! And adventure is the right word... on paper. I answer the telephone at the Friends of the Poor administrative office at the IHM Center; compose, type, mail “Thank you” letters for Sister Ann Walsh; manage the database; communicate with donors and potential donors, and FOP Board members about important issues. Off paper, every day is an adventure because I could never list all the “and whatever else comes up” includes. Friends of the Poor is a whirlwind of activity, it is never dull, and ultimately, those most in need are helped. I fully embrace the mission of Friends of the Poor to ease the burden of poverty and enhance the quality of life for all who live in low to moderate income communities.

I love what I do – the people, the people, the people – that I work with and serve.

Sister Amy passed away on November 18, 2020.  Click here to view her obituary.


Sister Judith Ann Ziegler, IHM

Sr Judu Ziegler

For the past ten years it has been the smile and voice of Sister Judy Ziegler that has greeted guests and vendors alike at the IHM Business Office at the IHM Center. Sister Judy is not only responsible each day for directing dozens of visitors and callers to the proper business office staff members but also for countless “behind the scenes” jobs such as digitizing accounts payable and accounts receivable documents. She also logs into the computer all the “monthly house accounts” of IHM local communities. In addition, she “logs them out,” packs, and mails the budget reports for the local communities each month. She is detail-oriented and an expert in organization of the filing of documents and invoices.

Sister Judy finds her work in the business office both enjoyable and fascinating. She’s happy to have a position of service to the sisters and one that contributes to the life of the congregation.

The part of Sister Judy’s job that she likes best? Her co-workers. She said, “We support each other and help each other. They are kind, thoughtful, and caring.”

In addition to her work in the business office, Sister Judy volunteers every Saturday at Heartworks. She has been with Heartworks since its beginning days at the Marian Convent. At the end of the business day at Heartworks, she closes out the cash register, and creates the financial report.

Sister Judy is a Baltimore native who came to know the IHM Sisters when she attended St. Agnes School where she was taught by Sister Jane Meehan in first grade and Sister Jeanne Albrittain in sixth grade. She entered the IHM Congregation in 1972 and celebrated her silver jubilee in 2000. Her mother and father are age ninety and have been married for sixty-four years. They reside at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Baltimore. Sister Judy enjoys frequent visits to Baltimore to visit her parents and her sister, Mary Jo.


Sister Mary Rassley, IHM

Sr Mary Rassley

Fifteen years ago, Sister Mary Rassley began her ministry at the Marian Convent as coordinator of transportation. She spent each day arranging the transportation to doctor and hospital visits for more than a hundred residents at the Marian Convent and later at Our Lady of Peace Residence. She worked with the nursing staff to coordinate appointments with sisters, companions, drivers, and cars. When she turned eighty years old she left this position and embarked on a few new adventures. Among them is teaching art appreciation to small groups of OLP residents. She also volunteers two days a week and on holidays at Hospice of the Sacred Heart in-patient in Dunmore. She volunteers at Heartworks where she heads up the “E-bay Division” of Heartworks and she monitors and maintains the website. She posts, sells, packages, and mails sold items. Among the items sold are collectables, vintage items, out-of-print prayer and song books, and items that have been donated to Heartworks. Many have asked Sister Mary to sell their items on E-bay. She responds that she does this service only for Heartworks!

At Our Lady of Peace Residence Sister Mary sorts the mail and sees that it is distributed to the sisters and offices. When she leaves her work site, she goes to South Scranton where for a night each week she teaches ESL at the former Nativity Convent. When she’s not teaching ESL, she’s at the Marywood gym working out. In her free time Sister Mary enjoys reading— mostly non-fiction and history books.

She is quick to say that she enjoys everything she does and that she feels it is a privilege that the congregation “lets me do it."

Pictured is Sister Mary Rassley and the late Sister Greta Collins


Sister Judy O’Brien, IHM

Sr Judy O'Brien

I have been in Boston for twelve years now. (I can hardly believe it!) Crissy is going to be twenty-four and Ely turns twenty-two next week. They are both out of school and working. Crissy is living in New York City and Ely is still home with me. As part of the Administrative Team at Cathedral High School, I oversee the instructional practices of the faculty, mentor new teachers, participate in long-term planning and coach students for success. This year I am also teaching a Freshman Religion course which I am loving. My students are really interested in religious life and ask questions daily. Most of my free time is spent with my Mom who is eighty-eight years young this year and with my family. Life for me is filled with wonderful surprises and lots of love.