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Making time for sisters

posted in: Saint Mary's, volunteers
Employee Deb takes time to spend with Sister Anna Mae
Volunteer and employee, Deb Wolfinger, visits with Sister Anna Mae Golden at Saint Mary’s Convent in Notre Dame, Indiana.

As a volunteer, employee enjoys connections

Holy Cross employee Deb Wolfinger pulls some clothes from Sister Anna Mae Golden’s closet and starts swapping out the metal hangers for plastic ones. “You don’t care for metal hangers, right Sister?” Deb asks even though she doesn’t have to; she already knows how Sister Anna Mae likes things.

For nearly 12 years Deb worked as a resident assistant on the 2nd floor of Saint Mary’s Convent before moving to housekeeping in October 2016. But every other Friday, two hours before her shift begins, Deb tours the 2nd floor, stopping in to share a visit with her sister friends.

Deb had worked 10 years in her resident assistant job when she learned she would need to serve as both her brother’s in-home caregiver and her father’s end-of-life caregiver. Sadly, she lost them both.

When she returned to work she discovered she had a compression fracture. Her doctor suggested she find different work, which led her to the housekeeper position. From the start, Deb enjoyed her new role, she says, but she missed seeing the sisters she’d gotten to know so well.

Finding quality time

She signed up to work PRN, or as an on-call caregiver, once or twice a month, and started coming in every other Friday to lead a group of sisters in craft activities. But the quality time just wasn’t there, she says, so she asked if she could start dropping by their rooms instead.

During her visits, she says, “I’ll do anything the sister wants to do. I’ll make suggestions, but they can choose. Really, it’s just the chance for us to have one-on-one time, without me having to focus on work. And it’s an opportunity for them if they want to talk or vent.

“It keeps me in touch with them. There are so many of them that I love.”

“And they love her,” attests Lee Ann Moore, director of activities and volunteer services. “When sisters find out Deb is on the schedule, they’ll book her ahead of time, to be sure they get in their visit.”

Sharing her gifts with Holy Cross Sisters

Deb credits her good relationships with the sisters to how she regards and approaches them. “You have to have empathy and compassion. If you dictate to someone how things will be done, that will make them unhappy and standoffish,” she says. Instead, “You ask, ‘What can I do for you today?’ That gives the sister the opportunity to express her needs.”

“Deb has a magical way of relating,” Lee Ann adds. “It’s very special when you have an employee who works her shifts and then says, ‘I’d like to volunteer some time,’ or when an employee comes in for an event or outing on his or her day off, or when a staff member shares their gift or talent, such as playing the piano, with the sisters.”

While organizing in Sister Anna Mae’s room, Deb notices that one of the closet doors is off track and promises to report the needed repair. “I used to try to keep up on these things when I worked on the floor,” she says. “I had to intentionally make the time to do it.”

Before she leaves, Sister Anna Mae’s closet is all is in order: Pants to the right, sweaters and long sleeves to the left, short sleeves in the middle. “That makes it easier for sister to find what she needs,” Deb says.

“That’s one of the nice things about getting such a nice person,” answers Sister Anna Mae. It doesn’t matter what they do together, she adds. “I just enjoy being with her.”

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