Sisters of the Holy Cross » Ministry » Sister Carmel Marie kept her promise

Sister Carmel Marie kept her promise

At the Bike Michiana fundraiser, Sister Carmel (left) serves up food with Sister Mary Pius (Schreiner).

At the Bike Michiana fundraiser, Sister Carmel (left) serves up food with Sister Mary Pius (Schreiner).

Sister brings a servant heart and compassion to Center for Hospice for two decades

The passing of her mother was bittersweet for Sister Carmel Marie Sallows, CSC. As deeply as she grieved, she also felt comforted by the attentiveness from hospice staff. So she made a pledge to her mother that “I would give back as a volunteer in appreciation.”

For more than 20 years, Sister Carmel Marie has kept that promise at the Center for Hospice Care in Mishawaka, Indiana. Prior to the pandemic and over the course of two decades, Sister Carmel has taken on a variety of duties—helping out in the office, assisting with fundraisers, sitting with those who were at the end of their lives, comforting the bereaved, and cleaning rooms after a person has passed.

Her previous 30-year ministry in teaching wasn’t exactly preparation for hospice work, but she already had what the role asks of a volunteer: a servant heart and an ability to be at ease with people from all walks of life.

Sister Mary Pius (Schreiner), CSC, (left) and Sister Carmel donned grass skirts and leis at an appreciation cookout for volunteers and staff.

Sister Mary Pius (Schreiner), CSC, (left) and Sister Carmel donned grass skirts and leis at an appreciation cookout for volunteers and staff.

Being present

Sister Carmel spends time with patients and their families, listening and praying with them but, most importantly, just being present for whatever their needs may be. The goal of hospice is to bring comfort and eliminate pain in its various forms. This is Sister Carmel’s main goal—sharing love and comfort. 

Debra Mayfield, volunteer coordinator for CFHC, cherishes Sister Carmel, as do many who work with her. “She is amazing, very down to earth,” says Mayfield. “She meets people where they are and has such love and a sense of peace and tranquility about her. Patients sense this.”

Mayfield also recalled, with no small amount of surprise and delight, the time that Sister Carmel and Sister Mary Pius (Schreiner), CSC, attended a luau-themed cookout for staff and volunteers in appreciation for their efforts on a major fundraiser. “They showed up wearing grass skirts over their clothes,” Mayfield laughed. “As a non-Catholic, I had no idea nuns could be like this.”

Sister Carmel also helps children bear the burden of grief at a weekend event called Camp Evergreen. The Center for Hospice Care organizes this annual camp for young people who have lost loved ones, providing both spiritual and emotional growth opportunities. There, Sister Carmel helps the campers create memory boxes of their loved ones, assists with activities like hiking and horseback riding, and is a comforting presence to all.

Sister Carmel Helping Hands Fund

A 40-year-old organization, the Center for Hospice Care began with a promise that no person eligible for hospice services would be turned away due to financial limitations. Even though demand and cost of care have increased over the decades, the center has kept that promise, thanks in no small part to its cadre of volunteers and an assortment of fundraising events. 

In 2018, the center created an endowed fund solely for those who do not have the funds to receive the treatment, medication and services they may need at the end of their life. In Sister’s honor, this fund was named the Sister Carmel Helping Hands Fund. At the time, Sister noted her appreciation: “As a Sister of the Holy Cross, it is especially meaningful to me because we have always had a ‘preferential option for the poor.’ In the spirit of the Congregation’s call to stand in solidarity with the poor and powerless, this fund will ensure those most in need will continue to have access to care for many years moving forward.”

This honor follows two other awards bestowed upon Sister Carmel by the Center for Hospice Care: in 2007, the John E. Krueger MD Hospice Caring Award and in 2020, the Helping Hands Award.

“Don’t make me cry”

In the midst of the pandemic, Sister Carmel Marie was eagerly awaiting the day when restrictions would be lifted so she could return to her ministry. When asked what makes the volunteership fulfilling, she replied, “Oh, don’t make me cry. There are so many wonderful people who work and volunteer at hospice, who have dedicated their lives. They are such a great example. I miss them and the work so much, and I can’t wait to go back.”

Photos courtesy of Center for Hospice Care and Lollymarie Photography

Sister Carlita (Hammes), CSC (left), enjoys a moment with Sister Carmel.

Thank you

The Sister Carmel Helping Hands Fund received funding from the Congregation’s Ministry With the Poor Fund in 2020. The Helping Hands Fund’s commitment to enabling access to the most vulnerable is exactly what the Ministry With the Poor Fund strives to accomplish. Thanks to the loving support of our donors, compassionate care at the end of life is made possible to many who could otherwise not afford it.