Siobhán O'Keeffe, a native of County Cork, Ireland, is a Sister of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Chigwell Sisters) who lives in Liverpool, England. A registered nurse with a diploma in person-centered care, she has additional graduate work in theology, justice, peace and mission studies. She offers spirituality and dementia care training to religious communities and other groups and writes and speaks on that topic and on prayer and spirituality. She has also contributed to Global Sisters Report. She has served in nursing home management for her congregation, supports a variety of social outreach projects, and is a member of the Cognitive Impairment Support Initiative, a project of the International Union of Superiors General and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States.
As I reflect on the variety of ministries that have blessed my life, I am regularly reminded that "our help is in the name of the Lord." I am deeply aware of my dependence on him to fulfill the mission that he has entrusted to me.
I have witnessed great suffering and profound courage in the people I encounter each day. All too often, life has handed innocent people challenges that could so easily be overwhelming for them. However, they embrace these challenges with patience, fortitude and wisdom. Generosity of spirit is the hallmark of some people.
For example, I visited a patient in the final stages of his life in his own home. He had returned home from a hospice to spend his final hours with his family.
When I arrived at the door, his wife, not concerned for herself at this time of great loss, immediately offered me breakfast. I felt so humbled by her graciousness and shared a cup of tea with her. Through conversation, I learned about their shared life experiences — both the joys and the recent traumatic events that cast a shadow over their existence, though not their love.
I felt profoundly grateful to her for welcoming me into their home at such a sacred time in their family history. This encounter made me deeply aware of my need to be "other-centered" in my daily life.
I continue to learn about injustice, for example, when people suffer the degradation of human trafficking, and of my ongoing call to challenge all forms of injustice in society. There are various ways to support victims through awareness-raising, prayer, and campaigns highlighting the needs of those suffering. Challenging injustice in all guises is the call of the Gospel and the responsibility of all members of society.
The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted grave suffering on all society, especially the most vulnerable members. The fallout of this crisis continues. People grieve for loved ones and struggle with a profound sense of loss due to their inability to be with their loved ones in their final days.
In my current bereavement ministry, I am called to listen deeply to the heart-wrenching pain stemming from this loss. I know I do not have any answers for people's suffering, but so often, people simply need to know that others care deeply and are present to them in their grief.
I continue to entrust all to the mercy of God, knowing that "our help is in the name of the Lord." Our compassionate God embraces all and brings comfort and healing in his way and time. May all who suffer be blessed with peace.
We’re delighted to share with you this blog from the monthly feature “The Life” courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, The Life panelists reflected on the question: What are you learning/have you learned from the people with whom you minister? CLICK HERE to read more blogs from The Life series, GSR’s monthly feature about the unique, challenging, and very specific lives of women religious around the world.