by Kathleen Kagel – Director of Nursing
My first introduction to the Little Sisters of the Poor and their work with the elderly began thirty years ago when some friends invited me to accompany them on a weekend to volunteer at the Little Sisters home in Germantown. Although I was curious, I wasn’t exactly sure it was something I was going to enjoy doing. Little did I know that this first encounter with the Little Sisters would have a major impact on my life from that point on.
As those who knew the Little Sisters back then would remember, the homes like Germantown had large sitting rooms where the residents would spend their day together, sitting around watching television, reading, or doing other activities. The bedrooms were large dormitories with several beds separated by curtains. The Sisters lived in one section of the house, but spent most of the day with the residents, caring for them, talking with them, and taking them outside to enjoy the nice grounds and some fresh air. I was always impressed by the kindness, patience, and obvious dedication of the Sisters to their work.
The residents, too, were a joy to be around, always willing to tell a story or two about the past. More could be learned from listening to the residents than from any book in school. Not unlike today, some had more infirmities than others, but something could be learned from each of them.
Over the years, the structure and layout of the homes may have changed, but the residents have not. They are always happy to see the Sisters and enjoy the company of anyone willing to spend a little time with them. Our residents welcome anyone into this happy family and make everyone feel as loved as their own child or grandchild. They continue to be a source of inspiration to me. I am still amazed at, not only their will to live and strength in time of illness, but their faith and acceptance of whatever life has in store for them.
Over the years the sisters unknowingly directed my path and led me to the work I have continued to enjoy doing for over thirty years. The residents and Sisters have been in my life through times of great joy and extreme sadness. They celebrated with me at my wedding, rejoiced at the birth of my children, and cried with me over the death of both my parents. They have shown me what it really means to have faith to say,“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Accepting that invitation to volunteer for a weekend at the Little Sisters of the Poor so many years ago was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.