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Retirement for a sister

By Sister Ann Carol Kaufenberg
Sister Ann Carol Kaufenberg

I have been a community leader for five years at the retirement community located at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) in Mankato, Minnesota. I welcome sisters as they come to OLGC to live in community. The first few days/weeks are spent unpacking and getting accustomed to new routines. Now, with COVID-19, these sisters spend the first seven days in isolation. It’s hard not to be able to greet and welcome them, but it gives the sister time to unpack, sleep, to process the rush and stress of ending a ministry. Life evolves at the pace of a person’s energy and the connections a sister makes to various aspects of the community at OLGC. The surprising thing for some sisters transitioning to retirement, is how exhausting it is to adapt to a different lifestyle.

Sisters coming to OLGC have often been living alone or in small communities scattered throughout the Central Pacific Province. They were used to the independent lifestyle and the many responsibilities one handles alone. Once coming to a larger community, responsibilities are in the hands of what seems like too many people and a complicated system. The adjustment can be difficult. The first year is about figuring out how to make appointments, where to sit in chapel and who is in charge of what. It takes time and patience to transition. Thankfully, there is a mentor assigned to each sister who guides them through the process.

The schedules provided for meals, prayer and community life, can make the day quite active for most. Some sisters also have to deal with health challenges, which were part of the discernment to end ministry service and move to OLGC. During a typical day, sisters usually come downstairs for 7:45 a.m. morning prayer in the Chapel and breakfast in the cafeteria. Then there are roughly two hours free until Liturgy and lunch at 11 a.m. Naptime and activities of all sorts happen next. Usually 4 p.m. signals time to meet with their small community for conversation and/or prayer, before supper at 5 p.m. Other groups meet after supper for prayer and small group community time.

SIsters at Our Lady of Good Counsel take part in Pickleball.

Before COVID-19, many activities, groups, concerts, retreats and volunteers were around. The opportunities for outreach, such as going out to the community to provide elderly services or to protest on Wednesdays, are no longer happening. However, the exercise class continues on TV and Pickleball players continue to practice. Thankfully, pen pals from the Loyola Catholic School continued their communication with sisters through the postal system. However, school closings prevented the highlight of sharing meals and Mass with high school students and local university students.

SIsters at Our Lady of Good Counsel take part in Pickleball.

There are a variety of ministries at OLGC that appeal to sisters who have “caught a second wind” and are ready to do something more. On campus, there is the Good Counsel Learning Center, which provides individualized teaching and tutoring of students, along with mentoring sisters or novitiates visiting long-term to learn English. Some other opportunities are liturgical ministries, gardening, mail room, driving, cleaning of vegetables, visits to the health care wing, Spanish classes, choir, hand bell choir, prayer leaders, community meeting planners, plant watering and organists.

Sisters are invited to the ministry of prayer and presence, when they feel they are no longer able to actively volunteer. The many needs of the world, families, countries, donors and sisters become the essence of the thoughts and prayers of those who listen and who are present to what is going on in the lives of those around them. The prayers of the sisters for the special needs of others is a support to those who ask for daily prayers. Showing up for prayer, community meetings, activities with other sisters and vigils with the dying are all essential parts to the life of those called to prayer and presence. Nurses and aides become friends and confidants, as there is time to listen and learn more about the lives of those who served.

This time of retirement and coming back to where we started, many years ago, is a time to renew friendships, to meet up with sisters who have been in interesting ministries over the years. It’s a time to learn again the joys, challenges and mystery of this calling to give all to God, as best we can.

Learn more about Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mankato, Minnesota.


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