Filling modern need with age-old faith life
Three Sisters perform ministry through work with home care provider
By Joanne Flemming
For three Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross from Bay
Settlement, working as caregivers for a Green Bay-based business
is another means to provide ministry to God's people.
Srs. Regina Le Mere, Claudette Jeanquart and Germaine Paider work
for Home Instead Senior Care, which provides non-medical
assistance to senior citizens so they can remain in their homes.
As Sr. Paider puts it, "Instead of teaching little people in
school, we are taking care of older people and ministering to
their needs because that is the way of the Lord for us."
Steve Nooyan, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in De Pere,
opened his business in February 1997, in Green Bay. Since then he
has added branches in Appleton and Oshkosh and now employs around
Sr. Le Mere was among the first caregivers Nooyan hired. He said
he was well acquainted with the Bay Settlement Sisters because
they taught him at Holy Cross School in Bay Settlement. He hired
Sr. Jeanquart in June 1999 and Sr. Paider in March 2000.
Sr. Le Mere had more than 42 years' experience in "ministry for
the elderly." She had worked at McCormick Memorial Home for the
Aged in Green Bay as a baker, food service director, activities
director, administrator and assistant administrator. After caring
for her ill mother until her death, she wanted to continue in
Meshed mission statements
And Home Instead's mission statement meshed with that of her
After 24-plus years as a primary school teacher and religious
education coordinator, Sr. Jeanquart went into caregiving because
it was work she could leave behind when she went home. "You can
let go of the job and live a life," she said.
She paints during her time away from clients. Her father, a dairy
farmer in southern Door County, instilled in her a great
appreciation of nature and she has done art since she was a
child. The main subjects for her paintings are florals and
landscapes. She also teaches watercolor one day a week at Allouez
She has done caregiving since the mid-1980s, working at other
home care agencies in Brown County. Sr. Le Mere influenced her
decision to apply at Home Instead, but she also had seen the
business' ads and brochures.
Sr. Paider, a former teacher and pastoral associate, said she had
done private duty caregiving for individuals in their homes. When
she decided to look for a job, she applied at Home Instead.
The three sisters said the elderly they work with face a variety
of physical and mental problems related to aging.
Nooyan said his caregivers let his business know what hours they
are available to work. Company policy requires them to work a
minimum of three hours at a time with a client. The sisters may
work with two clients a day.
Their duties include light housework, meal preparation, shopping,
errands, driving clients to appointments and on visits to friends
and family, and serving as companions.
The sisters said there are two main reasons they do caregiving.
First, Sr. Le Mere said, is the great need.
Nooyan concurred. He said this need will continue to grow because
people are living a lot longer and because baby boomers are
beginning to age.
No new nursing home beds have been added in Wisconsin for more
than 20 years, he said. People want services in their homes,
especially when they come out of hospitals.
"There is an old saying, 'Home is where the heart is,' even if it
is a rented duplex or a private apartment," said Sr. Le Mere.
The second reason is that the sisters see caregiving as a
"Our presence there is a ministry," said Sr. Paider. "We are
really doing this because we are sisters in ministry to God's
people in the church ... We try to get them to have positive
attitudes towards their sicknesses and weaknesses ... We lift
their spirits. We like them to have as much goodness and pleasure
in life as they can."
For Sr. Le Mere, ministry is "going over and beyond what is
required. You try to make their life just a little bit better."
"Going over and beyond" can mean sitting and listening to the
clients tell their life stories, Sr. Le Mere said. It means
learning from them and it's why a special bond develops between
caregivers and their clients.
"You get so close to the inner life of the people," said Sr.
Sr. Jeanquart said her clients have taught her how to save money
and pick the best bargains when she takes them shopping for
groceries and clothing.
Caregivers, clients enriched
She said both she and her clients have been enriched when she has
taken them for drives along Green Bay and shared her love of
nature with them.
Right now she works with one client in his workshop. During the
winter, they refurbished an outdoor nativity scene. She repainted
the figures and he brushed on a protective coating. They have
built other items, like stools.
There is also the spiritual dimension, said Sr. Le Mere,
explaining that the sisters can serve as the clients' connection
to the church. She said they have taken them Communion or
escorted them to Mass or other church services.
Special moments come for the sisters when their clients tell them
how much they appreciate their efforts.
"They look you in the eye and say, 'I appreciate everything you
do for me. I don't know what I would do (without you)'," said Sr.
The hard part about being caregivers, the sisters said, is losing
"We work with them; we get close to them. Then they die on us,"
said Sr. Paider.
But some also get better and no longer require services, said Sr.
Le Mere. "You kind of hate to lose them."