The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 15, 2001 Issue
Local News

Filling modern need with age-old faith life

Three Sisters perform ministry through work with home care provider

By Joanne Flemming
Compass Correspondent

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 145 caregivers.

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 that ministry.

Meshed mission statements

And Home Instead's mission statement meshed with that of her order.

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 Community Center.

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.

Growing 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 ministry.

"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. Paider.

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. Le Mere.

The hard part about being caregivers, the sisters said, is losing clients.

"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."

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