Students received a unique opportunity when they interviewed sisters living at St. Joseph’s Villa as part of last fall’s Death and Dying class taught by Marie Conn, Ph.D., professor of religious studies and fellow of thanatology, assisted by Shane McCarthy, service learning assistant in career development.
The students were assigned a sister and met with her a few times during the semester in order to write and present them with Life Journals that recounted some of their fondest memories in a keepsake booklet.
The class gathered to reflect on their experience in March.
“Sister Meg has done a lot for different ministries, even having gone places she never thought she would be called to, such as her time in prison ministry,” says Joey Galantuomo ’17. “For me, as a college student, that was important to hear, this idea that you have to be open to where God is calling you. It was also a great gift for me to receive the wisdom Sister Meg offered, as well as to just spend the time getting to know her and her life story.”
For many of the students, what began as an assignment turned into a more meaningful experience as relationships were built, memories recounted and laughs shared. Some of the students were surprised by just how much they all had in common.
“I had the opportunity to meet with Sister Catherine, who graduated from Chestnut Hill with a degree in history,” writes Rachel Biro ’17 in her final reflection. “I felt very connected to her immediately. She is a one-of-a-kind woman who is strong, loving, passionate, hard-working and dedicated to anything she puts her mind to.”
This was the first time many of the sisters had the opportunity to work with the College and as the group celebrated the project’s success, they agreed they would love to continue the partnership.
Some of the students are already planning to go back and visit their sisters, keeping alive the intergenerational relationships fostered by this activity.
“For a first attempt, Shane and I were both very pleased, but of course, we have already been talking with Sister Frances Hart, director of volunteers at the Villa, about ways to improve the process,” says Conn, who is planning to offer the course again in the fall.
— Marilee Gallagher ’14