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Doctor fulfills dream by working to become nun
Faith, Reason and Health blog ^ | 07/19/10 | Brian Kopp

Posted on 07/19/2010 6:56:51 PM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM

Monday, July 19, 2010

Doctor fulfills dream by working to become nun

Several years ago a dear friend started on a beautiful journey:

Doctor fulfills dream by working to become nun

November 5, 2007 - By William Kibler,
A 47-year-old family physician from Altoona has cured herself of a chronic longing by joining the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Judy Jacobus closed her practice Oct. 1 and joined the order Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C., as a “postulant,” eligible to become a full-fledged nun by 2015.

She first felt the call at 15, but she hesitated because her nominally Catholic family in Kane discouraged her and because she wanted to get married and have “oodles of kids,” she confessed recently to members of her Lakemont parish.

Maybe it was an omen that the boy who took her to the prom is now a priest.

She dated on and off until five years ago, and she didn’t feel compelled to join any of the religious orders she checked out.

Then, a year-and-a-half ago, she read a Wall Street Journal story about the Little Sisters and felt compelled.

She wants to be part of a community of prayer, singing and eating together, and of a mission to care for the elderly poor so she wouldn’t waste her talents and 11 years of medical education.

She hopes she can work as a physician in the elderly care homes the sisters run.

“It’s a beautiful life,” she said.

Oddly, as her decision solidified, it coincided with her purchase of a downtown building for her doctor practice, which like her purchase of a house in 1991, helped to root her here.

She stopped taking new patients in late 2006 when a partner left, put her building up for sale, ended her practice Oct. 1 and spent recent weeks shedding possessions.

That wasn’t as hard as parting from her patients and distancing herself from friends and family, Jacobus said.

Still, giving up her practice as a doctor wasn’t as radical as it seems because Jacobus has “always been a nun,” said friend Dorothy Liller of Hollidaysburg.

She is kind and considerate, “a perfect friend,” and she seemed destined for the convent life she often talked about, Liller said.

“We were all just sort of waiting for her to give us the word,”she said.

Her mother, Greta, believes Jacobus may find it hard to take orders to feed or bathe an elderly resident after running her own medical practice.

She’s giving up a lot, her mother said.

In love, sacrifices don’t seem like sacrifices, Jacobus said, recalling when she gave a dress with a butterfly imprint to a sister who loves butterflies and realized her sister’s delight outweighed her own loss.

Jacobus first felt the call on a diocesan mission trip in high school to Kentucky, where she painted the tin roof of a one-room shack papered inside with cereal boxes. There were five children and their mother with no indoor plumbing.

At supper and around the campfire, Jacobus shared with fellow volunteers and the mountain people, feeling “incredibly grateful” for what she had back home.

“Everything I learned in my Catechism that was in my head went to my heart,” she said.

Jacobus began going to daily Mass. She eventually returned to Kentucky three times and later went to Haiti many times, finding things that were even worse.

As a Little Sister, her spouse will be Jesus, her “best friend,” to whom she can tell everything without fear, she said.

He “loves me no matter what, even with my worst screw-up job,” she said.

The community is worse off by losing Jacobus’ services, said Dr. David Burwell, who will be custodian of her medical charts.

Her leaving aggravates the acute primary doctor shortage in the area, caused by nine who have left practice in the past year and a half, Burwell said.

The shortage is national, but it’s especially bad in Pennsylvania because of high malpractice insurance costs and low insurance reimbursement, he said.

Jacobus tried and failed to sell her practice, an indicator of the problem, he said.

Her old number refers callers to Burwell, but he hasn’t taken her patients en masse, he said.

His staff is giving prospective new patients their first appointments in December, another indication of the problem, he said.
Judy is the God-mother of our daughter, Marie. This weekend, my wife and Marie attended Sister Judith of the Eucharist's first profession at St. Ann's Novitiate in Queen's Village, NY:

And here's an entry from the Little Sisters of the Poor website:

Little Sister novices enter retreat in preparation for first profession

July 8, 2010

“What happiness for us, to be a Little Sister of the Poor!”
Saint Jeanne Jugan

This is a very exciting time for St Ann’s Novitiate!

Please join us in praying for our Little Sister novices and postulants who have entered into retreat today in preparation for first profession and entrance into the novitiate on July 16 and 17. They are being led in retreat by Rev. Frederick Miller, a good friend of our community; during these days of retreat they will be immersed in prayer and complete silence.

The ceremonies will take place at our novitiate in Queens Village, New York. Five young women will become novices on Friday, July 16 and the next day four novices will make their first profession as Little Sisters. This year’s profession ceremony will be quite a Midwestern affair, as the new Little Sisters hail from Oklahoma, Kansas, Minnesota and western Pennsylvania.

So, please join us in praying for:
Sr Amy Marie of Jesus (Love)
Sr Dara Catherine of the Passion (Vishnefske)
Sr Judith of the Eucharist (Jacobus)
Sr Maria Catherine of Jesus (Flicker)

Check back after the 17th to see photos of the profession ceremony and to learn the first destination of our new Little Sisters. By then we’ll also know the religious names of our five new novices. For those who might be curious, we have the possibility of choosing our own religious name and may keep our baptismal name or choose an entirely new name. For each Little Sister this is a highly personal choice, “worked out” in prayer. You can guess from the names above that many of our Little Sisters pick some combination of new and old elements for their religious name, and the names often reflect a Little Sister’s personal spirituality in some way.

Accompanying this blog are some photos taken recently at the Jeanne Jugan weekend in Queens, during which the novices and postulants introduced young woman to our saintly foundress and her charism. In two of the photos the novices and postulants act out the humble beginnings of the Congregation in Brittany, France in the 19th century.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture; Religion & Science

1 posted on 07/19/2010 6:56:52 PM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM
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To: IrishCatholic; Judith Anne; mlizzy; JSteff; wagglebee; NYer; Salvation; narses; johngrace; ...

Please pray for Sister Judith as she enters the next phase of her formation.


(Please send me a PM if you would like to be added to or removed from this new CATHOLIC CAUCUS Ping List, as I’ve included some screen names from my old ping list of several years ago. This list will be used primarily for pings to CATHOLIC CAUCUS Religion Forum threads, but also on occasion for other threads of interest for orthodox Catholics.)

2 posted on 07/19/2010 7:00:39 PM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM
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To: Dr. Brian Kopp
Maybe it was an omen that the boy who took her to the prom is now a priest.
LOL. I love it!! And I see she ended her practice on Oct. 1, the feast day of The Little Flower. How appropriate! Great story!
3 posted on 07/19/2010 7:02:43 PM PDT by mlizzy (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee ...)
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To: Dr. Brian Kopp
December 17, 2005
Dow Jones WebReprint Service®

Sister Rosemarie Wants You

Little Sisters of the Poor have an odd business plan
for nursing homes: Beg for help, lavish it on residents.


PITTSBURGH—With the cost and quality of care for the elderly looming as increasingly urgent problems, the Little Sisters of the Poor have an unusual solution: They beg.

One recent day, two nuns in white habits stood quietly in a dimly lit produce warehouse. Around them, workers wheeled carts stacked high with sacks of potatoes. Outside, trucks rumbled up to the concrete loading docks with their 8 a.m. deliveries.

When the owner of the warehouse hung up the phone, Sister Rosemarie stepped forward with a request vital to the dwindling order's mission: Did he have any vegetables to spare? The owner nodded to one of his workers to get a 50-pound bag of carrots and two boxes of eggplants. The second nun, Sister Marcella, her back and shoulders curved from arthritis and degenerating disks, lifted her head and thanked the man.

The two nuns wound their way around boxes of sweet-smelling Georgia peaches, reviewing in low whispers what they would ask of the next distributor on their weekly rounds at the Strip, this city's open-air produce market. A thin man with a cigarette gave them a case of broccoli and chopped romaine. A coffee roaster provided five pounds of dark roast and a pound of chocolate-raspberry blend.

At the huge Consumers Produce warehouse, Joe McCain scoffed at Sister Marcella's request for a watermelon. "One watermelon?" he asked skeptically. Without waiting for her response, he said he was giving her four.

The nuns brought a vanload of donated food back to their block-long brick home. There, they and eight other Little Sisters of the Poor care for 60 elderly residents, age 70 to 100. Begging to provide for the impoverished elderly defines their order and has sustained it for more than a century.

[little sisters]
Sister Rosemarie and Sister Marcella at a Pittsburgh produce market.

"We beg so the elderly poor don't have to," says Sister Mary Vincent, the administrator of the home.

As the baby boom ages and anxiety grows about elder care, the Little Sisters and their begging tradition are an anomaly. They provide poor residents with high-quality care—individual rooms and lots of individual attention—on a tight budget. Almost 90% of the residents here have assets of less than $10,000. More than half have none at all. Residents pay if and what they can. Typically, the sisters accept only a third of a person's income from pension or Social Security.

While nursing homes—even those catering to the poor—generally rely on government programs, private insurance and fees paid by residents for most of their income, the Little Sisters follow a more difficult path. They receive no continuing help from the Vatican or the local diocese. If offered an endowment, they would refuse. Instead, the nuns beg for food, for clothes, for money and for special wheelchairs. Donations account for about 60% of their annual $5 million budget. The rest comes from Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and other sources.

Their model isn't easily replicated, nor is it necessarily desirable. They face a declining population of nuns. Begging for contributions to renovate or expand can take a long time—or not work at all. Homes in Detroit and New Orleans closed, as did a second home in Pittsburgh. Begging gets harder when the economy tanks or when disasters, like Katrina, divert donations elsewhere. Costs of food, medicine and energy are rising.

Yet the sisters here have plans to expand, converting an old wing into apartments for dozens more elderly poor. Instead of looking for a long-term source of funds, such as an endowment, they rely on Divine Providence and the attentive ear of their patron, St. Joseph. "It's not the way of the world," says Sister Mary Vincent. "People think it's stupid. I talk to them, and I know they're thinking, 'My God, these people are in outer space.' "

An advisory board staffed by local CEOs and bankers gives the nuns financial advice such as how to save money on nutritional supplements and cleaning materials, as well as contracts with elevator maintenance companies. But the nuns refuse to budge when it comes to suggestions they cut corners on construction or offer fewer amenities.

James Will, chairman of the advisory board and former CEO of Armco Steel, recalls a nun asking him: "Would you like to go to heaven and stand before St. Peter and say I lived in a wonderful and beautiful home but when it came to putting together a home for the poor, I gave them a cheaper version?"

"They're unshakeable in their belief that they're doing God's will and because they're willing to do it, they will never be let down," says Mr. Will. "It's hard for us in the everyday world, fighting financial battles, to understand."

Unlike at many nursing homes, every resident at the Little Sisters home has a private room. Those who can't dress themselves are dressed each day in their favorite outfits, including jewelry. Men are clean shaven. The sisters throw festive Mardi Gras parties with shrimp etouffé. White wine is offered with Sunday dinners.

The nuns work hard to make sure no one dies alone. One nun sits by the bedside of the gravely ill throughout the day. When she feels death is near, she alerts the others by beeper, summoning them from meetings, mass and errands to the room, where they pray and sing.

There is little staff turnover among the lay workers here. The average length of service is 12½ years. By contrast, between a third and a fourth of the nation's long-term-care workers have less than a year's experience. Residents here live an average six to seven years, compared with the nationwide average for nursing homes of two to three years.

[lil sis]
Sister Mary Vincent stops in to check up on resident Isabelle DeFazio in her room at the Little Sisters of the Poor home in Pittsburgh.

"If I had my own home, I wouldn't be any happier," says Cecilia Hugo, who has lived with the sisters for 17 years.

The order was founded in 1839 by Jeanne Jugan, who came across a destitute elderly blind woman in the streets of a small town in France. She carried the woman back to her apartment and placed the woman in her own bed. To feed the woman and others who followed, Jeanne Jugan went house to house, begging for food.

The order maintains a global reach, with 206 nursing homes scattered from Bangalore to Paris, serving about 15,000 people. But as fewer women chose to join religious orders, their mission is becoming harder. A century ago, there were 5,400 Little Sisters world-wide. Now there are 3,000. No one has joined the Little Sisters in Pittsburgh for about eight years.

Sister Rosemarie, a short, energetic woman with a deep laugh, is the designated begging nun. In her early 50s, she is one of the younger nuns here. She was born in the Philippines, immigrated to Montreal, obtained a fine-arts degree in interior design and worked in a department store. Though she was baptized Catholic, her family wasn't particularly religious. After college, she began going to church, met the Little Sisters and joined the convent.

New in her begging position, she admits mixed feelings. She misses being with the residents. "I'm out of the house so much I feel out of the loop," she says. Demands are relentless, with food obtained one week needing to be replenished the next.

Sister Rosemarie goes about it methodically. Monday is reserved for getting produce and 20 loaves of fresh bread from a bakery. Tuesday she visits local grocery stores, hunting for donations of meat that is still good enough to eat but has passed its sell-by date. Another day is devoted to Costco for leftover pastries and muffins. Thursday she heads to the Pittsburgh food bank.

Between visits to two wholesalers on a recent day, she dialed a third on her cellphone to see if it will give her popcorn for an upcoming carnival. That call complete, she made another to a paint store seeing if it will donate a few gallons to paint the basement.

Wherever Sister Rosemarie goes, she takes her place in line. Someone once told her she shouldn't have to. "Yes, I do. That's what the poor have to do. You wait in line," she says.

Sister Mary Vincent must keep her focus on longer-term concerns. Earlier this year, the Little Sisters completed a $16 million addition and chapel renovation, raising the entire amount over five years through donations from individuals and foundations. Now, the sisters are embarking on a second, $8 million phase to convert an old wing into independent-living apartments to house an additional 49 residents. Though the construction project would likely qualify for federal low-income housing grants, the sisters won't use them because they don't want the government dictating whether they can add a sitting room or more closet space. That leaves asking people for money, a long and tedious process and one that she doesn't especially like.

"Fund raising is a pain," she says. Filled with uncertainty, the process leaves the sisters' projects beholden to the fortunes of others, as well as the local economy. She concedes it would be easier to look for long-term funding, but the tradition passed down by their founder requires that they live hand to mouth. They only seek enough money to address their current needs, whether that means lunch tomorrow or a new wing.

"I pray to God asking why it has to be this way, but I know why he's doing it this way," Sister Mary Vincent says. "He wants more people involved in the work of helping the poor."

Lately, she has been sending the nuns out more often into the community to raise both money and public awareness of their mission. Traveling in pairs, they knocked on doors of new homes in high-income developments, looking for contributions. They went to the Pittsburgh International Airport, setting up metal folding chairs and a table near the entrance, across the hall from the Salvation Army representatives and their red kettle. Rushed travelers stared straight ahead, avoiding eye contact with the nuns. Others stopped, often asking the sisters to pray for a family member or friend.

Begging makes Sister Mary Vincent, who tends to hang back behind the other sisters, uncomfortable. "All these people coming at you, wondering who you are and what you're doing. People challenge you. 'How come you're out here begging? You get Medicaid.' Or 'I heard you got $5,000 in the last collection. Why are you back out here?' " she says. Trying to ignore their comments, she tells herself that she isn't begging for herself but for the poor. "That doesn't take the sting out of begging if you have any pride," she says. "People think you're doing it for yourself."

Teams of sisters are dispatched on weekends to area churches. On a recent Sunday morning, near the end of the 7:30 mass at Church of the Resurrection, Sister Marcella and Sister Katherine Ann received Holy Communion and then walked briskly toward the back of the church. Each picked up a green-felt-lined wicker basket, which held a single piece of paper with the words "Little Sisters of the Poor." They stationed themselves on either side of the back doors.

As mass ended, the church emptied. The sisters stood quietly. People filed by, dipping their hand in a font of holy water, making the sign of the cross and dropping dollar bills into the basket. Many have already contributed during the regular church collection and simply nod at the sisters.

The sisters used to bring in a fair share of donations by stationing themselves outside factory gates. But in a less industrial, more secular age, they rely more on special fund-raisers.

On a recent afternoon, the nuns and some residents gathered at a parking lot filled with 250 motorcycles. Sister Mary Vincent was pleased. The weather was good, the crowd big and festive. Beefy motorcyclists wearing bandanas and tattoos, their shoulder-length hair in ponytails, bought raffle tickets for a 165-piece tool kit and a hypnotherapy session. Eighty-nine-year-old Anna DiRenna, who has lived with the Little Sisters for 17 years, buzzed in her electric wheelchair between the rows of motorcycles with license plates like VROOM and BECHA.

Sister Mary Vincent thanked John Cigna, a big man with an unlit cigar in his mouth. A local newscaster and biker, Mr. Cigna organized the event. He lined up members of HOG, which stands for Harley Owners Group, and the American Legion Riders. Each biker paid $25 to ride the 60-mile course and return for a cookout and music by Jimmy Sapienza's Five Guys Named Moe. Mr. Cigna remembered the Little Sisters visiting his mother when he was a young boy.

Father Jerome Dixon, former chaplain for the house and now a resident, stood up on a chair. The crowd hushed. Heads bowed. "We ask your blessings on these vehicles, which carry out friends on the journey this day. Keep them from all harm," he said.

After, the riders roared out of the parking lot. A dozen residents, mostly women wearing plastic visors and dark sunglasses, lined the curb, waving with one hand, purse in the other. The event raised $5,000.

The following day, two nuns sat outside a Giant Eagle supermarket in metal folding chairs. They sold raffle tickets for a grandfather clock and cookbooks filled with recipes from the nuns and their residents, raising a few hundred dollars.

Sister Mary Vincent recalls a banker-adviser telling her that he sometimes couldn't sleep at night worrying about how the Little Sisters would finance needed renovations with such piecemeal donations. She told him to have faith. "I really can say I've never lost a night's sleep," she says.

4 posted on 07/19/2010 7:05:22 PM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM
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To: Dr. Brian Kopp

Call me jaded but I’ve encountered some pretty progressive nuns lately. I’m skeptical of alot of them. Is this order an old-school by-the-book group or are they the radical kind that believe women should be ordained blah blah blah? Here in Pittsburgh, we had a few who wrote letters to the editor of the Post-Gazette favoring Obama during the 2008 election. It was an outrage! I wrote a response but (surprise) it was never published.

5 posted on 07/19/2010 7:13:43 PM PDT by surroundedbyblue
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To: surroundedbyblue

Very old school. Very good. I’d let my daughter join this order, and that’s saying a lot.

6 posted on 07/19/2010 7:15:34 PM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM
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To: Dr. Brian Kopp

:-) good to know! Thanks for the info!

7 posted on 07/19/2010 7:16:56 PM PDT by surroundedbyblue
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To: Dr. Brian Kopp

In this House of Brede by Rumur Godin is a story of a late life vocation

8 posted on 07/19/2010 7:25:40 PM PDT by Chickensoup (The Acting an incompetent puppet of Soros.)
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To: Dr. Brian Kopp; NYer; Salvation
I vaguely remember visiting a convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Richmond, VA when I was in HS. I don't remember much, but it did leave a positive impression.

Good Luck and my prayers to Sr Judith of the Eucharist (Jacobus).

9 posted on 07/19/2010 8:32:39 PM PDT by ADSUM (Democracy works when citizens get involved and keep government honest.)
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To: Dr. Brian Kopp

What a wonderful story of this outstanding woman. The Little Sisters of the Poor be blessed by their four novices!

10 posted on 07/19/2010 8:34:13 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Chickensoup

It was also made into a movie:

11 posted on 07/20/2010 6:35:16 PM PDT by annie laurie (All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost)
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To: surroundedbyblue; sneakers; Colleen Hammond; annalex; dsc; mockingbyrd; BlackElk; ELS; ...
Monday, August 2, 2010

A Joyful Day at St. Ann's Novitate

As a follow up to my previous post, Doctor fulfills dream by working to become nun please see the photo collage posted at the Little Sisters of the Poor: View Profession Photo Album Here!

12 posted on 08/02/2010 12:49:11 PM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM ("Oh bother," said Pooh, as he chambered another round...)
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