As Sisters model aging, friendships form with USM students

Sister Marianna Bauder, SCL (left), received roses from students with whom she interacted through the “Aging” psychology course offered by the University of Saint Mary, Leavenworth. Visiting with Sister Marianna are Kealee Rains (center) and Domenic DeFiore.

by Therese Horvat
Special to The Leaven

LEAVENWORTH — Extreme gratitude, deep admiration and profound hope were the sentiments most often expressed at this year’s annual rose ceremony on Dec. 15 as Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and University of Saint Mary students shared experiences gleaned from the “Aging” psychology course.

Nancy King, Ph.D., psychology program co-director, began this course 19 years ago to introduce students to the physical, cognitive and psychological dimensions of aging. She said that a few years into the course, she realized that Sisters retired and living at the SCL motherhouse next door to the Leavenworth university would be valuable assets to the program.  

That belief was borne out in remarks students made as they identified their regular encounters with the Sisters through the class. Among life lessons students said they had learned from the SCLs were:

  • Live life to its full potential.
  • Be thankful for everything you have.
  • It’s OK to change your mind.
  • As you age, have fun with it.
  • Develop a relationship with God.
  • Aging is not a bad thing.

“I learned about aging without ever talking about it,” said one student. And several others said while they didn’t know what to expect from their initial contacts with the Sisters, in the end, they made friendships that will last long past their college days.

The students appreciated that the Sisters cared about what the students had to say and what they were doing.

“I learned a lot about life in general — about simplicity,” said one student. “I always left our meetings feeling peaceful.”

The Sisters likewise enjoyed their encounters with the students.

“We always had a good time,” said Sister Marie Carmel Dunning. “It was regular conversation with a deeper meaning about it.”

Sister Mary Arthel Cline agreed.

“We had deep and meaningful conversations about faith, family and everyday life as we walked the campus and talked,” she said.

“The world is going to be a much better place because of these young people,” concluded Sister Anne Callahan.

USM offers the “Aging” psychology course each fall semester for three credit hours. Throughout the semester, visits with Sisters are built into the syllabus and supplement classroom instruction. One or two students are paired with each Sister of Charity. A ceremony culminates the course with students presenting roses to their respective Sisters and expressing appreciation.

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