Special Issue - Prayer

Keeping it clean

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

LENEXA — Cleaning and prayer have always been part of Sheila Berry’s life.

As a member of the devout Catholic family that owned the White Haven Motor Lodge in Overland Park, Berry grew up knowing her way around a dust cloth.

“I was the general manager,” she said. “But, of course, besides running the desk and so forth, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades.”

The White Haven had a reputation for being spotless.

“My brothers and I were constantly experimenting with what things worked to keep the rooms clean,” said the Holy Trinity, Lenexa, parishioner. “We worked hard and we worked to do it economically.”

“We made our own glass cleaner,” she said, “and we were constantly looking for stuff that worked better than something else.”

When the historic motel closed in 2010, after 53 years in operation, Berry thought she might be able to turn the cleaning skills she’d honed there into a business.

“I was already helping to take care of my mother’s house,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I wonder if I could make some money doing this?’

“And sure enough, you can.”

Berry has found that cleaning houses, a solitary activity, is the perfect environment for prayer.

“So I can work and pray at the same time,” she said. “Besides praying in general — for my family and so forth — I always make sure I pray for the people whose houses I’m in — even though they don’t know that.

“I love to say the rosary and the Divine Mercy prayers.”

Berry’s father had a devotion to the Fifteen Prayers of St. Bridget, meditating on the passion of Christ.

He requested that all his children recite the devotion every day for one year. In the process, Berry memorized all the prayers and still says them daily as well.

Berry’s cleaning business has been up and running for six years now and, though she enjoys all her clients, Holy Trinity chapel is her favorite

“Father Tom [Dolezal] asked me to clean the stone chapel,” she said. “I love it because it is the most beautiful little church, and I always want it to be perfect.”

If Berry knows she’s going to be cleaning the chapel for a few hours, she’ll bring along her old boom box and play spiritual music as she cleans and prays.

While she cleans, “I think of all the people who have prayed there,” she said. “There is such a spiritual connection of generations upon generations.

“It’s my favorite job, and it’s as close as I can get to heaven.”

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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  • I am trying to reach sheila Berry white Whose family owned Whitehaven motor lodge in Overland Park. My family stayed there for over 35 years and I would like to connect with sheila. Can you please pass on my contact information 3163938387