Local Ministries Religious life

On a mission from God

Fans of the Sisters come in all denominations; they just like how helping the Sisters makes them fee

by Joe Bollig

David “Vic” Seeman was cruising down I-435 on his way back to his office when he experienced one of those weird sensations that defy rational explanation.

A powerful, insistent thought came from out of nowhere and just grabbed him:

Go to your sister’s house. Do it NOW, not later.

Sure, he needed to pick up something at his sister’s house. But he didn’t have to do it on a workday.

Nevertheless, he took the K-10 exit west, toward Lawrence. As he drove, the city yielded to the countryside.

“All of a sudden on the [eastbound lane] of the highway, I saw this white habit blowing in the wind,” recalled Seeman. “I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, that’s a Sister, Servant of Mary!’”

Seeman had known the Sisters all his life. As a boy, he had tagged along behind an uncle who delivered vegetables to the Sisters.

As an adult, he had helped with many of their fundraisers. So Seeman found the nearest exit and raced to the Sister’s location. Sure enough, it was one of the Sisters, standing by her disabled car.

“As I pulled up, I could tell that she was afraid — like she didn’t want to look at me, because she was so scared,” said Seeman. “Then, when she realized it was me, she said, ‘Oh, thank God — the Blessed Mother sent you!’”

When other people have breakdowns, they call AAA.

But the stranded Sister had called the provincial house in Kansas City, Kan. In turn, Mother Carmela had gathered the Sisters in the chapel to put in a call to God.

Then, in the privacy of her own room,she asked God to send Sister Mercedes a guardian angel. Within minutes, Seeman arrived on the scene.

Coincidence? Try telling that to the Sisters. They have an unshakable faith in the knowledge that God will provide.

And why shouldn’t they? He always has — from rescuing Sisters from the roof of their Hurricane Katrina-flooded convent in New Orleans, to putting bread on the table of their convent in downtown KCK.

The Sisters, Servants of Mary is a nursing order. Their mission is to provide loving care to the sick and the dying, and to their families as well. They’ll help anyone (providing a Sister is available, of course),regardless of race,religion, social status or income.

And they charge no fee for their services.

For support, they rely on the providence of God — which has expressed itself repeatedly through their benefactors, volunteers and friends. Many of them are relatives of the people the Sisters have cared for.

Others are members of the Sisters’ Men’s Support Group, the Women’s Guild, and, most recently, the “Serving from the Heart” gala committee.

Still others are the children — even the grandchildren — of early supporters of the Sisters — people for whom caring for the Sisters has become part of their family’s identity.

Much of the support for the Sisters is expressed in little ways: Friends bring them vegetables, provide them rides, bake them pies, and surprise them with Christmas gifts.

But the primary financial support of the order comes from private donations and yearly fundraisers: a spaghetti dinner in February, a pancake breakfast in October, and a summer social and a golf tournament in June.

This year a new event will be added, a benefit gala that will be larger by far than any fundraiser held in the past. Called “Serving from the Heart,” the gala will be held Oct. 4 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park and will include cocktails, dinner, a silent auction, and a live auction.

The decision to launch such a huge event, explained gala chairperson Mary Sullivan, was a leap of faith. But in her mind — and those of her committee members — it was one that was absolutely necessary.

“My family loves carrying on the tradition of the spaghetti dinner,” said Sullivan, who is a member of Church of the Nativity in Leawood. “It is a lot of hard work, but the job we receive in return is priceless.

“But we needed to look for another, larger, function to complement the events that are already in place.

“We just had to have a greater reach.”

A successful gala, however, which organizers hope will become an annual event, could ensure the Sisters the kind of dependable financial support they need to continue their ministry in the community into the future.

Serving from the Heart co-chair John Bartolac, for one, was delighted for the opportunity to make a difference for the Sisters.

“We love the Sisters,” said the Holy Trinity, Lenexa, parishioner. “If you’ve ever met the Sisters, you’d just know. They give you a feeling of honesty and serenity. These are truly holy women. It makes me feel good to do something to help them.”

It is not only Catholics who find themselves among the Sisters’ biggest fans.

Evangeline Thompson is Greek Orthodox, and her husband Frank is Episcopalian. The Leawood couple learned about the Sisters through a friend whose wife was dying.

They began to support the Sisters when Mary Sullivan and her sister Denise Janes asked them to sponsor a hole for a golf tournament. But when Frank, who owns a car dealership, learned that another dealership was charging the Sisters to service their cars, he would have none of that.

Now Frank not only services their cars for free, but he has also helped with a project to improve the heating system at the provincial house.

Neither Frank nor Evangeline finds their support of an order of Catholic nuns unusual.

“There’s something about them, being in their presence,” said Evangeline. “You just feel different — I don’t know what it is.

“It’s like they marry the Lord. And it’s amazing.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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