Sister Barbara Quinn - Chicago, IL
You didn’t see her.
She lived in a small bungalow in an older part of town. Sometimes her husband took her in the car to the doctor, or sometimes to the pharmacy. But at the pharmacy she didn’t get out.
You didn’t see her at church, either, and you didn’t see her in the yard.
Her name was Joanie.
When Joanie was in high school she was as effervescent as her classmates. Her life was ahead of her. She had dreams. She was in love with the man she would eventually marry.
And for a while the dreams played out. She and Dale moved into a bungalow. They had children. In the summers they rented a lake house where they would swim into the afternoons.
But then one day a doctor said to her, “You must be in terrible pain.”
And she was.
Joanie developed early-onset rheumatoid arthritis. Soon she had to use a cane, then a walker. At the pharmacy, while Dale was inside, she watched the other women stepping from their cars. They swung out their legs and walked briskly on the sidewalks. They hurried to beat the light. Some were Joanie’s age, some were older.
Sister Barbara Quinn heard about Joanie.
Sr. Barbara made a habit of ‘hanging around’ in the back of church. She greeted people but also she learned the news. She learned that Joanie couldn’t make it to Mass anymore, that the pews were just too painful.
So on a Monday, Sr. Barbara found the bungalow and the steps in front. If Joanie couldn’t travel to church, the church would travel to her. She knocked on the door. She carried Communion, the bulletin and a small bouquet of flowers. Slowly, the door opened. It was a scene that would repeat itself every Monday for the next ten years.
Inside the bungalow, cushions covered every place to sit. And on the chairs Dale had affixed small wheels—so Joanie could easily move them.
Joanie and Sister Barbara sat at the kitchen table. Over the weeks and months, they became friends. Joanie asked about the world outside, and about the church. She occasionally confided her disappointments, but mostly, according to Sister Barbara, she shared her hopes of keeping her home a happy one, and expressed her concerns for her neighbors and the crosses that they, too, had to carry.
“She seldom concentrated on herself,” Sister Barbara says. “She liked to hear about others. She liked to read. She tried very hard to get out of her world, and it could have been a very narrow world.”
And when the holidays approached, Joanie, with Dale’s help, decorated the bungalow. For every season and holiday, there were decorations. For Christmas, for Easter, for St. Patrick’s Day. For autumn and for spring. All around the house but on the inside where she could set them out. And where she could arrange them and dust them and talk over with Dale— and with Sister Barbara—how pretty they seemed.
And year-in and year-out Sister Barbara brought the church. Joanie did what she could with what she had, and graciously, and then let go of those things one by one until she died.
“Jesus is human,” Sister Barbara says.“He’s so personal. I only try to follow his lead. He wouldn’t just run in concentrating on Communion. He would stay a while. He’d be with them. He’d be a friend. It’s all I try to do.”
According to Sister Barbara, she only "hangs around." But what she did for Joanie, she’s done for countless others – for twenty-six years. She lingers in the back of church, after Mass, to learn of people’s needs, and can easily visit five people in a day. She’s 78 years old but the pastor says to her, “I want you to stay as long as you can.”
Sister Barbara doesn’t receive a salary. She relies on our friends for financial support, as do many of our other Sisters. Please consider a gift now to make their work possible.
Sister Barbara continues her work. She visits people left behind. Some are saintly, some aren’t. Most are isolated, most are elderly. They all have their struggles, and Sister Barbara is there for them.
I hope you will help Sister Barbara and our other Sisters who rely on your support. Because through that support, you are directly touching the lives of people we so often don’t see – people like Joanie.