In her own words — Sister Betty Hopf
Note: Sister Betty Hopf has been chaplain at the Hux Cancer Center in Terre Haute, Ind. She writes in her Faith Experience, what she has gained from the experience so far. Sister Betty is featured in the fall 2011 issue of HOPE.
By Sister Betty Hopf
I had mixed emotions when I was offered the job, and have been most grateful ever since, for this Providential turn of events.
I began the job as chaplain for cancer patients on Jan. 28, 2008, and have loved every minute. The patients are such an inspiration to me. When I had to give a talk once, I wrote something that I called, “What I Need to Learn About Going to Heaven, I am Learning From My Cancer Patients.”
They teach me about FAITH. They are ready and willing to share their faith stories. One lady shared with me a paper she wrote and called it her “faith builders.” This made me think about all the events in my life that I could consider “faith builders,” too. My faith has grown and I am seeing much healing happening all the time.
They teach me about GENEROSITY. I’ve experienced people’s thoughtfulness and generosity in ways I never have before. I have been touched deeply with their desire to share what little they have. I never know what will appear on my desk. I have found things such as a packet of seeds, my first ever fried mushrooms, baked goods, candy, a potato cut into three parts ready to plant, tomato plants, sunflower seeds, and on and on. These are the fruits of their labor and love. I hesitate to mention anything because they will get it. For example, I was talking about the beans I planted that I thought were bush beans, but turned out to be pole beans. I came home from work that evening and there were poles and fencing in my garden. I am totally awed and SO humbled.
Here are persons who are dealing with a life-threatening disease and are anything but self-focused. This leads into another quality that abounds in my patients, and that is their THOUGHTFULNESS.
They are so interested in me and what I do, and my “How are you?” question often comes back inquiring about me. If I am out for a day they start to worry that I might be sick. They are concerned about the other patients who come in at the same time, and are always asking about them and praying for them.
They have a LOVE FOR THE EARTH AND ALL OF GOD’S CREATION. The conversation often centers on the land and the fruits of the land. We talk about farming, gardening, mushroom hunting, pets and enjoying the outdoors.
Another quality that’s very obvious is their sense of GRATITUDE. They are SO grateful for everything. There is no way that I can listen to people and observe them, and not be in awe of the goodness of God. I am surrounded by people who KNOW what’s important in life — people who know what the spirit of gratitude is all about. They look at some of the other patients, and all they can say is, “I feel so blessed.” I can say that, too. They tell me that what was important to them isn’t so important and what they took for granted is what is now important. Spirituality and relationships take on a new sense of value. Values do change, and I see this happening in my own life as a result of working at the cancer center.
Patients also have a great deal of HOPE and courage to do their part in their healing. I get to share in the joys of their healing when it happens.
It is such a privilege, too, to work with the dying. Joyce Rupp, in her book, “May I Walk You Home,” says that, “Being with the dying is one of the most intimate experiences on this earth.” She also says that “It is the most spiritual of experiences.”
I pray that I will be able to minister to patients with cancer for a long time to come because they have been such a blessing to me.
About the Sisters of Providence
The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.