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It’s all about the journey

This article is reprinted from the fall 2011 issue of HOPE.

Sister Mary Jo Piccione says that nursing and chaplaincy have been blessings in her life.

Some of the most meaningful and hope-filled advice Sister Mary Jo Piccione has received during her health care ministry came early on from Sister Clement Cecile Jackson (RIP) in the Sisters of Providence Infirmary.

“Be a companion to your patients, walk with them where they are,” Sister Clem told Sister Mary Jo. “It is their way home to God.”

Sister Mary Jo said her journey began with the wise and faith-filled sisters she had the privilege of serving for 10 years in the Infirmary when she was a young sister.

She then moved to California to minister at a free clinic for Hispanic women and children and at St. Joseph’s Adult Day Health Care Center for the elderly. She was blessed to “walk” with her niece in the Midwest during her struggle with cancer, as well as being present when her parents were ill and dying.

She was then called to ministry in Washington, D.C., working with health care for the homeless. This ministry brought Sister Mary Jo to an even deeper sense of her journey. She recalls the many times the oppressed shared that they were homeless, not hopeless. She came to a strong realization that we need each other as wounded healers to walk through this world. The homeless taught her that having very little in the sense of things often allows us to search for a deeper relationship with our neighbors and our God, she said.

Sister Mary Jo recalls the homeless man in California who was searching for cans in a dumpster. As she walked by, she turned to see a man with a beautiful countenance. When she offered him a small gift to provide nourishment she asked if he would pray for her father who had just been diagnosed with cancer. The gentle man stood up in the dumpster, pulled a small Bible from his pocket in which he placed the gift and said he would pray for her dad daily.

“I met Jesus in that sacred encounter,” she said. “I thought I was providing food for him, yet, in reality, he fed me.”

It was an invitation from The Rev. Joe after her own cancer surgery that brought her back to California into the chaplaincy ministry at St. Jude’s, ministering to other cancer survivors, while continuing her nursing ministry in the Tuberculosis Program in East L.A. with new immigrants.

This Sister of Providence believes she can identify better with people because of her own experiences with medical challenges; working with the dying, both in her ministry and her family; and listening to the countless people who share their stories of hope for healing.

“God gives you a gift and the good people you meet daily enrich it,” she said. “It has been both nursing and chaplaincy that have brought everything in my life together as a gift and a blessing.”

She continues to serve as a chaplain at St. Mary’s in the High Desert in California, where she just received an award for dignity.

“I received that award in the name of everyone I meet daily who reflects life and dignity to me. After 38 years in the healing ministry, I am so grateful to my compassionate God, my loving family, friends and my supportive and caring community for guiding me along this providential journey.”

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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