Sister Laura Parker: a spiritual presence in the world
Living out the Gospel message and bringing healing to others fuels Sister Laura Parker through her at-times-hectic daily routine.
As a hospice chaplain in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, the nurse-turned chaplain drives as many as 150 miles a day and visits with as many as four to 10 clients a day to accompany them on their spiritual journey. Outside of work Sister Laura helps care for her ailing mother and sister and maintains a relationship with her grown son. And she takes time daily to slow down and listen to God, fostering a two-way relationship that gives her strength to be there for others in their spiritual need.
Sister Laura lives daily the unique challenges of being a vowed religious living and working among the people of today. She feels the tension of trying to bring faith into a “spiritually correct” secular workplace. She puts forth a concerted effort to not get caught up in “the consumerism and all the other isms” of the world.
She likewise experiences the enrichment and support being a Sister of Providence brings.
“I’m also a Sisters of Providence, which calls me to being in community. That’s what I find is really important in my life: I need to have those relationships that help me, that call me to a deeper way of being and challenge me. And I find that I can receive that from our sisters,” she said.
Strengthened by that support of her religious community, Sister Laura goes forth each day to be a spiritual presence in the world.
For her, living out God’s love, mercy and justice in service among God’s people means “taking the Gospel values and going straight to that, and living those out. The beatitudes: those are the things that Jesus is calling us to do. “
It’s also about being in right relationship with all people.
“And I think in my work I am able to do that through the ministry that I have. I need to be in relationship with God. I need to be in relationship with the people I work with, those people I minister to. I have to meet them where they are, and that sometimes means letting go of my own stuff at the door and allowing myself to be vulnerable to what God is asking me to do,” she said.
“I think people are very hungry for the spiritual in their life. I think we’ve lost contact with a lot of our intimate relationships and contacts. We no longer have the time or the energy or sometimes we don’t know how to do this.”
She tells the story of one young man she worked with. “He just felt like he really failed his family because all he did was work. He was never really home.” He had four or five children and a wife to support, and he had worked two jobs for many years. “I simply pointed out that at the time, he did the best he could.” He was able to come to forgive himself. He recognized that for him that was the best way he knew to take care of his family. “And once he understood that, he had a much easier time letting go. He knew his family loved him.”
Sister Laura accompanies people from a wide variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. She said she comes to each visit without expectations, letting the client decide the direction and then offering what she can to help.
“Some people just need to share their life story with you and hold it in a way that can be given back to them to see that they have indeed had a rich and whole life. And they need this opportunity to let go of life’s issues and to continue on toward God.”
“It’s an individual journey. There is no instruction manual that comes with end-of-life issues. So all of us are learning about what we need to do or how we need to be with people,” she said.
“[As a hospice chaplain] I am with people in a way that is healing or moving people toward a healing in their relationship with God. And that is a beautiful way of being a presence, a spiritual presence in the world.”
And that presence can call others to healing and wholeness.
“I think that’s the service that we owe everybody: to make people feel important and loved and cared for and respected, I think that’s what we’re all called to be,” Sister Laura said.
(This article originally appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of HOPE magazine.)