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Enriching the lives of the elderly: Susan Dinnin

Sister Susan Dinnin, at left, enjoys an angel food treat with Stan Peloza to mark his 96th birthday. Sister Susan’s care enables Stan to age in place in the home where he and his late wife lived for many years in Indianapolis.

Sister Susan Dinnin, at left, enjoys an angel food treat with Stan Peloza to mark his 96th birthday. Sister Susan’s care enables Stan to age in place in the home where he and his late wife lived for many years in Indianapolis.

For Stan Peloza, 96 years young, breakfast frequently brings the opportunity to share his stories with his good friend, Sister of Providence Susan Dinnin. He talks about growing up in Croatia, emigrating at age 9 to an Italian Chicago neighborhood. Sister Susan is a member of his “care team,” that provides him 24/7 assistance so he can age in place in his home. Stan is one of several frail elderly for whom Sister Susan cares on a regular basis.

Sister Susan evolved into this outreach ministry after retiring in 2013 after 20 years ministering at A Caring Place, an adult day services ministry sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“Through this ministry, I hope that I am able to enrich the lives of the elderly and to assist them to remain in their homes as they age. I try to be a loving presence connecting with them wherever they are in the aging process. I companion them and make sure they are treated with dignity and respect,” Sister Susan says.

Typically, a relative connects Sister Susan with the person for whom she cares. In Stan’s case, it was his daughter. After Stan became too frail to attend A Caring Place, his daughter hired Sister Susan to work with Stan in his home. Sister Susan goes to Stan’s home on a weekly basis to prepare breakfast for him and to help with other tasks as needed.

“Most important, I listen to his stories of Chicago, of struggling with English in school, and of being a Marine who retired as a sergeant-major, the highest non-commissioned rank, and who is very proud of that,” smiles Sister Susan. “The fact that he had known me at A Caring Place made the transition for him to have someone come in to assist him easier. I was not a stranger, I was a friend.”

Typically, Sister Susan cares for three to six persons on a regular basis. Most families approach her about caring for a relative because they have heard of her wholistic caregiving approach that differs from those used by other in-home eldercare providers.

Investing in friends

“I view those for whom I care as more than clients – they are friends, persons in whose lives I am invested. I assist them with their physical needs but I also pray with them, bring them Eucharist, and have good conversations with them about whatever interests them at that moment,” she says.

To her ministry Sister Susan brings experiences gleaned from her years of pastoral ministry in Detroit, from caring for her own mother when she was in poor health, and from her ministries in adult day services.

“Before I begin caring for a new person, I gather as much information as I can from the family about the interests of their loved one, whether it’s talking about a Cathedral Irish tennis match, what’s growing in their garden, or news about family visits. It is about relationships,” she says.

Too often, Sister Susan says, “We miss the wisdom that the elderly have to offer us. I feel very privileged to work in this ministry. I enjoy waking up in the morning realizing that this will be another special day because I have an opportunity to work with these beautiful people.”

(Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Sister Cathy Campbell

Sister Cathy Campbell, SP, is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Spirituality from Catholic Theological Union/Chicago. Sister Cathy also ministers as a retreat facilitator for the Providence Spirituality and Conference Center with special interests in scripture and the mystics.

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