i recently began working on a personal project, a life of service, to document the lives of people who devote their life to serving others. for my first study in service, i spent a day with sister perpetua moellering – an 87-year-old catholic nun who works everyday fulfilling her ministry of the sick.
sister perpetua lives in the pallotti convent in laurel, maryland with three other nuns, all in their 70s-80s. it seems that a life of service isn’t as popular among young women as it once was – sister perpetua entered the convent almost 70 years ago, but rarely sees young nuns entering today.
sister perpetua (who is commonly referred to as “sister p”) begins her day at 5am joining the other sisters for daily mass at their private chapel, located inside the convent. she then proceeds to the church rectory, just a block away, where she shares an office and starts her work day. ministry of the sick involves visiting members of the community who are – in a variety of ways – homebound. due to extreme illness, chronic pain or some other ailment, these individuals are unable to attend mass. sister p visits for 15-30 minutes: chatting, inquiring about their family and their health, discussing current events. she brings with her the latest church newsletter, a copy of the catholic standard newspaper, and most importantly communion. together they join hands and sister p prays for their individual needs and families.
for as much as she comforts those she visits, she always reminds everyone that no matter how bad their present situation is, there are many people suffering worse all over the world. she is grateful for so much and encourages everyone not to dwell on their own pain but be concerned citizens of the world.
sister p no longer drives, and therefore relies on volunteers to transport her to the homes she visits. the day we spent together she made four visits. additionally, on saturdays she holds bereavement meetings at the church. her days are filled with prayer and service, and her free time is spent with her gorgeous lab, molly.
everyone who knows sister perpetua is in awe of her spirit, her strength and her faith. for me, her life epitomizes a true life of service, and i feel incredibly lucky to have spent the day with her, learning about her life, her faith, and her philosophies.
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a life of service is an on-going project where i combine the photographs and essays from days spent documenting the lives of people who serve others. if you know an outstanding member of your community that you would like to nominate for this project, please email me – i’d love to meet them.