Sister called to grief ministry in Santa Fe

A version of this story appeared in the Dec 2-15, 2016 print issue under the headline: Sister called to grief ministry in Santa Fe.
(Dreamstime/Theodor Bunica)
(Dreamstime/Theodor Bunica)

by Arlene Einwalter


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As a School Sister of St. Francis, I spent 20 years teaching in Catholic schools and another 20 years in religion education in parishes and dioceses in the Midwest. I was happy in education. It was my life.

Then in 1990, I heard a deep inner voice calling me to Santa Fe, N.M. The inner voice was followed by a dream again urging me to Santa Fe. Santa Fe! What was I to do there? I meditated on Isaiah 6:8, where God said, "Whom shall I send? Who will go?"

Isaiah answered, "Here I am; send me."

In Dan Schutte's song, "Here I Am, Lord," he sings, "I heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." It was in Santa Fe that I learned to hold God's people in my heart in deep and caring ways, and the people of Santa Fe reciprocated, holding me lovingly in theirs.

When I arrived in Santa Fe, a friend suggested I take classes in hospice, grief counseling, and death education at the Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross Institute, taught in a small town in northern New Mexico. I tried to avoid it. However, when I spoke to my ministry director, she asked one question: "What are you going to do with that when you are finished?"

Spontaneously, I responded, "I think I'd like to work in a mortuary." Thus, for almost 20 years of very fulfilling and growth-filled ministry, I was hired full-time in a mortuary in Santa Fe.

My role was to follow up with every family who had lost a loved one, inviting individual counseling and/or group support. As time went on, I taught credited classes in the community college, gave many talks, conducted dozens of workshops and directed several retreats on grief, loss and death education. I spent invaluable time with thousands of grief-stricken persons and witnessed millions of tears. Daily, I was blessed with inspiration and wisdom from those who mourned their loved ones. As I supported people moving through their own pain and grief, God's presence in their journey often became obvious, and miracles occurred.

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