Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing


Remarks upon receiving Spirit of Ignatius Award

Spirit of Ignatius Award
Kathleen Kindelin Pender, MS, BSN 73, RN
Remarks upon receiving Spirit of Ignatius Award Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing Mass and Alumni Awards Brunch April 27, 2014 Mundelein Center


  • Dean Keough, under whose leadership, Loyola nursing graduates will continue to be excellently prepared to practice and innovate as health care delivery evolves. It was wonderful to get to know you  last evening’s  at the cocktail reception.
  • Members of the Alumni Board and the Nominating Committee for fostering a sense of community and continuity for Loyola Nurses.
  • Professor Ann Solari-Twadell and to Peg Weber my mentor, and Faith Community Nursing Coordinator, for submitting my name in nomination.
  • Mary Weingartner, Director of Alumni Relations, who personally called me to notify me of this honor.  She has been so kind, supportive during this process.  It was wonderful to finally meet you last evening.
  • My family for being here to support me today, my mother June, my husband Jack, my lovely daughter Johanna and  my sisters Mary, Bernadette and Meg.

It is wonderful to return to this beautiful Lake Shore Campus. So much has changed since 1973, but the lake front remains so beautiful.  I am happy to be able to show my daughter my alma mater as she soon will graduate from Edgewood College in Madison, a Dominican college whose motto “Heart Speaks to Heart”  so parallels the Care of the Person represented by the Spirit of Ignatius award.  It’s more relaxing now to be here with no classes to rush to, no papers etc….so many memories.

I would like to start by sharing with you one of my favorite quotes from author, Anne Lamott,

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

Grace has brought us all here today to remember and reconnect, to once again be on the Loyola campus that was the beginning of so many adventures, and stories for all of us.

Grace has brought me here today to accept this Spirit of Ignatius award – for caring – a value we all share as Loyola nurses.

In accepting this award, I wish to recognize and honor all Faith Community Nurses, those whose selfless service provides professional nursing care to so many individuals and faith communities.  Many of these nurses are unpaid, generously responding to the urgings of their spiritual call to this nursing ministry.

My experiences as a faith community nurse and as a nurse practitioner have led me to my current position as a community parish nurse in the underserved Triangle neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin. Why the name Triangle, you may wonder: it is a geographical area bounded by 3 streets forming a triangular shape.  The location is across from one of the beautiful lakes in Madison.   Eighty-seven percent of the 332 tenants who live in this densely populated of low-income apartment community are challenged daily with chronic physical and mental health issues.  They live in fear that they will be displaced due to gentrification of this desirable property.

My nursing practice has been filled with amazing and unexpected opportunities and experiences.  It feels complete somehow, like reaching the mountaintop, the full flowering of what I know to be true about nursing, the essence of caring, wholeness, and wellness.

We can all ask ourselves, How did grace bring me to this time in my life?  

I remember reading in my mother’s Steinmetz High School yearbook, her adventurous dream for her future, “I would like to be a nurse in China.”  Rather, she grace fully nursed, loved and nurtured her eight children. She taught me perseverance and the value of family meals and gathering times.  She holds us together as a family.    

My Irish father had an immense curiosity about almost everything and loved stories found in books and everyday life.  I often imagined him traveling the world gathering new material.  Rather, he grace fully gifted his eight children with attentive listening, and a sense of awe for the mysteries of people and our world.  When I was a young nurse, my Dad would ask me “any good stories?” teaching me the values of Presence, Active Listening and Reflection. My parents sacrificed greatly to educate us in Catholic schools.  The home they created grounded me well in the possibilities in life and appreciation for God’s blessings and the value of service. 

I believe it was Grace that eventually brought me to Loyola University Chicago and the Jesuits.  
Actually, I had been accepted by Loyola twice: the first time as a high school senior when I had planned to be a math and science teacher.   At that time, I chose instead to enter the convent where I stayed for 3 years. I learned about quiet, stillness, contemplation.  But this was post-Vatican II and the late ’60s. I was young and eager to go out into the world.  Later, Loyola University Chicago was my only choice when I finally did respond to God’s call to serve as a nurse. 

A Jesuit education has taught all of us alums and soon to be graduates, to think critically, question, to develop a worldview, to notice and correct injustices, to search for the meanings of the mysteries of life, to see into the hearts of our patients honoring their emotional and spiritual well-being, to provide excellent nursing care.  These Jesuit priorities are parallel to the core values found in Faith Community Nursing practice.

I remember clearly a moment of grace in a lecture by my  nursing professor, Mary Ann McDermott, emphasizing the inherent and enduring value of promoting health and preventive practices to lessen the need for acute care.  Her words became the foundation for my nursing path. I am so grateful to you, Mary Ann!

Years later in 1991, the Jesuits again entered my life when my husband and I traveled to Lima, Peru, to adopt our lovely daughter Johanna.  A friend and colleague who had served as a Jesuit volunteer in Peru referred me to Fr. John Costello, a Jesuit who had served in Peru (in Arequipa, I believe).   I called John to discuss my safety concerns re: the chaotic political and social climate at that time.  When I shared with him my many years of community health nursing in Chicago, he felt I was prepared to handle Peru.

More recently, the Faith Community Nursing publications and research of Professors Ann Solari-Twadell and Mary Ann McDermott have reconnected me with the Loyola nursing community. Ann’s nursing research, scholarly leadership and publications have advanced the practice of Faith Community Nursing and its recognition by the American Nurses Association as a specialty practice.  Mary Ann’s publications, along with Ann, have so inspired me and directed my practice. 

Mary Ann’s belief in the value of the arts to promote spiritual well-being has encouraged me to further expand creative programming at the Triangle Ministry where I currently work.  Art classes are held 3 times a month.  Creating art, alongside my clients in our makeshift studio, feels like being in church, a sanctuary – there is sharing, support, good and thoughtful conversation; it’s a no-judgment zone.

My nursing practice has blessed me with encounters with persons from other countries, some documented, some not, who felt honored to be visited by a nurse.  Learning about their cultures and health practices, witnessing their generosity awakened my young nurse heart to new understanding and respect.  What I saw contradicted the stereotypes. 

As an Advanced Practice Nurse, I have witnessed the shadow side of life:  economic and spiritual poverty, poor health access, low health literacy, discrimination ... things  that I could not have imagined:  stories of  the stigma and complexities of mental health and addiction issues; HIV / AIDS; the desperate realities of rape, prostitution, the grief of abortion; the legal and prison system; the need for day respite for ill folks who are homeless; the loneliness of homeless adolescents and the gangs these spiritually bereft young people ran with, the foster care system which was such a disappointment to them; the agony of Alzheimer’s disease, the burden on caregivers, and so much more.

Being present to these personal stories, full of spiritual light and also despair illustrated to me the value of the nurse healer and spiritual care in our practice.  I continue to ask myself how is it that we Faith Community Nurses, who by some Divine Design have been called to participate in this nursing specialty, are permitted mystical encounters by listening attentively and being absolutely present to our clients.   Deep and lasting trust relationships form, providing continuity of care across the life span giving stability amid the ever-fluctuating health and social service providers and funding.  Our parish nurse mantra is “Suit up and show up and let God do the rest.”  We receive far, far more than we give. 

Looking out on this gathering, I imagine each of us has experienced many moments of this grace.  Responding to our call to nursing, we have borne witness to moments of wonder and miracle, to healing of spirit when there is no hope of cure of body, to devotion and weariness of family and caregivers.  We are the most trusted profession.

And to you graduating nurses, know that you feed us with your passion, new understandings, creativity, your energy!  We are thankful that you too have been called to this Sacred Profession, to be a healing presence to the people you will touch on your journey as a nurse.  Be gentle and loving first to yourself, always value who you are, be grateful for your unique gifts, seek guidance and support from colleagues and mentors. With attentive self-care, your spirit and skills can then overflow in compassion, understanding and care for those the Divine entrusts to you, a Loyola Nurse.

It has been a great honor to be here with you today to receive this award.  I am so grateful.  Thank you so much.