Sister Anne McCafferty, SND Pens Book on Working with the Elderly
By Loretta Rodgers
Sister Anne McCafferty, SND, spent 11 years as a chaplain at the Fair Aces Geriatric Center in Middletown, and was so moved by her experiences with the elderly and infirm that she decided to share them in a book titled “Blessings: Reflections of a Chaplain to the Elderly.”
Now retired, Sr. Anne uses her book to honor the lives of the Fair Acres residents and staff to whom she ministered and worked in an atmosphere that she describes as “compassionate and loving.”
“It is so important to understand the needs of the elderly and make them feel as though they are valuable human beings,” Sr. Anne said. “They need to hear and know that they are loved and respected. I felt compelled to write this book because I have been inspired by the beauty of each person, the uniqueness of their life experiences, and worth in each person’s dignity.”
Sr. Ann lived in Aston Township for 23 years before moving to her religious order’s retirement facility near Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to her assignment at Fair Acres, she spent many years as chaplain at the now-closed Sacred Heart Medical Center in Chester, as well as in other hospice and hospital settings.
The 84-year old nun is a graduate of St. Hubert High School in Philadelphia and worked for two years before entering the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and philosophy from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., and earned a master’s degree in theology from Marquette University, where she was greatly influenced by the Jesuit priests.
“The Jesuits make people think for themselves,” said Sr. Anne. “They helped me learn about myself and the world.”
Sr. Anne began her religious life in the field of teaching. Her first assignment was in 1954 at St. James School in Mt. Ranier, Maryland. She then spent the next 10 years at St. Ursula and Our Lady of Victory Schools in the Baltimore area.
Sr. Anne was then recruited as a full-time consultant by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in the department of education.
In 1972, Sr. Anne left her position to become the part-time director of religious education at St. John Chrysostom Church in Wallingford. The rest of her time was spent as director of campus ministry at West Chester University.
In 1986, Sr. Anne decided she needed a new challenge and fresh direction in her life. She was awarded a full scholarship from Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital in Darby where she participated in a clinical pastoral education program.
With encouragement from her religious community, and especially from her good friend, Sister Elaine Gentile, SND, a former chaplain at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital, Sr. Anne took additional pastoral counseling courses at Neumann University in Aston.
In 1997, Sr. Anne saw an ad in the newspaper for the position of director of pastoral care at Fair Acres. She applied and was offered the position.
While at Fair Acres, Sr. Anne spent countless hours talking with the residents and decided to record their life stories.
“I simply listened to them and made them feel special,” she said. “That is really all they want — to know that they are important. Working for God’s kingdom includes listening to stories, sharing a hug, crying, laughing, and praying with the residents, families and staff in both good times and bad.”
Because Sr. Anne saw first-hand how so many patients were dying alone, she started a “Compassionate Companions” program, where volunteers adopted residents. Soon the number of volunteers grew to 40. It was through her program “Profiles in Beauty,” that she first began thinking about writing a book.
The title of her book, “Blessings,” was inspired by an African-American woman Sr. Anne met through her pastoral experience.
“The woman was one of 15 children born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland,” Sr. Anne said. “I was struck by her simple statement throughout her narration. She constantly said, “I’m blessed.”
In her book, Sr. Anne describes visiting with an injured firefighter, disfigured man, the mentally challenged, dementia patients and many others whom she said “greatly enriched” her life.
Sr. Anne also has kind words for her co-workers at Fair Acres.
“I worked with such wonderful people and learned so much from them,” she said. “They care so much for the people in not only a physical way, but for their emotional and spiritual well-being.”
Sr. Anne noted that her life is filled with the presence of God and her goal has been to share her faith with others.
“We can learn so much from each other if we simply listen. My life has indeed been truly blessed.”
“Blessings: Reflections of a Chaplain to the Elderly,” can be purchased through Amazon.com.
** Sr. Anne was recently moved from the SND retirement facility in Baltimore to Mount Notre Dame Health Center, 701 E. Columbia Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio. 45215-3999.