Beyond eating right and exercising: Health and wellness fosters wholeness among Precious Blood Sisters

Most of us tend to indulge during the festive holiday season, and then start the new year by getting back on track with eating right and exercising. And while we all recognize that staying fit is important year-round, many Sisters and staff members are dedicated to maintaining health and wellness to achieve a balance of physical, emotional and spiritual health that can also foster community building.

On the cover, JoAnne Dole and Sister Berenice Janszen look over Sister Berenice’s medical report in the nurses’ office at Salem Heights; left, Kim Jaynes calls out the Bingo letters for the Sisters in Grace Hall; middle, Kim assists Sisters Regina Albers and Lou Ann Roof with their Christmas Luminaire projects; right, Sisters leaving Salem Heights in the newly purchased van for a day trip with Kim; Michelle Bodine photos.

Kim Jaynes has served as the activity coordinator for the Sisters of the Precious Blood for 25 years, working primarily with the Sisters who live at Salem Heights, the Congregation’s central house in Dayton. She researches and schedules outings — and serves as van driver — for day trips, shopping and scenic drives to see fall foliage and Christmas lights, coordinating with the Sisters’ religious lives to create a monthly activity calendar.

The role has evolved over the years. “When I first took this job, there were over 100 Sisters living at Salem Heights. Now there are fewer Sisters, but the age of the population is older and they have more ‘challenges’ because the Sisters are staying here longer or coming in at an older age,” Jaynes said. “So I, too, have had to adjust and reevaluate programs and the way some things are done.”

Jaynes has also developed exercise programs that focus on strength, flexibility, body mechanics, balance and proper breathing — emphasizing to Sisters that “you must take care of yourself first so you may continue to help others and live as well as you can.” Some Sisters volunteer or do things for others, and regular exercise helps them feel stronger.

Sister Lou Ann Roof participates in Jaynes’ exercise classes five days a week. She said she thoroughly enjoys the general exercise class, but the Breathing & Balance class is much more challenging for her. “But I am determined to stay active and mobile, and this is the way to do that,” Sister Lou Ann said, adding that Jaynes is very encouraging, supportive and knowledgeable.

Sister Lou Ann said she also appreciates the activities and outings that Jaynes organizes, helping the Sisters stay mentally sharp and giving them opportunities to have shared experiences that deepen their bonds as Sisters. Because she has limited vision, Sister Lou Ann said that without Jaynes’ programs and assistance, she wouldn’t be nearly as active as she is now. “She has a way of knowing what every single Sister needs,” she said.

“My biggest satisfaction is when Sisters tell me how much better they feel, or that they are able to do something they weren’t able to do in a while, such as genuflect,” Jaynes said. “And we all hear about the endorphins that exercise can release for better emotional health. I know from my own experience of maintaining my personal exercise program that I am not only physically better, but emotionally as well.”

Most of all, Jaynes said, she feels grateful to be able to serve the Sisters, who she says “have helped me become who I am.

“I am grateful for where I am and that my life has been touched so drastically by these women,” she added. “I love them dearly, and their love, support and prayers for me and my family are priceless. I give what I can of myself to them because they have given me so much.”

Left, Sister Kathleen Kelly speaks with JoAnne in her room in Emma Hall, at the Maria Joseph Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (former motherhouse of the Sisters of the Precious Blood); Michelle Bodine photos. Middle, Ana Nakinyana and Yoramu Nyaboza harvest their plants from the community garden; right, Sister Donna Liette at the Taco Fiesta Fall Fundraiser on October 14, 2018, at PBMR; contributed photos.

JoAnne Dole shared similar sentiments as she reflected on her first year working as health and wellness coordinator for the Sisters of the Precious Blood — she said “one of the awesome perks of being a nurse” is learning from those she aims to help.

As the Congregation’s first health and wellness coordinator, Dole’s work has included meeting with individual Sisters to discuss any health needs; establishing herself as a trustworthy resource for medical information and advice; accompanying Sisters on medical appointments as needed; visiting hospitalized Sisters; and serving as a health care “interpreter,” among many other tasks.

“I was and am continually impressed by the resilience the Sisters exhibit in the face of their various medical problems — whether they be acute or chronic,” she said. “They just don’t let health problems get them down. That beautiful Precious Blood Spirit shines through their difficult times every time in every Sister.”

In spite of those acute or chronic health issues, many Sisters are still active into their 80s and 90s. Dole said some of their secrets to longevity include staying active both physically and mentally, coupled with the “true treasure” of having a beautiful, safe place to live such as Salem Heights, where they have access to social events, activities and the company of their Sisters.

Other good habits include conscientious preventive maintenance. “I find that they take this aspect of health maintenance very seriously — I have taken them on as my role models,” Dole said. Regardless of age, one good rule of thumb is to stay hydrated, especially in preventing dizziness when going from sitting to standing, preventing urinary tract infections, guarding against colds and preventing dry and itchy skin during the winter months.

And perhaps most of all, longevity comes from “never forgetting the healing benefit of a smile, a word of encouragement, or a hug — all of which I have witnessed and personally experienced over the past year,” Dole said.

Focusing on one aspect of health and well-being may naturally lead to a fruitful activity in another. Sister Mumbi Kigutha has noted that when she first came to the U.S. from Kenya, she found herself indulging in the prepackaged, processed food that is ubiquitous in this country. “Growing up with parents who were a medical doctor and a nutritionist, I knew what I had done was not right,” she said.

So she began to focus on making sure she eats plenty of vegetables, mimicking the diet she grew up with — and went on to start a community garden where new Daytonians from African countries can work together to grow produce that is not readily accessible in this area.

“My dream is that in five or 10 years’ time, that garden will be a UN. We’ll not just have new Daytonians from African countries — we’ll have Iraqis and Syrians, and anybody else who might be resettled in Dayton,” she said. “To see people there together is my dream.”

Left, the water fountain and Pietà in the Peace Garden at PBMR in Chicago; right, Sister Carolyn Hoying works with a volunteer at the PBMR Community Garden in Chicago; contributed photos.

Sister Donna Liette serves as director of women’s programming at the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, a center for building relationships, creating safe spaces and promoting restorative justice in Chicago. She also works in the center’s Peace Garden, where “women and families who have lost sons or daughters to gun violence can sit by the water fountain and contemplate the Pietà that is part of the fountain. Others can walk the labyrinth, or just sit in the meditation space and enjoy the beauty of the flowers, the trees, the birds and know God is present!

“It is a space that brings the community together in prayer, in remembrance, in connecting with one another as they sit in the peace circle and share their stories,” Sister Donna added. And neighbors and the mothers who participate in programs at PBMR call the garden “a haven of peace in the midst of so much violence and chaos.”

And PBMR’s Community Garden serves as a symbol of hope, and the persistence of life — as well as a workforce program where participants learn valuable skills, and the community benefits from fresh, healthy produce.

Most everyone knows the value of a holistic approach to staying fit and active — the Archdiocese of Boston notes that “a person’s overall well-being is influenced by the measures of meaning, joy, hope, loving relationships, inner peace, purpose and fulfillment that are present. When a person is in good relationship with God, self, community and the global environment, it can happen that God’s healing presence is made visible and a state of well-being exists.”

But, with a finite number of hours in each day, maintaining balance between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being can also feel like a tall order at times. With another new year on the horizon — and an opportunity to set new goals — Dole suggested making a list of what you do every day for a week or so, and then placing each item under the headings “physical,” “emotional” and “spiritual.” Look at where you have placed the majority of daily activities and where you may need to spend more (or less) of your daily time.

Dole said that “balance can be achieved by remembering that there is time for all things under heaven. It’s in the Bible! (Ecclesiastes 3:1). … Most of all, I consciously recall that Jesus took time away to pray — so I claim that for myself, and I advocate for each of us to do the same.”

— Story by Mary Knapke

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