Great Lakes and Internships

chicago_skyline_and_lake_michigan-640x357September 3, 2002

“Ahhhh … finally I laid eyes on beautiful Lake Michigan. Its average depth of 279 feet determines it the second deepest of the five Great Lakes. On the other hand, Lake Erie’s average depth of 62 feet predisposes it to be the shallowest. Lake Michigan’s water varies day by day from light blue to dark blue to bluish green, while Lake Erie’s limited depth remains a steady gray.

“Hyde Park once again was my destination for another interview, and it just so happened to be within walking distance of the Lake. The walkway in front of the circa 1933 Science and Industry Museum beckoned me to come over. My eyes were instantly fixed on a sandy beach and a park with many pathways; I felt like Alice in Wonderland sliding down a tunnel into a magical place. Huge concrete blocks surround the shoreline and are identical to those at Cleveland’s Wildwood Beach on Lake Erie.

“Memories of my teenage summers in Cleveland promptly popped up. We teens in the East 185th Street neighborhood traversed these monster blocks on a dare. They were irregular, uneven masses of material that formed the fishing pier. We dare devils needed balance not only for the massive rocks, but most of all for the steel “one-foot-at-a-time” beam that led to the end of the pier. Believe it or not, the return trip was the hardest trek!”


As a Novice living in Chicago and in formation for vowed membership with the Franciscan Sisters, I was expected to either work or to study in an outreach ministry program. My interests and experiences were spiritual direction and Hospice care. Lucky me found one of each and did both!

My Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program did not work with Hospice. Although I was disappointed not working with those who are terminally ill, I was enthused to work with formerly homeless women with children. Therefore, my Spiritual Direction Internship helped me learn how to help others as well as myself. Both internships required regular meetings that included soul searching, letter writing, and self evaluations.

The women’s group consisted of several women with children who were living in a supportive low-income apartment complex.  Some of these mothers lost custody of their children; some regained custody; others had relatives who helped with the children; others had no help.  There were two fathers living with their families. Most of the women worked outside the home and/or attended school; some were drawing disability insurance due to physical disabilities or injuries received from accidents.

The majority of the women were recovering from addictions and some were mandated by law to undergo recovery treatment.  Therefore, the focus of the semimonthly support group meeting I led was the workbook entitled The Twelve Steps – A Spiritual Journey to Healing Damaged Emotions.  The common belief of the group was that through God, and especially God as revealed in Scripture, all things are possible, and it is through prayer that addictions can be overcome and conquered.

My ministry of presence with the women moved in various directions throughout the year. At one point I considered my role to be that of midwife, the one who helps new life into being and protects it, who does things with, not “to,” the person giving birth, who helps the birth giver toward ever greater self knowledge. It is helpful to have a midwife to accompany us in any birthing process.

A primary key growth area for me throughout my ministry site experience was recognizing when to be flexible.  I learned repeatedly that relaxing into the flow of what is happening lends to greater awareness of the situation

Discernment is a way of life.  I tried to actively listen to people as well as to my inner being as I traveled on the road to vowed life.

By the way, Hyde Park was the center of my education; Lake Michigan my haven.