A poster read, “Do you love God enough to serve His people with joy?” To a young girl, this question stuck. Now, Alice O’Connell, SCN, serves people in one of the poorest counties in Pennsylvania. She does so with her compassionate presence. She does so joyfully.
Sister Alice stood inside her mobile medical van and reminisced about her calling to religious life. She followed her sibling into the convent, but Sister Alice was the one who stayed. “Having that ability to discuss religious life with my sister, to have that support, made it a lot easier,” recalls Sister Alice.
She says that what attracted her to religious life is the ability to serve others.
Service in health care
Medical checkups, blood pressure screenings, and health education are among the services that local residents of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, lined up to receive in the parking lot of a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. On a chilly afternoon, a man named Larry had his blood pressure checked by Sister Alice. If it wasn’t for her, he doubts he would have these regular check-ups as his doctor has instructed him. “It is convenient and helpful,” says Larry.
Sister Alice has always served in health care. Nursing took her to Edmundite Missions in Selma, Alabama, where she served a large population of seniors. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sister Alice was part of a cardiovascular unit at St. Francis Medical Center.
Now at Rendu Services, she cares for persons with diabetes, heart disease, addiction, mental health issues, and more. These problems, notes Sister Alice, usually come with the realities of poverty.
Sister Alice uses her outreach to connect with people and show them ways to make changes in their own lives. She uses everyday examples and techniques so people can live happier, healthier lifestyles.
A presence in people’s lives
Not only does she want to provide health care to people, she wants to be a presence to them. At the Rendu Services food pantry, she gives food to families struggling to get by. “Every time you have a problem they try to help you. I don’t know what I would do without the Sisters,” remarked a woman outside the food pantry in Dunbar, Pennsylvania.
“People get to know you and that makes a big difference,” says Sister Alice.
When asked now, “So, do you love God enough to serve His people with joy?” she says, “It’s been a good life … there have been so many needs that have come along the way. So yes.”
This story was originally published on the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth’s website.