Monday, July 19, 2010

Doctor fulfills dream by working to become nun

Several years ago a dear friend started on a beautiful journey:

Doctor fulfills dream by working to become nun

November 5, 2007 - By William Kibler,
A 47-year-old family physician from Altoona has cured herself of a chronic longing by joining the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Judy Jacobus closed her practice Oct. 1 and joined the order Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C., as a “postulant,” eligible to become a full-fledged nun by 2015.

She first felt the call at 15, but she hesitated because her nominally Catholic family in Kane discouraged her and because she wanted to get married and have “oodles of kids,” she confessed recently to members of her Lakemont parish.

Maybe it was an omen that the boy who took her to the prom is now a priest.

She dated on and off until five years ago, and she didn’t feel compelled to join any of the religious orders she checked out.

Then, a year-and-a-half ago, she read a Wall Street Journal story about the Little Sisters and felt compelled.

She wants to be part of a community of prayer, singing and eating together, and of a mission to care for the elderly poor so she wouldn’t waste her talents and 11 years of medical education.

She hopes she can work as a physician in the elderly care homes the sisters run.

“It’s a beautiful life,” she said.

Oddly, as her decision solidified, it coincided with her purchase of a downtown building for her doctor practice, which like her purchase of a house in 1991, helped to root her here.

She stopped taking new patients in late 2006 when a partner left, put her building up for sale, ended her practice Oct. 1 and spent recent weeks shedding possessions.

That wasn’t as hard as parting from her patients and distancing herself from friends and family, Jacobus said.

Still, giving up her practice as a doctor wasn’t as radical as it seems because Jacobus has “always been a nun,” said friend Dorothy Liller of Hollidaysburg.

She is kind and considerate, “a perfect friend,” and she seemed destined for the convent life she often talked about, Liller said.

“We were all just sort of waiting for her to give us the word,”she said.

Her mother, Greta, believes Jacobus may find it hard to take orders to feed or bathe an elderly resident after running her own medical practice.

She’s giving up a lot, her mother said.

In love, sacrifices don’t seem like sacrifices, Jacobus said, recalling when she gave a dress with a butterfly imprint to a sister who loves butterflies and realized her sister’s delight outweighed her own loss.

Jacobus first felt the call on a diocesan mission trip in high school to Kentucky, where she painted the tin roof of a one-room shack papered inside with cereal boxes. There were five children and their mother with no indoor plumbing.

At supper and around the campfire, Jacobus shared with fellow volunteers and the mountain people, feeling “incredibly grateful” for what she had back home.

“Everything I learned in my Catechism that was in my head went to my heart,” she said.

Jacobus began going to daily Mass. She eventually returned to Kentucky three times and later went to Haiti many times, finding things that were even worse.

As a Little Sister, her spouse will be Jesus, her “best friend,” to whom she can tell everything without fear, she said.

He “loves me no matter what, even with my worst screw-up job,” she said.

The community is worse off by losing Jacobus’ services, said Dr. David Burwell, who will be custodian of her medical charts.

Her leaving aggravates the acute primary doctor shortage in the area, caused by nine who have left practice in the past year and a half, Burwell said.

The shortage is national, but it’s especially bad in Pennsylvania because of high malpractice insurance costs and low insurance reimbursement, he said.

Jacobus tried and failed to sell her practice, an indicator of the problem, he said.

Her old number refers callers to Burwell, but he hasn’t taken her patients en masse, he said.

His staff is giving prospective new patients their first appointments in December, another indication of the problem, he said.
Judy is the God-mother of our daughter, Marie. This weekend, my wife and Marie attended Sister Judith of the Eucharist's first profession at St. Ann's Novitiate in Queen's Village, NY:

And here's an entry from the Little Sisters of the Poor website:

Little Sister novices enter retreat in preparation for first profession

July 8, 2010

“What happiness for us, to be a Little Sister of the Poor!”
Saint Jeanne Jugan

This is a very exciting time for St Ann’s Novitiate!

Please join us in praying for our Little Sister novices and postulants who have entered into retreat today in preparation for first profession and entrance into the novitiate on July 16 and 17. They are being led in retreat by Rev. Frederick Miller, a good friend of our community; during these days of retreat they will be immersed in prayer and complete silence.

The ceremonies will take place at our novitiate in Queens Village, New York. Five young women will become novices on Friday, July 16 and the next day four novices will make their first profession as Little Sisters. This year’s profession ceremony will be quite a Midwestern affair, as the new Little Sisters hail from Oklahoma, Kansas, Minnesota and western Pennsylvania.

So, please join us in praying for:
Sr Amy Marie of Jesus (Love)
Sr Dara Catherine of the Passion (Vishnefske)
Sr Judith of the Eucharist (Jacobus)
Sr Maria Catherine of Jesus (Flicker)

Check back after the 17th to see photos of the profession ceremony and to learn the first destination of our new Little Sisters. By then we’ll also know the religious names of our five new novices. For those who might be curious, we have the possibility of choosing our own religious name and may keep our baptismal name or choose an entirely new name. For each Little Sister this is a highly personal choice, “worked out” in prayer. You can guess from the names above that many of our Little Sisters pick some combination of new and old elements for their religious name, and the names often reflect a Little Sister’s personal spirituality in some way.

Accompanying this blog are some photos taken recently at the Jeanne Jugan weekend in Queens, during which the novices and postulants introduced young woman to our saintly foundress and her charism. In two of the photos the novices and postulants act out the humble beginnings of the Congregation in Brittany, France in the 19th century.

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