April 2007: SISTER MARY LOU DURBIN
On June 17, ten Sisters will observe their anniversary as members of the American Province including Sister Mary Lou Durbin whose story is shared with you this month. She is one of four Golden Jubilarians who will celebrate 50 years as a Hospital Sister.
Having faith is an important key
Sister Mary Lou admits that she has had many experiences in her life and God was always with her. “When I made my First Profession in 1957, I made my vows to God. I knew this was a life that I had wanted since the First Grade,” she said. In her nursing ministry over the years, she was a peacemaker as she reached out to those in need. When caring for a patient, she prayed that her presence would bring comfort. “Before I entered a patient’s room, I prayed to the Blessed Mother and asked for the best words to say. I tried to answer questions, calm fears, and bring comfort.” This healing ministry reflected her strong faith that continues to be her foundation; a foundation that was instilled at a very young age.
Mary Louise was born on March 1, 1937 in Ramsey, IL to Bernard and Mary E. (Miller) Durbin; she and her older brother and younger sister were raised with a strong Catholic faith. The family prayed together even amid the challenges they faced. For example, in 1942 the children’s mother was a patient for several months at the St. John’s Tuberculosis Sanitarium on the grounds of the Franciscan Motherhouse. “I remember the one visit to see my mother: we would stand outside on the hill near the TB Sanitarium and wave to her because she could not come outside to greet us. But we were comforted in knowing that our mother was being cared for by the Hospital Sisters, and visited by her own sister, Sister Agnesine Miller who was a Novice.”
Another challenging time was when Mary Louise was in the 6th grade and her family moved to Golden, Colorado. “I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a Sister and felt such a strong connection with this Congregation. My mother had told me how kind the Sisters were to her. So I wrote to the Sisters and was accepted in their St. Francis Aspirant School here at the Motherhouse,” Sister Mary Lou recalled. And so at the age of 14, she left her family in Colorado and moved to Springfield. After three years of High School education, she entered the Congregation at the age of 17.
Overcoming the 'bumps in the road'
Through it all, Sister Mary Lou was focused on her decision to answer her calling to Religious Life. “I always enjoyed what I did through my nursing career. Most importantly, I encouraged everyone who helped me and our healthcare ministry. Whether it was another nurse or a housekeeper, together we provided comfort to someone,” Sister Mary Lou said. “While there were many bumps along the way, God helped me through it and blessed me with the gift of joyfulness and adaptability. When you accept people, they accept you and most of all, I was taught to give choices, help others, and reach out with kindness to people in their need,” she added.
Sister Mary Lou is a graduate of St. John’s School of Nursing and received a bachelor’s degree from Sangamon State University. She has served at the Sisters’ hospitals in Springfield, Litchfield, Sheboygan, Highland, and Chippewa Falls, along with assignments at St. Francis Convent and nursing homes in the Chicago area.
A final thought from a Golden Jubilarian
And you may be asking, what about the violin? Well, when Sister Mary Lou lived with her family in Golden, Colorado there was a Christmas midnight Mass that left a lasting impression. “A violinist played ‘Silent Night’ and it was absolutely beautiful. I knew that I wanted to learn to play the violin someday,” she said. “Music relaxes me and also challenges me but I just love it. I also find great satisfaction in playing for the older Sisters here at the Motherhouse. It’s a gift that I can give to them,” she concluded.
Congratulations and Happy Golden Jubilee, Sister Mary Lou!