OVMC's Sister Kathleen Schiffer Celebrates Milestone

Thursday, June 26, 2014

When Sister Kathleen Schiffer walked across OVMC's overlook bridge for the first time thirty years ago, she felt a certain joy in her heart as she began the work she felt called to do . Today, Sister Schiffer carries that same feeling as she continues this calling – building relationships with people through her ministry work at the hospital.



This weekend, she celebrates her 50 year jubilee with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wheeling. Since the mid-1980s, Sister Schiffer has served as director of pastoral care at OVMC where she has worked for 30 years, serving on numerous committees throughout the hospital – cancer, organ donation, and ethics. But it is her role meeting the spiritual needs of patients, families and employees at OVMC that brings her great fulfillment.



“Often when I walk into a patient's room, it is during the most sacred time of his or her life. I am privileged because I not only just pray with people, but I also am blessed to be their companion. I try to be with them spiritually where they are in their current situation. Often I find it's most helpful to pray with people and help them see God is with them no matter where they are in their lives.”



She joined the congregation of St. Joseph in Wheeling in 1964 after a brother and seven cousins proceeded her into the ministry field. She is a graduate of West Liberty State College with a degree in elementary education. She was a teacher at St. Vincent Grade School in Wheeling until 1984 when she joined the pastoral care department at OVMC.



“There was an urge in me to do something else. This feeling led me to my calling to ministry in health care,” said Sister Schiffer. “I have been happy at OVMC, and I have respected how they have been good to me.”



However, Sister Schiffer's blessings did not come without hardship along her journey, and she experienced life issues that seemed challenging. When she lost her brother and sister to death during their midlife, she found herself, along with her surviving brother, raising her sister's children, which she felt blessed to do.



“There is reward in dealing with challenges life throws your way. You have to make a decision if you will let the event be a positive one in your life for the better or let it drag you down. Losing my siblings and parents were very hard for me, but I found peace and blessings in the the fact that I was able to help others through my experiences,” said Sister Schiffer. “Every day I am able to draw on my past experiences when working with people who have gone through similar experiences as I did.”



As she celebrates her 50 years of being part of the Sisters of St. Joseph, she admits she sees a difference in the conditions in which women enter the sisterhood. When Kathleen entered ministry right after high school, she notes that women today are entering the sisterhood later in life – 20s and 30s – after completing their education and starting careers or mission work. She believes it is a great privilege to take the holy vows which she took 50 years ago.



“The greatest value in my life are the relationships I have formed. That is what life is all about,” said Sister Schiffer.

In her 50 years of ministry service, one thing that surprises her are the prayers people request in their last days.



“People aren't always looking for healing. Instead, most people want me to pray for their loved ones so that they will find peace and strength. I have been moved by the selfless love people show during the deepest part of their lives,” recalls Sister Schiffer.



Sister Schiffer oversees the pastoral care committee which consis