Our Transportation Ministry at Marywood

Heading out from their Marywood home on Fulton Street for nearly a century, the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids embark on ministries that carry them out in the wider world to serve, bless, preach, and pray. It is their community-minded spirit that paves their way.

Of course, not all Sisters’ ministries take them off site. Always there have been those Sisters who nurtured community life right here at home, with one another. It is here at home, after all, where each Dominican Sister learns what it means to live in community, to care for one another through all life stages.

Whether here at Marywood or far across town, their example of communal life and giving of self, provides a clear view of how one’s journey can pursue and prioritize compassion, dialogue, and accompaniment.

If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, today quite often that first step starts with the Sisters on the transportation team. Giving people rides may seem straightforward, but the dozen or more Sisters who comprise the team will tell you there is much, much more to their ministry than one sees at first glance.
Transportation Coordinator Marilyn Holmes, OP explains how very much this ministry is needed. Her work is a dizzying road map of schedules, appointments, varying locations, and always, availability.

The Sisters believe, as Prioress Maureen Geary describes, “we make ourselves available through service. When you know you can make a difference for someone, that there are people in the world who need you… you make yourself available.”

It is something to ponder. We ask each other all the time, are you available? But through their ministries, the Sisters teach us that availability isn’t passive. Available isn’t a state of being or something you become.

“You make yourself available.”

This is what the Sisters show us, by their example. What is important, for living in community, is “being with”. Maxine Plamondon, OP often fills up her car with Sisters who want to head up north to visit family. Just a few weeks ago, she and three passengers stopped in Acme, Williamsburg, Mancelona, and Lake Leelanau before the weekend was over. These trips are precious to Sisters who otherwise couldn’t travel to see loved ones. And Sister Maxine notices that Sisters appreciate the social time and the chance to spend a few hours away. Sister Maxine grew up a farm girl and has been driving since she was twelve years old. It helps explain how transportation became her ministry. She calls it, “taking care of family.”

Besides road trips up north, Sister Maxine also provides unique and hyper-local transportation for Sisters who are less mobile. On weekends, you’ll find her in the driver’s seat of a golf cart, escorting Sisters around Marywood’s beautiful grounds. They’ll explore the Instruments of Hope St. Francis Sculpture Garden, round the long drive to admire the prairie, and circle back through the property that is flush with gorgeous color—the trees, plants, and flowers so lovingly tended by Sisters, staff, and volunteers are especially breath-taking when seen up close.

Sister Maxine lights up when describing how much fun they have, when she takes Sisters—one, Sister Rose Seraphine Sagorski, is 100 years of age—out and about in the golf cart. “They just love it,” she says. “These really are the graced moments: the moments we’re given, really. These are moments of, ‘what can we do for one another?’”

Doris Faber, OP makes herself available in service to her Sisters by driving them to medical appointments. She delights in sharing how her own heart is filled because of the time spent together. “They tell me things about their ministries—things I never knew! I get to know them in a very deep and personal way.”

Sister Marilyn explains, the transportation ministry is more than just driving; it is accompaniment. It would be a mistake to trivialize it. “In the lives of the Sisters being helped, it is a very big deal.”

Sister Maxine echoes this, “We’re there as another set of ears when Sisters meet with their doctors.” Often, she says her role is to support Sisters, particularly in those times when they must hear difficult news.

The transportation ministry team also builds Sisters’ capacity to continue their individual ministries. Helping Sisters for whom transportation is a barrier by driving them to school, to work, or to an event, further extends their outreach and service in and for the community.

And of course, all of this transportation means having the appropriate vehicles at the ready. Availability is core to Sister Julia Nellett’s role in the transportation ministry. Sister Julia serves all team members by ensuring a small fleet of cars, buses, and vans are kept in good condition and on hand for those who need them, when they need them.

Despite the complexities that are often involved, these Sisters and all of the Sisters who comprise the Transportation Team view their ministry quite simply—they see the need and try to meet it. In Sister Maxine’s words, “We have committed our lives to each other and we are there for one another.”

This is availability and the journey that is living in community.