It was 2012 when the Leadership Team of the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters called Sister Mary Ellen McDonald back to Grand Rapids to begin a new mission: start a Pastoral Care Team at Marywood.
She was well-prepared for the task after some 30 years in Pastoral Administration and Ministry at three parishes in the Saginaw and Bay City areas. It all began with her appointment to the Pastoral Team at St. Mary Cathedral in Saginaw. Bishop Kenneth Untener, a man with great foresight, approached her and said they needed her to join the team to meet the needs of the parish. While Sister Mary Ellen had earned her Masters in Religious Education from Aquinas College, Bishop Untener encouraged her, and the entire pastoral team, to continue their own formation and professional development; he was a strong mentor.
“I found my pastoral role very life-giving,” says Sister Mary Ellen. “Going into each home and providing spiritual support, relating to people in all aspects of their lives: when they were baptized, when they were married, when they were sick.” When not visiting, Sister was managing the finances, preparing liturgy, and more.
Taking a cue from her own mentor, she viewed her role as Coodinator of the Pastoral Care Team at Marywood as “caring for the cargeivers and inspiring the caregivers,” she says. “I helped train, schedule, and coordinate all of the spiritual companions here at Marywood including Marywood Health Center and Aquinata Hall. Supporting the spiritual wellness of women and men in spiritual and pastoral ministries is so important.”
Today, patients and their friends and family members at Marywood Health Center and Aquinata Hall continue to enjoy and find comfort in the presence of Sisters thanks to Sister Mary Ellen’s early efforts forming the ministry.