Grand Junction, Colo.
Sister Pat’s hometown is Las Cruces, N.M. She spent her early years in community as a secondary teacher. One of her more humorous memories was in Grand Island, Neb., when the pastor approached her and Sister Faye Huelsmann about coaching a girls’ track team.
“He told us they had no money to pay for a coach and the state required girls’ athletics,” said Sister Pat. “We had no idea why he asked us but we said, ‘Okay.’ He gave us an extra study hall as a benefit for doing it. Neither one of us knew anything about track. The male coaches sent some of the senior boys to teach us what to do and then we taught the girls. We did not get first choice for practice times so we had to practice very early in the morning! We were in good physical shape ourselves at the time and did everything we asked the girls to do. They were amazed that we could do it!” Sister Pat adds, “The track team didn’t win any ribbons but the girls did learn some things and we all had fun!”
Sister Pat was working on a graduate degree in biology when the research field she was basing her research on burned down. It was going to be at least two years before she could complete her studies. She wasn’t in a position to wait that long. Instead, she opted to earn a degree in counseling. She said, “I really got interested in counseling because of our work in the high schools. Many adolescents were in turmoil and often came to Sister Faye and I for help. We would go with them to talk with their parents. We saw some horrible things happen in those situations. Later when we went to the Manna House of Prayer, we discovered people trying to solve really serious problems.”
“We started the Center For Enriched Communications in our living room. There was still a stigma attached to going to counseling and we hoped it would make it easier to go to a home and not an office. We moved into an office because we needed more space. We moved into our current location (in Grand Junction, Colo.) when someone generously offered to fund the building and provide a loan for renovation. We provide services for well over 400 families a year. We work with attachment disordered children, sexually abusive adolescents, couples, families and parent/ child relationships and offer parenting classes. Our clients are either court-ordered or self-referral. We get many clients who come on the recommendation of other clients.”
Sister Pat is a master practitioner of neurolinguistic program training. She explains, “It takes two years to be trained but it makes a difference in how you approach mental health issues and in your philosophy of mental health.”
Sister Pat says, “There are two things that are most rewarding for me. One has been seeing CEC grow from just the two of us to something that is pretty vital to the Grand Junction community. We are the only agency that provides counseling for people who cannot afford the regular fee.
“The second is knowing that people have come to know Catholic nuns in a different way. We have changed the image of those who think that Sisters carry rulers. That has been really rewarding for me. We present a spirit among our staff that we want everyone treated equally with fairness, dignity and respect. We have always been collegial with an open sharing of information and all staff making the decisions. People enjoy working here.”
(To learn more about the Center, click HERE to go to the CEC Web site.)
In her spare time, Sister Pat enjoys mountain biking, hiking and camping. She is energized by learning new things.