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Follow Sylvania Franciscans as they blog about living their mission of joyful service to all people. Each week you can read a new entry from the personal journal of a Sister and how she applies Franciscan values to her ministry and the impact they have on the community where she lives. If you like what you read, comment back. We’re always looking for a good conversation.

The Stigma of Mental Illness

By Sister Karen Zielinski, OSF

Robin Williams’ suicide reminds us that mental illness is a real, chronic disease.

I lost a beautiful, talented high school student to suicide many years ago.

I was teaching choirs at a Catholic high school in Cleveland, and drove into the Toledo area with a few fellow teachers.  We visited Tony Packo’s, the Toledo Zoo and the grounds of what is now Lourdes University in Sylvania.  After a fun, day trip, we drove back to Cleveland.  When I arrived home, I received a phone call from one of my student’s mothers. 

“Beth is dead.  She took her own life with an overdose of pills.”

I was stunned, saddened and did not understand what happened.  Beth’s mother said her daughter was excited that she made the select show choir at school, but had seemed “a little sad.” She said Beth did a lot of organizing around the house:  cleaning out her drawers and closets, organizing her books and music--doing, in hindsight, what is known as doing the last things.  Faculty and some students talked about her suicide in hushed voices…there was a stigma about it.

The high school sophomore had depression.  My choir with her fellow choir members sang at her funeral.  There followed a rash of sorrow in the music department, along with assemblies from local universities which addressed suicide.  I just happened to find a note from her former boyfriend on my desk, saying he missed Beth and wanted to join her. I called the school office immediately.  Her boyfriend attempted suicide, but lived and went to counseling right away.

I learned that you never take a person’s talk of suicide lightly-you must get them help.

When Robin Williams took his own life, he suffered from severe depression. Some people asked why he did not get help with all his wealth.  It just is not that simple with mental illness.  Maybe the celebrity status of Williams can help bring about an awareness and education of all of us on mental illness.

In the news, we are bombarded by celebrities who marry for a matter of days and divorce. I am appalled at the mockery of the sacred bond of marriage. Financial or bank executives embezzle millions of dollars of working people’s money and destroy countless lives and peoples’ retirements.  I think these individuals deserve to be stigmatized—not those who have a mental illness through no fault of their own.

The National Institute of Mental Health explains that about 16-20% of the general population has mental illness but do well when supported by a circle of family, friends and a faith community.

Just as cancer, arthritis, or alcoholism is a disease, mental illness is too.

Writer Richard Rohr wisely reflects: God is not threatened by differences. It’s we who are.”

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

 
  1. Re: The Waiting Game

    Great idea, Karen! That really puts things in perspective!

    --SSH

  2. Re: God Gave Me You

    I use to listen to country music a lot not so much because it is my favorite genre but because it wa

    --Monica

  3. Re: In Memory of Values and Traditions

    Great reflection on the values instilled by our parents!

    --Nancy Alice

  4. Re: Six Challenging Words

    Thanks, Pam, for a reflection that's both very challenging and down-to-Earth at the same time! If we

    --Sharon Havelak, osf

  5. Re: Freedom from Fear

    If we were unable to fear we would not survive as a creation of the Father very long. We would walk

    --Monica

Meet the Sylvania Franciscan bloggers. We invite you to join us helping the Christian community commit themselves to works that reverence human dignity, embrace the poor and marginalized, and respect the gift of all creation.


Sister Karen Zielinski
Health and Spirituality 

Sister Karen J. Zielinski, OSF was director of communications for the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, OH from 1991 to 2008.  She is now director of Canticle Studio, a creative office of products which focus on spirituality and health.  She lectures on chronic disease and coping strategies and has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1975.  She lectures on the spirituality of disability, women's prayer, and topics of wholeness. Most recently, Sister Karen authored Hope and Help for Living With Illness a book on dealing with sickness and disability. The book is available on Amazon.

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Sister Ann Carmen Barone
Education

As Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Sister Ann Carmen Barone is responsible for developing consciousness of the Franciscan mission and for ensuring its implementation and integration into the community of Lourdes. Sister Ann Carmen also supports the other Vice Presidents and the President in their mission-related activities.

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Sister Nancy Linenkugel
Franciscan in the Marketplace

Sister Nancy Linenkugel has served in healthcare administration, education and leadership for the Sylvania Franciscans.  She is an accomplished cello player and a member of the Washington D.C.-based Medical Music Group, made up of doctors, nurses and medical professionals from around the country.  Sister Nancy is currently the chair of the department of health service administration and director of the graduate program in health services administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati.  She has served on the Sylvania Franciscan Leadership Team, was president of Chatfield College in Cincinnati, president and CEO of the Providence Health System and Providence Hospital in Sandusky, Ohio, and vice president of St. John Medical Center in Steubenville, Ohio.  

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Sister Sharon Havelak
Justice and Peace

Sister Sharon is an artist, educator and long-time peace activist, who currently oversees All Good Things, a store/gallery/gift shop featuring art by the Sisters, handmade soaps and lotions, and Fair Trade products.* She also serves as the coordinator of the Sylvania Franciscan’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation efforts, and teaches art history at Lourdes University. She keeps her creative juices flowing by painting on silk scarves.
* All Good Things gallery is located in our Sylvania Franciscan Village and many of the items are sold on our website.

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Sister Pam Nosbusch
Hospice Chaplain

Sister Pam is native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky.  She is a Chaplain with Gentiva Hospice in Nashville, Tennessee and is a Board Certified Chaplain with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.  Previous ministries include Theater Arts and Music Education and Pastoral Associate in Catholic parishes.

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Patrick Mills
Associate
Spiritual Enrichment

Pat is a husband and father living in Sylvania, Ohio. He has worked many years for Owens Corning in Toledo and elsewhere. He leads programs there for recruiting and developing talent early in their career, primarily for engineering and operations. As Pat and his family moved around the country, he has been blessed to fellowship in Cursillo, Christ Renews His Parish, bible studies and liturgical music ministry. He presently serves on the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania Associate Advisory Board, Chairs the Associate Spiritual Enrichment Committee and is a member of the Expansion Committee for Feed Lucas County Children. Pat is a pilgrim on the journey.

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Sister Lois Anne Palkert
Health and Human Services

Sister Lois Anne has had the opportunity to serve in a variety of ministries, initially as a teacher in Detroit and Toledo.  She transferred her teaching skills into formation ministry in Sylvania, then to Lourdes College where she was Director of the Lifelong Learning.  She then moved into parish ministry and served as a Director of Faith Formation and as a Pastoral Associate in two rural parishes in Minnesota.    From education she transferred to healthcare ministry and currently serves as the Director of Mission Services at St Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan, Texas.

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Sister Julie Myers
Religious Vocations

Why did you come to religious life….why do you stay?  As Vocation Minister for the Sisters of St Francis, Sister Julie addresses these simple questions that hold deep meaning and more in her blogging and in her monthly “Letter from the Vocation Minister” found on the Vocation link of the Sister’s Website.  We are all called by God to be our best selves and to serve God in ways far beyond our imagining.  Sister Julie has lived her calling as a Franciscan through the ministries of Vocation Minister, Physical Therapist Assistant, and as Sacristan for the Motherhouse Chapel.

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Sister Nancy Surma
Health and Human Services

Sister Nancy is a native of Detroit and was taught in grade school by the Sylvania Franciscans. Her early years were spent teaching and administering at the junior high and high school level. Life took a turn, as it so often does, and she served as administrator in four different Catholic colleges and universities, earning a doctorate in higher education administration along the way. She currently works for Sylvania Franciscan Health, the Sisters’ sponsored health and human service ministry, in the world of mission integration. Sr. Nancy lives with three other Sisters in a house that is filled with laughter and love.

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