“In my own heart of desires, I had always wanted to be a nurse,” said Sister Mary Luellen Boeglin (lower right), who became a Sister of Notre Dame in 1956. In the early years of her ministry, Sister worked at the Motherhouse in Rome, Italy, where she tended to sick sisters in the infirmary. When she returned home in 1983, she enrolled in the Conejo Valley Vocational Nursing program and earned her vocational nursing license. She cared for elderly sisters and her own aging mother until 1995 and became a registered nurse through Moorpark College.
In 1997 Sister Mary Luellen was hired as a kidney transplant coordinator at Saint Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. In 2007 she moved on to Keck Medical Center of USC as a transplant coordinator. After years of fulfilling ministry as a nurse, she received certification as a spiritual director. Today, Sister works as a spiritual care associate for Saint Camillus Center for Spiritual Care which serves Los Angeles County.
“As a sister I have been prepared my whole life to do what I am doing today,” she said. Her spiritual and nursing experiences have prepared her well to serve as a Spiritual Care Associate for patients in all stages of life.
The team of chaplains at Saint Camillus visits patients during normal work hours, and responds to emergencies 24 hours a day. They focus on Catholic patients and their families and also give interfaith spiritual care to people of all backgrounds.
Sister Mary Luellen’s priorities have shifted from matters of the body to matters of the soul.
“My main focus is not on the body, it’s on the spiritual, emotional part of the person,” she said. “Our mission is to accompany suffering people and give them healing and hope.”
The Saint Camillus team starts each day together with prayer and reflection over breakfast. They hear updates from the chaplains who served overnight and work out any feelings of anxiety or stress brought on by the demands of the job. By 10 a.m. Sister Mary Luellen arrives at the Keck Medical Center, checks the Catholic patient list, and goes to visit the first patient of the day.
“Sometimes they want prayer, sometimes they want the sacrament of anointing, often before surgery. In that case I contact the priest on call and he comes over and anoints the patient. I can also distribute communion if the patient is allowed to have it,” Sister said.
Some days are harder than others, as Sister Mary Luellen assists patients who are dying and tries to comfort their families.
Sister Mary Luellen loves her ministry deeply, saying, “I’ve been a nurse, which is all about healing, but sometimes we are releasing patients to go to heaven, and that’s a very powerful and humbling experience. It’s what we’re here on Earth about – living and dying. To help someone die is especially meaningful. I am so grateful to God that he has given me this ministry in the last part of my career.”