At the time of rehabilitating their monastery, the Augustinian Sisters wanted to transition their vocation from curing patients towards taking care of caregivers. Their vision became a reality at the Monastère des Augustines when they offered respite for caregivers and health professionals—those courageous souls who care for or serve the sick and vulnerable.
At the Monastère des Augustines, we welcome caregivers from different professional backgrounds. We also understands the differences between caregivers of different generations. Often in the form of Caregivers Circles, health professionals (doctors, nurses, aides, social workers and other health professionals) share their experiences and nurture their passion for caring. The Augustinian Sisters’ way of caring is based on working together and communicating with one another, these Caregivers Circles offer much-needed help and support.
Update Augustinian charisma
A group of health professionals met at the Monastère des Augustines and explored the question: How to take care of caregivers like the Augustinian Sisters? Together, the group looked for ways to translate, in a contemporary context, the components of the Augustinian Sisters’ charisma (hospitality, care, sorority life and spiritual life) and ways to update these components in different initiatives to help caregivers. Let’s see some results in relation to each of the components.
The participating health professionals were invited to dive into their personal and professional experiences in search of ways in which they embodied the Augustinian Sisters’ way of caring. They identified certain aspects that gave them the feeling that they were being cared for at the monastery:
- The concern for the transition between a work day and activities at the monastery
- The opportunity to speak and talk about themselves in a safe, intimate environment
- The implementation of conditions that favor sincere listening
- A period of time that encourages slowing down
- The care taken in setting up the physical meeting space
- Being invited to be served, receive attention (which does not seem obvious to caregivers accustomed to serving)
Augustinian spirituality aspires to have one heart and one soul turned to God. This means that working together as a community, which is central to the Augustinian Sisters’ mindset, is important to feel cared for. The health professionals felt cared for when:
- They were able to add their own personal history within the larger history of the Augustinian Sisters’ community and feel the power to recognize themselves in a lineage
- They could take part in a group activity without hierarchy or overvaluation of roles or experiences
- They could share their history, gestures or acts rather than just ideas or opinions
- They felt they were part of a creative group
The group also determined that selfless hospitality contributes to the feeling others are taking care of them and that they have self-worth. Caregivers concluded that these aspects support these feelings:
- Being expected and recognized
- Having the opportunity to contribute to a project that has meaning
- Finding themselves in a climate of shared interests, goals and passions
- At the end of the activity, being brought back to the entrance and feeling that the relationship has been fulfilled
The spirit of the community
During an activity, a professional caregiver addressed an Augustinian Sister to find out if burnout or depression were present in the community. Without denying the reality of the fatigue associated with caring for others and long hospital hours, the Augustinian Sister explained the sisters spent time alone through prayer and always counted on the community as a safeguard to feelings of powerlessness and personal fatigue.
The community always fostered common prayer in order to seek God together. To do this, the Augustinians sisters always prayed in common areas. Their day began with prayers, which helped them in their day-to-day work. In the evening, everyone they met during the day become part of their prayers.
Finally, this exploration with health professionals was rich in teaching and learning; it helped to create a moment of respite that the Augustinian Sisters were renowned for. After the activities, the participants were invited to complete the following sentence: “To take care of caregivers like the Augustinian Sisters is like…” Here are some of the amazing answers:
“Being … in the presence of others”
“Letting yourself be touched by everyone’s stories”
“Getting closer to one another and listening”
“A strong and loving presence”
“Welcoming people with kindness and simplicity”
“Nourishing the senses”
Social Heritage Advisor at the Monastère des Augustines