Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - After two years working as a clinical psychologist for Catholic Social Services in Lincoln, Sister Mary Patrice, R.S.M., is on her way back to her community in Alma, Mich.
She will take with her the experience she gained, new insight, and lifelong friendships formed with people in the diocese.
As a Religious Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Patrice is part of a community that focuses on serving the Church and the poor with the utmost in professional achievement.
“We all go on to advanced studies in education or health care,” she said.
Laughing as she recalled the decisions that led her to complete first a master’s degree in psychology and then a doctorate, she added, “I really hadn’t planned on continuing my education… it was out of obedience.”
While completing her doctorate studies at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, in Arlington, Va., Sister Mary Patrice was “matched” for an internship in order to complete her studies.
This rather nerve-wracking procedure is facilitated through a computer portal. Sister Mary Patrice applied through the system and had interviews at five different clinics all over the country, including Catholic Social Services in Lincoln.
Most of the other opportunities were secular clinics, so there was always an element of surprise when a religious sister wearing a habit showed up for the interview. Sometimes, Sister Mary Patrice would be closely questioned about how her faith would influence her practice.
“I kind of enjoyed it actually,” she said. “It was an opportunity to evangelize a little bit.”
After the interviews, Sister Mary Patrice logged back into the portal to rank the clinics in her order of preference. Meanwhile, the clinic representatives were ranking her against other candidates, and the computer generated each match.
“This is where I matched, thank God,” Sister Mary Patrice said.
There was some question about where and how Sister Mary Patrice would live during her internship and post-doctorate work.
“It’s unusual that this would happen… that I would not be able to live with my community,” Sister Mary Patrice said.
Thankfully, the School Sisters of Christ the King were able to give Sister Mary Patrice a place in their home.
“In God’s providence, it’s worked out,” Sister Mary Patrice said. “The Christ the King Sisters have allowed me to live with them, welcomed me in, and have been very generous.”
Likewise, the Marian Sisters were encouraging friends and companions during her two years in Lincoln.
“I have been out to pray and have recreation with them,” Sister Mary Patrice said.
She has lived in the parish of St. Teresa in Lincoln and has become friends with several of the families there, as well.
“Everyone has been welcoming and hospitable,” she said.
Working at Catholic Social Services, Sister Mary Patrice also had an excellent mentor in her supervisor, Dr. Aaron Stratman, director of clinical services.
“He’s been really supportive and everyone who works here has been really great,” she said.
After her internship was completed, she was grateful to be able to continue under Dr. Stratman’s supervision for her year of post-doctorate work. She appreciated his way of being a reliable support but also giving her the freedom to develop as a therapist.
“He’s really clinically astute,” she said. “He’s been a good supervisor.”
Sister Mary Patrice said she’s grown a lot, professionally and personally during her time in Lincoln.
“It’s helped me develop professionally in preparation for service to the Church as I move forward.”
With her license earned, Sister Mary Patrice will be leaving Lincoln in December to return to her community and the practice her community runs at Sacred Heart Mercy Health Center in Alma, Mich. In this practice the sisters provide internal medicine, physical therapy, psychiatric and psychological care.
“We treat anyone in the community,” Sister Mary Patrice said. “We’ll take their insurance, but if they can’t pay, we’ll treat them anyway. We also work at the local hospital.”
As eager as she is to return home, she’s filled with gratitude for her two years in Lincoln.
“God took care of me, considering I had to live away from my community,” she said. It couldn’t have been a better place, Catholic Social Services and the Diocese of Lincoln.”