Year Joined MKLM: 2021
Ministry: Asilo De Ancianos Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd Old People’s Home) and Missionaries of Charity shelter for men.
Ministry Area: Healthcare and health promotion
Goals of ministry: To accompany abandoned older people in the final years of their lives by engaging them through meaningful activities, music, exercise and heartfelt listening. To accompany the men at the shelter and instill in them again a sense of hope, through physical therapy, meaningful activities and heartfelt listening.
The elders living at the Asilo have been placed there because they are homeless and cannot care for themselves, due to frailty or disability. Most were living on the streets of Cochabamba before coming to the Asilo and none have families willing or able to provide care. Because of the pandemic, volunteers and students who used to come to the Asilo to interact with the elders and offer activities and physical therapy are no longer coming and the limited staff only have time to provide basic physical care. Louise’s ministry provides accompaniment, engagement and focused attention not only on the physical but the emotional and spiritual dimensions of these elder’s lives.
Many of the men who live in the Missionaries of Charity shelter suffer from depression due to their inability to care for themselves, and all are abandoned. This loving, caring community of sisters is the only family they have and is critical to their emotional well-being. Without this support, virtually all of them would be living on the streets of Cochabamba.
Asilo El Buen Pastor was founded in 1910, and its mission is to serve the many abandoned, destitute and disabled older people living in Cochabamba. It is currently under the management of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, and the present population is around 50 individuals. The Asilo does not receive much government funding and is considered one of the poorest in Cochabamba. However, before the pandemic, it was a vibrant place with plenty of activity and volunteers to visit with the residents.
Currently, the staff is very limited, which has resulted in the residents receiving excellent basic physical care but not much in the way of engagement in activities or focused attention. In addition, before the pandemic, there was an outstanding program sponsored by one of the universities to send physical therapy students to the Asilo as part of their training. The residents received basic physical therapy exercises and evaluations as well as occupational therapy and group activities. This program is no longer operational and now the residents do not receive this valuable assistance.
Louise’s ministry is to fill in some of these gaps by giving residents individual attention, providing puzzles and activities for them to improve cognitive functioning and engaging them in basic physical exercises to help slow the deterioration that comes with aging. She also provides a listening ear and empathetic presence.
Louise also serves two days a week in a men’s shelter operated by the Missionaries of Charity (St. Teresa of Calcutta’s congregation). In addition to patients living with AIDS, the shelter provides a home for men suffering from strokes, cancer, mental illness and trauma due to work-related injuries or traffic accidents. Currently there are 19 men living at the shelter. Along with another Maryknoll lay missioner, John O’Donoghue, Louise assists these patients with exercises in the outdoor rehab area and is receiving training to provide basic physical therapy to help them recuperate and/or maintain their current level of functioning. She also provides basic hygiene care and assists with lunch service. The most important part of Louise’s ministry is providing accompaniment and an empathetic presence to these men as they have been traumatized and many suffer from depression.
Louise most recently worked as a pastoral associate for a parish serving a large retirement community. She has also worked as a hospital and hospice chaplain and pastoral care coordinator for several nursing homes in New Orleans. She has volunteered in Florida to provide food and other assistance to those in need, spent three years offering her services to Catholic Volunteers in Florida and Good News Outreach and has been on an immersion trip to the U.S.-Mexico border. She is a member of Pax Christi.
Louise received her bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Maryland, an MBA from the Carnegie Mellon University, and master’s degrees in counseling and in pastoral studies from the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans. Her hobbies are dancing, especially Cajun and Zydeco (from her New Orleans days), reading inspirational biographies and memoirs, gardening, bird watching and working all types of puzzles.