Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cambodian Diary by Sr. Ann Catherine Veierstahler

Last year I had the pleasure of working side by side with Sr. Ann Catherine Veierstahler, SCSJA, RN,BSN at my parish's Ministry Fair.  We had the good fortune (on my part, anyway) of adjoining booths. I was there promoting Roses for Our Lady and she was promoting advocacy for veterans, as she spends much of her time now that she is retired volunteering at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Woods, Wisconsin.   Sr. Ann Catherine, a Sister of Charity of St. Joan Antida, was kind and helpful to me, encouraging me to learn about the needs of our veterans as well as showing an interest in Roses for Our Lady.  She is a registered nurse who has spent many years serving those with mental illness, the homeless and the elderly in nursing homes.  She has championed the care of those struggling with addictions and mental illness through her organization Hope to Healing.  Her personal story of her own lifelong struggle with mental illness found on the Hope to Healing website is a must-read.  As someone who has struggled through my own lengthy bout of depression, I found comfort in learning that Sr. Ann has also coped with mental illness and has not only learned to successfully live with it, but has also done so much to help others who struggle to live day to day with the unique suffering that comes from mental illness.

Sr. Ann's life story includes another experience that few can claim to share.  From February to July of 1980, she traveled to Cambodia as a Red Cross Volunteer to assist the refugees living in the camps.  She has recently made her story of pictures and experiences written while in Cambodia into an e-book so that others can read, remember and learn from her experience in the hopes that our future will be filled with peace.  Her story is one of a war-ravaged time and place from the perspective of a woman of faith.  She shares her hopes for the people she cares for, her difficulties in finding a Mass to attend, her friendships with her co-workers and even her homesickness.  I was especially moved by the vivid and colorful pictures and stories about young mothers and children.  Sr. Ann's missionary story is filled with words of prayer and scripture, ponderings about the people in the photos, artwork and facts that piece together a moment in history that few can even begin to comprehend.

Her story is especially meaningful to me because one of my co-workers and a dear sweet friend of mine, Chue, who is the same age as me, had spent time in a refugee camp in Thailand when she was a  pre-teen before coming to the United States in 1979.  I shared Cambodian Diary with Chue and it brought tears to her eyes as she remembered those days that had such an impact on her life.  Many of Chue's life experiences are similar to those which Sr. Ann shares in Cambodian Diary.  How easy and simple my life has been compared to those who have had to leave their homes due to war!

I am so grateful to Sr. Ann for sharing her Cambodian Diary with me and I pray that you will find your heart filled with gratitude as well.  Sr. Ann says:  "If this diary touches the heart of even one person to realize we are all one in the world, the mission of this website and diary will be accomplished."  After having read and prayed over the images and words in Sr. Ann's Cambodian Diary  I am pleased to share her story here in the hopes that more than one heart will be touched.    Please take the time to read Cambodian Diary to learn from our past and then do what you can to work toward a peace-filled future.


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    1. Thank you for your input Summer. I pray that reading Sr. Ann's diary will deeply move you!

  2. Sister Ann Catherine VeierstahlerOctober 6, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Thank you for sharing my diary, Anne. We sometimes forget that war affects so many people. What would Jesus do? Of course he taught us to embrace our enemies ~ they will know we are Christians by our love.
    I am deeply touched by your blog and your comments. I know that God cares through very special like you! Thank you.
    Sister Ann Catherine Veierstahler, SCSJA
    Sister of Charity of St. Joan Antida

    1. Sr. Ann, It is an honor for me to share your story. Thank you for all that you do to serve our Lord in His littlest ones in both times of war and peace.

  3. I was especially interested in Sr. Ann Catherine's mental illness. I surfed over to hope to healing site, and read with interest her honest "I am one of them" story.

    My life hasn't been as traumatic as hers, but I could relate to her desire to die and the temptations of that desire. I wrote on my blog about my depression, but I wasn't completely honest. I was too ashamed to admit that I attempted suicide - I merely alluded to it. Perhaps I should re-think that.
    I dare to write of here on your blog Anne, because of your long struggle. I've never sought out blogs that focus on depression, but Tom, (Do Not Be Anxious) asked me to look into "Sweat the small stuff", hoping I could help. (I see he sent you there also). Perhaps between the two of us and any others who read and respond to her, can help.

    I read both posts you left for her to read, and drew encouragement from them, finding a nudge to write more honestly about my own dark nights of the soul.

    I wrote of it in capsulized form on this post: You might be able to relate.

    1. Maryellen,

      Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your struggles with depression. The less stigma that mental illness carries, the easier it will be for those who suffer from it to seek the help they so desperately need.

      God bless you!