Covenant newsletter – Summer 2017


In This Issue:

From My Desk to Yours” by Dorothy Heiderscheit, OSF

Beginning, Developing and Continuing Healthy Habits” by Linda Varnam, C-IAYT

A Step in the Right Direction” by Sue Morrison, RN

Listening to the Teacher Within:
Retreat Conference for Women Religious in Congregation Leadership


From My Desk to Yours

By Dorothy Heiderscheit, OSF

This time of year has many celebrations.  It has been no different for us.  We celebrated two events this spring that I wish to share.

The first event was the Accreditation Canada visit in May as part of our licensing process.  A site visit always offers us the opportunity to review and reflect on our services and our service delivery.  It also reminds us of the blessings we receive in providing support to Clergy and Religious.  We are grateful for the wisdom our visitors shared with us and their support for our ministry.

The second event was the closing of our 50th celebration on May 11th with our Annual Benefit Dinner.  Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation gave the keynote address on Pope Francis’ image of the Church as a field hospital after battle:

the image of a church as a field hospital is not just a simple, pretty poetic metaphor; from it we can derive an understanding of both the church’s mission and her sacraments of salvation.  Field hospitals by their very nature indicate a battle ground, a struggle, suffering, confusion, emergency, and they foster dialogue and encounter, conversation, accompaniment, consolation, compassion and the binding of wounds. …Wounded healers offer many things: knowledge, resources, and creative problem solving. But what they offer more than anything else is that most elusive, yet most important, spiritual and psychological experience: hope. … Hope becomes even more urgent as we see the world around us so divided and in such disarray. I believe that the most important thing we priests and religious can do for others is to encourage them not to lose hope. Without hope, there is little motivation to face wounds, to heal, and to become the change that we wish to see around us. To encounter another human being who has given us hope to continue our journey is a grace and blessing.”

At that same celebration we honoured the life and legacy of J.J. Barnicke, one of the original initiators of the Southdown organization.  Thomas McCarthy, longtime friend and current board member of the Emmanuel Convalescent Foundation spoke of Mr. Barnicke:

“I know for certain that the good that people do in this life lives on in our hearts and remains forever. The memory of Joe Barnicke is alive and well, as the mention of his name brings a smile to your face, and evokes strong feelings of gratitude and admiration for all that he gave and accomplished.  We learned from him that giving is far more rewarding than receiving, and that in helping others, we are truly helping ourselves…. The single most dominant influence and guiding force in the life of Joe Barnicke was always his rock solid faith. It dominated every move he made, and it shone like a beacon for all to see. He wore his faith proudly on his sleeve as a badge of honor. So the most pertinent question for all of us this evening is “how does his example resonate in our own lives and bring real meaning to everything we do.”  Our short span of life is like a few threads in a tapestry. Sometimes in our confusion, we see it from the underside, with all its knots, tangles, and imperfections.  Through our faith however, we realize that our creator sees it from the other side, in all its beauty and splendor.”

The message, and the gift, of both of these speeches is the inspiration to see the hand of God in all we do.  Each of us embodies and shares the gift of hope and faith with so many others who are on this journey.  During this season of Pentecost let us remember the gift of hope, faith, and yes, charity for all.  Thank you for the ways you pass this fervor on to others.

Blessings on your summer activities,

Dorothy Heiderscheit, OSF, MSW, ACSW, RSW

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Beginning, Developing and Continuing Healthy Habits

By Linda Varnam, C-IAYT

We are all aware of the benefits of regular exercise. Research demonstrates that no matter the age, lifestyle, or health status exercise can improve the quality of life and reduce the risk of early death. Present research is making links to suggest that exercise leads to less depression and better memory, and could possibly be the most effective treatment to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease (“The New Science of Exercise,” Oaklander, Mandy, Time Health, Sept 2016). So if we know we should be exercising, what gets in the way of regular physical fitness? The barriers that tend to be commonplace are lack of time, lack of motivation, and lack of knowledge. During times of transition, these barriers can intensify, resulting in some individuals completely ceasing all physical activity.

Transitions are a normal and necessary part of life. A transition period is the end of one way and the opportunity to embrace a different perspective. In terms of fitness and self-care, I feel there are three periods of transition in the program at Southdown—arriving, preparing to leave, and moving into continuing care. These are the times when previous ways of approaching self-care through exercise either fail, diminish or need to change due to the new environment. I would like to suggest ways to overcome the barriers to fitness during transition and embrace this time as an opportunity for a renewed sense of commitment to self-care through exercise.


Transitioning to the residential program at Southdown undoubtedly involves a disruption of what has been a normal routine prior to arrival. Southdown serves an international community, hence, there is often a significant change in temperature and environment. The residential program is structured with a daily routine that differs from a prior routine. These elements can be barriers to exercise. I think of the arrival at Southdown and consequent participation in all that the program offers as an opportunity to embrace all aspects of healing including exercise. The key factor here is to be open to new experiences whether that means participating in an unfamiliar activity or practising a new technique. Setting a fitness goal at this point is essential to firmly establish motivation for exercise. The goal can very easily reflect other treatment goals, such as, committing to regular exercise for mood management and sleep hygiene, or making time for prayer with walks in nature.

Preparing to Leave

During a stay at Southdown, there is an opportunity to experience the benefits of regular and consistent exercise. Many residents who have previously found a lack of time as a major barrier to exercise now find ways to build daily routine with scheduled and unscheduled fitness activities. This is a perfect time to start recording some of the personal benefits of exercise. I strongly suggest keeping a fitness calendar that records frequency, duration, intensity and type of exercise as well as individual response. Making note of the benefits, such as, increased energy, improved mood, better sleep, independence and so on will act as a reminder of one’s reasons for regular exercise. While in residency, I recommend thinking about practical ways in which to continue with daily exercise. This may include establishing the location of a local swimming pool or a walking trail in the home community. Sometimes, it may require a discussion with leadership about possible resources available to support daily exercises. The key factor here is to set a realistic strategy into a personal growth plan to seal the commitment.

Continuing Care

The transition home to the current or new community can again result in barriers to exercise. There are many things to consider during this time. With the intensity of this transition it is easy to neglect the daily exercise routine. There are some ways to overcome these barriers. The key is to be consistent with exercise rather than doing short bursts or feeling guilty for lack of doing exercise. Planning ahead is essential. Using a calendar or day planner to map out exercise times for the week ahead can be helpful. Treat this appointment with self with as much respect as the appointment with anyone else. Make sure that the time is realistic, for example, scheduling exercise at the end of the day can be a barrier because the energy and motivation is low. If you are a busy person be prepared for an unexpected opportunity to exercise. When travelling, carry a gym bag, hiking shoes or swim suit to take advantage of timely moments, such as a cancelled appointment or impromptu outdoor lunch hour. Also, continuing with the fitness calendar may help with noting your personal responses to exercise.

This is an important time to put into place the skills acquired at Southdown. It is essential to think of exercise as part of the normal daily routine for self-care. Most importantly: enjoy! Choose activities that you like, befriend others that enjoy the same activities and boost each other’s motivation. Make your exercise routine something that you really don’t want to miss.

Visit our new Resource Centre at website for more information and watch the healing movement videos at:

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A Step in the Right Direction

By Sue Morrison, RN

At Southdown we provide foot care as part of our holistic approach to living. In my practice as an advanced foot care and diabetic foot care nurse at Southdown, I have noted that it is common for residents to express to me that this is the first time they have received professional foot care. Self-care is at times under-valued by clergy and religious who focus their time and energy on caring for and serving others. Taking the time to care for their feet often falls low on their priorities.

Some residents have shared with me that as leaders, and figures of inspiration, they have found it humbling to be on the “other side of the foot basin.”  It can be embarrassing to expose a part of ourselves that is less than perfect, and may even “smell.” In a Church that focuses so heavily on serving others, many find it difficult to be on the receiving rather than the giving side of service. Yet in John 13 1-17, Jesus used “foot care” as an example to his Disciples that both giving service, and at times, humbly receiving service are required in our journey to love one another.

It may seem that our feet are a less important or prestigious part of our body than the eyes or hands, but our feet are incredible “feats of engineering” – no pun intended. They contain more than 50 bones, 60 joints, 200 muscles, tendons and ligaments that hold them together, yet allow them to move and support several hundred pounds. Over a lifetime they endure tons of force. Yet these “feats of engineering” are often ignored.  Frequently we suffer through foot related conditions because they are only our feet.

So why should we bother caring for our poor neglected feet? Foot related conditions can have a negative impact on all spheres of well-being. If you are unable to walk comfortably, you are likely to unknowingly adjust your gait to decrease the pain. As a result of the gait adjustment, joints are impacted leading to future deterioration and possible surgery. Pain results in a decrease in physical activity. This can lead to weight gain and all of the related issues. The emotional and spiritual consequence of pain such as depression and hopelessness, contribute to the negative impact of foot care neglect.

What is medical foot care? It is not a pedicure. The purpose of medical foot care is not cosmetic, although generally it will improve the appearance of the feet. The purpose of medical foot care is healthy feet. Medical foot care involves assessing the holistic wellness of the individual. It includes risk identification such as diabetes, heart disease or osteoarthritis, assessment of the skin, musculoskeletal and vascular health, as well as inspection of nails and footwear.  An individualized care plan is established based on the nursing diagnosis. Residents who have been diagnosed with diabetes have an increased risk of developing nerve damage, decreased circulation and infections of the lower limbs and feet. Complications can lead to serious health problems including leg or foot ulcers and amputations. A comprehensive diabetic foot assessment and treatment regime can reduce significantly the number and severity of occurrences.

Treatment is performed with the goal of promoting foot health and prevention of lower limb complications. Treatment includes simple cutting and filing of nails, debridement and thinning of thick nails, reduction and padding of painful calluses, removal of corns, release of ingrown toe nails, treatment of fungal nails and fungal skin (athlete’s foot), prevention of lower limb complication, recommendations for appropriate footwear and referrals to more specialized services as required.

Another very important component of foot care is the provision of health teaching. Some residents may require ongoing professional foot care as part of their continuing care plan.  Depending on the situation and circumstances that the resident may be entering after Southdown, professional foot care may not be accessible or realistic. During residency, health teaching and instructions are provided that will assist the resident to continue with proactive self-foot care after their discharge.

The desire to love and serve others as Jesus did will continue to be the core of clergy and religious life. My hope is that those who pass through Southdown and engage on the journey of wholeness will discover that foot care is another “spoke in the self-wellness wheel” that will help enable them to continue their walk with God and fulfill their purpose of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

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