Blessings go both ways for volunteer Mininder Kaur

Volunteer Mininder KaurUnexpected blessings have blossomed from Mininder Kaur’s simple request to Sister Marcia Ziska for spiritual direction late last year.

Mininder’s chaplaincy studies with Roshi Joan Halifax, abbot of the Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico, required that Mininder have a spiritual director. A chaplain at Lawrence Memorial Hospital suggested that Mininder consider Sister Marcia for that role.

“I contacted her, and then I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I hope I’m not going into some conversion ritual,” Mininder said.

Not only were those fears allayed by the end of her first visit with Sister Marcia, but Mininder also discovered in the Benedictine sisters a powerful group of role models for acceptance, women who welcomed her to the Mount without regard to faith or skin color.

 “That’s a very unique thing to experience as an immigrant, as a person of color,” she said. “You walk into a place where nobody looks like you and yet you’re able to drop your defenses and be a human being.”

Growing up in India, she had not had much contact with Christians. As an adult, most of her experience with Christianity had an evangelical overtone that disturbed her for its lack of respect for others’ spirituality. She didn’t experience that with the Mount St. Scholastica sisters.

“I found the sisters to be the epitome of tolerance,” she said. “They have a non-judgmental, open-minded appreciation of who I am.”

Mininder spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at the Mount, loving the peace and the energy she felt there. That’s when Sister Loretta McGuire, volunteer director, asked if Mininder would like to consider volunteering at the Mount. Mininder had already been thinking it would be lovely to stay a little longer, so her answer was “yes.”

In January and February, she arrived at the Mount on Fridays, then spent the long weekend performing a variety of tasks at the Sophia Center. Some days she helped with hostess duties, setting out refreshments for groups. Other days she worked in the office, and still others, in the library. She also watered the dozens of plants in the building.

“The bottom line is, I did anything they asked and it was an honor and privilege to do it,” she said.

"Mini was gift to us, not only by the work she did at Sophia but by her presence to us and to our guests,” said Sister Carol Ann Petersen, Sophia Center director. “She has such a peaceful and joyful spirit. Mini was very present to each individual person and she made our world a little bigger by bringing a different perspective. Our God became bigger as we recognized and celebrated hopes and values we hold in common and as we welcomed God's presence in each other."

As she volunteered, Mininder said she observed how the sisters walked the talk of hospitality. “It is in everything they do, the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they eat their food. It’s so natural to them that they don’t even know it’s something special.

“To walk into their presence is to learn, and that’s what I’m learning from them: to be open to lots of different points of view in a graceful way. That’s a gift the whole world needs.”

The sisters, in turn, were impressed by Mininder.

“Our first conversation went to the depth of her spirituality and her passion to invite young people to spirituality,” said Sister Anne Shepard, prioress.

Mininder, who is a medical consultant with the state of Kansas, will decide this year the direction she plans to take with her chaplaincy studies. She may work with those who are dying, or focus on environmental or women’s issues.

She will carry a bit of Mount St. Scholastica with her wherever she goes: Another of the requirements of the chaplaincy program is to create a rakusu, a ceremonial garment worn after taking the vow to serve. Sister Marcia donated the fabric for Mininder’s rakusu, Sister Sylvia Kenkel helped sew it, and Sister Benedicta Boland provided a small Benedictine medal to tuck inside.

***

Mount St. Scholastica offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities, both in Atchison and at the Keeler Women’s Center in Kansas City, Kan. You can commit to as little as an hour or as long as a year, sharing your unique gifts or helping out where you’re the most needed. Contact Sister Loretta McGuire at 913-426-0726 or lorettamc at mountosb.org to learn more.