From her experience working side-by-side with women religious, Sister Peggy Mattare, S.S.N.D., has discovered that most sisters are “workaholics.” Always putting the needs of others first, she said, many in the consecrated life don’t make time to take care of themselves.
As the new wellness coordinator for the Atlantic-Midwest Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Peggy is determined to help sisters stay healthy in body, mind and spirit. Her goal is to foster healthy lifestyles so when sisters reach their senior years, they can live to their “full potential.”
“Part of our training taught us that we are here to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ and we did that nonstop,” said Sister Peggy, a Baltimore native. “We want our sisters to live a balanced life. We have to bridle that tendency to work all the time.”
Encouraging sisters to exercise on a daily basis, get the sleep they need and monitor what they eat are all priorities in promoting wellness, she said. Sister Peggy also plans to work individually with sisters to make sure they are seeing their doctors and taking their medication. But Sister Peggy also wants to help women religious think more broadly about wellness.
“Maybe it means getting a massage or using skin cream to keep the skin pliable,” Sister Peggy said. “Or maybe it means going to a concert, seeing a good movie, going out to dinner with friends or taking academic courses just for fun. Wellness isn’t just about going to the doctor.”
Sometimes sisters simply need encouragement to think of their own health, Sister Peggy said. While monitoring the health care needs of sisters in Romania a few years ago, Sister Peggy noticed that many of the elderly sisters were not drinking enough water. So Sister Peggy gave them each a two-liter bottle and told them to fill it with water in the morning and drink it over the course of the day until it was empty by evening.
“It made a difference,” she said.
Just because a sister may be in her 90s doesn’t mean that she can’t be physically, culturally or mentally active, Sister Peggy said. She pointed out that at the School Sisters’ motherhouse in Baltimore, elderly retired sisters are involved in a wide range of programs to stay healthy.
“Age is a state of mind,” she said.