Sister Maria Helps Those in Need as an Art and Sandplay Therapist:
Sister Maria has many functions as an art therapist. Three days a week, she serves two religious congregations in Milwaukee. In describing her ministry with the sisters, she states, “I am just present to them. I listen to their needs and we explore possibilities. Some days it is learning how to paint and on other days it is learning how to cope.” The sisters have many of the same psychological and spiritual needs as other elders—coping with change and loss, dealing with illness, experiencing the beginnings of dementia, being anxious or depressed, or wanting to look deeper at certain life issues—even pending death. Through art-making and sandplay experiences these needs are explored. Sandplay and art therapy are recognized as effective therapeutic tools. The tactile, nonverbal experience of the sand and the use of miniatures in sandplay and the use of varied art media help promote awareness of deeper emotional issues.”
Sister Maria also ministers in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, serving at Ascension St. Michael’s Hospital in their Behavioral Health Residential Treatment Program for adults. She facilitates a weekly art therapy group at the residence and also sees individuals for therapy in her office, located in the outpatient clinic next door to the residence. There, they too have an opportunity to explore art and sandplay therapy as they look at personal issues surrounding their struggle with an addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs. Addiction affects not only their lives but the lives of their families, loved ones and perfect strangers.
In addition, Sister Maria ministers one day a week at Ascension Mercy Hospital in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where she does art therapy groups on two floors: adult behavioral health (ages 18—64) and geriatric behavioral health (ages 65 and older). She works with the doctor and staff to help patients cope with life. They may have chronic or acute issues such as detoxing from alcohol or other drugs, psychosis, depression, mania, or anxiety. For some, they struggle with suicidal/ homicidal ideation or have attempted suicide.
Sister Maria has ministered for many years in a variety of roles, including graphic designer for most of her adult life and as an art teacher in elementary education at the former Mother of Perpetual Help School in Milwaukee and St. Francis Borgia School in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. She has served her congregation in General and Provincial leadership, served on hospital boards sponsored by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother and has worked in communications and marketing as an editor, designer and photographer. As a Franciscan Sister, she was for many years the Spiritual Assistant to a Secular Franciscan fraternity. Today, in addition to her weekly work as an “Art Therapist with Psychotherapy License” in Wisconsin, she designs and helps coordinate an annual Busy Person’s Retreat at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Thank you, Sister Maria, for your kindness and compassion in helping others over the years!