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Marching to her own drummer
Nurse finds vocation, new career


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Like many young women today, the Congregation of St. Joseph’s Sister Chris March had a successful career and all the things that go with it—money, car, social life. But the registered nurse felt something was missing.

“I was working at a well-known Chicago teaching hospital for more than six years, had my own checkbook, apartment, car and all the things you’d expect a career person to have,” she said. “I went out with friends. We saw practically every live theater production that came to Chicago but despite it all, I felt something was missing in my life. I kept having this ‘inkling’ to join a religious community.”

At about the same time, March was tiring of hospital work and decided to look for another job. The Sisters of St. Joseph, La Grange had an opening for a registered nurse in their motherhouse’s infirmary. The community was familiar to her. They taught March in high school. She accepted the position.

“I thought this was a good way to figure out whether religious life was for me,” said March. “Six months later I decided to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph community.”

She was the first in her family to enter religious life.

March’s relatives didn’t object verbally, but a few of her older family members were not excited about her decision. One was her grandmother.

“My grandmother had an old world, preconceived notion that religious life meant many hardships,” said March. “She thought it would be an unhappy life.”

March’s parents, on the other hand, were quiet about her decision.

“They didn’t want to influence me one way or the other,” she said. “It wasn’t until my father passed away that I discovered he always wanted one of his children to enter the religious life.”

March gave up her nursing job at the infirmary when she entered the novitiate.

“I worked at a parish for a year but realized that wasn’t where my gift was,” March recounted.

She then served at Catholic Charities interviewing prospective residents for the Bethlehem Woods retirement facility that was under development.

Through it all, March found time to get her masters degree in pastoral studies.

The job at Bethlehem Woods changed, so March went back into hospital nursing.

“I worked every shift there was, sometimes double shifts,” she said. “My focus was always on the patient and not the paperwork. Sometimes I’d go on overtime just to finish it [paperwork]. The most difficult part was that I was never home the times I wanted to be. I became crabby, tired.”

March’s friends encouraged her to do something else. One even suggested she become a massage therapist.

“It was an out-of-the-blue’ comment,” she said. “But soon it seemed as though everywhere I turned, I saw an article about massage therapy. To get my friends off my back, I began researching information about it and eventually went to a massage therapy school’s open house. I was inspired by the validity of the program and discovered that real science showed it had medical benefits. I was intrigued.”

She went to an introductory class and was hooked. March asked her community to allow her to become certified as a massage therapist. Her superiors told March to take the next step. She did and couldn’t be happier.

March’s approach is a holistic one.

“As a nurse I can ask questions that relate to the body but I am also looking at the possible spiritual, emotional and psychological reasons that cause a person to be sick.”

Prior to working with a new client, March does an overall assessment of the person and often works in tandem with other health professionals.

“I want to be in total sync with medical doctors, psychologists, grief counselors or whoever else the client may be seeing before beginning my work,” she said. “We look at the person as a whole unit, not separate parts.”

March views “talk time” as an integral part of each session, something she says is often neglected in hospital nursing because of so much paperwork.

She sees her work not just as massage therapy but also in terms of healing touch, gentle bodywork.

“What I do is not just manipulating bones and muscles,” she said. “It’s more like the laying on of hands and touching a person in a gentle, tender, loving way, as Jesus did.”

March now has an office at her community’s La Grange motherhouse where she sees clients—religious and lay—throughout the week.

March’s talents don’t only lie with nursing, massage therapy and the laying on of hands in a tender manner. She’s also talented at working with clay and now has several objects for sale in her community’s relatively new business, Ministry of Arts catalog.

March is glad she listened to that “inkling,” the Holy Spirit talking to her more than 25 years ago. So are her clients.

“I cannot imagine what life might have been like had I not listened to that ‘inkling,’ which told me to seek out a vocation to the religious life. I couldn’t be happier now.”