a sister to all

Ever since Janet Carr met "the sisters" in her Catholic schools in Northern Kentucky, she knew she wanted to become one of them.

In 1965, at age 19, Janet officially became Sister Janet. She was accepted into the Congregation of Divine Providence, a worldwide Catholic community of about 650 educators, health-care professionals, pastoral associates and directors of religious education.

Sister Janet’s work took her to St. Louis, Virginia, South Carolina, Cincinnati, and Lexington. She also spent 10 years in France, serving in an elected five-year term helping to administer the international congregation.

Eight years ago, she became the chaplain and mission leader at Saint Joseph Mount Sterling, a part of the KentuckyOne Health and Catholic Health Initiatives systems. She does a lot of administrative work, but also offers prayers in the Emergency Room, blesses newborn babies, hosts meetings and listens to patients' concerns.

"I get to see the great mysteries of life and death," she says. "New life comes into the world accompanying a life that goes out."

"Sister Janet is a spiritual presence here that is needed on certain occasions," says Eva Maze, a staff nurse. "She is an advocate for what is right, what is honest, what is fair. She makes herself readily available at all hours of the day and night."

"When my husband passed away, she was a big presence for me," Eva adds. "She came to my home and visited me. She cares outside the scope of the hospital."

Her relaxed demeanor is a blessing, especially in the chaos of a hospital. "Sister Janet is the calm in the midst of the storm here," says Lisa Carcamo, the hospital's security manager.

Being well-traveled helps Sister Janet relate to the diverse patient population. “Her experience in being able to tell people about her adventures, being able to connect with so many different people in so many different areas of their lives, it’s a huge benefit," Lisa says.

Sister Janet has two cats and grows roses, lavender and catnip. "If I look deep enough, I can see the presence of a divine creator in all aspects of life," she says.

At age 72, she has no plans to ever retire.

“This is not work for me," she says. "This is my life. I’m not going to stop living."

This story is the result of my 2018 Mountain Workshops assignment. I picked Sister Janet Carr’s name out of a hat and documented her for 4 days.