Category: Health Magazine, Winter 2023

Title:A listening presence

Author: Interview by Jane Varner Malhotra
Date Published: December 1, 2022

Meet Sister Celeste Mokrzycki, SSJ, chaplain for the School of Nursing and the School of Health

a woman with glasses in a purple sweater smiles
“Art not only helps us get to know ourselves and what’s going on interiorly, but it’s also a great centering meditation exercise,” says chaplain and artist Sister Celeste Mokrzycki. Photo: Phil Humnicky

What drew you to Georgetown?

At the Sisters of Saint Joseph (SSJ), we follow Ignatian spirituality, so there’s a lot of resonance here for me. I’m excited about sharing the Jesuit tradition and Ignatian prayer practices. I’m here to be a listening presence, to accompany. I’m also drawn to the diversity of the campus and of the interreligious campus ministry team. It’s important for me as an SSJ to work for unity and oneness under God. I also have a call from the chapter to serve women and children. The fact that the nursing school is predominantly female drew me, especially knowing they had been without a chaplain for three years.

What are some of your hopes for your work as chaplain?

To build community among faculty, students, and staff. We’re all returning from this virtualness, needing to support each other, facing the toll of the pandemic on all of our lives. I’m hosting coffee hours to provide an opportunity for people to meet. I’m a part-time chaplain, on campus half the week. I’m also an artist so as part of my ministry, I teach painting at a community center in South Jersey. I’m obviously here to help meet spiritual needs. But also creativity is a need, and art is another way that we can delve into who we know we are, and also who God is for us. I’m hoping to offer some creative opportunities.

What is a way you connect painting and ministry?

I was just at the national meeting for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. I served as the artist for the event, an extremely powerful experience. I was invited to listen through the whole conference and paint in response to it. We each have a unique way to respond to a call to serve the common good. Born in Poland, I emigrated to this country when I was 5, so I have a special love and compassion for immigrants. Recently I went to Poland and lived with nuns to help Ukrainian refugees. I went to the train station and there were a lot of volunteers already. I remember thinking, ‘What can I offer?’ I walked into a playroom where families were waiting, and I saw crayons there. With the mothers’ permission, I drew portraits of the children every morning. I watched the transformation that would happen in the child—from a sad, traumatized face to a smile. For that 15 minutes, they forgot what was happening in their lives and returned to innocence.

What are you most looking forward to in your chaplaincy?

Experiencing the blessings of being in this extremely diverse community that values all the aspects of my spirituality and calls me to live it in an even deeper way. Walking with people, sharing life, building relationships—I love being with and for people.

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