By Marianne Doi
My introduction to the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles began back in 1960, and actually had a few interludes before taking root in 2011:
My mother, Agnes Miyeko Doi, was born and reared in San Francisco, CA. Her Issei, or first-generation parents, were immigrants from Japan and converted to Catholicism here in the US. Their Japanese mission parish in San Francisco, St Francis Xavier Church, was pastored by a member of the Society of the Divine Word, Fr John Zimmerman, who eventually retired at Santa Teresita. I remember my father driving with all of our family to visit Fr Zimmerman in Duarte in 1960. Being on the holy grounds of Santa Teresita reminded me of my visits to some of the California missions!
In 1981, I was assigned for my first Nursing Clinical Rotation to Santa Teresita Hospital, which at that time was fully staffed with Sisters. As a nursing student, it was very reassuring to be able to visit the hospital chapel before clinical every morning to pray!
In 1995, as Obstetrics Education Coordinator at Pomona Valley Hospital, I returned to Santa Teresita Hospital’s Labor & Delivery Department to give an Outreach In-service for the Labor & Delivery Department. It felt very comfortable to be back at the hospital where I started my nursing journey.
In 2011, while caring for my father after his hip fracture, I attended a retreat at Sacred Heart Retreat House during Lent. This is when Our Lord captured my attention simply through the service in the dining room by the novices and postulants, who were serving with such JOY. That is when I realized how far from that JOY I had gotten through the years, and that I needed to be around that spirit!! During the retreat, I read many of the pamphlets, especially one called “Health Notes”. That is when I made the connection to the Sisters whom I had worked with at Santa Teresita and who taught at some of the Catholic schools with which I was familiar. I thought to myself, I could really serve with these Sisters in their apostolates – Retreats, Healthcare, and Education. I felt like I had found a place I could call “home”. Time would tell.
One Sunday shortly after the retreat, I attended the Latin High Mass at St Therese Church. In the parish bulletin was an ad for volunteers needed at Santa Teresita, which was placed there by Millie Capitano, as Publicity Chair for the Auxiliary, then moderated by Sr Rosario Therese. I later worked very closely with Millie and Sr Rosario Therese as the Auxiliary Secretary.
So began my journey of service at Santa Teresita, a journey which has re-opened my heart and soul to the great unconditional love, mercy, and presence of Our Lord. Our Lord brings us where He wants us in His timing. Our life is transformed by our relationship with our good God, and our relationship with Him is revealed by our life.
Soon after beginning my service at Santa Teresita, we were able to bring our mother to Avila Gardens, an independent living facility also run by the Sisters in Duarte, CA. After losing her husband of 65 years, my mom was able to once again flourish for the next 6 years of her life until she entered into eternity at 99-1/2 years old in November 2017. I also had the privilege of sharing life with her there for 4 of those 6 years. There at Avila Gardens my mom was appreciated and loved for all that she was, as we both found a new “family.” When I once gave her the choice to try the Japanese Retirement Home, she replied: “No, I think I am more Catholic than I am Japanese!”
Serving with the Sisters also engenders in me the sense of being “home”. Home is where “family” abides. Home is where the spirit abides, the spirit of LOVE. Serving our Lord with the Sisters, volunteers, and staff of Santa Teresita, each with our own God-given talents and strengths, makes us united as a family in the Lord, as we learn daily the spirit of St Therese, the Little Flower – to do the little things with great LOVE!