Sister Janet Carr, CDP, director of spiritual care for Saint Joseph Hospital and Saint Joseph East in Lexington and Saint Joseph Mount Sterling, has held quite a few different professional roles over the last 50 years, but one thing never changed — her faith and devotion to sharing the light and comfort of Jesus with everyone she meets.
Born in January 1946, the native Kentuckian grew up in Woodlawn with eight siblings before entering the convent to become a Sister in the Congregation of Divine Providence. She then worked as a first-grade teacher, director of religious education at the parish and diocesan levels and many other leadership roles throughout her ministry.
“I have often said that the most rewarding thing about my ministry is also where I feel most privileged — to be allowed to be with another person or family when they are at their most vulnerable, to be welcomed and accepted into their intimate space when they are experiencing their most profound emotions,” Sister Janet said.
Channeling Care Across the Globe
Once a congregational leader in France for 10 years, Sister Janet said traveling the world to bring compassion and healing to others was a her mission, which included memorable sojourns throughout Europe, West Africa, Ecuador and Madagascar.
“I have had wonderful opportunities to visit places where our Sisters are living and working, often in places of great beauty but also abject poverty,” she said. “The poverty and life I have witnessed in many of these countries gives me a perspective and appreciation for hospitality, simplicity and a resiliency that I will always hold in my heart.”
Eager and confident that she could use her skills in new ways, Sister Janet said hospital chaplaincy was calling, so she enrolled in a two-year residency of clinical pastoral education in the Fetal Care Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Soon after, in 2010, The Women’s Hospital at Saint Joseph East in Lexington opened, and Sister Janet became the new chaplain there before accepting another role as mission leader and chaplain at the new Saint Joseph Mount Sterling facility a year later. She also stayed involved in community health coalitions while promoting and upholding the Catholic identity and social teachings of the hospital.
“Locally and on-site, I would say simply my role is to be available to patients, families and staff to provide a rooted, steady, calming and reassuring presence during the precious and vulnerable moments of their lives, exemplifying the healing ministry of Christ,” Sister Janet said.
Providing Peace and Prayers Through the Pandemic
COVID-19 has been a very challenging time for all, but perhaps more so for the patients and families directly affected by it who are unable to be together and must use tablets and cellphones to connect. It is during moments like these that Sister Janet is greatly appreciated.
“Families of COVID-19 patients at the end of life are allowed a limited visit, and it can be a very emotional time for them,” Sister Janet said. “Understanding and sensitivity is needed in accompanying them through this already traumatic experience. It is holy ground, it is sacred space, and I am witness. I also find this the most challenging because I believe I am there representing something much greater than myself and how do I let that Spirit flow through me without getting in the way?”
Sister Janet also pours her energy and goodwill into the staff who work around the clock caring for their patients — a gift that helps them through some of the tough spots.
“Every day our coworkers have shown up and given so much of themselves while they personally may be dealing with losses and uncertainties,” she said. “As Pope Francis said recently, ‘we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed. All of us called to row together.’”