Sr. Mary R. Skopal, SSJ, BCC
Sr. Mary Skopal, SSJ, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, joined the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) in 1986, and was certified in 1988, thus serving the NACC for 30 years, almost 30 years as a board certified chaplain. The SSJ’s mission statement reminds us of Sr. Mary’s own purpose, “We live and work so that all people may be united with God and with one another.”
Sr. Mary’s colleagues admire the way she seamlessly balances her work at Bon Secours, the many hours dedicated to NACC, and her contributions to her Sisters of St. Joseph and her family. Her ability to do all of this comes from her deep felt commitment to justice and the call to accompany others in their journey to health and wholeness. As a director, Sr. Mary is extremely supportive of the chaplains and knows how to either reassure or motivate, depending on the situation.
Sr. Mary has served the NACC faithfully and generously in Certification. She served on the NACC Certification Commission as one of the first two Commission members who were not a CPE Supervisor. She diligently and thoroughly revised the renewal of certification process. Her gift for detail allowed chaplains renewing their certification to have clear and precise directions on what and how to submit for renewal of certification. She continues to serve as chair of the Certification Appeals Panel where her great sense of respect and fairness for the appellant and interviewers involved brings a remarkable integrity to the appeals process.
When you meet Sr. Mary you are immediately struck by her humility, her attention to you, her quiet confidence rooted in her own religious calling, her professional vocation, and her faith in God’s work. She creates an aura of contemplative peace that draws people to the sense of purpose of what they are about, whether it is holding a meeting, conversing with a colleague, being in an interdisciplinary team setting, or tending to a patient or family member. Sr. Mary’s ministry continues to be a source of inspiration and encouragement for all men and women who are following their own calling as chaplains within health care.
Three specific areas characterize Mary’s ministry: authenticity, transformation and kindness. Sr. Mary is truly herself. She is authentic. There is a beauty in self-acceptance. She knows who she is and lives out of that knowledge. By doing so she inevitably invites others to discover who they are; to love who God made them to be; to recover from their long awkward and wayward journey to find a way home within. As minister and leader this quality of ‘true self’ has come to change not only individuals but a whole community within the Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, as her transparency allows God’s love to shine through her, embracing those most in need. Her way of being a minister transforms the ministry. As she brings herself to work, her ministry becomes a vessel through which others can find themselves and God. Her example teaches others what chaplaincy means and invites them to live out their gifts in generous service. Her gentle and kind approach to each person establishes a very safe zone for people to enter into their own story and begin to knit the broken pieces of their life together in wholeness and holiness. Thus, she is not only a skilled and insightful chaplain – she holds a wonderful capacity to bring people to ‘health and wholeness’ as the Bon Secours mission statement indicates.
The acknowledgement of Sr. Mary’s ministry and service is a well-deserved gesture that not only affirms a lifetime of dedicated service and care for others but holds out to all of us a wonderful light showing us the way.