Waikato Hospital’s chaplains in the Chapel. l-r Daniel Sitaram, Jan Calvert, Bruce Sligo, Marie Finn and Sonny Poutapu.
Ngaruawahia-born Marie Finn spent nearly 30 years tending to the spiritual needs of Canadians as part of her Sister of Our Lady of the Missions calling and now she is putting that experience to good use as Waikato Hospital’s new Catholic chaplain.
Sr Marie, 63, has a real sense of being “home” and a strong desire to provide support for people when they are sick or having difficulties in life.
“I’m often taken with the honesty and humbleness of people. Some people have had to go through so much in their life and for them to share that with me, that is humbling, that they trust me with that,” she says.
Sr Marie is the oldest of six children, three boys and three girls. She attended St Paul’s Catholic School in Ngaruawahia before heading to high school at Sacred Heart Girls in Hamilton.
It was while she was at Sacred Heart, where the religious order Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions () taught and provided spiritual guidance, that she became interested herself in joining the order.
For two years after she left school, she worked at Waikato Hospital as a community nurse and a few months before her 21st birthday, she headed south to enter the order.
“It was pretty well a given because I didn’t know any other (religious orders) and the sisters were the ones that I knew and was familiar with.
“Another part about the order that I liked, it is international, you can go overseas on mission and that’s where my interest was.”
For a time she taught at primary schools in Morrinsville, Hamilton and Waitara and then travelled to Rome to do a renewal course.
From there she was missioned to go to Canada where she spent 27 years, more latterly working doing voluntary chaplaincy in Winnipeg’s Health Services Hospital.
“Some of the other sisters told me ‘if you are going to come back to live, you need to do it before you are too old to settle back in’.
“My father Fred was 93 years old and living in Auckland. He hadn’t been well and had moved into Ranfurly Home.
“I came back to spend time with him.”
He died in September and Sr Marie began to think about what type of work she wanted to be involved in. She enjoyed the chaplaincy work in Canada and so she did a Clinical Pastoral Education Course and did her practical at Auckland Hospital.
An opening came up in Waikato when Sr Carmel Horan retired after more than 40 years.
“What appeals to me about hospital chaplaincy is about being able to be present for people when they are struggling with something either in sickness or when they are having difficulties in life and being really a listening presence to them.
“Whenever you are really privileged to hear someone else’s story, and often they are quite intimate parts of their lives, sacred parts of their lives, that’s a gift and I get more from the encounter than I would ever give,” says Sr Marie.
Death for some people is all about the unknown. People go through all kinds of emotions.
“When you’ve had a bit of experience with talking to people it does become a little bit easier, but in the initial stages of facing death, it can be quite hard.
“For me it’s accompanying people with it, being present with them, allowing them to talk about it if they want, or cry, whatever they want to do.
“You always go with where the person is at. I don’t come in with what I believe or what I think should be happening. You try to find the sense of where the person is at with their journey.
“Anger with God is part of it, or blaming. If that’s where the person is at with their journey, my job is to hear that. Sometimes if you worked with the person, or sat with the person long enough, they might move into a different place. Sometimes you don’t get that chance.
“Sometimes when things get really difficult, I just have to let it be and do the best I can. If God is in this moment with this time, with this person, I just need to let them take the course.”