Serving with Compassion

…and caring for all God’s Creation

Sister Leanne Herda

Nurse, holistic healer, wise woman of the mountains—these are a just a few of the faces of Sister Leanne Herda. She is probably best known to the School Sisters of St. Francis as a “pillar” of the Church and community in Williamsburg, Kentucky, where she served for almost 30 years. Since January, 2008, she plies her various trades as an on-call volunteer at St. Joseph Convent, Campbellsport, Wisconsin.

Sister Leanne describes her current ministry as “integrating my education, training, experiences and opportunities into whatever ‘being’ ministry services I am called to do or initiate.” This usually involves companioning sisters in illness, retirement and dying, using her intertwined nursing and pastoral ministry skills. She has traveled on several occasions to be with sisters who are recuperating or moving.

Sister Leanne is a founding member of the American Holistic Nurses’ Association and always considered pastoral care part of her nursing services. In 1974 she completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education and sought a position as a hospital chaplain; but there were few such openings for women then. She took a nursing position at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Milwaukee, where she filled in for the chaplain when he was away. Even in nursing work, Sister found that she could assist patients in the immediacy of their grief, whereas by the time a chaplain would arrive, the patient might be past the spiritual crisis.

In the later 1970s she joined the community’s mission in eastern Kentucky, where her home health skills proved very valuable. Eventually she was the only School Sister in Williamsburg, where she worked in cancer awareness and prevention for the county health department. She herself went through a bout with colon cancer in 2006.

Since relocating to Campbellsport and volunteering at St. Joseph Convent, Sister Leanne finds life-giving opportunities for “sharing holistic practices for living and healing, along with natural healing remedies.” She counts it a significant accomplishment to have life and health, energy and peace at her age, in retirement.

Sister Leanne has mentored people in pastoral ministry in various ways. Knowing how childhood has a profound influence on a person’s life, she encourages forgiveness and reconciliation where possible. She also tries to “promote self-esteem and call attention to others’ gifts.”

Being a School Sister of St. Francis has given Sister Leanne a rootedness in the spiritual life, building on what she experienced within her family. She appreciates the support, encouragement and affirmation received from the community over the years, all of which has helped build her confidence. “Relationships are very important for me.” All those who know Sister Leanne cherish their relationship with this peaceful healer.

Adapted from an article by Sister Jane Russell for the School Sisters of St. Francis Pastoral Ministry Network.