Sr. Carla Rutter certainly keeps herself busy! You can find her four days a week volunteering at Akron Children’s Hospital Boardman either working reception for the pediatric offices, assisting the Palliative Care Department, or cuddling babies in the Special Care Nursery.
She enjoys everything she gets to do in her volunteer capacity, but she especially enjoys the time she gets to spend in the Special Care Nursery, which is a step-down unit from the NICU.
“I usually go in for three or four hours and simply cuddle babies, which is absolutely the best time of my week,” Sr. Carla said. “In the close to two years I’ve been cuddling, I’ve probably cuddled about 60 different children. You have to volunteer in other capacities in the hospital and the system before they will accept you to the cuddler training. I volunteered a good year before I went into the training. They also limit the number of people they accept to the program.”
Sr. Carla also volunteers as a chaplain and Catholic studies instructor at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. She teaches classes on Catholicism, prayer, and spirituality to the inmates incarcerated there; she also visits with them at their cells, brings in spiritual materials they’ve requested, like a bible, rosary, or medal, and brings communion to the Catholic inmates.
She had driven by the facility many times over the years when she travelled back to the Villa but never paid it much attention. That all changed three and a half years ago when she drove by one day and wondered what the prison was like, who was there, and what their needs were.
“I really believe in our mission as a congregation to meet the needs of those who are on the margins, and I've done a lot of work over my years in ministry with people who are on the margins in a lot of different ways. Maybe it was because I kept going by it. Maybe for years it was just implanting,” Sr. Carla said of her decision to pursue the ministry. “There wasn't anything really-it wasn't like this flash-it was just this sense of ‘I wonder what it would be like.’ And certainly, these people are among the most marginalized people in our society. It's certainly people that are pretty much forgotten or looked upon as less than human, and I just can't stand when people are looked upon as less than human. So, if I can do something that helps to humanize them and let them know they're worthwhile and that God loves them, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve come to love doing this ministry.”
When asked how her volunteer work has impacted her own faith, Sr. Carla said that it’s strengthened it.
“For me, it's a daily reminder to look for God in unexpected places. We sometimes think that God is in this place or should be in this place. Of course, I would expect to meet God in church. Of course, I would expect to meet God here in the [HM] Community,” she said. “But I think sometimes we forget that God is everywhere, so it's those unexpected places that speak to me more profoundly than the ones that I expect. I go into the prison and I meet God there-I really do. I go into the Special Care Nursery and I meet God there in the babies and the families and the staff—in the ones who are struggling with life. And it really strengthens my faith that God is with all of us and none of us are so all together that we don't need this wonderful loving God.” #sistersofhm #villamariapa