Vocations of women religious
‘I fell in love with the elderly’: Sister Constance Veit serves at Washington home operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor
Oct 30, 2019
Like many 10th graders beginning their college search as high schoolers, Sister Constance Veit, who is now a Little Sister of the Poor, sought ways to boost her resume -- good grades, extra-curricular activities, and community service.
“My family had a high premium on education,” she said.
While searching for community service opportunities, Sister Constance encountered the Little Sisters of the Poor in upstate New York, where she started volunteering and spending time with the elderly for whom the sisters cared.
“I fell in love with the elderly, unexpectedly,” Sister Constance said. “I didn’t have an understanding or concept of God having a plan for our lives. But I knew in my heart that this is what God made me for.”
As time went on, Sister Constance said she was “drawn in more and more” to the lives of the sisters.
“I had the intuition that there was a connection between what the sisters were doing, caring for the poor, and their joy and relationship with God,” Sister Constance said.
Little by little, she said, she found herself being drawn to their faith.
“I just knew that must be why they were so loving,” she said. “Their joy had to do with God.”
After attending Boston University on a full scholarship to study occupational therapy, she joined the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1984.
“I never really shopped around,” Sister Constance said. “I just knew in my heart of hearts that this is what God has created me for.”
Completing her novitiate in Queens, New York, and continuing formation, like all other Little Sisters of the Poor throughout the world, Sister Constance joined with 39 women from 19 different countries for another year of study at the order’s motherhouse in France.
Having now said her vows 32 years ago, Sister Constance said she knows she can still be sent out anywhere.
“I’m always ready,” she said.
In her current role in Washington, D.C., she serves as the director of communications for the communities of the Little Sisters of the Poor in the United States, and helps with vocations.
Daily life at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, where 10 sisters live, is built around the care of the elderly residents.
“The structure of our day revolves around the lives of our residents,” Sister Constance said. “It’s an apostolate where our lives are truly interwoven with them.”
The sisters’ lives of prayer are intermingled with care for the elderly, ensuring that they are cared for throughout the day, and that if a resident is near death, the sisters keep vigil by their side.
“A Little Sister, in a direct care position with the residents, is basically a house director,” Sister Constance said.
Other sisters, like Sister Constance, do hold more administrative roles, but that does not prevent them from still spending time with the elderly. Each week, Sister Constance hosts a craft afternoon with the elderly residents. One recent project involved making paper for cards that were then sold and gifted.
“My favorite thing in day-to-day life with the elderly is to bring them joy and life,” Sister Constance said. “It brings me the greatest joy to see them still living, experiencing joy.”
Sister Constance also has worked to share the wisdom of the elderly with younger generations, specifically with young adult activities held at the residence, “to experience what the generations can bring one another,” she said.
“I really believe our seniors have a lot to share with young people,” Sister Constance said.
Working with the elderly, for Sister Constance, has been at the heart of her ministry.
“On a deeper level, it’s knowing that I am, with my life and my gifts and talents, putting them to use to defend their dignity and their lives,” Sister Constance said. “I’m giving my life so that they might have quality of life.”
Reflecting upon Saint Pope John Paul II’s saying that one can only truly find themselves through a “gift of self,” Sister Constance said that she found her life’s calling through giving to the elderly.
“In a very personal way, Jesus has asked me to love these elderly people,” she said. “Whatever you feel a passion for, there can be no greater joy than that gift of self...In God’s mystery, the more we give away, the more He gives us.”
Sister Constance laughed, and said, “Isn’t that what God did?”
“There’s tremendous joy in following that path,” she said. “He’ll never leave us impoverished.”