Profile: Suzanne Kathman
Bachelor of Arts, 1990
Executive director, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries
Basic Questions | After graduating with a nursing degree in 1974, Kathman began a 21-year career in critical-care nursing. She spent the last 15 years in the open-heart intensive care unit. “I loved being a critical-care nurse, but somewhere in my 30s, I started to have some of the basic questions like, ‘What is the overall purpose of my life?’ I had the sense something was missing.”
A Shifted Focus | Soon she found her way to Xavier with the intent of earning a BSN. After taking electives in history, however, she shifted focus. For a particular class, she found herself spending a lot of time at the downtown Cincinnati library. “In the course of my presence there, I became very aware of the homeless people coming into the library. They were sitting in there to get out of the cold and were eating out of the garbage cans.”
The Right Place | “I had this movement started in me, and I wanted to do something about this situation.” She mentioned this to a friend at church who suggested she volunteer for Bethany House of Hospitality, a shelter for women and children run by the Sisters of Mercy. “I started volunteering there with the intent of only working a couple of hours each month, and I just felt like I was where I was supposed to be.”
The Right Time | At the same time, she began a separate journey with the Sisters of Mercy. “I felt very much like that was an extension of my family. It felt like I had come home to something that I didn’t know was missing. It was all part of that spiritual discernment. It led me to understand that my call was not to vow religious life, but I did feel called to become a Mercy associate, which entails making a covenant with the Sisters of Mercy to share in their prayer life, their ministry and their community.” Today, she lives in the community house with the sisters.
Making Connections | Kathman also volunteered with the Sisters of Mercy H.O.M.E. (House of Mercy Environment) program, which provides care to low-income seniors. After realizing that these seniors needed more than her once-a-week visits, she came up with the idea to train homeless or low-income women as homecare aides to provide the needed services and break the cycle of poverty. So, in 1993, she founded Healing Connections Associates to implement the nurse aide training program.
Merging Ministries | A few years ago, Kathman began talking to two other Sisters of Mercy ministries about the possibility of combining their efforts. Last April, Kathman led the merger of Healing Connections Associates, the Sisters of Mercy H.O.M.E. program and Mercy Connections into Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, of which she is the executive director. “We couldn’t have been timelier in terms of economy when small non-profits really struggle to raise the resources that they need. We’ve become more efficient. We’ve become more effective. We’ve strengthened our ability to serve the needs of the community. It’s been a great experience.”