"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

Following in Blandina’s Footsteps

By Associate Angela Anno

(From left to right) Associates Patti Traver, Pat Grubelnik, and Maria Gutierrez inside the John Zay Guest House.Ever since S. Blandina Segale braved the dangers of the Wild West in the late 19th century, Sisters of Charity have been there teaching, healing, walking with and advocating for those most in need. As the numbers of Sisters have declined, and many had to retire, Associates have been stepping up and filling some of those roles, continuing to live out the Charity Charism.

One example can be found at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where three Associates are volunteering at the John Zay Guest House, a free home-away-from-home for critically ill patients and their families across the street from the hospital. They help provide information and support, pray with, and help families and patients settle in and find a safe place in the midst of the fears and uncertainties of facing a critical illness.

The house is named for John Zay, who was a chaplain at the hospital with S. Louise Lears in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “He was a chaplain’s chaplain,” S. Louise said. “When he was talking to you, you were the most important person in the world. Nothing else mattered. I hoped I could be that kind of chaplain.”

S. Louise says the house means so much to his legacy. John was a cancer survivor and heard his call to minister to cancer patients during that experience. He worked on the cancer floor of Penrose Hospital for more than 14 years and had a powerful impact on all he met, including S. Louise.

He passed away in 2004, but his work is continued and honored in this home, often called “the house that love built.” It is a 22-room/suite hospitality house for persons receiving outpatient treatment and families of those receiving extended treatment at the hospital.

Being so near their relatives and medical care without needing to travel or pay for housing is truly a blessing. The John Zay House is just a few steps away from the hospital and provides a place to renew and refresh for people who are distressed because of having a loved one in the hospital.

Since its opening the John Zay House has been mostly full with seven to 10 families on a waiting list—more than enough to fill another house. That second house, the Woody and Millie Ingram Guest House, is being built to meet the growing need.

Three current Associates—Maria Gutierrez, Pat Grubelnik, and Patti Traver—are among those who continue the ministry of hospitality, charity, and presence at the John Zay House. In addition to helping get things in shape so rooms are ready for new guests, answering the door bell, and helping with registration and familiarizing guests with the house, volunteers are present if guests come to them with questions or just need a listening ear.

Maria was the first one to volunteer at John Zay. It was a natural extension of what she had been doing at the hospital since 1980 when she became a Eucharistic minister. She is also involved there in the NODA (No One Dies Alone) ministry where volunteers stay with people who are dying who have no family or friends to be with them.

For Maria, the charism of risking a caring response to the needs of our brothers and sisters fits right in with her commitment as an Associate that she made at the same time as Pat Grubelnik in 2004. Maria first met the Sisters of Charity as a kindergartener in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was so attracted to their mission and ministry that she became a Sister of Charity for 20 years, and continued to live her life after that as a “Sister of Charity on the outside” in ministries of teaching, counseling and spiritual direction. Maria is happy to volunteer and finds that she is blessed by the opportunity to serve.

Pat Grubelnik, who also serves as the Associates Southwest Regional Representative, volunteers on Tuesday afternoons at John Zay. She says the team works tirelessly to make each stay comfortable for the guests at a very difficult time in their lives. Though she still is busy as a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and wife of 59 years, Pat says that now that she’s retired, she is grateful to be able to volunteer both at John Zay and as a lector and Eucharistic Minister at her church. As with most volunteering, Pat finds that she receives more than she gives and often invites others to join her.

Patti Traver and her husband of 53 years, Dave, who are parents of four adult children, have always been active in their church both in San Diego and in Colorado City where she met Pat Grubelnik and began the journey to become an Associate. She then made her commitment in January 2020. Patti learned about the need for volunteers from Pat who had been a volunteer at the John Zay House for about a year. It sounded like something she would be interested in, so she started the process at Penrose Hospital to apply as a volunteer at the John Zay House. She was approved, finished training, and on July 25 had her first morning shift on her own. Duties included taking inventory of the rooms after a family checks out to make sure the next family that uses the room has all that they might need to make their stay as comfortable as possible. The work is hidden and probably unnoticed, but it’s a very important way of loving and caring for those in need.

Through her work at the John Zay House, Patti feels honored to play a small part in providing a place of safety and comfort to families during difficult and stressful times.

The John Zay Guest House in Colorado Springs, Colorado, helps provide housing and care to keep families together during medical treatment.

Contact Us