By Laura Schreiner 
*Originally published in the fall 2012 edition of Stritch Magazine

Twenty years ago, Jane Lord, A.D.N., ’88, could not have imagined how painful her spiritual journey would be. But, even in the midst of her struggles, she never lost sight of her purpose.

A woman of strong faith, Lord has spent her life working to fulfill God’s plans. After graduating from Stritch, she worked as a triage nurse in the Milwaukee area. In 1991, she moved to Beaver Dam and began working in hospice nursing.

“It takes a very special kind of person to work in hospice care,” said Lord’s daughter, Kelly Dries, M.S.N., ’03, who is the newly appointed dean of the Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing and attributes much of her passion for nursing to her mother’s lifelong example of compassion. 

Lord demonstrated this compassion through hospice visits where she spent a great deal of time with individuals nearing the end of their lives. She provided health care to patients and gave solace and comfort to the grieving families through her faith and spirituality.

Although no one knew it at the time, Lord was about to prove just how remarkable her spirit was.

In 1994, Lord was driving to a hospice patient’s house in Beaver Dam when an 18-wheel semitrailer truck sped through a stop sign at more than 65 miles per hour and broadsided her car.

Lord’s vehicle was crushed, and she suffered devastating physical injuries, including structural damage, torn ligaments, and multiple internal injuries. Her soul and sense of purpose, however, only grew stronger.

“At that moment, my nursing career as I knew it ended, but my spirituality soared!” Lord said.

Even while bedridden during her recovery, Lord never felt sorry for herself or gave up. Since she was not able to do any physical work, she began to challenge herself intellectually. Lord took classes to learn both sign language and Spanish so that she might serve others in a different way.

“She has always had a sense of purpose,” Dries said.

That sense never wavered, even during her painful physical rehabilitation. Through hard work and strength of spirit, Lord made great progress in her recovery.

“I am convinced my strength came from the Holy Spirit,” she said.

Lord also knew, however, that she would never be able to return to the physical demands of hospice nursing. Instead of giving up the career that she loved, she sought new ways to use her medical skills to help others in the next phase of her life.

“Always remember, God is calling each one of us on a unique journey,” Lord said. “We all have a specific mission in life.”

In 1995, only one year after her accident, Lord became involved with Stephen Ministries, an organization that trains laypeople to counsel and support members of their congregations and communities. The following year, she graduated from the parish nursing program at Marquette University and became the first parish nurse in Beaver Dam.

As a parish nurse, Lord cared for the physical, mental, and spiritual health of many people. She advocated for health promotion and counseled individuals with specific ailments.

“I may never again be able to be a nurse and lift people physically,” Lord said. “But now I can lift them spiritually.”

In May 2011, Lord found a new sense of fulfillment in her own spiritual journey as she became a covenanted School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) associate, which calls her to participate in the charism and spirit of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. As a layperson, she considers it a very privileged distinction to share in the Sisters’ spirituality and educational service.

For nearly three years, Lord worked closely with her mentor, Sister Joan Emily Kaul, and studied the philosophy and rules of the Sisters before she could make her commitment as an associate. During the preparation, Lord also attended meetings and workshops and engaged in deep spiritual reflection.

In the 18 years since her accident, Lord has undergone 23 surgeries, with another scheduled for December 2012.

Yet she continues to find new ways to serve and is active with Stephen Ministries, Christian Life Community, and St. Vincent DePaul.

Dries is proud of her mother’s recovery, perseverance, and commitment to service. She wants Lord’s story to inspire people to carry out God’s work in their own personal ways.

“No matter what capacity, people can refocus their energies and be able to serve the Lord to meet the needs of His people. It may just look a little different,” Dries said.