So You Think You've Got a Long Commute

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Long commutes are often associated with employment in big cities.  In 2014, a Washington Post report estimated that about 2.2 million people commuted distances of 50 miles each way, and that 1.7 million people actually commuted 90 miles or more each way.  They often cite larger houses at lower costs among their reasons.  Not so for our intrepid co-workers.  They seek a ministry, not just a job.


The Center at Donaldson has several co-workers who commute over 50 miles each way, and one who commutes a whopping 115-miles each way.


Mary Jeanne Vincent, R.N. of Noblesville travels the farthest to work at The Center.  A PRN nurse at Catherine Kasper Home, she drives two hours each way, six days a month.  She loves it, and would work more days if she could do so without losing her social security benefits. Her sister, Ann Pilarski, is also a nurse in the Memory Unit, and their mother and sister were both CKH residents before they passed away.


The mother of three and grandmother of eight always thought she’d become a traveling nurse when she retired from critical care nursing at a large Indianapolis Hospital. “That was my goal, but I discovered I couldn’t be away from my family that long,” Mary Jeanne said.  Recently, her 20 year-old grandson helped her put in a garden, and she went fashion shopping with her 15 year-old granddaughter.  Living near them allows her to be part of their lives. 


 She felt called to work with a senior population, something she attributes to losing three of her grandparents at a very young age. “I will say that nursing home nurses face physical and intellectual challenges. I was so excited about getting hired; I just love our C.N.A.s.  We have so much fun,” Mary Jeanne said.


Mary Jeanne uses the solitude of the drive to prepare for her workday and finds the silence therapeutic on the return trip too. “I listen to the radio and return some phone calls, but that’s my thinking time,” she said.


Adela Langa Bonta, who became the Coordinator of Outward Bound Ministries at Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center in March, said she’s here because it’s more that a job.  “To me, its ministry,” Adela said.  Working in Catholic Higher Education in Miami and also in religious life, “I’ve always had a love for Sisters and the ministry they do,” she added. 


She commutes 2-3 days a week, for about one hour, roughly 55-miles each way. She and her husband moved from Miami to be closer to family. Her husband, a Hobart native, is the chief of staff for the Bishop’s office in the Diocese of Gary, so they live closer to his work, in Crown Point, since he needs to be there at a moment’s notice.


When she’s not at The Center, Adela is reaching out to schools and Parishes around the area and in Chicago, developing relationships and building interest in retreats at Lindenwood.  “It’s about bridge building, and being present. Building relationships takes time,” Adela said. She loves the great team and friendliness of the co-workers here.  


During the drive, she passes the time by catching up on the news on NPR, which she feels offers more world news and otherwise forgotten stories. The Romanian native often spends the hour on the morning drive talking with her parents in Romania, where it’s late afternoon there.


She also loves the silence and the contemplative time for prayer.  Some days, she watches the sun rise on the way in and set on the way home.  “It’s very cathartic,” said Adela.


Ancilla College Professor of English Chad Kebrdle, who drives in from Windfall, Indiana south of Kokomo everyday during the school year, thought it seemed ridiculous to entertain the idea of teaching here before he visited.  “The more I looked into Ancilla and what their mission was, I became more intrigued,” Chad said.  


Along with his wife, they own a gift shop in Kokomo, which she manages.  When the drive gets to be a bit much or inclement weather prevails, Chad stays with his sister in Plymouth.  On the days he makes the 90-mile commute, he listens to books on CDs.  He’s logged 10 books in two semesters.  


Occupational hazards for him have included making the entire drive at 35 mph during a raging snowstorm, and totaling his car on a deer carcass.  His current ride, a Toyota Prius, eases the environmental and financial burden.  


While at Ancilla, Chad has undertaken some “pretty cool stuff,” like visiting the Catherine Kasper Home and Maria Center with his students, who interview the residents for storytelling pieces for class assignments. He’s also been instrumental in redesigning and raising the profile of Ancilla College’s literary journal, Scripta, an artistic endeavor for him.  “I work among a great group of people who are as passionate about teaching as I am,” Chad said. 


Mary Jeanne aptly surmised the reason these co-workers make the trip: “People have said I need a job closer to home, but if you’re that happy where you’re at, it’s worth the drive.”