Sister Chanelle Schuler
Sister Chanelle creates a broad swath of vibrant Benedictine hospitality. She welcomes guests to the Inn, guides groups of visitors on tours, (recently as many as five tours in one day), and helps gather and arrange flowers. Sometimes she sings the community blessing song to guests as they depart. These have included a bus-full of college students at the end of a retreat and most recently over 250 cyclists at the Ride Idaho camp in Cottonwood. (She used the PA system.)
She is also a volunteer ombudsman, acting as a liaison between assisted living patients and caregivers, and patients and their families. With nearly 30 years of experience as a nurse and 18 years of experience as a hospital chaplain, helping to communicate patient needs comes easily.
Sister Chanelle’s vocation did not surprise anyone. She is the youngest of twelve children, having been born on her parent’s 21st anniversary. She was raised on a Holstein dairy farm and taught by the sisters of St. Gertrude at St. Paul’s School in Nampa. Her father expected one of his 10 daughters to become a nun, but it was her mother’s spirituality that was most influential. “Mother was very quiet and prayed a lot,” recalls Sister Chanelle, “when she was cooking, sewing, baking, mending…she died when I was 16 and it was then that I began to think seriously about religious life.”
Before entering the community, Sister Chanelle went on a Marian Year Pilgrimage to Europe; the highlight was the canonization of St. Peter Chanel, her religious namesake. When she returned to Nampa in September, she stayed with one of her sisters to help with a newborn. In November Sister Lucile, the formation director of the Monastery, sent her a letter which said, in part, “Cinderella! The clock is striking midnight. You must come now or you will have to wait until next year to join!”
She arrived at the Monastery door a few days later in a bright red jumper, high-heeled shoes, and an orange corduroy jacket. One of her first assignments was to substitute teach for a week. It was not a good experience. “I told the formation director that if I had to teach, I was leaving,” recalls Sister Chanelle, shaking her head.
Fortunately, she was able to enter a ministry which she loved. Sister Chanelle was sent off to nursing school in Ogden, Utah, after her First Profession as a Benedictine Sister on June 14, 1956. Upon graduating, she began working at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood, where she spent many years, mostly on night shifts. (At the recent St. Gertrude’s Academy All-Class reunion, Sister Chanelle was able to visit with many of the alums whose babies she had helped deliver.)
However, her mother’s legacy of quiet service would take its toll. “In those days we, meaning nuns, were only as good as the amount of work we could do…and I wanted to be a great nun,” Sister Chanelle says. “I couldn’t say no to any request. Not surprisingly, by 1981, I was completely burned out.” After taking six months off, she returned to the Monastery and took over caring for the elderly sisters.
In 1984-85, Sister Chanelle participated in the Credo program at Gonzaga University which focused on spiritual renewal for sisters. For the first time since making Profession she had time to immerse herself in theology, which resulted in deep spiritual growth. At the end of that year, she participated in a two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Upon her return she became a hospital chaplain — first at St. Benedict’s Medical Center in Jerome, ID, and then at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, WA where she worked for over 14 years.
“I loved nursing, as well as my time being a chaplain – sharing Christ with others and being His instrument,” says Sister Chanelle. “To ease patients’ fears by singing and praying with them, these were sacraments, sacred times.” In 2004 Sister Chanelle officially retired from Sacred Heart Medical Center and returned home. “I love praying with community, celebrating daily Eucharist, and sharing the wisdom of my sisters. Although each of us is unique, we seek God together with one heart and one soul. I pray that our loving God will continue to help me live out my life in this community with love, care and compassion for all.”