By Kelsi Watters
I am without vision but not without a vision. I am without physical sight but not without insight. Look into my eyes, and you see a different kind of light. I am lacking in eyesight but not in mindsight. I journey without a lantern but I am led by the light of God. I am guided by a vision stronger than physical sight, a vision that is etched in my mind, a flame burning in my spirit — the vision of my vocation.
My vocational discernment was largely influenced by my faith as well as my desire to serve others. Because I felt particularly drawn to healing ministry, I chose a double major in Psychology and Pastoral and Youth Ministry at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. The experiences that were most instrumental in my vocational discernment
were my two internships at Mayo Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where I served as a chaplain intern.
The best part about chaplaincy is the ability to touch people’s lives in tangible and intangible ways, especially when conducting patient visits and participating in the Reverie Harp Program. This involves playing relaxing music at patients’ bedsides with a reverie harp, a small, pentatonically-tuned instrument. This ministry was particularly moving. The mere sight and sound of the harp seem to foster emotional and spiritual well-being, with its beautiful cherrywood, soothing vibrations, and gentle, peaceful tones. It was a privilege to be able to enter such an intimate space with patients, to tune into my intuition and feel the energy in the room.
In addition to becoming more fully immersed in chaplaincy work, I wanted to learn to function independently in a hospital setting in order to reduce the limitations of having to rely on others. This was rewarding in several ways. Besides expanding my opportunities for conducting chaplain duties independently, it also allowed me to be both a teacher and a learner.
I believe there are advantages to working in ministry as a person without sight. There is occasionally a tendency to associate blindness with brokenness or suffering. I view my blindness as a blessing rather than a curse. One of the ways in which I can minister to others is by demonstrating through words and actions that what appears to be brokenness has actually become beautiful. Perhaps people will be able to view their challenges in a positive light, giving them the strength and courage to bear their crosses.
I believe my encounters with patients may have given them a new perspective. For instance, one patient remarked that I must miss out on a great deal due to being blind. I answered that there were many other ways to experience the world that did not involve physical sight. He was quiet for several minutes, as if he had never considered this before. I was not intending to admonish him, but to gently suggest that there are many ways to experience joy in life.
It is true that there are obstacles to serving as a blind hospital chaplain. In fact, some of these became apparent to me during my time at Mayo. I admit that I had my share of frustrations and embarrassing blunders. One day in particular, I continually made wrong turns as I attempted to navigate to patients’ rooms while another chaplain patiently walked beside me. I wondered how she could be patient with me when I had no patience with myself. Despite this and other missteps, I am undaunted because obstacles are inevitable in almost any profession. I believe that my determination to continue learning and moving forward despite challenges and mistakes will make all the difference in the world.
I am now a graduate student at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, where I will pursue the three-year Master of Divinity program. Admittedly, I am somewhat nervous about the transitions ahead. There will undoubtedly be some academic and technological challenges, as I become accustomed to a higher level of academic expectation as well as new technology (namely, a laptop with screen-reading software). There is also moving to a new location and training an entirely new set of faculty and students.
I feel blessed to have been chosen for this path, with its joys and challenges, the memories, both moving and painful, the fear and the exhilaration — because my eyes have been opened to God’s vision for me. I am without vision, but not without a vision. I am blind, yet I see.