by James E. Hayes, D.Min., executive director and spiritual director at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center
Kathy Reardon has made the Center better in many ways since she joined us in 2001. That’s why it was difficult for me to hear when she asked for some time last month to inform me that she planned to retire from the Center at the end of July 2020. Difficult to hear and yet I’m happy for her as this pandemic has helped her to discern the next chapter of her life and how she can continue to make a difference in the lives of others. She is already missed. Though she is retiring from the Center, she remains energized by her spiritual direction practice. She has found virtual meetings from her home cloister to be fruitful and she looks forward to continuing that practice. We look forward to her staying connected to the Center and being a resource for future inspirational offerings.
In typical Kathy fashion, she didn’t want to make a big deal about her retirement. Those who know her understand that she’s a contemplative at heart—and an introvert. Being the center of attention causes discomfort. Those who know her and how much she’s contributed to the Center also know that she has been a big deal in making a difference. She changed the way we serve by bringing her breadth of skills to the service of our mission. She created new services; changed our vocabulary as she helped us to understand words like “healing touch;” brought the heart of a prophet to our systems so that all might be treated with equal shares of love. I was privileged to experience many of her gifts in our short three years of working together. She helped me to understand this place as she asserted her leadership skills and gave me sound advice on issues that needed tending as I started my time as an executive director. She was a confidant when I needed advice on difficult decisions. She helped me to understand better what holistic healing means in our work. Most importantly, she helped me to grow in my own understanding of ultimate mystery through formal workshops and simple daily comments in the workplace that alerted us all to the depth of each moment in the context of the everlasting now. Thank you Kathy!
As my time with Kathy was not decades in length, I asked colleagues who had such tenure to share some thoughts about Kathy’s contributions.
From Susan Ackelson, former Center counselor who also retired recently:
Kathy brought a focus on the body and spirituality with her holistic nursing, healing touch and spiritual direction along with her training in mental health. The body aspect was completely new for the Center and her work in helping us integrate this new aspect of holistic treatment was critical. She helped us expand our knowledge of other therapeutic body practices by inviting practitioners of alternative health modalities to meet the staff. She then initiated community education forums for our clients and community members to educate on alternative health modalities. She also developed a holistic assessment tool for therapists to use in evaluating their clients. Kathy led a weekly meditation group for our staff for years.
From Ellery Duke, licensed psychologist and former executive director:
I recall the breakfast meeting at Village Inn in 2001when Jeff, Eileen and I met with Kathy about the prospect of her joining the Center’s staff, doing spiritual direction and Healing Touch. We of course wanted her to bring spiritual direction and Healing Touch to the Center’s growing interest in the integration of mind, body, and spirit healing. Kathy brought her understanding of, and expression of healing based in her nursing and spiritual direction backgrounds. Through the ideas of Kathy, Jeff Means, Kay Riley, and others, the highly regarded PrairieFire program was launched. Over 100 have been trained through PrairieFire. It was through Kathy’s ground-breaking work in spirituality at the Center that Diane McClanahan came on board to further expand the Center’s offerings in spirituality and ministry. Kathy’s spirit-based, mindful approach to life has certainly shaped how the Center expresses its mission. Thank you.
As the pandemic precludes any formal gathering, we hope to gather more such thoughts to celebrate Kathy’s contributions to our mission. Feel free to send your recollections and notes of gratitude to her directly. If you send them to the Center, we’ll make sure she gets those. At some point we hope to have an appropriate celebration for any who have retired in this age of pandemic.
If you are interested in honoring Kathy with a donation to the PrairieFire fund, you may donate here.
With gratitude for the many people touched by Kathy’s work, we ask that she be blessed with abundant life as she begins this next chapter of her life’s story.