You are Precious in God’s Sight: Sister Joanne Calls Her Clients to a Deeper Sense of Self
Sister Joanne Belloli, Sisters of the Precious Blood of Dayton Ohio (CPPS), is a clinical social worker specializing in mental health and the treatment of substance use disorders. Growing up, she was influenced by great aunts and great uncles, as well as teachers at her Catholic high school. Sr. Joanne joined the Sisters of the Precious Blood because of their focus on caring for others. Here, she talks about her ministry of counseling those struggling with substance use disorders at Livingston County Catholic Charities in Howell, Michigan.
What does your ministry as a social worker look like?
I run a program that includes outreach to individuals who were recently released from prison and/or are on probation. I work with people with substance use disorders, as well as with people working through anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress. My clients range from age 14 to their late 80s. We work together on making a transition to healthy living.
My community of sisters focuses on compassionate care and compassionate living, helping others to be free and to heal. The emphasis is on reconciliation, on calling people to a deeper sense of self.
What does “reconciliation” and a “deeper sense of self” mean to you?
For me, reconciliation is helping to heal places in a person’s life where they are hurting. When people take a deeper look at their lives, they can come to greater self-esteem and more wholeness.
Many of the men and women I work with have made mistakes. Society tells them, “You’re a criminal.” But a mistake is just one part of a life. It is not the whole of a life. I believe that every individual is sacred and holy. Every one of us is worthy of reestablishing belief in our own dignity and our own integrity. We can all learn skills and strategies to heal relationships that are not healthy.
Are there particular teachings that you find helpful or meaningful?
I think a lot about the preciousness of people, and the preciousness of life. God is good. And because each of us is created by God, we are all good. It’s as Isaiah tells us, “You are precious in God’s sight.” And God loves you.
You hold a Certificate of Studies in Spirituality from Loyola University of Chicago. What is spirituality?
Spirituality is the energy that you have within yourself. It is the gifts you have received and choose to use - gifts that motivate you and encourage you. We talk about “Precious Blood Spirituality,” the redeeming love of Jesus. Jesus was always reaching out to people in need. It’s my hope to continue to do that also.
Would you say you live a countercultural life?
Yes, in that I live a religious life in a Catholic community and I have chosen a celibate life. I have chosen a life of poverty in the sense that everything I own belongs to my community. The other piece is obedience - that constant listening to God and listening to members of my community in the context of community living.
What would you like young women to know about religious life?
The religious life is not something new and strange. It’s been around for a long time and comes with a deep spiritual history, from the inspiration of women and men religious who have lived this life for hundreds and hundreds of years. Sisterhood is for women who long for community life and out of that life are able to be present to the world as God would call them to be present.