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Forging Connection with the Often Forgotten

MADELINE ZUKOWSKI, DSHA '11
This story appeared in the 2020-2021 DSHA Annual Report, which hit mailboxes in December 2021. 
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Kate Spielbauer, DSHA ’21, has a passion to give of herself in service to populations that are often forgotten or isolated in society — specifically the elderly. Working with this population — a population to which the Salvatorians are also dedicated — led her to serve at St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus throughout her four years at DSHA. Her commitment to St. Anne’s earned her the Salvatorian Service Award from the Sisters of the Divine Savior in 2021, but also the DSHA Alumnae Service Scholarship for the 2020–2021 school year, which ultimately helped her serve with more
confidence and purpose.
For six months straight, Kate Spielbauer, DSHA ’21, accompanied and sat with St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus resident Mel while he ate his dinner. A man with a big heart to match his personality, Mel is a 75-year-old Polish former pastor who loves to talk food.

“He makes jokes that his Polish food is so much better than American food. One of his friends visited one day and brought Polish pastries like paczki that I was able to try. His Polish food is superior, I’ll admit,” Spielbauer said with a chuckle, demonstrating an authentic love and care for her friend Mel.

Since Spielbauer entered DSHA in 2017, she has served at St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus, a nursing home and assisted living facility for people of low socio-economic status that is sponsored by the Sisters of the Divine Savior. Between running bingo, playing card games, working in the garden, and planning the famous St. Anne’s Prom for residents and DSHA/MUHS students, Spielbauer spent one-on-one time with residents who don’t have visitors often, forming friendships with them.

“Besides the friends in the nursing home or a few outside friends, they don’t have much human interaction,” Spielbauer said of most of the residents. “I like to think that I was that human interaction for them. It brightens their day, makes it a little easier, and excites them.”

Living out the Salvatorian core value of the preferential option for the poor, Spielbauer prefers to serve those who are vulnerable in society. Besides working weekly with the elderly, periodically she collected toiletries from her neighbors and community, donating them to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, a non-profit homeless shelter rooted in the Catholic faith.

“These populations deserve attention as much as anyone else does,” she said. “I think working with them is the most challenging type of service, but they are a part of society that is often forgotten about.”

IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF LIFE

While Spielbauer served at St. Anne’s in her own time, she became more involved with service through DSHA Campus Ministry, becoming a long-term service coordinator. An advocate of long-term service versus one-time visits, Spielbauer reached out to nursing homes, schools, and homeless shelters for their needs, and tried to connect underclasswomen with sites at which they could serve consistently.

DSHA Campus Ministry helped Spielbauer connect with her faith in more ways than one. She was able to connect her faith to her own community, but was also able to put it in perspective with the outside world.

“A big part of my faith today, which is different from four years ago, is service and learning what makes people the way they are; what puts people in lower socio-economic levels, nursing homes, or homeless shelters,” she said. “I have learned that how I live out my faith makes a difference in the world.”

She found herself able to connect with God through her work with residents at St. Anne’s. She points to the importance of the mission of the organization to help all residents live a dignified life, no matter their circumstances. Because of this idea, Spielbauer better understands what it means to be Salvatorian.

“A core idea of the Salvatorian way is to put others before yourself and care for everyone,” she said. “In my life, that means caring for the elderly and homeless people, recognizing their needs, figuring out ways
I can address them, and making their lives better."

RESPONSIBLE STEWARDSHIP

Now a freshman at Texas Christian University, Spielbauer hopes to find an organization to serve at throughout her four years that works with those who are often forgotten — specifically the homeless, as Texas has a high homeless population.

After she graduates, her dream is to travel to South America and help bring medical care to those in need.

“When I’m sick, I have the liberty to call my physician,” she said. “It’s incredibly important to have access to health care, and I want to give that opportunity to people who need it or don’t have easy access to it.”

In 2020, Spielbauer had the opportunity to apply for the DSHA Alumnae Service Scholarship. A committee of about 10 alumnae who honor DSHA’s Catholic tradition of service read each application, letters of recommendation, and service reflections, and then chose one student based on her tremendous effort to serve the poor and vulnerable.

“It was exciting to see that other people connected to my passions,” Spielbauer said. “It was powerful to learn that I not only care about the elderly and homeless, but other people cared enough about it to select me. I’m so grateful. It gave me a lot of motivation to continue to do what I’m doing.”

While a part of her tuition was covered by this merit-based scholarship, Spielbauer used the money she would have spent on tuition on St. Anne’s — helping the residents build a garden.

Just like the alumnae committee believed in Spielbauer and her service to the community, so did her DSHA sisters.

“I found people at DSHA that encouraged me to the best version of myself,” she said. “They challenge me to do the right thing. They encourage me to keep going back and share my time and talents with others.”

To support students like Kate, click here. 
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