When Clare Held (née Stiennon) graduated from St. Ambrose Academy in 2012, she knew she wanted to be a nurse—but what she didn’t know was what that path would look like.
She chose to attend the University of Mary in Bismark, N.D., one of the faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, because of its highly rated nursing program. She was blessed to receive scholarship money to attend the University because she attended Catholic school, and the University was looking to increase the number of Catholic students on campus. “I got out of it what I intended to get: a bachelor’s degree in four years, the ability to work, affordability (I have no debt between my scholarships and the help from my parents) and development as an individual person.”
“I really valued the community. I was on the campus ministry; I have a lot of friendships that have lasted. I felt very well formed with very good friendships with other people who care about Catholicism.” She even met her future husband there, but they didn’t marry until July of this year—after they re-met years later!
She majored in nursing with a minor in theology. She worked as a certified nurse assistant (CNA) all throughout college, and perhaps unexpectedly, she hated her work. She worked in a nursing home at the time, and while she enjoyed ministering to the elderly, the environment was a challenge. She tried a psychology degree, but when that didn’t feel quite right either, she started working in the insurance business.
“I was an insurance claim examiner and producer for a while. I just didn’t enjoy it much. I did enjoy reviewing medical notes to preauthorize treatments and medications. So, I decided to switch back to medicine.” Now, she works as a CNA on the cancer floor in her hospital, which also receive a lot of medical patients. She ministers to the dying through doing a lot of the practical tasks such as flipping patients, giving them comfort baths, changing them and helping them use the restroom.
“I don’t find it to be emotionally challenging, because I think it’s meaningful to help care for those patients. I like my work better now, because I believe we offer better care to our patients, and my co-workers are good people.”
She likes the fact that she’s come full circle. “I am doing a corporal work of mercy every time I go to work.”
From her time at the University of Mary, she distinctly remembers the opening talk that President, Monsignor James Shea, gave to freshmen. He talked about how students must find a way to give theirselves away, and that’s how they find fulfillment, both in a career and in their personal lives.
“That’s always stuck with me,” Held says. “When I switched from insurance back to nursing, I felt that extra-strong feminine desire of giving myself in a meaningful way. How do I make a sincere gift of self? That was an influencing topic when I was at the University, in the culture, friendships and theology. I’ve come to see that nursing is a really wonderful way to give yourself away: I can give myself to the sick and dying.”
Clare has truly come full-circle. After being in an unfulfilling career, one in which she struggled to see how she could give herself away—a strong theme from her time at the University—she has discovered that caring for the sick and dying is how she can truly “make a sincere gift of self,” as Pope St. John Paul II encouraged. Thanks to her time at the University of Mary, she is able to pursue her vocation in nursing in a profoundly radical way and give herself in a Christ-like manner.