Volunteering on the grounds in Baden has changed Chris Haver on many layers – personally, environmentally and spiritually.
“The surroundings in Baden have really spoken to me, and I feel more at peace being there. The daily stress just kind of melts away when I’m there working,” describes Chris who decided to become a volunteer on the grounds nearly five years ago.
The decision to volunteer on the grounds was an intentional one. Chris was searching for a way to give back, to honor his mother, Associate Kathy Haver, and to work through the overwhelming grief of losing her.
My connection to the Sisters is entirely through her. She passed away in April of 2017 and losing her, personally and for my family, has been terribly difficult,” he says. “One of the things that was probably most important to her were the Sisters and the Associates. So, trying to work through that period and that grief, I decided I wanted to do what I could to live like her.”
While growing up, the Haver children spent time in Baden, attending the Harvest Festival, having picnics and swimming in the Academy pool. With a soft laugh, Chris recalls that Sundays were often Baden Days and “as kids we knew that when Mom dressed up, she must be going to Baden.”
Married and the father of three adult sons, Chris has volunteered in seasonal rotating tasks on the grounds such as spring planting and garden bed
preparation, pulling weeds, and replacing or refreshing mulch. He also has helped plant trees and trimmed trees and shrubs.
“It’s really funny, I hate weeding at home – I really do – but when I’m in Baden, it doesn’t bother me,” he says.
“When I have to do it at home, I am more irritated by it . . . . probably because I’m able to view this work in Baden as my way to give back and appreciate the Earth that was given to us, and I don’t always have that same sense when I’m at home.”
During the pandemic, Chris continued to volunteer in a limited capacity. His most recent visit on our grounds occurred this past September 2021 when he had a chance to say good-bye to Luke Badaczewski, former Director of Grounds & Ecology who coordinated the grounds volunteers.
Chris says Luke influenced and nurtured his appreciation for Creation. “We started every volunteer work day with a prayer. He always made sure that prayer is thanking God for being together, for the beauty of the Earth, and our opportunity to take care of this gift that God has given us.”
The rippling effects of the work days also have changed Chris’ perspective in other ways.
“I’ve gotten very comfortable with what I have, and I am less materialistic about things,” he says. “Maybe it’s part maturity and part influenced by this experience, but I’m happy about taking care of the yard and the plants that I have, so it’s really helped me just appreciate what I have.”
Along the way, the Sisters at St. Bernadette School in Monroeville influenced Chris, a former student, who has fond memories of former principals, Sister Judith Kenaan and Sister Carol Arch, and the late Sister Ursula Grimes, who ministered at the parish.
On his visits to Baden from the North Hills of Pittsburgh, Chris tries to connect with Sister Frances Rooney, who was a prayer partner with his mother.
“There was such an immediate bond between Kathy and me and that extended to her family,” Sister Frances says. “Her husband Joe was lovely and always made me feel included as part of their family. The relationship has been woven together, through Kathy’s love, always reaching out to others in love.”
Sister Frances is confident that Chris will continue “to reflect that love to others because the world is in such need of the richness that comes through (the Havers’) love of people.”
In reflection, Chris hopes that his mother would be “happy, proud and honored” that the Sisters and Baden have become a part of his life and that he is continuing those relationships.
“While growing up, we really knew that the Sisters were important to my mother. When starting this work in 2017, I didn’t think about it being long term, but now I take it very seriously,” he says.
“I don’t miss a day because I know my mother wouldn’t.”