Sister Pam Mueller: Mixing faith and laughter in service to others

Whether the program continues is up to the students, she said. “Things come and go on a college campus, you have to change,” Sister Pam said. “I see that as part of (Saint) Angela’s charism.”

Even if the program ceases, she will continue a weekly meal at Saint Joseph’s Table, she said.

“A meal became very important, college students rarely sit down to a family meal,” Sister Pam said. Students take turns cooking the weekly meal and everyone helps clean up she said.

Sister Pam was an associate professor at Brescia from 1981-1992 in speech language pathology, and said she sees students differently now because her role is different.

Sister Pam offers moral support to a Brescia student during a blood drive in 2007.

“Before, I felt responsible for their education in what I was teaching. I was hard on them, so they’d be prepared,” she said. “I can’t be as responsible for them now. I’m not exactly their friend, in a way, they see me as a grandmother type.”

The university offers an optional mental health screening to students, the results of which were eye-opening to Sister Pam. “There are a lot more students diagnosed with mental health issues, like bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. It interferes with their lives,” she said. “They are always competing. Parents need to know the stress level their child is functioning in.”

During her first year as campus minister, while the counselor was off campus, an instructor told Sister Pam that two students were talking about committing suicide. She was ill prepared to deal with that, but has since become a certified instructor in suicide prevention.

Aside from helping students who are struggling, campus ministry is designed to help people “flourish to be the best they can be,” Sister Pam said.

“I do a lot of liturgy planning for Mass and penance services,” she said. She is filling the same role for the Ursuline Convocation, a once-every-three-years gathering among Ursuline Sisters in Cleveland July 1-4. “Who would have ever thought I would be in charge of liturgy and prayer services?”

Sister Pam is joined with the rest of her community bonded group, “In Sieme,” from left Sister Amelia Stenger, Associate Karen Siciliano, and Sister Mary Celine Weidenbenner.

She puts on a “Busy Persons Retreat” in the fall, in which the retreat experience is worked out around a student’s schedule. “Most of the people who’ve discovered those are non-Catholics,” Sister Pam said. “Some want to continue with a spiritual director. I tell them they can work out a fee with a spiritual director, or they can talk to me for free.”

Sister Pam’s involvement in the initial Spiritual Direction Institute at the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center was a good experience for her, she said.

“It affirmed for me that I could listen. I’m a pretty good discerner with people,” she said. “It made me reflect on my growing up, and made me want to understand more about God.”

Siciliano says Sister Pam has a heart for justice. “That rough growing up has given her a heart for those who are struggling.”

Out of chaos came faith

Sister Pam’s name is not short for “Pamela.” It’s an acronym her parents gave her as a child for her full name, Patricia Ann Mueller. “If I heard ‘Patricia Ann,’ I knew I was in trouble,” she said.

Sister Pam was the youngest child and only daughter of Frances Henry and Carrie Elizabeth Mueller, and she has three brothers who range from two to seven years older. Her brother Jim is the color analyst for the Cleveland Browns. “I grew up pretty happy, despite it not being an easy life,” she said.

Born in Owensboro, the family moved to Evansville, Ind., then to three different cities in Florida by the time she was 10. “I was in Miami during the Bay of Pigs invasion,” she said. “When the Cuban refugees were coming to Miami, I thought the Communists were coming. I thought ‘Who will take Communion to people?”