George Schoenstein is an associate of the Sisters of St. Francis from Redwood City. This past March he was honored when he received the “Outstanding Individual Award” from Sequoia Awards in Redwood City. George was recognized for his volunteerism to the City of Redwood City through his inspiration for downtown Redwood City’s Annual Police Athletic League Music, Arts and BBQ Festival at Courthouse Square. The event was cancelled for two years because of covid but made a strong comeback in 2022. He also brought the annual Blues Festival to Redwood City each summer. George volunteered for the American Cancer Society, the Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy, Festiv Italiano and St. Pius Catholic Church.
In his remarks at the ceremony on March 16 at the Marriott in San Mateo, George gave credit to his mentors: his parents, the Holy Cross Sisters and priests of St. Pius, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Redwood City Police Department and Police Activities League and our local Franciscan Sisters. George continues to work with S. Deborah and two other associates to provide sandwiches every Wednesday for Catholic Worker House in Redwood City.
Congratulations George from all of your sisters and associates!
Sheral Marshall, to the right of her care partner, Maureen Sinnott attended a climate change demonstration in San Francisco. They are Franciscan nuns who now advocate for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Courtesy photo Sheral Marshall was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment in 2018, leading to a type of Alzheimer’s: posterior cortical atrophy (PCA). She now lives in Arroyo Grande with her care partner and fellow Roman Catholic Franciscan Sister, Maureen Sinnott. Together, they feel called to advocate for those living with Alzheimer’s disease, through sharing their experiences, attending meetings
and raising awareness through the Alzheimer’s Association, and praying for those around the world who are affected.
Here are their stories:
l’m eager to share my story in the hope that it may be helpful to someone experiencing the difficulties associated with the disease. There are many challenges associated with living Alzheimer’s, both for the one experiencing it and for the person — often a loved one — who will accompany her or him on the journey. I’m thinking of two very old sayings from my early youth, found on PeeChee folders: “Ignorance is bliss” and “Knowledge is power.” As
adults, we no doubt have learned from experience the falsehood of the first and the wisdom of the second! Knowing about the stages of Alzheimer’s and learning what to expect as challenges and, amazingly, what might be embraced as gifts will be very helpful. After four years of the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s before my diagnosis and the four years since, I am still learning ways to deal with the difficulties and discovering the positives I can experience in the midst of the hardships. I should warn you that I was accused of being a Pollyanna in my youth a probably still am!
WHAT I FIND DIFFICULT ABOUT THIS DIAGNOSIS
Not being able to drive. Driving means independence and I no longer have this. Needing to depend on the generosity of others is especially difficult for us “rugged individualists.” I have no choice about what I remember or what I don’t. Names of people I’ve spent significant time with and dearly love can escape me. Insignificant details of events I don’t need to remember sometimes stay with me. I can recall something from years ago that may have been significant but an important, lengthy conversation I had an hour ago is completely gone. I easily forget where I’ve placed something important; sometimes, it will come back to me and sometimes not. Because of my particular kind of Alzheimer’s, my visual/spatial perception is off. I can often place something on a flat surface and it falls off because my mind cannot process it accurately. This is embarrassing. If I haven’t shared this problem with those around me, they may
understandably wonder why I am so clumsy.
THE GIFTS I’VE EXPERIENCED
Gratitude for the many abilities I still do have, which I have often taken for granted. Greater awareness of the generosity of so many drivers willing to
take me anywhere I need to go. And consequently, deeper one-to-one conversations with some people I never would have gotten to know on this
level. Gratefulness for the patience and understanding of those who interact with me. Deeper understanding and patience with the limitations of others.
A sense of the whole human family as one, each with our own gifts and limitations. Knowing myself to have an early stage of Alzheimer’s enables me to
use my time, along with that of my care partner, Maureen, to help others identify possible signs of Alzheimer’s instead of denying their existence, and to find the courage to seek out a neurologist and receive a diagnosis. Right now, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but its progression can be delayed with medication if diagnosed in the early stages, as mine was.
Sister Sheral Marshall and I both retired from full-time ministries a year and a half ago and moved from the Bay Area to Arroyo Grande. In
truth, Franciscan Sisters never really retire because we continue to advocate and pray for those most underserved and disenfranchised until
our last breath and then in heaven. We live near Santa Maria, where the population is 77.7% Hispanic and they are one and a half times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s thanCaucasians, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. These are our neighbors and we want to help raise awareness among them of the early symptoms and the need for early diagnosis and treatment to slow the progression of the disease and prolong quality of life. We laugh a lot and sometimes cry, too. Sometimes, when Sheral drops a dish or bumps into something, I feel a deep-down sadness. Sometimes, when she repeats a story I pause, try to listen even more closely and thank God that she can still tell me a story. Sometimes, when it takes her a long time to cook supper and I am
hungry, I pause and thank God that she can still take her turn preparing supper.
I want to be with her on this journey all the way and I frequently ask God to please let me live as long as Sheral. Sheral has given her whole life to the service of others and has even donated her brain to Stanford for research when the time comes. But until then, we are trying to live in the present moment, grateful to be living together and for all our blessings of still being independent, mobile, healthy and able to advocate for others with Alzheimer’s, trusting that God will provide.
Link to San Luis Obispo Tribune article: