“I put great stock in the mystery of life. Doing this sort of work allows me to see the great mysteries of creation, and I find it a great privilege to be doing what I’m doing.”
Maureen Gahan (’76) cares for the “mysteries of life” people, young and old, who suffer from profound physical, mental, and social disabilities. She is Milestones Clinical & Health Resources Director for Stone Belt Arc, a large social services agency located in south central Indiana. Her responsibilities include the management and provision of the agency’s nursing, social work, and behavior support services. In addition, she has developed and provides oversight to all mental health services.
From a central office located on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Miss Gahan supervises 150 staff employees and 100 volunteers who work in 50 residential locations throughout a four-county area. The organization was founded by parents who wanted to provide a better alternative for care of disabled family members than that offered in state-run institutions.
One of her locations is a group home for medically fragile children who have a variety of physical and mental disabilities. Another is a group home for older children who have severe behavioral problems. Most of them have lived “a veritable Hell on Earth,” having been exposed to a life of physical and/or sexual abuse.
Miss Gahan tries to integrate these children into the community by placing them in schools and churches, and helping them get jobs as well. “The group homes have a very spiritual effect on the community,” she says. “Someone might not be able to get you your hamburger as fast as you’d like, but there’s something infinitely better about letting them try to serve you than hiding them off in the hills of Indiana. Most people I think come to recognize the value of that.”
She also supervises “respite” services for families who need training or assistance in caring for disabled members who require specialized medical care, such as the insertion of feeding tubes or other medication. Once, when she could not find a home that had suitable living arrangements for disabled clients, she arranged to build them her own. “We sat down with a napkin one day and drew our model “barrier-free” home.” That design turned, eventually, into nine homes.
Miss Gahan stumbled into this work a quarter of a century ago, when she had decided to not do the dissertation that was standing in the way of her Ph.D. at Indiana University in the history and philosophy of science. She wanted “hands-on” work and had a knack for working in special education. “I liked working with the forgotten ones,” she says. She has since earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.
In spite of the seemingly hopeless conditions she encounters, Miss Gahan is inspired and energized by her work. “You can always see the mystery and presence of God in their lives and the healing power of grace, especially in the bleakest moments. You can’t imagine how beautiful that can be.”
She remains profoundly grateful for her experience at the College, which “showed me how to make meaning out of life on a profoundly spiritual level. It taught me how to think, to analyze, to articulate my ideas and persuade others of them. I feel a debt of gratitude I can never repay.”
No doubt Miss Gahan’s clients think the same of her.