Sisters stepping up for Cerebral Palsy

By Sr Sophie Boffa csfn, 14 October 2020
Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (L-R) Sr Paula Vochek, Sr Sophie Boffa and Sr Grace Roklawska. Image: Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth/Supplied.


You may have seen a few of our sisters walking a bit more than usual during September! This year Sr Grace, Sr Paula, Sr Bogumila and Sr Sophie joined together as a team for Steptember, Australia’s largest health and wellness event. The challenge? Walking, swimming, riding, wheeling or spinning 10,000 steps a day for 28 days, to raise funds to help improve the lives of children and adults with cerebral palsy.

All of the sisters are Steptember veterans. Sr Grace’s journey began about five years ago when the team with which she worked at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish in Blacktown invited her to walk. “Anything is a good motivation for healthy exercise”, she says. “In that parish, we would form a few teams and walk together during our lunch break. Ever since I have walked with a different team in the month of September.”

Sr Grace also introduced several sisters to the fundraising initiative. “This is my third time participating in a “sisters’ team” for Steptember”, Sr Sophie says. “Each year is a different experience, but I always feel grateful for the opportunity to challenge myself and to make even a small difference.”

Steptember is a special time for the team. For Sr Paula, Steptember is a time of “gratitude to God for the grace and possibility to walk.” While still in her home country of Belarus, Sr Paula worked with disabled children and saw their struggles. Now, in her work as a pastoral care worker in a school, she says she often hears worries of parents about their children’s health and is happy to give a little help to people with cerebral palsy.

Sr Bogumila says Steptember is a great opportunity to challenge herself and to be mindful of those who cannot walk easily. “I am not successful every day but I try to be”, she says. “Day by day and step by step I am better and better in pushing myself to exercise more and be grateful for my health and all I have.”

Walking 10,000 steps a day isn’t easy. But our sisters make it a meaningful time.

Sr Paula says, “In my daily walk during Steptember I remember in my prayers children with cerebral palsy and their parents.”

Sr Grace says that the level of challenge really depends on your workload. “If your daily challenge is to sit in the office then to make 10,000 steps a day is a huge effort. But it is worth it.”

For Sr Sophie, it’s also important to be realistic. “The challenge is to do 10,000 steps a day, but sometimes we are simply unable to do that because of our commitments or health. The most important thing is to be honest with ourselves and to do our very best.”

There are also many different ways the sisters can achieve their steps. Sr Bogumila says she achieves her step goals in a variety of ways: “Doing daily tasks, waking while praying the Rosary, listening to music and stepping in my room, aerobic, and bike riding.”

The sisters love being part of their team, “Walk4Others”. As a community-minded person, Sr Grace values teamwork. “We motivate each other or ‘get envious’ that others are doing so well and we aren’t”, she laughs.

Sr Paula says walking as part of a team encourages her, and helps her to appreciate community values and contribute more support. She repeats the words of St Teresa of Calcutta: “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

The sisters are walking to raise funds for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, which helps support children and adults with the condition. Through the generosity of other sisters (who might not able to walk that many steps daily due to their age or health conditions, but still want to help), family members, friends, and faithful sponsors, they have almost reached their fundraising goal!

Sr Sophie Boffa is a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth and a chaplain to Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals.

For more information about the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, go to


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