Sr. Marcella’s Providence: Speech clinic is an answer to prayer


By Barb Arland-Fye

Speech therapist Sister Marcella Narlock, OSF, interacts with Jacob Jacobsen during a speech therapy session in June at Providence Therapy Services in Clinton. Sr. Narlock and her clients are grateful that she found a new location to provide services after Mount St. Clare Speech & Hearing Clinic closed in 2012.

CLINTON — “Papa,” Jacob Jacobsen says, as he taps his dad Mike’s hand in the waiting room of Providence Therapy Services before speech therapy session begins. Mike and his wife, Dana, smile at their 15-year-old son with developmental disabilities who began to talk for the first time several years ago. They attribute that miracle to speech therapist Sister Marcella Narlock, OSF, who has worked with Jacob since preschool.
The Clinton Franciscan describes her 44 years in speech therapy as energizing because of the growth she witnesses in clients like Jacob.
A little more than a year ago, Sr. Marcella prayed fervently that God would allow her to continue her ministry after Mount St. Clare Speech and Hearing Clinic, which she directed since 1969, closed. The center served individuals and families for more than 65 years on the campus of the former Mount St. Clare College in Clinton, but Ashford University, which now owns the property, needed the space the center occupied on campus.
“We stopped seeing clients at the beginning of April (2012) because we had to be out by May 31,” Sister recalled. “I told my clients that I was determined to continue my work but I could not tell them when or where at that time. They were willing to wait.”
By the third week of May 2012 she had signed a contract with the company she would work for, Providence Therapy Services. Providence found space in a building on Clinton’s north side for her and she began seeing clients June 4, 2012.
Twenty of the 23 clients followed her to Providence, which she found very affirming. She also provides speech therapy to 20 clients at Skyline Center, a sheltered workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. Three speech therapists who worked with Sr. Marcella at Mount St. Clare eventually joined her at Providence. And, she secured Professional Billing Services in Clinton to handle electronic billing, something she couldn’t have done on her own.
“I am certain that God is right at the center of what happened to me,” said Sr. Marcella. Mike and Dana feel equally blessed. When they first sought Sister’s help, Jacob couldn’t communicate with them. Seated at a table in speech therapy class, the little boy would sweep his hands across the table, clearing every object off of it. His parents sat on either side of Jacob to keep him from bolting. Sr. Marcella taught the family how to use sign language to facilitate communication.
Twelve years later, Jacob can sit calmly in his chair listening to and watching Sr. Marcella while his parents remain in the waiting room. Through patient, persistent therapy that looks like playtime, Jacob has slowly acquired speech. He doesn’t speak in sentences, but can string together four or five words at a time, his dad says.
“I don’t know what kind of magic she has, but she does,” Dana said, referring to Sr. Mar­cella. “We’ve been coming so long … we’ve seen clients before and after Jacob who have grown also.”
Now Jacob is preparing to enter his freshman year at North Scott High School in Eldridge, Iowa. The efforts of his teachers in that school district complement Sr. Marcella’s efforts, the Jacobsens say.
“I just love what I do and I can see results,” Sister said. In addition to children, she works with adults with developmental disabilities and senior citizens. Her young­est client just turned 2 and her oldest is 76. “The oldest person I provided therapy for was 101.”
Sr. Marcella isn’t retiring anytime soon. “If I can help one person to have a better quality of life, then it’s worth it.”

Sisters honored for speech therapy work
Clinton Franciscans Marcella Marie Narlock and Jeanne d’Arc are recipients of the highest honor awarded by the Iowa Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
In October, the two Sisters received the Honors of the Association, which recognizes distinguished contribution to the field of speech, language and hearing. The award recognizes individuals who are known throughout Iowa for significant and extensive contributions to the field including: a lifetime of service, innovative clinical practice, insightful and rigorous research, creative administration, effective legislative activity, outstanding teaching and dedication to the profession of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

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