APM Ministry Minute

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 August 23, 2017

Notes from our program committee
Chris Sorensen

With only one more location to be determined, the program committee has received confirmation from 3 wonderful speakers who will speak to various aspects of our theme UNITY... SERVICE... JOY.   Mark your calendars and plan to join us for what promises to be a rich year!


Our program year will begin on Sept. 14, 2017 at St. Peter's, Mendota   for "Conversations with Archbishop Hebda: the Role of Lay Ecclesial Ministers in Pastoral Care in our Archdiocese", followed by:

January 18, 2018 Bill Huebsch will be with us at Carondelet Village in St. Paul. (His recent book,The Art of Accompaniment, is an excellent read.,

April 12, 2018 Jane Leyden Cavanaugh  will bring her enthusiasm and infectious spirit to engage us on the rich topic of joy, and,

May 22, 2018 we will have our Banquet and presentation of the Mary Mulheron Award at Binz Refectory.

 

We know that members had requested our programs be on different days rather than all on the same day of the week.  Unfortunately we have to plan according to the availability of our speakers and trust that you understand.

 

 August 8, 2017
 Home
  Chris Sorensen, APM Program Chair, Pastoral Minister, Church of the Risen Savior
 
There is something deeply universal in Dorothy’s words, “There’s no place like home.”  Each summer I try to return to my home state of Massachusetts.  For me, it is a return to my roots.  It is the one place I can go where no one asks, “where are you from?” because my accent is the native one.  It is where I can sit by or submerge myself in the salty waters of the Atlantic Ocean and return my pulse and heartbeat to their proper rhythm.  The ocean is a place where it is easy for me to go deeper in prayer.  Its enormity and grandeur are tangible signs of the Holy for me…actual soul food.
It is where I reconnect with people, both family and lifelong friends, who have been a part of my personal story.  These are people that are part of, or knew, and have fond memories of, my family.  Some were classmates in the growing pain years of college who helped me to become the ME I am today. As a very relational person this piece is of great import to me.  
I carry Massachusetts in my DNA even as Minnesota has become my home over the last 28 years.  
Over the slower paced days of summer I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to reflect on my life and all of those instances and people that have shown the face of God to me in so many ways.  
During the year when I need to slow down, reflect and breathe in and out, I will pick up a stone on my desk that I have carried back from the shore of the Atlantic, click the heels of my ruby slippers together and praise God for the gift of it all.

 

July 27, 2017
Unity...Service...and Joy
Christine Sorensen, APM Program Chair

As Program Committee Chair, one of the most exciting tasks we as a Board have at our June retreat is the discernment of a theme for our year.  Some years a theme surfaces quickly.  Other years there is more energy that is required as we talk among ourselves and attempt to be attentive to the urgings of the Spirit.

This year the theme that we will build on through our programs is UNITY… SERVICE… JOY.   This theme was inspired by the talk given by Catherine Cory at our May banquet.  Our ministries, grounded in the desire to serve our God, is embraced in this theme by two gifts of the Spirit – Unity and Joy.  
The times we are living in are divisive and there seems to be a spiritual struggle at large to remain striving for the oneness, hope and joy that the Gospel proclaims.   We as ministers who walk in these times may also find ourselves feeling disheartened and confused.  But it is our task as Baptized ministers to witness to unity and joy through the service we are called to do.

The APM Program Committee is feverishly working over these summer days (okay, feverishly is hyperbole!) to contact speakers who will bring us perhaps to a new and deeper understanding and appreciation of UNITY…..SERVICE…and JOY.  Check our website for updates!
Blessings and peace to you all

Joan Apt, 2017 Mary Mulheron Award Winner

Acceptance Speech


I am so very grateful to APM members and board for this honor and to the friends of Sr. Mary Mulheron for establishing this award in her memory. To be recognized by your colleagues, your peers in this way, is a truly, deeply moving experience. Thank you so much. 

 

I have recently been visiting and revisiting an article written by a gal named Heather Pletts entitled “What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone ~ How to Be There for People Who Need You the Most.”   In her article, Heather writes about the experience of her mother’s death and about the hospice nurse, Ann, who guided them through the process.  She writes:

 

“To ‘hold space’ means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control. Sometimes we find ourselves holding space for people while they hold space for others. In our situation, for example, Ann was holding space for us while we held space for Mom.”  I just love this framing.

She goes on to say, “Though I know nothing about her support system, I suspect that there are others holding space for Ann as she does this challenging and meaningful work. It’s virtually impossible to be a strong space holder unless we have others who will hold space for us. Even the strongest leaders, coaches, nurses, etc., need to know that there are some people with whom they can be vulnerable and weak”.

I am admittedly in a tender and liminal place at this moment. I had decided to pass on the APM banquet this year.  One month ago today my family gathered at the bedside to say good bye to my Mom.  I have been reflecting with deep gratitude about it all because my mother’s parting was Graced in so many ways…Divine gifts everwhere… and, I am grieving her loss.  

It seemed to me, when I came home to the various overwhelming forms of ‘full inboxes’,  it seemed to me just too hard to be vulnerable and weak in the presence of my peers at the banquet , I felt exhausted.  I didn’t want to melt down in the inevitable space of loving faces that happens here every year.   plus I missed the deadline…   sorry Jamie.  It was then made clear to me, thanks, Beryl, that my presence tonight was requested.  Another gift to my tender heart and another opportunity for deep reflection and, here now, and an expression of gratitude:

My ministerial life has been so graciously guided by many of you. You have encouraged and affirmed me. You have helped me to grow my pastoral skills, challenged my limits, answered my questions, shared in my off the map idea noodling, and, so sorry, you have listened to my stories.  I am so grateful especially to my dear friends and colleagues originating from Pax Christi and The Leaven Center, it is a privilege to journey with you, you are precious to me.  

Steve, you have heard me say this: You are the center around which I spin. I love you so much.  I could not do this work without your love and support.

In the work we do as pastoral ministers, we are people who hold space and hold space for people holding space.   APM has been for me a network of amazing, sacred space holders with whom I travel and am energized by.  You are deeply caring, faith filled, resourceful, folks to whom the good work of space holding is both a blessing and a privilege.  I am inspired by you.  I am also, at this particular time, grateful to my APM friends and colleagues who have held space for me through my mother’s illness and death.  I can continue my work with that lovingkindness filling my well. Thank you.

Lest this occur as something of a retirement speech… I look forward to future creative collaboration and ministerial partnerships with my APM friends at the intersection between the parish the clinical pastoral world, where I have a tendency to lurk.   

Thank you so much.




  February 27, 2017

Called to be Light and Salt

 by Beryl Schewe, MBA, MDiv, BCC, Director of Pastoral Care, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church


On the day after my daughter was married, I saw a sundog.  We were driving to the local bagel shop to pick up breakfast for 20, on that bright blue-sky morning when the air temperature fell to -22˚F.  The rising sun refracted its light through frozen water vapor, and I saw rays of color.  Normally hidden in plain sight, light’s individual colors are always there, becoming visible when conditions are right.  Sometimes, as with sundogs and rainbows, the results are lovely.

 

In these strange times, we often forget what we have in common. Our conversations, news reports and Facebook posts are sharper, edgier and more polarizing than before. I’m as guilty as the next. I hold strong opinions, and based on my Twitter feed, you do too. Yet there are things we all agree on: we want the world to be better for our children and our grandchildren. We struggle to find unity along a middle path carved from a win-win mentality, not from a zero-sum game.

 

You may recall that Jesus had things to say about light and salt.  He wanted his followers to be a light for the world and salt of the earth.  This weekend, I heard secondhand of a marvelous sermon by Craig Lemming, currently the transitional deacon at St. John’s Episcopal Church and the director of Circle of the Beloved, a local chapter of the Episcopal Service Corps. Craig expounded on salt, a common, stable compound, which is made of sodium and chlorine. Combined, they make a common mineral that’s an essential nutrient for life. Alone, the story is quite different: sodium explodes when it touches water. Chlorine was the base ingredient for poison gas in World War I.

 

Salt separates.  Nations have gone to war over salt. People have boiled spring water to extract salt for use, and tried to remove salt from ocean water to make ocean water drinkable. We use it on snowy days to de-ice our roads, and we condition our water with it.

 

In his sermon, Craig Lemming said “I think we sometimes forget how our presence, our words, and our actions flavor our lives and the lives of those around us. At a time when almost every day we are bombarded by aggressive and mean-spirited words – like that lump of pure sodium dropped into a bucket of water that explodes with enough force to kill – when we encounter those aggressive words, we must remember that we are the salt of the earth. When the toxicity of “alternative facts” spew out of the mouths of elected officials like the deadly chlorine gas from the First World War – we must remember that we are the salt of the earth. With a pinch of our salt, we can bring out the God-flavors in each other. Instead of reacting like a volatile lump of sodium or poisonous chlorine, let us respond with that small pinch of salt that can bring God-flavors out of tasteless conversations.”

 

Mixing elements can bring life and hope to problem-solving.  Brainstorming groups are most creative when the group is random. Mixing people of different backgrounds, education, and professional experiences tends to increase a group’s ability to generate good, workable new ideas. I try to remember this when speaking with someone who voted differently than I did. I hope that I can assume positive intent on the part of all, and to recognize the beauty when light splits displaying a rainbow of colors, knowing that all colors represent true light. 

 

We are called to be salt and light. If we separate salt into sodium and chloride we are simply combustible and corrosive. And light needs the full spectrum of color. To be our best selves, we need each other. That is our strength and our challenge.


  August 31, 2017


 Let's Celebrate! A year of programming fit for a 40th Anniversary!

 by Christine Sorensen, APM program chair


40 Years of APM!  How amazing is that?   It is time to reflect and celebrate this professional association that has gifted us with the opportunity to learn, grow, network and be supported as we live out our call to ministry.

The theme for 2016-2017 is "40 Years of Grace and Hope".

We on the Program Committee have spent the summer months brainstorming and contacting speakers that we believe will both engage and nourish us in wonderful ways.  We work hard at planning programs that speak to us as professionals who are continually seeking to grow in our knowledge and skills.  We feel confident that our three programs this year will be well worth your time and energy. Please plan to join us as we continue to write APM’s history together.

Surely the Lord your God has blessed you in all your undertakings; He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.’

Deuteronomy 2:7   


  August 23, 2017

 

A Letter from your APM Chair

 by Christine Ducharme


“For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you: You have not lacked a thing”             Deuteronomy 2:7


This scripture verse from Deuteronomy is the inspiration for APM’s anniversary theme: ‘Forty Years of Grace and Hope’. In recognition of our fortieth anniversary, may we reflect on the blessings God has provided us.

The biblical number forty is often associated with times of challenge. Moses and his people spent forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert. Then, after God selected Moses to be his leader Moses spent forty days and forty nights on Mt. Sinai receiving God’s word on how to lead His people to freedom.

As I look back on twenty-five years of my vocation as a pastoral minister I remember the grieving and afraid and those who seemed without hope as well as my own wilderness and ‘desert’ times. The pairing of words, informed by scripture and experience jump out at me: trials and challenges are reconciled through Divine grace and hope and I realize that we, as ministers of pastoral care, have much in common with those faithful seekers from so long ago. 

As a student in the Cenacle Program for Spiritual Direction I was asked to create a prayer for ourselves that represented our personal call to Spiritual Direction. My simple prayer was: “Yes”

This small prayer has been profoundly transformative: My prayerful ‘Yes’ has led me to embrace challenging times both professionally and personally and opened my heart to receiving more grace than I ever could have imagined.

In the year of our 40th anniversary, I invite you, with prayerful and holy hope, to say, “yes” to APM. Together we will explore what it means to be called to pastoral ministry and share our common hope as we wait in watchfulness for the Grace that is sure to come, for indeed, ‘we have not lacked a thing’

May your ministry be abundantly blessed!




 

  August 22, 2016


 In Gratitude

 by Mary Brady, 2016 Mary Mulheron Award winner


Thank you!  It is with a grateful and humble heart that I thank all of you for this award.  
Thank you to our APM Board members, and membership for your nomination and all present for your kind words.  Thank you to all who continue to support me in this ministry that I love.  Those here tonight; my brother Byron and sister in law, Carla, our Associate Pastor,  Fr. David Haschka, my co-workers, Vicki Klima, Joan Miltenberger, and Fran Rusciano Murnane.  Thank you to our St. Olaf Pastoral Ministers represented here this evening:  Dennis Felicetta, Mary Means, Tim Powers, Patty Reynolds, and Chuck Steier.

Thank you most of all, to those to whom I serve.  They have taught me what it means to be a pastoral minister.

They have taught me to bring a smile and fresh energy from the outside larger Catholic community to their apartments, healthcare, or hospital room.

They have taught me how to be present and ask with heartfelt concern, “How are you?  How have you been since we last met?”   And then to listen… listen.  If only we had enough time…When I asked two new residents, “Tell me a little about yourselves,” they replied, “Can we sing you an old Negro Spiritual?”  I said, “Yes!”   And they began to sing together, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, the trouble I’ve seen, the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus.”

They have taught me what it looks like to proclaim the Gospel to listeners who listen so intently, nod with unwavering faith, love the Lord, understand the Paschal Mystery and have abundant wisdom from living the Gospel over a lifetime.  

They have taught me in the Prayers of the Faithful that we belong to a very big Church.   They are inclusive.  They remember who is going through natural disasters, civil conflicts and who is without the basic necessities of life, the refugees and immigrants, the poor, the mentally ill, and the homeless.

They have taught me how to pray the Our Father as one of the most intimate prayers and conversations with God, I have ever heard.  They pray so deeply, so quietly, so internally many times I have been brought to tears.  

As we come to the Eucharist, they look upon the Body of Christ with eyes of longing, deep faith, and complete trust that the Lord is with them and will remain with them as nourishment, strength, and comfort in what is for many, the last chapter of their earthly journey.

As we conclude with the blessing, “May the Lord who is within you always look upon you kindly and bring you peace.”  They have taught me how sincere and pure their responses of gratitude and appreciation can be.

My only response is, “It is my joy.”  Thanks be to God!  

 August 22, 2016


APM Banquet Blessing of Archbishop Hebda

 by Kathleen Conrad



We pray our blessing upon you,  Archbishop Hebda
as you continue your ministry among us.
May your hands and heart be strengthened
for the work that lies ahead.
May you be compassionate to human need,
tender and strong in your care for the people of God,
genuine in your walking and working with the faithful,
and true to the commitments you have made.

We pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit,
you will know the unity that is ours:
sisters and brothers of a common family,
sharing this earth as children of one God,
and sharing our ministry as people of The Word.

Archbishop, you have been called to shepherd
the people of this archdiocese.
Please know of our support and our prayers as you
work to bring peace to a broken people,
and healing to the archdiocese.

With God’s grace, we share in your mission to restore trust,
and join you in our mutual role as servants
servants to a people longing for a return to calm, and joy…
servants to a people longing to see the face of God in each other, and in us.

We join you as workers in the vineyard,
dedicated to living and spreading a gospel
that is both challenging AND hope-filled.
For, as  God’s holy people,
we  are all required
to act justly
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with God.

Lay  ecclesial ministers, please rise and
join with me in extending our hands, and our voices,  in blessing for our Archbishop,

May the blessing of the Lord be upon you . . .


  August 22, 2016


 S. Mary Mulheron Award: History

History and purpose: The Sister Mary Mulheron Ministry Award originated in the summer of 1984 when friends of Sister Mary Mulheron, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and a graduate of the College of St. Catherine, decided to establish a fund in her name to remember Mary as a model lay pastoral minister. The award continues to recognize the importance of lay pastoral ministry in today’s church by recognizing (1) a student enrolled in the Pastoral Ministry Certificate Program at St. Catherine University, and (2) a pastoral minister active in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The award includes a monetary prize from the Sr. Mary Mulheron Endowment Fund at St. Catherine University, and is given each spring at the annual APM Banquet. Recipients of award:

1. demonstrate competence and willingness to empower others so they can hear and respond to their call to ministry;
2. evidence personal and spiritual qualities of prayerfulness, empathy, patience, flexibility, and sense of humor;
3. integrate academic theological excellence and intelligence with pastoral insight and professional ministry skills; and
4. bring competence, compassion, creativity, and credibility to the profession of Pastoral Ministry.


The Sister Mary Mulheron Award Recipients

2016   SCU: Carol Reider                                                                   APM:  Mary Brady
2015    SCU: Sherri (Kehoe) Stella                                                  APM: Kathleen Conrad
2014 SCU: Marilyn Ochoa                                                                 APM: Mary Ann Kelly-Wright
2013 SCU: Charlene Peterson                                                          APM: Anne Becker, SSND
2012 SCU: Nicole Duenow                                                                APM: Jamie Moloney
2011 SCU: Tanya Williams                                                                APM: Rev. Dale Korogi*  (in lieu of Mary Mulheron Award)
2010 SCU: Gwen Buckingham                                                         APM: Maribeth Graves, OSF
2009 SCU: Jean Thoreson                                                                APM: Sr. Deanna Donahue
2008 CSC: Pamela Havel                                                                   APM: Mary L. Bosscher
2007 CSC: unknown                                                                             APM: Adaire Lassonde, SSND
2006 CSC: Nancy Loyd-Hutterer                                                    APM:  Sandie Williams
2005 CSC: Joyce K. Dahlberg                                                           APM: Shirley Rowley
2004 CSC: Julie Chrzanowski                                                          APM: Sally Guiney
2003 CSC: Mary Camber                                                                   APM: Chris Sorensen Woodside
2002 CSC: Nancy Brantingham                                                      APM: Martha Alken, OP
2001 CSC: Mary A. DelVecchio                                                       APM: Josetta Marie Spencer, SSND
2000 CSC: Mary Elizabeth Jambor                                              APM: Mary Jane Brennan, IHM
1999 CSC: none                                                                                      APM: Lynette Friesen, SSND
1998 CSC: none                                                                                      APM: Sarah M. Keenan, OSF
1997 CSC: Sara Koch                                                                            APM: Mary Robinson
1996 CSC: Linda Towle                                                                       APM: Carrie Kemp
1995 CSC: Celia Hiland                                                                       APM: Veronica Novotny, OSB
1994 CSC: Mary Gnerer                                                                     APM: Paulissa Jirik, SSND
1993 CSC: Margaret Schwendeman                                              APM: Corinne Cavanagh
1992 CSC: Paula Fischer                                                                     APM: Diana Pauling
1991 CSC: Joan Irgens                                                                         APM: Shirley Mueller, OSF
1990 CSC: Sandra Larson                                                                  APM: Cordelia Korkowski, OSF
1989 CSC: Donna Demarais, OSF                                                   APM: Avis Allmaras, CSJ
1988 CSC: Mary Ann Jens                                                                 APM: Joanne Tromiezak-Neid
1987 CSC: Darlene Gray                                                                    APM: Lelands Hennen, SSND
1986 CSC: Jean Radotich                                                                  APM: Ann Pierce
1985 CSC: Eleanor Getz                                                                     APM: Patricia Durkin


January 7, 2016

 

What is Your Relationship with Pain?
by Shawn Phillips, pastoral minister, Church of St. Timothy, APM Coalition Representative

“On a scale from one to ten, one being the least pain you have ever experienced to ten being the greatest, please rate your pain.” Sound familiar? This is a rating scale utilized universally in clinics and hospitals asking the patient to self-report their experience of pain.  Even though there are times when you’re experience of a paper cut sometimes feels like a five and a deep cut with a knife is a one. Pain is complicated, and has little to do with the amount of tissue damage. Many of the people we see are in pain, some in extreme pain, and sometimes have no tissue damage. Grief, depression, isolation, poverty can create pain in people’s lives as much as cancer, broken hips, and surgery.
I have found a book that is very helpful, not only for those experiencing pain, but also for those that are a part of their healing team. “Explain Pain: Second Edition” David B. Butler and G. Lorimer Mosley, 2013. For instance, in their overview, they use short illustrations that make it clear that the experience of pain is different depending on context, culture, gender, age, circumstance and experience. and is not only a physical experience but is a combination of the physical, psychological, social and spiritual components and takes  a variety of resources to aid a person in coping with the pain they are experiencing and help the person to come to a state of “right-relationship” and healing of their situation.
The book then goes on to describe the physical sensations of pain and how the body experiences and interprets pain. It further utilizes research to show how many of the non-physical aspects lead  to different interpretations of the physical signals that the body is sending. It asks the same question of either the person experiencing pain or those that are in the healing arts, “ What is your relationship with pain? ” Not only the relationship with your own pain, but how do you respond to others in pain as well.
My initial response was similar to someone asking me to hug a porcupine. I don’t like pain, I’m not going to pick up the porcupine, thus my relationship with pain is simple. Now we are done with the question.  The authors lead you beyond this seemingly simple response to a much more complicated understanding of the question. To truly reflect on the multiple dimensions of how context, gender, experience, age, culture, affect our psychological, social and spiritual understanding of pain. They also lead you into how all of these factors lead us in our response to others in pain. If our simple response to pain is “ I don’t like it?” Could our simple response to others in pain be “I don’t like people in pain?” Leading us to possibly rejecting people in pain, like our friend the porcupine, to a variety of other complicated possibilities of response that those of us in the healing profession should have a greater understanding in order to not only healthily deal with our own pain, but those of the people we minister with.
The book further gives us multiple ways to cope and deal with pain as well as dealing with those in pain. Utilizing meditation, exercise, movement, group work, therapy, cognitive and behavioral tracking and understanding to come to a better relationship with pain. Much like St. Francis, many centuries ago, came to a new understanding and relationship with death, ultimately calling death, sister, we too can come to a new relationship with our pain and the pain of those around us, to possibly call pain an allie vs an enemy.

 December 30, 2015


DIVORCE: HOW A PARISH CAN HELP
By Adaire Lassonde, SSND, MA

"My life is blown away like a shepherd's tent," Isaiah wrote, "it is cut short as when a weaver stops working at the loom.  In one short day, my life hangs by a thread."  Many a person has felt the same while standing at the brink of divorce or separation.
I have never met a person who got married thinking that the union would end in divorce.  No one gets married to get divorced.  Nevertheless, many marriages do end in divorce.  Though reasons to divorce are as varied as the people involved, the process is difficult for all concerned: the couple, their children, friends, co-workers, relatives and neighbors.
When someone is going through separation and/or divorce, it may be hard for the person to believe that God actually loves him or her. Instead, the individual may feel guilty because he or she doesn't pray as often as in the past or because it seems the prayers that are said are not making much of a difference.  The stress is so great, in fact, that many people can hardly pay attention to their spiritual lives.  At best, they know that there is a God, but they don't know where to connect with God.
Since many divorced people feel they have let everybody down, cool treatment from church staff or parishioners can further aggravate the situation.  In the same way, rather than serving as a resource, family and friends can also contribute to the alienation felt by the separated and divorced when, for example, sides are taken or one of the partners is judged unfairly.
When I talk to folks who call me about their connection to their parish, I give the message that their church involvement is still welcomed and needed.  If, for instance, they are Communion distributors, parish-committee members, religion teachers, or pastoral care ministers, they should not start to back out of their involvement.  They should continue their involvement.  It will help them, and it will help their parish.
Ministering to the separated and divorced can be particularly awkward.  Members of this population are not about to go around telling everyone that they are newly separated or are in the process of divorce.  Unlike a person about to have cancer surgery, those in troubled marriages or on the verge of divorce frequently do not know whom to trust.
Welcoming parishes where people know each other have an edge.  They establish an attitude from the beginning that all individuals can count on a community that cares about them personally.
Further, everyone can benefit from a parish education program that teaches how the Church looks upon divorce, remarriage, and the myths that surround those topics. When, for instance, a parish says it is going to have a family Mass/service, a family picnic, a family dance, or a family fun day, most divorced members will exclude themselves automatically.  Reasons for this may vary, but most often it has to do with the unspoken message church staffs give that "family" means a mother, father and children.
Parishes can find ways to include the single parents as well as the widowed, the never married, the childless, and others.  But doing so may well mean redefining what people usually think of as family.
Parishes also can be attentive to people in these situations by offering services that help them as parents: providing child care during adult education courses, and other church programs; lining up volunteers who undertake child care for a part of a weekend; offering other helpful programs tailored to the single parent's needs.  In offering emotional support by way of a support group for the separated and divorced, parishes create a way for this group to ritualize their transitions.
When hardly a family remains unaffected by divorce, faith communities can no longer pretend that divorce is not a reality.  If divorce does not seem to exist much in your parish, perhaps it is because many of the divorced feel they don't belong. It may, in fact, be a time for your community to take inventory of its ministry to divorced and separated people.
“In one short day, my life hangs by a thread."  Faith communities can work at weaving that thread into the fabric of their community.  When they do, all will feel truly welcome.


December 9, 2015

 

Advent Daydreams
by Brad Huard, Pastoral Minister
Church of Christ the King, Minneapolis, MN


Recently, I landed on a blog site and under the section of “More about me” the author wrote the following, “I use to want to change the world.  Now I would just like to leave the room with a little dignity.”  I’m sure all of us have daydreamed from time to time about changing the world.  Maybe it was imagining ourselves larger than life as a rock star or movie star.  Perhaps we daydream of being a charismatic leader, triumphing over some ominous injustice or evil that is threatening the existence of world.  Maybe daydreams of being president, a doctor, or lawyer. Or maybe of being a monk, or bishop, or even pope - then I could really change the world.

But then reality sets in as I look around my own little ho-hum world and the not so glamorous or exciting people in it and my daydreams are shattered.  When I’m faced with the never ending stream of bills to pay, the mortgage payment, the mind-numbing traffic jams, the death of a friend from AIDS, the grisly evening news, my sister’s breast cancer, the dirty dishes, and oh yeah, the laundry needs to be done too. There too are the everyday faces of those who commit unspeakable violence, the innocent faces of the poor, and the faces of self-proclaimed “righteous” ones who can so easily pass judgment on others.  Making it though the day unscathed by major mistakes or breakdowns and with some semblance of self-respect and dignity, can often seem like a major accomplishment.  Thoughts of Christmas can seem like just any other day of the year.

The truth of the matter is that God built me to be with people - my family, my co-workers, my parishioners, my fellow citizens, my people.  That includes those I would just as soon not be around: Those who have hurt me. People I resent. Folks who've been unfair, judgmental, and blaming toward me. Those who have wronged me. Those who hate me because of who and what I am.  I don't often admit that it is tough for me to hang in there with these, my people. Sometimes even my seeming to accept or tolerate them collapses under the weight of my false self.  I even try to kid myself into believing that I can save the world, and somehow, somewhere, do enough stuff right to become acceptable and right with God.

But God calls me over and over again to make a space, to crack open a place in my busy life, to break through my ego’s facade to hear the Advent message of hope, love, and mercy in a crazed and noisy world.  If I can listen deep enough, if I can crack open my heart wide enough, I can hear the Advent message in the everyday work of love - finding the patience to be with an annoying person who happens to need my help. The courage to not attack or fight back against those who have hurt or wronged me.  Digging deep into my soul for the grace to love those who dislike or hate me.  God’s unceasing invitation is to get my false-self out of the way and accept that my entire life and being comes from my dependence on God, as opposed to some hypocritical, self-righteous notion that somehow I can save myself.

“In this life we cannot do great things” says Mother Teresa. “We can only do small things with great love.”  I don’t need to change the world.  Jesus has already done that.  But I do need to change my world.  If I can allow the ordinary and common events in my everyday life to be infused with great love, then at the end of the day, leaving the room with some dignity is not about surviving life.  It’s knowing that the Incarnation has changed everything and my dignity in being a child of God is anything but ordinary and common.


 Living with Grief:  A Manifesto

by Beryl Schewe

The summer of 2015 will always be for me about death: premature, unimaginable, ripped from your arms kind of death that you think only happens to other people. But some years, we are the “other people.”

I got the call early in the morning, the Thursday before Memorial Day. People who know me know to never call early. I missed the first call, fumbling to swipe my phone in time to answer. Seconds later, my sister called back. My nephew and godson, Josh, had died of a heroin overdose. Josh was 40, and he left behind a wake of sadness, unrealized potential, and two darling children.  My grief is still to raw to write about Josh other than to say Josh was a special person who lived life with the terrible tiger of addiction on his back.  May he rest in peace.

The news of Josh’s death hit with a force I was not expecting and grief took over my body like it owned me. I felt nauseous, unsteady and out of control. I clung to the kitchen sink, not sure if I was steady enough to stand. I wanted to reclaim control of my body, but my grief was unrelenting. I willed myself to get a grip, telling myself “You do this every day,” a reminder that my job as a chaplain is to work with grieving families; people who try to steady themselves with a white knuckle grip on the kitchen sink as grief sucker-punches them. What we know in our head and what we experience in our heart can be light years apart, and telling myself to get a grip was useless.

I was in the midst of a renovation project. By mid-morning, workmen had filled my house, removing all the windows and doors.  Twelve workmen inside and out, no doors and no windows. In an effort to create a workplace for the crew, we had moved all of our furniture six feet back from the windows. This meant we had furniture stacked on furniture.  There was no place to tuck myself away and cry.

I stared at my wide open house thinking, “I’m going to get on a plane to North Carolina today?”  The timing seemed terribly inconvenient. But then I wondered, when exactly would a drug overdose be convenient?

The timing was peculiar in another way. I was working with a publisher to launch a book on grieving. No irony there, I thought, still clinging to the sink to steady myself.

Josh’s death churned up plenty of raw emotion. His death also forced me to claim things I knew, truths about grief that rumbled around in my head. Those truths had to make the long journey from my head to my heart. I needed to reclaim them for myself, to own them again and live them. It was my way through my grief. Here they are—my personal grief manifesto— with thanks to Josh.

Grief Manifesto
1. No one gets to tell you how you feel or how you should feel
2. Your feelings are neither good nor bad. They are feelings. Raw, painful and ugly sometimes, but not good or bad
3. People manage grief differently. This is ok. Give them space to walk their grief journey. Give yourself space to walk your own grief journey
4. Grief is a journey, not a destination. Your grief will change over time
5. Tears are healing. Bring the rain
6. Not all tears have words
7. Grief is not a contest. No one gets to claim they feel worse than you do, that their loss was somehow more devastating. Your loss is yours. You cannot quantify the size of the hole in your heart
8. When people offer to help, let them
9. When your brain engages in “what if” and “if only”, Stop. Say to yourself. “Not helpful” and move on. We can’t rewind the clock; we can move on
10. Forgive yourself. Forgive the person who died. Forgive the people who failed your loved one. Forgive and let go
11. Care for yourself. Things will take longer to accomplish in grief so give yourself extra time to do the simplest task
12. Be gentle with yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Your brain will function like Swiss cheese for a while. You will think you are going crazy. This is normal. This is grief. A part you will not like
13. Give thanks for the life of your loved one. Give thanks for those who consoled you. Give thanks for your grief, it is a sign of great love. Always remember to give thanks
 ©BerylSchewe 2015 This article was originally published in the Eden Prairie News
 
 Beryl Schewe is Director of Pastoral Care at Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina. She is the author of Habits of Resilience: Learning to Live Fully in the Midst of Loss