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.’
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
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.
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
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.
November 5, 2015
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.
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
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
By Mary Ann Kelly-Wright
What's new from MVA? One number to call to report adult abuse!
Yes, ONE NUMBER, for all counties! Update your information now, to call the following number to report adult abuse:
To report adult abuse: Call #844-880-1574
Here's more from APM Board Member Mary Ann Kelly-Wright and what to look forward to from MVA:
The APM Ministry to Vulnerable Adults training is now 10 years old - hard to believe. A little older if you count the time the Task Force took to assemble it. The trainer's workshop is undergoing a needed update with original Task Force members Kathleen Conrad and Mary Ann Kelly-Wright taking the lead. As we are aware there are new guidelines coming out of the Archdiocese for minors and vulnerable adults. The Minnesota Department of Human Services also is updating some of their information on vulnerable adults.
Areas that we are checking on and may include:
-any new wording from the Archdiocese on guidelines, mandated reporters or the reporting process
-simplifying the statistical area - we have heard that the MN DHS is updating their website to provide easy access to county and state data - not yet available.
-any updated information on the MN Statutes that address vulnerable adults
-exploring the change from CD to flash/jump drive for the Power Point training
-simplifying the resource materials in the Volunteer packet
As you may imagine gathering and checking this information takes time. Our current timeline goal for having an updated draft the Board can review is end of November. An updated version may not be available until early 2016. In the meantime, continue to use the original materials.
Here is one piece of new information that you can add now from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Instead of each county have their own reporting number, there is one number as of July 1, 2015. Provided from DHS website.
MN Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC) and the Common Entry Point (CEP)
Effective July 1, 2015, the Common Entry Point (CEP), the unit designated under Minnesota laws by the commissioner of human services for receiving reports of suspected maltreatement, will operate as the MN Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC).
• Is available 24 hours per day to take calls from mandated and voluntary reporters of suspected maltreatment of vulnerable adults.
• Immediately notifies the county agency responsible when the vulnerable adult needs mmediate adult protective services.
• Immediately notifies a law enforcement agency for any report of suspected maltreatment in which there is reason to believe a crime has been committed.
• Immediately notifies the medical examiner and the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Development Disabilities for any report of suspected maltreatment which involves a suspicious death.
• Refers reports of suspected maltreatment to the lead investigative agency (LIA), responsible for the report.
Reports of Suspected Maltreatment
Reports of suspected maltreatment of a vulnerable adult are made 24/7/365 to MAARC at 844-880-1574
More updates as we learn of and can verify them. Thank you for your great support, patience and your prayers in this endeavor. Questions may be directed to Mary Ann Kelly-Wright, Director of Pastoral Care at St. Joan of Arch Community, 612-823-8205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Beryl Schewe
We call ourselves pastoral ministers, but we could as easily call ourselves threshold ministers. Our days are filled with people in a life transition—and usually not a happy transition. We meet people when life has handed them a devastating loss. Whether it’s coping with a divorce, burying a loved one, accepting an unwelcome job loss or a grim diagnosis, or struggling with a chronic progressive illness, it’s always about loss. We’re expected to be a healing presence as we listen to the stories of pain and suffering that come through our door. As often as the same issues cross our threshold, our work is never routine. Each loss has its own story and a life touched by sadness and difficulty.
Some people arrive at our door quickly, at the first sign of transition. Others come to us last: when the medical community has failed to cure; when the marriage has shattered into wounding shards; when they have no place else to go. Often, we are the last resort, when people begin realizing there is no fixing their situation. People want to return to their old normal—the normal where her husband is ensconced in his reading chair when she comes home, not the empty chair reminding her he’s been buried a week, a month, a year—the normal before cancer and chemo and hair loss.
Our job is not to ram the obvious down their throats. There is no going back to the old life, the old normal. Grievers already get this, but just because they understand it intellectually doesn’t mean they are ready to accept the “new normal” that comes with this reality. Telling them there is no going back is simply not helpful. They need someone to listen, to let them speak their fear—the fear other people dismiss or try to minimize.
When we meet them at the threshold, we stand in the “between space” –the liminal space that separates out the old life from what will unfold as their new life. Liminal space can be scary. We stare into the dark abyss together, and wonder with them what it means to step across the threshold into the new normal. We hear their concern, wondering if embracing this new normal means they have forgotten their loved one. They hate the idea of what life will mean without a beloved husband. They worry that crossing the threshold from aggressive chemotherapy to hospice means they have given up hope. They ask why and wonder where God is in all of this? They struggle with the challenges that job losses bring. What is my purpose without a job? How will I make ends meet?
We are not fixers. We are simply a listening presence, honoring their story of pain, walking with them on their journey. Our goal is not to fix, mend, or heal. We can only point the way to the Healer. We stand with people on a new threshold of their lives: willing to listen; willing to wonder with them what crossing the threshold into this new normal will bring. We hear their pain, fear and raw emotions. We do not try to silence this rawness and this fear. We simply acknowledge this dark place, this fear of what is yet to come.
As threshold ministers, we make this unspoken promise to those we meet: we will not try to fix you; we will let you be sad—your tears will not scare us away; we trust you to know how to grieve—every griever has their own journey; we will help you remember your loved one and we will mention your loved one by name; we will hold your sacred story.
September 15th, the APM retreat will be held at St. Cecilia’s. We’ll be talking about how threshold ministers keep our own wells filled so we might continue our work of care and compassion. How do we, day in and day out, hear stories of pain and suffering and maintain our own balance? What does filling the well look like for us? Come, fill the well!
Beryl Schewe directs pastoral ministries at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina. She is the author of the recently published Habits of Resilience: Living in the Midst of Loss.
APM Members have a wonderful year of programming to look forward to!
By Christine Sorensen, Program Co-chair
The past few years have been interesting times - in the Chinese sense of the word- to minister in our Archdiocese. The headlines, television and radio reports have been so emotionally and spiritually draining for so many of God’s people. With the resignation of our Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishop, the criminal charges filed against the “corporation” and the Archdiocesan filing for bankruptcy, there is still much that is unsettling. For us as Pastoral Ministers it has been a time to focus on a bigger picture, a bigger reality if you will. For us that reality is to be faithful and focused on the work we are invited to do by our loving God Who has called us. With that in mind, when the APM Board gathered at our working retreat in June, the theme that was discerned for our 2015 – 2016 Program year is (drum roll please!): Created and Called to Walk Humbly With Our God. We as a Program Committee have met to discuss and explore possible speakers to creatively develop this theme for all of us. We are very excited by the speakers who have agreed to be with us and hope that you will be as well. On Tuesday, September 15 at St. Cecilia’s in St. Paul, Beryl Schewe, the Pastoral Minister at Our Lady of Grace and author of the recently published book Habits of Resilience: Learning to Live Fully in the Midst of Loss will speak with us about Resilience. How do we cope with and adapt to difficulty or distractions? On Thursday, December 10 at Carondelet Village, St. Paul Fr. Steve Adrian will talk with us about Pope Francis and the Year of Mercy. And finally, on February 23, 2016 at St. Joan of Arc Catherine Bertrand, SSND will speak with us on our call to ministry. Our annual retreat will be on April 15, 2016 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sister Michelle L’Allier, FSLF will direct our retreat day. More details will be available at a later date. All of our meetings will be from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Our Banquet will be on May 24, 2016 at the Binz Refectory. There will be more information at a late time on our programs but now you can put the dates on your calendar!
Kathleen Conrad honored by peers in ministry with the 2015 Mary Mulheron Award
*below is the presentation of the award by Lisa Amos, APM past-chair 2014-2015
"None of us do what we do for accolades, for tremendous financial gain. Most of what we do is done quietly, privately, But I think most of us feel that there is a trinity of endorsement that give us the heart to continue and the strength to persevere: the often brief but always powerful moments when we feel God’s approving, guiding presence; signs of comfort in those to whom we serve and the always humbling invitation into their sacred experiences, and the respect and love of our peers in ministry.
Tonight we honor one of our own, nominated by our membership and selected from among the nominees by their peers. Since 1985, The Mary Mulheron award has recognized lay ecclesial ministers for excellence in pastoral care ministry. Specifically, this person exhibits the qualities evident in Mary Mulheron in whose memory this award if offered. Qualities which include dedication to the care ministry, competence in vocation and a willingness to empower others. Personal qualities of prayerfulness, empathy, patience, flexibility and a sense of humor.Has vision, intelligence and brings creativity, and credibility to our profession.
Tonight’s honoree embodies and lives out these qualities and more. Nominated by more than one member, she’s described by one as a ”dedicated, faithful minister who has been gifted with creativity, compassion, and a sweet sense of humor.” Aslo said of her: “her gift of presence is one that she has generously given to parishioners, to her beloved community in which she ministers now, and to APM”. Her leadership in prayer has been called, “a mystical, poetic example of her deep, mature faith”.
When I spoke with people she works with I heard from one that “she continues to impress with her faithfulness, spirit of hospitality, attention to those of all stripes she cares for, and is always ready to fill in and does it well”.
I heard from others of she is a “bright, enthusiastic, encouraging presence”. I was told that she “challenges and affirms individuals in their special talents and encourages them to use their gifts for the good of the community.
Her experience in pastoral care has impressive depth. She has successfully ministered in the parish setting as well as in the marketplace in bereavement care and care of the elderly.
This person has also shown tremendous dedication to the Association of Pastoral Ministers. I believe she has served on the board for more than 7 years, in at least 4 different board positions, including serving as chair, was an integral part of the Ministry to Vulnerable Adults task force, and has led us in song with her angelic voice more times than I can count.
In one newsletter article from her time as chair, she wrote, “From the “everlasting vision” of the prophets, to the “ever-changing view” we are living today, all of our lives are interlaced, just like threads of warp and weft on a loom. As dedicated and faithful pastoral ministers, we are continually weaving the stories of who we are as church. During the coming year we will take the time to remember those who have gone before us and who began the tapestry of our lives as People of God, to talk with each other about the stories we are weaving today, and to lift up our hopes for generations of believers and weavers still to come.” I think I’ve learned enough of her to know that to hear that one of whom she serves said of her, “she always takes the time to know us. She never seems to want to be anywhere but with you. She knows so much of our life stories and seems to cherish them.”
I can’t end without also sharing my own personal joy in getting to present this award. When I joined APM as a very green, very overwhelmed rookie pastoral minister, there were those I will always remember as welcoming me without hesitation. She is one of them. Her hospitality, truly and authentically given is nothing short of Grace. Whenever you encounter her she is warm, happy to see you, and present in a very real way. She is also someone I have admired and tried to emulate in my own ministry. I can think of few more deserving than she. Please join me in congratulating the 30th recipient of the Mary Mulheron Award for excellence in ministry, Kathleen Conrad."
Contributed by David Dunst, Director of Music and Liturgy, Church of St. Peter, Mendota
When I heard a few months ago that Chris Tomlin would be giving a concert in Minneapolis, I began a vigilant search for ticket information. Those who know me know that his is a kind of music that has been instrumental to my developing faith, and the form of prayer that accompanies it carries a similar significance for me.
So it was with excitement that my wife and I made the necessary arrangements and set out for the Target Center following Mass one Saturday recently passed, looking forward to an evening of prayerful song.
What I recall more vividly than the concert, however, is the man on the street corner outside the concert venue. He stood with a very large sign, and called out a memorized Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate…” The text on the sign included a number of verses or convictions to the effect of “God hates sin”, “Jesus is the just judge”, and “God will punish you.” This is a familiar line of reasoning, and betrays a misunderstanding of divine justice. I’d like to dwell on this concept of divine justice further, but in light of the day’s feast of the Divine Mercy.
Principally ringing in those words from the sign of the man on the corner is a singular motivation based on the primordial experience of punishment: that of fear. We should fear God’s punishment, and so we should amend our ways. “Turn or burn” is the old, flippant phrase to describe this manner of theology -- the notion that we must forsake sin “or else”.
However, God is not our accuser, and as much as our sin grieves him, it cannot harm him. What is taken by sin is nothing that could not be restored to him by sincere conversion and contrition. Our will and our love is what he wants from us, and when he is offended by sin, it is as a scorned lover, not as a property owner. It isn’t blood that he desires in payment for the wrongs of humanity, but merely contrite hearts (Psalm 51:19). Therein is mercy.
The truth is that there are competing understandings at work. That of a justice that demands retribution, and that of a justice that renews and restores. By one standard, Justice will only be satisfied by bloodshed and punishment. By the other, Justice will only be satisfied when order is restored -- that is, things are set right once again. One seeks repayment in the form of “a pound of flesh”, and the other seeks to have full and uncontested possession of goods returned to the owner. “Retributive” justice is a very human thing, and we can understand it pretty readily. Most civil penal systems are based solely on this model.
“Restorative” justice, however, is a radically different way to look at justice. Restorative justice seeks, as the name would indicate, restoration. Restoration implies that all that has been taken or injured is returned, but returned as if nothing had been taken nor hurt in the first place. Justice, in this sense, is to “make all things new”.
What I wished most, as I heard the man as he condemned people for their sins, was that he first consider what his message really sounded like to a people not bound for a concert held by one of the most influential Christian singers and songwriters in the world today. Unfortunately, it must sound like the kind of judgment and condemnation of which Christians are all too widely accused. Wouldn’t our Gospel be so much more enticing to a lost and wandering world, if at the center were a God so full of mercy, so eager to forgive, as to not count costs? Is not our God greater than all the sacrifices or payments all the world could heap together, through all of time?
Justice and Mercy don’t have to be at odds. It could be that they are in imminent harmony, if only we readjusted our frame of reference. While it seems like payback is what God wants, perhaps we should consider the possibility that God’s forgiveness is of so high an order that he needs only our repentance, not our sacrifices or “burnt offerings”, and his embrace of us is so much the fuller.
Perhaps his mercy is able to simply forego lesser notions of justice and accomplish a Justice all the more sublime.
Contributed by Lisa Amos, APM Past Chair and Pastoral Associate at Church of St. Peter, Mendota
There is something tremendously appealing about the season of Lent. This may seem counter-intuitive to some of us. We can ask ourselves why it is that we find such happiness in a stretch of time that invites us to take a hard look at what in our lives keeps us from fully living out our relationship with Jesus Christ.
I have a close friend who loves to tease me every year when Lent rolls around. She misunderstands my joy in this season as self-recrimination and enjoyment in gloom and judgment. I continue to pray and have hope that she will eventually see these 40 days as one of the greatest gifts of our Church. Where else in our lives do we have the opportunity to create space for the One who loves us more than anyone else? Who else calls to us, over and over, without tiring of responses that often fall short? I don’t know about you, but every year I find that I need Lent more than ever. The more I open myself to Jesus in my life, the more I desire a complete spring-cleaning of my heart. For me, Lent is much like the weeks before I throw a party or have house guests. Most of the time, I think my housekeeping is adequate. There aren’t many glaringly obvious signs of dirt (just the usual clutter that comes with having children). Just please don’t show up unannounced and open my bedroom closets or look behind my oven. It’s inevitable, though, that once I know I’ll be having company, the to-do list of cleaning to prepare for their arrival is long. I spend the weeks scrubbing and organizing, prioritizing and purging, until everything is ready for those I love. I look around and tell myself, and my husband, that we should have company more often so our house is always so clean. Then the guests arrive, and I am better able to relax and spend time with them, getting closer to them, knowing that I’ve prepared a comfortable and welcoming place for them.
So it is with Lent. All year, I do my best to make time for the Lord in my life. And all year I feel like I do an adequate job. Then Lent arrives, and our celebration of Jesus’ great sacrifice and triumph over sin- my sin- is approaching. It’s time to start a thorough cleaning and preparation in my heart for his arrival. The list of how I can better my relationship, every year, is longer than I think. And every year because of the effort I spend during Lent, I clear away enough to make more room in my heart for him.
It is not easy though. It’s hard work. It requires time and a willingness to really look at what’s in need of our attention. It demands that we use all that we have at our disposal and cries out for help from others. Lent, and later Holy Week, allow us to slow down and make very real room in our lives for God. For some this can be as simple as waking up ten minutes earlier and reading and reflecting on Scripture. I’d recommend starting with Mark’s Gospel but any will do. For others it may mean dusting off a treasured rosary and making that wonderful prayer and meditation on the story of Jesus. For still others it may be a retreat, Stations of the Cross, and extra weekend serving at Mass, listening to music that inspires in us love for Jesus. The gifts of our faith are many. Whichever we choose to accept can enrich and deepen our closeness to God, our Father. It’s not important what we do, but that we allow ourselves- and others- time to grow in gratitude.
Sometimes the most difficult thing to find lurking in the back of the closets of our hearts is apathy. We may find that although we are outwardly dedicated to the obligations of our faith, that is where our interest ends. And that’s okay. It’s natural for our faith to ebb and flow. Lent can be an opportunity to open ourselves up honestly to what is at the root of our apathy. Then, once revealed, we can and should spend some time praying about it. We can spend time in silent stillness that makes room for God’s answer to us. And then, awesomely, ways to begin the work of clearing it away. Maybe you’ll be drawn to confession for the first time in many, many years (or your first time ever). Maybe you’ll decide you want to learn more about Scripture and you’ll sign up for a class or Bible study. Maybe you’ll begin to notice those among us at St. Peter’s who radiate their love of Jesus and you’ll find ways to spend more time around them.
This year, our community is especially blessed because we will welcome a new member into our Christian family at the Easter Vigil. So important is this that even the Gospel readings change. In those parishes who look forward to adult baptism at Easter, we hear stories from Luke that allude to baptism. In baptism, both our own and in witnessing those of others, we have an encounter with Jesus. In baptism, we are not only cleansed, but also healed and restored. Baptism is where our discipleship begins. Every year I am blessed to be a part of this sacred event, my faith is renewed and restored. Every year I stand in awe of the beauty and glory of God’s mercy. When I witness the joy in Deb as she draws nearer to her death and rebirth in Christ Jesus, my heart expands and Jesus immediately fills that space with his love. If you feel any less than joyful exuberance about your faith, I want to extend to you a special invitation to make the Triduum celebration a part of your Easter celebration this year. Sure, it’s three night. Yes, the Easter Vigil is late and long. But, in my opinion, it’s worth every sacrifice and every minute. It’s the story of our faith. It’s our story. Make it your story.
May God bless you with a new and deep awareness of His love and mercy this Lent and beyond.
From Chris Sorensen, APM Program Committee Chair and pastoral minister, Church of the Risen Savior, Faribault
On a Thursday morning in early December a small group of our members gathered at the historic Church of the Assumption in downtown St. Paul. Assumption has a rich history of outreach to God’s people and provided the perfect venue to listen to Joan Miltenberger, the Director of Charity and Outreach at St. Olaf Catholic Church. In a reflective and contemplative manner she addressed the topic Mystery, Awe and Wonder in the Faces of Those We Serve. Joan reminded us that the season of Advent provides us with the opportunity to remember the pure gift of Christ – freely and lovingly given to us – and to consider how we respond to this gift from our loving God. One way is in our response to people that come to us in need of spiritual, psychological or material need.
At times we may feel powerless when people come to us. Joan suggested that we ask for the grace to see through the suffering and to enter into the suffering where we can bend and bow to the human dignity of the one before us. When we are weak with the weak, vulnerable with those who are vulnerable and powerless with those who are powerless – when we are immersed in the suffering – we remember that we have our needs as well. We are not perfect.
Joan acknowledged that as we Christians reflect, wait and pray in anticipation of the Holy Day, we also have to contend with the trappings of our consumer culture that can overwhelm us in their pervasiveness. She invited us to enter into the messiness of the season while also accepting the Advent invitation to contemplation.
Joan’s presence, her wisdom and her deep compassion were gifts to all of us who had the opportunity to be with her. Her presentation was a wonderful balance to the Cultural Christmas Chaos!.
A message from Marge Virnig, APM Chair 2014-2015
Dear Colleagues in Ministry,
My experience in ministry these days seems to cover the gamut ... in a typical week I can feel inspired, challenged, hopeful, gratified, discouraged, bewildered, joyful, supportive, apprehensive, excited, exhausted, but always privileged!
We are living through some difficult days in our church, but we, as pastoral ministers, have so many opportunities to be agents of hope and healing and growth to our families, our neighbors, our colleagues in ministry, and to all God's people. This realization, along with the Holy Spirit, was influential in helping us discern our "theme" for the upcoming year: Mystery, Awe and Wonder.
St. Francis of Assisi taught us that we are called to recognize, honor and protect the divine image in all creation. We are living in a church and world that could use frequent reminders of this. When we are drawn into the mystery, awe and wonder that is God, we are able to live from that center and respond in ways that make a difference. We can be part of a new and better way to be - starting here and now with the inexhaustible possibilities that are waiting to be discovered!
Best of all, we do this together, offering each other what is needed at any given time: support, wisdom, collaboration, tears, chocolate, wine, laughter, prayer, etc.
APM 2014-2015 Program Year
Mystery, Awe and Wonder: In the Joy of Connection With Sr. Kathie McLaughlin Thursday, October 9, 2014 1:00-3:30 p.m. Carondelet Village
Mystery, Awe and Wonder: In the Faces of those to/with Whom we Minister with Joan Miltenberger Thursday, December 4, 2014 1:00-3:30 p.m. Assumption (St. Paul)
Mystery, Awe and Wonder: Drawing on Buddhist and Christian Meditation Practices Brent Derowitsch, M.Div. February 5, 2014 1:00-3:30 p.m. (date tentative) St. Margaret Mary in Golden Valley (tentative)
Other exciting upcoming events: Retreat Day Date to be determined Spring Banquet May 27, 2015, 6pm Binz Regestory, St. Paul
A word about APM membership ... it's a good thing! Benefits include free admission to the three speaker programs, reduced registration fees for the retreat and banquet, an opportunity to serve on one of our committees (hospitality, spirituality, communications, Coalition rep, programs) or to help shape APM by joining its governing board. It's also a great opportunity to get to network and build community with other pastoral ministers. We welcome new members and have tried to make membership options that will fit most situations: full membership for individuals, student memberships, and parish memberships that include up to five people from your parish. This is a great way to provide ongoing formation opportunities for volunteers. Please see the Membership section of the website for more information.
Speaking of the website www.apmspm.org, I think it's one of the more informational and user friendly websites I've visited. Enough so that I put it in my favorites! I especially like the blog and the wisdom and insights shared by other pastoral ministers. I encourage you to read and respond - or initiate new topics for others to read and respond.
I look forward to getting to know you this year - in person at our programs and events, and electronically through our website!
Let us plunge together into mystery, awe and wonder - falling head over heels in love with our God who is head over heels in love with us. The results will be transformative and contagious!
Peace and all God's blessings!
An exciting year ahead Chris Sorensen, Risen Savior
One of my favorite meetings as a Board member is our annual working retreat. On June 9 we as a board gathered to reflect on the past year and then to plan for a new year. The atmosphere of reflection and discussion is a perfect way to begin discernment of the theme for our new program year. After a lively discussion, interspersed with some pensive moments, the theme that captured the direction of our discussion is our theme for 2014-2015: Mystery, Awe and Wonder.
The challenge for us on the Program committee was to find speakers who would develop this theme in creative and inspiring ways. We on the committee were humbly overwhelmed by the gracious response of the people we asked to be presenters for us this year. We are also delighted with the different perspectives they are taking as they prepare their presentations. Please mark your calendars for our 2014-15 Programs. All programs are from 1-3:30 P.M.
Sr. Kathie McLaughlin, CSJ - Thursday, October 9th "Mystery, Awe and Wonder in the Joy of Connection" Carondelet Village Auditorium
Joan Miltenberger - Thursday, December 4, 2014 "Mystery, Awe and Wonder in the faces of those to whom and with whom we minister" Assumption, St. Paul
Brent Derowitsch - Thursday, February 5, 2015 "Mystery, Awe and Wonder - Everyday." St. Margaret Mary, Golden Valley
Our Spring Banquet will be on Wednesday, May 27th 2015 at 6 P.M. at the Binz Rectory.
And this year's Mary Mulheron award goes to...
Drum roll please...
Mary Ann Kelly Wright
Mary Ann would not like all the fuss or the drum roll, but she was clearly deserving of this wonderful affirmation and acknowledgment of the beautiful ministry she has served in for many years now.
The criteria for the Mary Mulheron award states: "the recipient is one dedicated to pastoral ministry who has demonstrated competence in the vocation and a willingness to empower others in their ministries"
Mary Ann currently serves at St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis. She has been described as hard working, faith filled and energetic as a pastoral minister. Mary Ann has served on the Association of Pastoral Ministers board for several years now and has worn many hats over her tenure. She is an open and honest voice and has an untiring willingness to do her part. She is a woman whose faith leads her.
Mary Ann was acknowledged by a colleague as working ecumenically to nourish a ministry to those who live with mental illness. She worked with channel 2 TPT to present a program focused on the needs of the mentally ill. I think one of the most compelling statements was how Mary Ann constantly calls the staff she works with to prayer and reflection.
The Mary Mulheron Award has been in good hands for many years and is a reminder to all of us that we work in good company with a shared responsibility and great desire to do our work to:
"Build up the kingdom of God!!!"
Congratulations, Mary Ann Kelly Wright, 2014 recipient of the Mary Mulheron Award
Will the circle be unbroken?
A few weeks ago, my women's group headed north to the National Forest Lodge in Isabella, MN. The National Forest Lodge has a somewhat misleading name. Although it borders the Superior National Forest wilderness, the property is privately owned and managed.
Way back in September before the leaves turned, we thought that the last weekend in February might be dicey for skiing. We worried about having enough snow to cross country ski and snow shoe! Why is it that the things we worry about rarely come to pass, and the things we never consider loom large?
For safety reasons, we employed the buddy system. There was so much snow that we needed help after a wipe-out to climb out of the deep snow and get back onto the trail. It was also cold, really cold. Our last day out the temperature was -26? F. You'd have to be either a self-righteous fool or a blithering idiot to go out in those conditions. Count me in.
The trip was a "plus one" event. We wanted the lodge, which had a distinct advantage over the rustic cabins available for smaller groups: indoor plumbing. This required a larger group, and several of us immediately invited our "plus one," guaranteeing the requisite flush toilets. I invited my daughter Sarah.
This was our first "plus one" event in years. Thee and a half years ago, our friend Lisa Roden was killed in a bike accident. Lisa was arguably one of the fittest in the group and an avid cyclist. What started out as an ordinary women's group outing ended in gut-wrenching tragedy. Lisa and another cyclist hit head-on as Lisa entered a bike tunnel. Her helmet collided with the other cyclist and pulled down towards her face. When she was thrown off the bike, her helmet was no longer on her head. She died of a traumatic brain injury later that night. In our grief, we tightened the circle after Lisa's death.
We still tell Lisa stories. My favorite was a pontoon outing on Lake Minnetonka when a key piece of our grill fell in the lake. Lisa quickly looked to her right and left, then whipped off her shirt and dove into the lake. She emerged sunny side up with a huge grin and a fist clutching the critical grill piece.
The group, dubbed "the sisterhood", has discovered more about grief than we ever wanted. Painfully, we learned that grief has no timetable. If we didn't know it before, we know it now; everyone grieves differently. There is no right way to grieve, and the most loving gift we have given each other is a non-judgmental stance to grieve Lisa in the way each of us must.
The ski trip was a new chapter in our grief, a breakthrough weekend of sorts. It was our first trip inviting others into a circle of women that have nurtured and supported each other through our kids' growing up times: high school and college graduations; job changes; marriages of our kids; the deaths of our parents; a newly minted PhD; and most searing for the group, Lisa's death.
My daughter Sarah has known most of the sisterhood since she was three. They have watched her grow up and come into her own as a young adult. And she has watched us.
Sarah sent me a note shortly after the trip. It read,
Thank you so much for including me in your women's ski weekend up north! I had such a good time catching up with you on our drive north, hanging out in the cozy cabin, skiing among the beautiful pines, and resting my sore muscles on the drive home. Most of all, it was so special to see what a strong support network you have with the sisterhood. I hope I am as lucky to have a strong group of women in my life.
I love you, Sarah.
I hope you are blessed with strong women in your life too. I hope you can find women you can trust to hold your fears and dreams close to their hearts, women who can love you in spite of yourself, and women who have the courage to tell you the truth when you need to hear it. I've often thought this is why Jesus sent the disciples out in twos. Everyone needs a buddy. When you go headfirst into the snowdrifts of life, I hope you have people who love you to help dig you out, dust you off, and set your skis on the trail again.
I love you, Mom.
Beryl Schewe, MBA, MDiv, BCC Director of Pastoral Care Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church Edina, MN
March 2, 2014
Lisa Amos, Church of St. Peter, 2014 APM Chair
It's the last weekend in Ordinary Time before we enter into the season of Lent. For me, this season of the liturgical calendar is a favorite. I get excited about entering into the desert. I look forward to the massive overindulgence of Fat Tuesday, the solemn ritual of Ash Wednesday, the comforting simplicity that comes from giving up and giving in to God's presence in our lives.
Beyond my fondness for the outward signs of the season, however, lies something deeper. I am a sinner. I always have been. I likely always will be. Despite knowing this is true, it is easy to forget two very important things. First, that I need to be reminded of my own limitations and shortcomings from time to time and, two, that I am not the only one. There is no place in our calendar that it's more apparent that God's love for us is without end and without reservation. God, in infinite wisdom, knows that we all fall away from the love of Christ in the moments of our daily lives. God, in infinite love, sets aside this time so that we can begin to acknowledge our sins. We are given a great number of ways to purify ourselves of them in beautiful and special ways. Our parish bulletin and website are bursting with these opportunities. And, at the end of it all, the gift of Holy Week, and Resurrection, are waiting for us. The purpose of Lent is not punishment. Its purpose is to prepare us for Easter. We are made more ready for Resurrection.
This time is about more than "giving something up". Abstaining from something, say chocolate, without recognizing the reason for doing so is as hollow as a bargain chocolate bunny. We should ask ourselves, "Why have I given up chocolate?" Is it from a desire to show gratitude for God's mercy? Do you wish for a deeper solidarity with the poor of God's children? You may decide that chocolate is not enough. How much of ourselves would we actually relinquish if we really believed that reducing our own consumption would leave more for the rest of the world?
At Thanksgiving, we spend extra time with our families. Our loved ones receive tremendous attention from us on their birthdays. Lent is the season to pay special attention to God. Our lives become so overloaded with responsibilities. We become obsessively task oriented. One of the gifts of Lent is that we have a wonderful excuse for making time for Jesus.
I was blessed to be able to spend last weekend on a retreat. With the responsibilities of work, especially busy during this challenging time in our parish, my three children, and various other family obligations, the need for retreat does seem particularly necessary. Ironically, that is also why it is so hard for me to set everything and "go off the grid" for three days. During Lent, there's a sense that that's exactly what I should do so I was able to with- relatively- little guilt. It's not surprising that during the retreat I found greater closeness to God. Periods of silent reflection, prayer both alone and in community, and going to confession all allowed me to sink more fully into Jesus Christ. More surprising to me is the humility I walked away with. God lovingly reminds that the world functions without me. The parish was just fine when I returned on Monday morning, my children were well taken care of and happy, my husband did not weep and wail in my absence. God is often subtle, but always clever.
Whether you are able to make a retreat or not, it's vital that we hold the retreat experience in our lives. We can make a very conscious effort to create small holy moments in our daily lives. This is something each of us can, and should, do regardless of what our obligations may be. Can you extend your own daily prayer time by including daily reflection specific to Lent? Will you try to learn more about your faith? I recommend very highly the reading of Pope Francis's letter, "The Joy of the Gospel". It's bright, funny, deeply holy, and accessibly written. Can you meditate on the mysteries of the rosary? Might you attend weekday Mass? Will you consider seeking out spiritual and theological development opportunities? Could you choose to grow in apostolic mission by volunteering in various ways to change the lives of those less fortunate than you? Can you forgive someone, or something, who has failed you in some way?
I won't be giving up chocolate, but I will make an effort to reduce my excess consumption of the world's resources, including food. I will give up more of my time to God. Christ will receive more of my attention. And I'll try very, very hard to remember that the world will continue on remarkably with or without me. At least for the next 40 days.
May God bless your Lent with prayerful experiences, deeper relationship with Christ, and renewed humility.
Lisa Amos, Church of St. Peter, 2014 APM Chair
This weekend's Gospel from Matthew is a favorite of mine. It is deceptively simple. At one time or another we have all heard a homily or read some theologians reflection on the story of Jesus as a fisher of men. Usually those reflections expand on the seemingly obvious message of obedience. He calls to Simon-Peter and his brother, Andrew. They literally drop what they are doing and follow, leaving behind all that they hold dear.
Although I don't disagree that their unquestioning obedience is admirable, and I absolutely agree that it is essential to follow Christ at all cost, the deeper and much more profound message in this passage has to do with why they follow.
The lesson we can take from the gospel today is one of love. This story is about the essence of what it means to be a Christian. It is not that we follow a set of rules or study to achieve scholarly and academic understanding of Scripture. To be a Christian is to follow an inspiring person. Jesus inspires us, so we follow him. It is the characteristic that defines all Christians.
When Jesus begins calling together his disciples, he doesn't set out for the nearest school of theological study. He doesn't seek out the most educated or learned of men. He finds the simple fishermen. And they drop everything and follow him because he impressed them. They follow him for love, not because he has all the answers or for what they can gain from him.
In fact, there is not a single doctor of theology among the apostles. There are five fishermen (Simon-Peter, Andrew, James the Elder, John, and Philip), a revolutionary (Simon the Zealot), a missionary (Bartholomew), a tax collector (Matthew), and four others whose occupations were not even worth mentioning (Thomas, James the Younger, Thaddeus, and Judas). Jesus chooses to surround himself with those he loves, even when society tells him he should despise those very same people.
As human beings, we are not moved so much by principles and theories as we are by other human beings. When others whom we love exhibit great ideals we strive to meet those ideals, as if our becoming better is a gift to them. We do our best out of love for someone or loyalty to someone. In this way we are no different than Simon-Peter and Andrew. We sacrifice many things for those whom we love; those who make our hearts swell with gladness in their presence. We act out of great love for our families, great friends, and, as Christians, for our God.
The word "love" is repeated over 500 times in the Bible. Obedience is mentioned only about 200 times. God sent Jesus to us out of love, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life" John 3:16. It makes perfect sense, then, that when Jesus begins calling his disciples to him, they respond out of love. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, John writes to the Christian community and clarifies that knowledge of God and love for one another are inseparable, "If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." 1 John 4:12
Just as Jesus faced the demands of a culture that loathed the very things he sought to achieve, so we are often faced with a world that demands more of our time for individual and secular pursuits. The definition of success in our daily lives is often at odds with what inspires us in the person of Jesus Christ. I don't doubt that the other fishermen in the boat with Simon-Peter and Andrew thought them fools when they cast down their nets. I'm certain they commented to one another about the utter stupidity of the risk they perceived their friends to be taking. But Simon-Peter and Andrew knew better. They knew love. Love they followed. We can read today's gospel and hear Jesus commanding and fishermen obeying. Or, even better, we can hear Jesus inviting and Simon-Peter and Andrew accepting.
Prayerful study of the Gospels and what they say about Jesus teaches us that our faith is not an academic exercise but a matter of falling in love with and following an inspiring person. As Christians we are not just believers in a collection of teachings and obligations, but followers of an impressive, entirely loveable, inspiring individual, Jesus Christ.
From the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minnesota, newsletter Sabbath Stirrings, November, 2013.
Let me be grateful: by Sister Joan Tuberty
Gratitude is a response of the heart. I remember learning from Josef Pieper that gratitude spontaneously arises when there is an awareness of having received a gift.
Awareness of the gift is key to being grateful. I was recently surprised by a gift of lovely golden mums on the Feast of St. Francis. I immediately felt a rush of joyous feelings of gratitude before I expressed my "thank you!" Perhaps unexpected gifts stir up the most feelings for us but any gift where there is an outward act of giving followed by the act of receiving, makes one feel grateful. Awareness of the gift is the key!
What about all those gifts that are given to us that we simply take for granted, which we do not receive as gifts? What gets between us and our appreciation of the gifts of nature, of the changing colors of fall, of the moon and stars in the night sky, of the fall harvest of squash, pumpkins and apples? Often family and friends are also taken for granted. Joan Chittister believes it is first necessary for us to "master what it is to be alive." That it is when there is nothing between us and the "raw-experience of life, nothing to obscure it, that it is then, there it is alive and glowing right before our eyes." Awareness is awakened!
Sabbath House as a place of rest with its hospitality may help to awaken gratitude. It offers a space in The City to slow down, to open one's eyes and to "savor life and smell the flowers." There is a need in our world that goes faster and faster expecting things to happen instantly, to step aside, to slow down in order to open one's eyes to see what is below the surface. "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps 49) is wisdom that tells us that in the stillness one awakens to the Giver of Life and all Good Gifts. Stillness may help one to experience this goodness within oneself and to bow down in gratitude.
One of the healthiest and holiest practices to cultivate is an "attitude of gratitude."
At the end of each day name three things for which you are grateful. Lord, let me be grateful.
—reprinted with permission of Sr. Joan Tuberty
"See! I will not forget you…I have carved you on the palm of my hand." (Isaiah49:1-5) Since mid-June of this year, I have been so excited to be starting a new outreach to seniors in our Catholic parishes along with a few others around the city who have taken on this ministry, also. Catholic Senior Services or CSS of the Archdiocese has been at work for a few years now along with the leadership from the Catholic nursing homes in our archdiocese.
When this group of CEO's first began to gather, the conversation was more centered around bricks and mortar to make sure there was enough housing for the upcoming growth of our senior population (I think I might be one of them….) Lest I digress, the economy took a major shift and no longer was bricks and mortar a reasonable conversation.
What became clear at this point was that perhaps the energy of Catholic nursing homes would be better spent in discerning how to become more connected with the parishes and most specifically the senior population within those hallowed halls. So many seniors these days are choosing to live in their homes for as long as they can. The median age upon entry into the apartments at St. Therese in New Hope is 85 yrs. of age. currently.
So work began in earnest on clarifying how that might happen and what it would look like. The beginning look after long conversations and input from parish pastoral ministers, parish nurses, parish priests, and some others was that a person (i.e Care Coordinator) would work with a cluster of Catholic parishes in a given geographic area and reach out to seniors who are in their homes or returning to home after a hospital/rehab. stay to make sure they have what they need to feel supported and in a healthy environment. Depending on the circumstance, these needs are varied and diverse. (The needs could be things like help with housework, grocery shopping, making appts., filling out paperwork, getting visits from the parish clergy, yard work…many possibilities) The Care Coordinator will help navigate the choices and perhaps have parish volunteers help with some of these areas. There are numerous agencies and helps out there to look into b/4 making a decision. It could be overwhelming to do without support.
I was invited by St. Therese to take on this new position and I am delighted to be part of this new ministry. The Catholic churches I am currently working with are St. Anne's in Hamel, St.Thomas in Corcoran, Ss. Peter and Paul in Loretto. We will likely add another larger parish to this mix eventually. Deacon Dan Gannon has been facilitating this process and supporting the start-up processes and contacts with the Catholic nursing homes and those of us who are taking on this new role as Care Coordinator. As we begin and get a first look, I think this will be a welcome addition to parish life, especially for parishes that don't have a parish nurse or pastoral minister. It can also serve as an additional support to staff working in larger parishes who can't reach everyone.
As this ministry grows and as I am in it longer to better share what it is looking like, I will post again on our APM blog.
Warmest regards to all, Anne Marie Bartlett
The Initiating Community As Christians, it is our calling and our mission to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ and God's inexhaustible love for every one of us into the world. When we live out this purpose, we have the extreme privilege of drawing people closer into relationship with God. When we live it out well, we draw them ever closer to Christ in the midst of our Christian community.
Many of today's Catholics are familiar with the term "RCIA". RCIA, or Rite of Christian Initiation, is the name for the rites we celebrate with those who wish to join our Church. It is these rites through which they pass to become fully initiated members of our faith communities. What is unknown to many, however, is that the rite insists that "the initiation of adults is the responsibility of all of the baptized" (RCIA, 9).
While it's true that part of my role as your pastoral associate is to facilitate this process of preparation, and equally true that there is an amazing and dedicated team of volunteers who teach classes and lead discussion with our participants, it is also absolutely essential that every single member of our parish embrace their own role.
The Church teaches that faith is a communal reality. "Faith is a personal act- the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 166). Despite our modern fascination with radical individualism, we are created with a deep need for human community. From the very beginning of humanity's existence, God has revealed, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18).
What, then, does this mean for us as baptized members of Christ's church? It unequivocally demands that we all work to become an initiating community.
It begins with living our lives as Christians authentically and openly, unashamed to be associated with our Savior and modeling his great love and compassion for all people. We can choose to make our connection to our local and global church attractive to those we encounter in our daily lives. Then, when the invitation is accepted, we must do all that we can to exhibit true hospitality. It is not enough to make newcomers feel like we tolerate them; it must ensure that they leave knowing that we are grateful for their presence. We are better for their having come through our doors; they must be made to know this.
We can learn a lot about our faith and our Church by admitting that we have much to learn by the faith witnessed by the people in our Christian initiation programs. We can greet them and ask them what has drawn them to our faith. Pray for them and with them. If we find ourselves at a rite along the way, we can immerse ourselves in the joy of conversion.
We are all, by virtue of our own baptisms, initiation ministers. We have the privilege of a calling to foster and nourish the gifts already present in ourselves and our community to blossom.
By Lisa Amos, pastoral associate, St. Peter's, Mendota
Previously posted on the St. Peter's website, October 2013
Ministry to Vulnerable Adult Update There have been several inquiries about when the MVA Training would be offered again. Additional inquiries have been made about the possibility of offering a "refresher" course for people who have participated in a MVA Trainer's workshop but have not used the program in a while.
In response to your inquiries APM is open to offering both a new training and a refresher course. In order to plan for adequate space, time and materials it is helpful to know how many people would plan to attend. The initial trainer's workshop is a 2 1/2 to 3 hour time commitment with a cost of $55.00 per person. The refresher course would be 1-1 1/2 hour time commitment with a cost of $20.00 per person.
If you are interested in either training, please respond to Mary Ann Kelly-Wright via email, email@example.com with the following information: Your name and contact information (phone and email address). Your place of employment and your position title. Which training you would plan to attend: The MVA New Trainer's Workshop or MVA Refresher Course.
If your church or organization would be willing to host one of the sessions, include that information, too. The dates, times and places will be determined based on the number of people planning to attend each offering.
If you have questions, you can find Frequently Asked Questions about the MVA training on our website. If you need further information contact Mary Ann.
Thank you for your support of APM.
It is generally true for me that late summer and early fall are a time of great anticipation and excitement. The weather is so often lovely in the fall and I am from Vermont so, as you may imagine, the colors of fall bring me tremendous joy. Rather than perceiving fall as the end of summer, it is to me in many ways a beginning. It is the beginning of the school year, the return of so many of our church ministries, and the start of a new liturgical year. For many, the beginning of a new APM program year is greeted with an abundance of joyful anticipation. There truly is much for which to Always and Everywhere Give Thanks and Praise, our theme for this program year.
As we discussed and decided on a theme for this year, it was our consensus that it was time to spend a year on the spirituality of ministry and the necessity of finding ways to care for our own relationship to Jesus Christ in the midst of caring for others. Charged with this incredible challenge, our program committee has developed a series of speakers who will certainly be a blessing to us throughout the year. I cannot think of a better way to care for our ministers' souls than in the company of ministers, led by ministers.
APM 2013-2014 Programs
Always and Everywhere Giving Thanks and Praise...In Song and Prayer with Marty Haugen Thursday, October 3, 2013 1:00-3:30pm Risen Savior, Burnsville
Always and Everywhere Giving Thanks and Praise...In Community with Joanne Dehmer, SSND Monday, December 2, 2013 1:00-3:30pm Annunciation Church, Minneapolis
The Always and Everywhere-ness of Sacramentality with Fr. Michael Joncas Thursday, April 3, 2013 1:00-3:30pm Pax Christi, Eden Prairie
One of the things I often find myself grateful for APM. This organization of support and networking for all involved in pastoral care in parishes and other communities and agencies has made me a much better and more prayerful pastoral minister. When I was new to ministry I found great wisdom here and now that I have ceased to be a rookie, I rely upon the camaraderie and collaboration to keep my ministry fresh and my own spirit renewed. We are open to all who would be interested in joining together for enrichment and renewal.
Membership includes attendance at each of these exciting programs at no charge, in addition to other benefits such as reduced registration fees for the retreat and banquet, an opportunity to serve in one of our committees or to help shape APM by joining its governing board, and being kept current on everything going on in our organization and many other opportunities shared between members. We continue to welcome and seek new membership by offering a variety of membership options. Registration forms will be in your mailbox in just a few days and on this website.
You are warmly invited print or copy the membership registration form as many times as necessary if you would like to share this opportunity with others or to enroll your parish membership members if that is the option chosen. We are looking forward to a year of grace and renewal of spirit. As one season gives way to the next, I invite you to embrace the opportunity to begin with a spirit of gratitude and to join us to Always and Everywhere Give Thanks and Praise.
Blessings, Lisa Amos, APM Chair 2013-2014
When the APM Board met in June to plan our theme for the coming year, one of the board members said that in the past we have had themes that focused on spirituality and she wondered if it might be time for all of us to reflect on that aspect of our ministry once more. After a healthy discussion and discernment the Board agreed. Once a direction was decided the work to "name" the theme began. This year's theme (drum roll please) is Always and Everywhere Giving Thanks and Praise.
With the task at hand, the Program Committee has been meeting and communicating over these summer months to plan some exciting programs for you, our membership. We have three speakers scheduled for our 2013-2014 Programs who will speak to this theme from three different perspectives. Marty Haugen's presentation will be Always and Everywhere Giving Thanks and Praise...In Song and Prayer. Joanne Dehmer, SSND will speak on Always and Everywhere Giving Thanks and Prayer...In Community. And our final speaker will be Father Jan Michael Joncas who will address this theme from his perspective: The Always and Everywhere-ness of Sacramentality.
Though the titles may be tweaked before our final communications, I am hopeful that you will be as excited as we on Program Committee are with this line up. We hope that you will make it a priority to gift yourselves with the time to renew and refresh your spirits in the company of others in Pastoral Ministry.
An Update from the National Association of Lay Ministers The National Association for Lay Ministry has a mission to support, educate and advocate for lay ministry while promoting the development of lay ministry in the Catholic Church. This mission is one in which all of NALM's members participate. This mission is as important, and perhaps even more necessary, to the Church and its ministers today as it was with the organization's founding over thirty years ago.
Recent years have marked many successes for NALM from leading the Emerging Models Project to awarding our first national certifications for Lay Ecclesial Ministers this past spring of 2013. In 2012, NALM celebrated its 35th year, recognizing many milestones and accomplishments, and a successful anniversary campaign, including two significant grants.
The financial difficulties we have faced as a country and as a Church have affected our ability to serve our mission. In recent years, NALM saw its membership decrease by 40% and conference attendance decline due to diocesan and parish budget cuts, including travel bans and reductions in lay ministry positions.
NALM faced very challenging economic situations despite a successful anniversary campaign and receiving two significant grants. It became clear that we could not continue to operate as we once did.
As a result, the Board has made some difficult decisions to ensure the future of NALM and its mission. Most significant has been the restructuring of how NALM operates as an association. For the near future NALM is maintaining its current office, but without staff.
Executive Director Christopher Anderson was laid off on June 7. For 10 years, Chris served with dedication, faithfulness, and enthusiasm. His leadership helped to renew and revitalize NALM amidst a significant economic downturn and crises facing the US Catholic Church. We are grateful for Chris' leadership.
The work of the association continues. Presently, Board members have assumed responsibility for the day to day functioning of NALM. Board members are working with members with particular expertise and experience for the necessary tasks. Committees are taking on increased responsibilities, especially in the areas of finance, development, membership, and publications.
As the Board works through the logistics of all the office tasks, we ask for your patience during this transition period. Telephone messages and emails are regularly received and responded to as quickly as possible. However, it may be a day or two before members receive responses to calls, emails, etc. Mail, membership renewals, deposits, and bills are being handled weekly.
In many ways, this marks a return to NALM's origins as a grassroots organization. NALM's Board and its members will continue to work together to carry on its mission and find new ways of collaborating. Our hope is that within the next six months, with increased efforts at membership recruitment and renewal, a successful annual appeal, grant efforts and the continuing support of all our members, we may return to a position of financial security and new vitality.
Under the "Contact Us" section of the webpage, www.nalm.org, you will find a listing of the Board members and their emails. Please feel free to contact any one of us at any time.
Looking toward the future with hope and putting our trust in the God who has called us to serve, we have confidence that NALM's vision will endure and our voice will continue to resound as we move on to this new era.
Frank Villaronga Jerry Tortorella Sr. Diane Koorie Carol Walters Chair Vice Chair Treasurer Secretary
Kathy Barkdull Mark Erdosy Kathy Haag Tony Pichler
How full is your bucket? A good friend spent half a day last week holding onto my leg as I got fed into the tube of an MRI machine. With more than a healthy smidgen of claustrophobia, I knew I could weather this medical test more easily with this friend literally hanging onto me. Even though I could not see her, the warmth of her hand reassured me that she was there and I would be fine.
A forty minute scan leaves plenty of time for a mind to roam, and mine took me on quite a journey. But the warmth of my friend's hand continued to bring me back. In this moment, I was loved and cared for.
Serendipity takes odd forms, and soon after I got home, it arrived in a website's pop-up question. "How full is your bucket?" I'd just spent forty minutes pondering this. The site's vision of a "full bucket" included a life well-lived with a sense of purpose, ease with yourself and others, and deep gratitude for all that nourishes and sustains you. A full bucket? Yes, please.
My mother regularly filled my bucket. Mom was an avid gardener and took great joy in digging in the dirt. At five, she helped me design and plant my first garden: a row of radishes and pansies. An eclectic blend in hindsight, but all I remember is her contagious enthusiasm for gardening. Later that summer, she encouraged me to enter my pansies in the local Garden Club contest. My third place ribbon sparked the belief that I, too, could create something amazing with a garden spade and a handful of seeds.
I doubt the Garden Club's competition in the "5 and under" category was particularly stiff, and I have often wondered if my prize pansies were "third out of three". But none of that mattered when I was five. I had been nudged, coached and encouraged. My mom and the Garden Club affirmed something life-giving for me: with some sun, rain, and tender care, something extraordinary could grow in my life.
Mom was a bucket-filler by nature. A cousin told me she believed my mom had saved her life. Mom insisted that my cousin, who was struggling with anorexia, get expert medical help. According to my cousin, mom paid for her medical expenses. Years later, when she recognized she might have died without my mom's caring intervention, my cousin asked how she might repay this debt. Mom told her to pay it forward.
It's not lost on me that mom was especially distressed by my cousin's anorexia. Mom's particular way of nurturing others usually involved food. She knew our favorite meals, and she prepared them as offerings of love. If a turkey was in the oven and it wasn't Thanksgiving, I knew my older brother was coming home. Over time, meals took on new monikers, not an ingredient description like "chicken fried steak", but simply, "Dad's favorite". For mom, food was relational.
My mother was from the South. This made some of our family traditions a bit unusual in New England. She knew how to cook okra, insisted we eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, and bought us Easter bonnets that looked like lampshades gone wrong. On Mother's Day, we wore lapel flowers to church to honor our mother: a red rose or carnation if she was still with us; a white rose or carnation if she had died.
This year, I wore a white flower. Mom died last month.
My cousin's story has stuck with me, not simply because she remembers my mom with such love and affection. She recognizes that gratitude spurs us to something more, a nudge to pay it forward.
Anthony DeMello wrote a piece called "The Disabled Fox": "A man walking through the forest saw a fox that had lost its legs and wondered how it lived. Then he saw a tiger come with game in his mouth. The tiger had its fill and left the rest of the meat for the fox.
The next day, God fed the fox by means of the same tiger. The man began to wonder at God's greatness and said to himself, 'I too shall just rest in a corner with full trust in the Lord and he will provide for all I need'
He did this for many days but nothing happened and he was at death's door when he heard a voice say, "O you who are in the path of error, open your eyes to the truth! Follow the example of the tiger and stop imitating the disabled fox."
Mom knew intuitively that we are called to be both blessed and blessing. Mom wouldn't have asked, "How full is my bucket?" but rather, "whose bucket have I filled today?" Mom's bucket came with a spigot to share her abundance. Pass it on.
Beryl Schewe is Director of Pastoral Care for Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina and is a Board Certified Chaplain. She writes the Spiritually Speaking column for the Eden Prairie News and this piece was originally published in May, 2013. You can find more of her work at BerylSchewe.com.
It's the old adage, "time flies when you're having fun". And so concludes my year as APM chairperson. When I decided to join the board and the open positions became clear, I knew I could facilitate a group having been a social worker for many years, so working toward being the chair seemed of good thought.
The truth is this is a great group of people to be in life with and the conversation "NEVER" lags, you never have to ask a "probing question", an "open ended" or "closed" question, you never have to have an "icebreaker" to set comfort...you get my drift. No facilitation skills needed...such a lovely experience for me.
Some years ago, I was the chair of the liturgy committee at the parish I belonged to, and it was very chaotic with lots of disgruntled folks and differing viewpoints and one dear person on the board (may he rest in peace) was an artist. He drew a card for me with a picture of a rickety old truck with all different kinds of animals with their heads hanging out of the windows and the caption said, "who could drive this truck with all this barking and yelping going on!" Suffice it to say, this experience with our APM board was nothing of the sort.
I feel blessed by the year and I look forward to staying on in a different role next year. I hope we can continue to find ways to work together, to support one another and find comfort in our differences as we all pray to the same loving Father.
Give the board a try if you feel the nudge and if you don't, come to the programs and be with others who share this wonderful ministry in our church. Be Well, Be Blessed, Anne Marie Bartlett
Last Words You may have heard the statistic: More people are afraid of public speaking than dying. But how about when we combine the two, speaking about dying to those near death? From my experience, the idea of speaking to those near death conjures dread. We don't know what to say, and knowing these may be our last words to someone we love weighs heavily.
Poet Dylan Thomas writes, "After the first death, there is no other."
Too bad. We'd probably be better navigating a second death if we got a crack at it.
Greek mythology's tour guide for the journey to death was Charon the ferryman. He accompanied people across the River Styx on a one way trip to the underworld.
Years ago, someone shared with me six simple things to say when someone is dying. I consider this the wisdom of a modern Charon. Simply put, they are: I love you. Thank you. I forgive you. Forgive me. I (We) will be okay. Goodbye.
I love you. Three simple words. Three powerful words. My crusty, WWII veteran dad was 88 before he uttered those words to me. For years, I'd say "I love you" as I hung up the phone. My dad would fumble around and say something like "same here" or "I feel the same," but the actual words eluded him until he was on his deathbed. Then, remarkably, he said, "I love you."
Thank you. I have a thank you card that reads, "When eating the apple, remember who planted the tree." We don't always remember to thank, and surely we don't often thank the ones who brought us the momentous stuff in our lives: our parents' sacrifice and dedication to make sure we had a chance at a good education; their presence at our band concerts and soccer games; their cheering us on, and seeing the best in us when others saw a different reality. Thank you.
I forgive you. Face it. We've all held on to offenses and grudges way too long. Likely, we even remember slights that were not intentional. We hang on to the hurt even though the pain does not serve us well. We allow the pain to be a barrier in our future relationships. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It does not mean we are willing to be taken advantage of again. It does mean we are letting go of our option for revenge as we hand our hurts and anger over to God.
Forgive me. The church uses the words, "for my sins of omission and commission". Forgive me for what I have done and what I have failed to do. Sometimes we are more culpable for our inaction that for our actions.
I will be okay. I am convinced our loved ones sometimes hang on for us, cling to life because they know we are not yet ready for them to die. Saying the words, "I will be okay" gives your loved one permission to go. When young children are in the picture, I suggest people let the dying person know the child will be loved and cared for.
Goodbye. Simply letting the dying person know they can go to God when it is their time frees them.
Sometimes last conversations bring healing to a relationship that had become defined by wounds and history. As John Philip Newell writes, "It is about bringing into relationship again the many parts of our lives, including our brokenness, in order to experience transformation. It is not about forgetting the wound or pretending that it did not happen. It is about seeking a new beginning that grows inseparably from the suffering."
Birthing and dying are oddly similar bedfellows in the circle of life. We had no ideas on how to be born, but we allowed others around us to coax us into the world. The same can be said of dying. In death, I've noticed that the most peaceful person in the room is often the one dying. As Carl Jung reminds us, "Wholeness is about integration . . . but not perfection." What we say doesn't need to be perfect. Just say it with love.
Beryl Schewe is Director of Pastoral Care for Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina and is a Board Certified Chaplain. She writes the Spiritually Speaking column for the Eden Prairie News and this piece was originally published April 11, 2013. You can find more of her work at BerylSchewe.com.
Connections Connection can be a very powerful word for us as pastoral ministers. Without question our connection to God and certainly our connection to those to whom we minister are central to what we do. Connection to one another has an influence on our ministry and lends support to our spirit in ways that bear mentioning as well.
APM has spent the last 36 years building up and nourishing those connections. Much has changed in that time. Not the least are the increasing ways to take advantage of the technology now available to us to be ever more connected to one another. Thus the birth of APM's first blog. Our hope is that this will be one more in a wealth of opportunities for all of us in ministry to reach out to one another for information, support and mutual experience sharing.
At least once a month members can expect to see here updates on what's happening in APM, stories about the history of APM and its members and opportunities to get involved, which itself strengthens the connections so vital to the health of our ministry as well as our health as ministers. It is one more way to hold fast to our Catholic faith in the midst of the daily details of our shared ministries.
One of those opportunities is involvement in one of the many committees responsible for making APM what it is. In a few weeks you will receive an invitation to consider becoming a part of one of them. Those serving in committees and on our board will tell you time and again that rather than being just another item on our already long to-do lists, participation is inspiring and life-giving. Please consider sharing your gifts with others in ministry. You are warmly invited and sincerely welcomed.
It is our hope that this blog will grow to include contributions from many of you, the members who make APM what it is and that its use will draw us ever closer to one another, to those who need our ministry and, above all, to God, from whom all good things come.
May God bless you.
In Christ, Lisa Amos, co-chair communications committee