Joy: How Pastoral Ministers Find It and Keep It

Presented by Jane Leyden Cavanaugh

Panelists:  Marie Winn, Deacon Al Schroeder, Lisa Amos

April 12, 2018

Article by Jamie Moloney

Photographs by Sr. Mary Anne Schaenzer, group photo by Jane Leyden Cavanaugh

Joy - What a great word to walk into!  That is just what we did, when entering Steiner Hall at Nativity of the Lord in St. Paul on April 12, for APM’s third program of the year, building upon our theme of Unity-Service-Joy.


“Joy - Hi Pastoral Ministers” was written on an easel at the front of our gathering space, as Barb Uschold Anderson led us in a beautiful prayer where we sang the refrain, “Cry out with joy and gladness, for the Lord is in your midst!”  We didn’t so much ease into the afternoon, as we jumped full force into the joy of the Spirit!  Jane reminded us that Paul, in Galatians, says that joy is one way we can tell a person is living in the Spirit.  Jane certainly was a model of this!

All around the room, Jane had posted the gifts of the Spirit:  Joy, Love, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Self-Control, and Gentleness.  We then split into smaller groups of about six each, where we first discussed which gift of the Spirit we felt we had the most of at that particular moment.  Then we moved to which gift we felt we had the least of, at that moment.  Certainly, most of us do not think about our gifts in this way, and there was much honest sharing about where we each felt we were lacking in a certain gift, and why.

Next, Jane invited the panelists, APM members who had been chosen and prepared ahead of time for the questions, to join her. 


Marie, who has worked at St. Rose of Lima for 12 years, explained that, for her, joy is captivated in a moment, an awareness of the goodness of being alive.  Al, with Pax Christi for over 20 years, said that joy, for him, is not exuberance.  Rather, joy is something inside - peace in the moment, God’s involved, and this is good, and he can’t wait to see what happens next!  Lisa, at St. Peter’s in Mendota for 11 years, said that joy is delight, lightness, an actual physical lightness.  She is aware of joy most when she is aware of God’s presence, having trust that God will not allow her to fall.


Jane then asked each panelist to share what they would consider a good day.

Al said that every day is filled with joy.  He recounted finding joy in someone else’s pastoral care.  The example he used was when he and his wife walked into a store to return equipment, and he saw a woman who looked sad.  He invited her to go ahead of him in line.  Turns out she was returning equipment for her mother, and she started to cry.  Al’s wife asked “How are you? Do you want to talk about it?” The woman ended up talking with Al’s wife, so that by the time they left, the lady was laughing and joy-filled.  Al ended his story by thanking God for these opportunities.


Next, Lisa described a good day as one that is filled with people.  In addition to being with people, being able to slow down enough to be completely with the person.  Spending time doing what she needs to do, and having time for the Lord, such as prayer before meetings.  She referred to APM’s prayer today, where we all took the time to sing, respond, and share in the beautiful prayer led by Barb.


Marie then shared her thoughts of a good day.  Surprisingly, her “good” day started out not a good day.  She was running late for hospital visiting.  Arriving much later than she planned, the first room she entered was exactly the right time, as the patient in the room had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the family needed her there.  Her good day is when she is so busy that she is exhausted when heading home, feeling good as she sees the gratitude on the people’s faces that she showed up, that they felt supported by her and the parish.  Through these experiences, she gets to hear so many good things about herself, the priest, and her parish.


Next, Jane asked the panel members to talk about a tough day.


Marie said a tough day for her was forgetting that it doesn’t matter what all you do, everyone only gets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  A tough day is when something important needs to be done, but roadblocks are put up by people who do not understand pastoral care.  She shared the story of when she was at a meeting with a long-time parishioner in a leadership position whom she knew well, and who had attended several meetings with her in the past. That parishioner had looked at her and said, “I don’t have a clue what you do!”  Marie looked at all of us pastoral care people and said, “You know what pastoral care is when you do, and when you do not, receive it.”


Lisa explained a tough day for her as a day that is more about getting things done than in the ministry.  For example, attendance, or how much time spent in the office, is considered by some as more important than being out doing ministry.  When she has to be in the office all day ordering supplies, typing up routine bulletin announcements, and focusing on items that are not pastoral oriented bur that task oriented is a difficult day.  She ended by saying a tough day is when she forgets that God is the reason “I do what I do.”


Al started by saying a tough day is when we forget that we are an Easter people.  A bad day is doing reports, etc.  He then shared a story of a funeral where he recently presided, of a 68 ½ year old.  Only three people were at the funeral, and Al felt they needed more prayer.  He said he felt terrible, and asked himself, “What more could I do here?”

Jane then asked each panelist what were barriers to their sense of joy (or “triggers” keeping them from joy).


Al said his barriers are self-inflicted, where he second-guesses.  He said he always carries a monkey on his back.  By always looking back, in hindsight, he is not accepting the Holy Spirit.

Marie shared that her marriage and family sustain her.  When she starts feeling barriers to joy, she knows she needs to spend more time with her family.


Lisa confessed that pride gets in the way, where she can lose sight that the Holy Spirit is at work, and that others might be better at some aspects of ministry.  Finding humility is a challenge for her.


Finally, Jane asked each panelist what they did to preserve joy.


Lisa said that she preserves joy in that her faith is part of her work.  Her parish is a place of work, but also her personal place to be for her faith because that is where “I came back to my faith.”  Outside of the parish, she continues faith practices by going on retreats at least twice a year.  She also is aware of the need to practice her faith outside her parish, at churches other than St. Peter’s.  Being involved in people and activities not connected to her job are also ways she preserves joy, loving something that is completely unrelated to her work.


Marie said laughter preserves her joy!  She pointed to Amy Chabot, her co-worker at St. Rose of Lima, and said Amy makes her laugh all the time.  Adaire jumped in to say that every year at an annual Separated & Divorced event they would always bring in a comedian.


Al shared that he finds great joy in his vocation in ministering to others.  After presiding at a Communion Service, his says “I got to do a Communion Service!”


She then had us break into different small groups to discuss a series of questions, including thoughts from the panel discussions.  We were also each given “Quotes of Joy” containing the following quotes:

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”  - Henry Miller, American Writer

“God, I stand beaten and battered by the countless manifestations of my own inadequacies.  Yet we must live with joy…Aid me in this quest, O God.  Help me find satisfaction and a deep, abiding pleasure in all that I have, in all that I do, in all that I am.”  - Rabbi Nachman of Breslau

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”  - Teilhard de Chardon, French philosopher and Jesuit priest

“Why aren’t you dancing with joy at this very moment? is the only relevant spiritual question.”  - Pir Vilayet Inayer Khan, Sufi seer

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.”  - Julian of Norwich, 14th century English mystic

“To find joy in another’s joy, that is the secret of happiness.”  - George Bernanos, French Catholic novelist

“She gives most who gives with joy.”  - Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“Joy is available in the worst, most dehumanizing situations…Joy, like peace, resides only inside us.  It is never manufactured by external circumstances.  The potential for joy is always present in us but, like everything in life, that potential only becomes evident in relationship.  That is why people can discover joy even in the most horrific situations.  They were together.”  - Margaret Wheatley, American writer

“A Christian is one who is invited…to join the feast, to the joy of being saved, to the joy of being redeemed, to the joy of sharing life with Christ.  This is a joy!  You are called to a party!”  - Pope Francis


We ended in a circle where we prayed, and Jane had us reflect on a picture of Jesus and Thomas, where Thomas was putting his fingers into Jesus’ side after the resurrection.  She said we, as pastoral ministers, are the ones who put our fingers into the wounds of others.  That is indeed what we do, as we bring the joy of Christ into the lives of the wounded in need of

comfort, compassion, and healing.  May we always let the Spirit of Joy flow through us, in Christ, in love.

I’ll end with the blessing that Jane had each of us give each other:

[Beloved], may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13

© 2020 Association of Pastoral Ministers.