All Courses Forums Course Discussion Forums Creating a Caring Presence week 3: Primer Chapters 5-7

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    • #4289

      Rose McKeown

      Week 3: Primer Chapters 5-7
      I like the concept of the open classroom. There are many situations in which we offer pastoral care, be it our work or family and sometimes by chance meetings in airports! We are always learning from those we serve. There can be many emotions in these classrooms.
      And, these listening skills that we are reading about surely help us offer better pastoral care even if we are not skilled in them! The lessons in the Primer also remind me that we are ‘always beginners’ and that ours is a sacred ministry as we walk on holy ground with another.
      Today, Saturday, I had the funeral of a co-worker who had also come to the grief support group after her husband died ten yrs. ago. She was born in January of 1945 and I was born in November of 1945. Lots of emotions welled up in me as I prepared her funeral. But especially remembering her in the grief support group as we pondered the mystery of death—what happens after death? Where is he now? And other questions. And now she has gone through death. The death of a friend and for the family, the death of a parent: PAGE 61: “we have never known a time without them. With their passing we advance in the living lineage.” As I accompanied the family, memories of my own parents came. Some good and some “I wish I would have..” I could be with the family because by the grace of God, ‘I’ve been there too.”

      Page 65: beautiful caring of Frances and her husband for the woman and her three children whose husband did not want to be married anymore. “Frances, I can never repay…….my gifts of love an nurturing, the gifts I bring to the Church, exist because of all the Frances God has given me through the years”. Brought to mind “By His wound we are healed” We are all wounded healers. Brought to mind all the wounded healers in my life and I pray to be the same for others. My mom’s name was Frances! I would say this story was a “God wink” for me. There are so many opportunities to be this kind of presence for others each day. The open classroom.

      Miscarriage is another one of those opportunities. We have the program SHARE and once a year the miscarried remains are buried in a small plot out in the cemetery. There is an angel as the headstone. All those parents who suffered a miscarriage are invited. We have a prayer service there at the gravesite. Not all come but those who do are so grateful for this ritual.

      Page 70: ‘a person who is a patient in a hospital will be very vulnerable and, most likely, welcoming to your care”. So very true! This is the ministry I am called to each day. “You helped me get through a lonesome day’, shared one of the patients.
      Page 72: “the hospital is a holy place, and God will lead you and be with you through the labyrinth of hallways”. ….I want to always remember this. I am not alone in my ministry. I minister with the Great Physcian.

      Page 84: Pick the one situation that would be the most difficult for you. It would be “family conflict”. I remember many yrs. ago I was a Director of Religious Education in a small parish. I became close friends with one family: husband and wife and their five children. The husband and wife were having marital problems and were going for counseling. The husband had the disease of alcohol and often would ‘flirt’ with other women when he was drinking. This went on for a number of years. The wife finally asked for a divorce and it happened. I did not take sides but tried to befriend both husband and wife. My dad was an alcoholic and I have gone through a treatment program for adult children of alcoholics which helped me more than words can say. So, my family history helped me some to be with this family.
      After the divorce, the husband was gone and I saw him no more. His wife was seeking an annulment of the marriage and she asked me to be a ‘witness’ filling out one of the lengthy reflection forms. I hesitated. I didn’t want to take side but felt there were some grounds for her case. I completed the forms as did other close family friends. Eventually the annulment was granted and the wife could remarry in the Catholic Church. The ex-husband also remarried but I have lost contact with him. I am still in contact with the wife but my ‘help’ in this annulment still tugs at my heart. I hope I did the right thing. I can only put it in God’s hands. But since then, I avoid getting involved in any family conflict. I learn to keep my boundaries.

      The Alphabet of Grace
      P. 86: ‘the ministry of pastoral care follows no such predictability” as does the abacus. So very true! The ‘why’ question is a question I meet almost every day in my rounds at the hospital. Being a Christian hospital, I can only point to the cross. Jesus took on our suffering but he did not explain why we have to suffer. It is part of our human condition. If we love, we will suffer. I do not see it as God’s will. I would say more of what Karl Barth (page 86) explains: “God suffering with us.”
      I have a brother-in-law who became an ‘atheist’ because he could not believe in a God who would allow so much suffering in the world. He believed death was the end. Nothing beyond that. He was a very good, kind, loving and generous man. A very good brother-in-law. And very smart. He belonged to the Mensa society. Was a philosophy major in college. I believe when he died, God had many beautiful surprises for him

      Page 88-89: The Lunch Pails
      Beautiful reflection on the Eucharist. As we stand around the altar, we are in God’s time, Kairos time. There are no clocks around our altar. It is the one present moment. All are equal. Christ presides and remains with us in the form of food and drink. God is at work on us. As the bread and wine are offered up and transformed so are we. We can offer us all our joys and sorrows. God receives it all. God, transforming us and sending us forth to be Christ’s presence in the world. “without this meal we should not try to carry on this ministry” (page 89). There, we are being schooled ‘in a holy classroom’ (page 90) and Christ is our teacher. From here we are sent forth to be ‘the good Samaritan’ for and with others. The beautiful story of Wally Purling! “Pastoral care is making room for life’s weary traveler and, in doing so, discovering Christ in our midst” (page 92)

      It has been a grace to read and reflect on all that has been given to us these past three weeks and to meet all of you ‘fellow travelers on the journey of life’
      Thank you!

    • #4293

      Ah, Rose, if only we had predictability in the business of healthcare!

    • #4300

      Wally Plock

      Hi all

      A appreciate the in-depth sharing.

      I will go back and reflect on other’s thoughts, but I would like first to respond to the assignment Chapter 5.

      It was helpful being reminded of the many ways people grieve and the many losses we all experience.  Not that I am a fan, but the court room shows and talk shows usually present people who are hurt and are lashing out in anger as a cover.  They might do better with a pastoral counselor than a judge or moderator.

      Divorce, miscarriage, adultery, still births…I am amazed at the gift I am given when someone shares their story of pain.  It is right there for anyone to hear and people need to have their story validated, but finding a gentle listening  ear can be a challenge.

      “She visited.  She called.  She loved.” p. 65 in the primer.

      p. 73 “It was a relief to talk with someone about our hopes and fears…”

      Chapter 6 continues with the the various needs of people we serve:

      loneliness, relocation, moving, homesickness, widowhood, family conflict, illness, injury are all swirling about me in the residents of the nursing home.


      p. 82  “Your role is to be a supportive presence.”

      One of my mantra’s with the people I minister to is, “That must be really hard.”  Or “that sounds terribly frustrating.”  Jesus’ prayer in the garden was not meant to be a soliloquy.  He had three of his good friends with Him.  I can’t imagine being asked to pray with the master at that point and then to fall asleep.  Our residents are looking for someone to be with them and fully awake to their situation.  I’ve heard recently from residents, “Stay with me.” “Don’t leave me.”

      Situation that is most difficult for me from chapter 6.

      Divorce situations are hard for me. When someone dies (apart from suicide) even in accidental situations it is somewhat natural.  Old people die, young people get killed in accidents. It is not good, but it follows a reasonable pattern.  When a divorce happens, it is wound that cuts against what is normal.  I understand many divorces are necessary because the relationships are broken and not healthy, but the collateral damage is hard to deal with.  There is not really a pattern or ritual to help the healing process as there is with a death.  The members of the family group are all still around, but the relationships are all changed.  How do I respond to my close friends who are now divorced.  How to  move forward with so many broken pieces?   A quote on p. 86 gives a good summary of what I am trying to say. “The ministry of pastoral care follows no such predictability…” {referring to the abacus}

      The author brings us back to the core on page 87, “A chief skill in pastoral caregiving is that of listening–to the silences, to the words, to the pain.”

      I like how the author ends with the Eucharist.  We are accepted at the table of the Lord as God’s children.  We then take that love out to the high ways and by ways,

    • #4309

      Great images.  Thank you for your thoughtful replies Wally!

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