A companion in the dying and rising of daily life: Sister Jane Iannaccone
After serving many years as a primary grade teacher, Sister Jane Iannaccone finished a master’s degree and transitioned to parish ministry in 1995. She has ministered as pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Winthrop, Mass., since then. Below she reflects on her ministry and answers questions about it here.
I find that I minister with parishioners from the womb to the tomb.
My duties are varied. I conduct a bereavement group and preside at many of the wake services in the parish. I do catechesis for the parents of the children who will be receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and First Eucharist. I assist with people who are involved in the annulment process. As a spiritual director, I journey with others through their joy as well as their pain in their relationship with God.
During our family Mass I sometimes offer the reflections. I invite the children up to the sanctuary to help. In this ministry I feel I have come full circle. I am once again involved directly with little ones and teaching them. I am not only educating the children but also their parents.
Often in my daily encounters, people are experiencing great sorrow and pain. I cannot take their pain away. However, I can be a supportive caring presence. I am willing to stay with them in their pain. I hope that through me they will experience the face of God and this will enable them to put their trust in a loving merciful God. I am mirroring for them and they to me, a God who journeys with us through our pain and suffering.
In addition to being fed and nourished at the Eucharistic table, I believe I encounter the face of God in the people I encounter. In a world where there is so much darkness, we are all challenged to live out our baptismal call. Through us, the world will receive the good news of Christ as we radiate the peace, joy and love of Christ to those we serve.
I have discovered while ministering at Saint John’s that no one person can do everything, but each one of us can do something. I know our parish would not be able to function and to offer the various ministries we provide if our parishioners did not come forward to offer their gifts and talents as leaders.
I was invited during the week of Holy Week to write this reflection. My first thought was, ‘Are they crazy? Don’t they know that this is the busiest time for anyone involved in parish ministry?’
As I reflected more, it became evident to me as my parish was preparing to once again celebrate the Paschal Mystery, that this is what my ministry as a pastoral associate is all about. It’s about walking with the members of the parish during their dying and rising of daily life. It’s about offering the members of my parish the Easter message of love, peace and hope.
(Originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of HOPE magazine.)