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Being love, mercy and justice in parish ministry

Editor’s note: When you read the Sisters of Providence recently published Annual Report, you will find highlights on how your donations help our sisters carry out works of love, mercy and justice in the world. Here Sister Carole Kimes shares how she lives out love, mercy and justice in her ministry as director of Pastoral Care at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Carmel, Indiana.

Our pastor wrote in my Christmas card: “Thank you for helping us love the many who are forgotten.” My ministry involves a broad spectrum of ways in serving God’s people.

Acts of Love, Mercy and Justice

Sister Carole Kimes stands next to a sculpture of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton at the parish she minsiters in Carmel, Indiana.

As I reflect on the past couple years as a director of Pastoral Care and the one who also oversees the Health Ministry and our Senior Ministry Silver Linings for those in their Second Half of Life, these are some examples: 

  • I make about 100-plus home visits in a year as a small part of my ministry. Some of those visits are with widows and widowers who have lost spouses after 60 or even 72 years of marriage. I went to visit a quiet and reserved gentleman whose wife died the previous year. When his wife was sick, I would visit her, and the husband would take off for another room. Anyway, he reached out and asked if I could visit him this particular week. We scheduled the visit for Friday of the same week. During the visit he shared that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and had only months to live. He was also a primary caregiver for a young granddaughter which is why he didn’t go to the doctor sooner.  

    I had never really heard him speak more than hello. But this particular afternoon he had much to share. And after an extended period of time, I asked him if he would like me to come back another day. He seemed very tired. “No, he said. I want to share some more now. Please stay.” He had a lot on his mind and heart. I stayed. I listened and we prayed, and I promised I would come back. This gentleman died 2 days later. It was Providence that there was even time that week for this visit.
  • One day I received a call from the school nurse of the public school down the street from the parish. She asked if I could meet with a parent who seemed to need some spiritual counseling. I welcomed the woman. She came into the office and sat down saying, “I need you to help me learn how to pray. My fiancée died three months ago. I have two children with one being special needs. I had to quit my job because I was just diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I need to have God in my life because I have nowhere else to turn.”

    We met on a regular basis and I offered her unconditional love, acceptance and hope. The parish was able to help with some financial needs and provide some health support through our health ministry. Today, she is doing well after surgery, relocating (thanks to the help of the parish) close to biological family for support and proudly claims the gratitude for God in her life. She has reached out to the local church in the area and has hope that she no longer is a lost soul. Periodically, I receive a call from her just to touch base.

Being Providence’s hands

Sometimes Providence is connecting the dots and we are just the conduit.  

  • A single mom with two young children walked into my office seeking some assistance. She just started a minimum wage job and was grateful and proud to be working. However, she was still in need of beds (they have been sleeping on the floor for months) and the regular agencies were not responding. That same week I received a text at night wondering if I knew of anyone who could use three beds and the bedding. The donors delivered the beds, set them up and provided some other items for the family. The children and the mom were more than excited to sleep in their own bed and not on the floor. The woman has thanked us over and over. Yes, Providence provides.
Sister Carole Kimes visiting Saint Mary-of-the-Woods with a group from her parish in 2015.
  • Throughout the year I have the honor and sacred privilege of companioning many people who grieve the death of loved ones. Too many are parents of children who have died. The gift of companioning these people in gut wrenching pain lets them know that our Provident God is with them in their darkness, pain and hopeless state. One woman needed reassurance that her son’s life which was completed by suicide would be able to know God’s unconditional love.  
  • Other grieving people courageously walk through the grief and learn how to live with it and be restored to some hope and new life. Then they desire to give back and share by being a companion of another grieving person.
  • An elderly widower approached me to see if I knew of someone who could use a car that he wanted to give away. I contacted Sisters Barbara McClelland and Rita Ann Wade from Miracle Place neighborhood ministry on Indianapolis’ near East side, to see if anyone they knew could use it. Yes, a woman on dialysis had no car and could definitely benefit having a car. The day she picked it up was such a profound moment as she beamed from ear to ear. The gentleman who donated it walked out of my office and touched the picture of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin which hangs outside my office door and said. “I wish I could do even just a little of what that woman did.” I smiled and said, “You are doing more than you even know.” 
  • It is such a joy to watch the faces of the young and the old as the Silver Linings Teen Ministry offer iPhone and iPad teach-ins. One young lady last November was bound and determined to teach this elderly couple how to use their Android. She had an Apple but wanted to quickly learn the Android so the gentleman who was going blind could use Siri. Both the teen and the gentleman mastered the use of Siri with an unfamiliar phone and walked away grateful and accomplished. The sharing of wisdom between two generations speaks of God’s creative energy.  
Sister Carole Kimes laughs with sisters at her table during a meeting at the Woods.
  • Another parishioner avoided me initially because of her own history with religious life. This person was a retired registered nurse and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She went into remission for a while. Then in the fall a year or so ago she told me the cancer was back. We talked about her wishes. And she asked if I would be there when it was time for her to transition to her eternal life. I told her if it were possible, I would but could not promise her it. As Providence would have it, a parishioner friend, her nephew from another state and I were able to watch vigil, pray for her and walk her home to God just as she desired.
  • It is a sacred gift to spiritually companion others as they seek to deepen their relationship with God. To share with them the Gift of Providence and how God’s love, mercy and justice is present in their life gives testimony of God’s grace and presence. Each time someone comes to bare their heart and soul, God’s Providence breaks open another door of love, forgiveness and justice. Often it is an opportunity for the individual to recognize God in the midst of embracing their own light and darkness.
  • One day not long ago, a woman came to the Church to meet me. She handed me a simple, humble thank-you card. I spoke with her several times on the phone last summer and she needed assistance with her utilities. She was relocating to the South to be with a friend during her own health crisis. She is much stronger now and returned to the area. The first thing she wanted to do was come in and thank us for helping her and giving her some hope. Her smile spoke her words.
  • Perhaps one final example was late last summer. Silver Linings and LAF (Life after Fifty) from Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation took a joint trip to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to visit the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. We then went to Candles Holocaust Museum to hear Eva Kor speak. That trip was the highlight for all who attended to see two remarkable women make a profound difference in the world. We try to plan joint opportunities throughout the year to share our faith and welcome the gift of each other’s faith tradition as well as recognize the blessings received from one another.

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Sister Carole Kimes

Sister Carole Kimes has been a Sister of Providence for more than 35 years. Her experience as a hospice nurse and as caregiver for her parents as they aged support her current ministry with those in various stages of transition.

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15 Comments

  1. Jeanne Kenny, S.P. on June 24, 2020 at 6:39 am

    Dear Carole,
    Thanks for sharing heartfelt moments from your pastoral ministry.
    Keep paying it forward as you are being/doing with your current ministry at SMW.
    Love and prayers,
    Jeanne

    • Sister Carole Kimes on June 25, 2020 at 9:50 pm

      Thanks, Jeanne! It is a gift.

    • Jeannie TeKolste on June 26, 2020 at 7:10 am

      Dear Sister Carole,
      Thank you for sharing these details of your ministry. You have opened my eyes and heart to many possibilities as I transition from my profession to my encore (retirement) and remind me to ” lean on Providence “. You are such a blessing!
      Love,
      Jeannie

  2. Marsha Speth, SP on June 24, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    Beautiful stories, Carole, of real life! Thank you for being a channel of Providence!

  3. Sister Connie SP on June 24, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    Your blog was a modern day Magnificat for me. It celebrates well what the God of Providence has done for you and through you for others in your current ministry. It is filled with the pure energy of your own passion to share God’s love, mercy, and justice with those you serve. May God continue to bless the work of your heart and your hands.

    • Carole Kimes on June 25, 2020 at 9:52 pm

      Marsha,
      You, too, have stories of real life from your journey. You have worked in the parish and know the workings of Providence.

    • Carole Kimes on June 25, 2020 at 9:53 pm

      Connie,
      It is a gift to share this ministry with another SP at different times. Thank-you.

  4. Mary Ryan, SP on June 24, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Carole,
    These stories are so real. There are so many others who are experiencing the same issues in their lives. They have really inspired me to be love, mercy and justice to those whom I interact with every day.

    Thank you for sharing your ministry with us. You are a gift to your parish.

    Mary

    • Carole Kimes on June 25, 2020 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks, Mary. These people inspire me as well. You have your own story of Providence to share.
      Carole

  5. Laura Parker, Sp on June 24, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Carole,
    You are a witness to how the ordinary becomes the extraordinary in the view/lens of Providence there at the parish. Every day is a new beginning….
    Thank you for sharing,Carole.

    • Carole Kimes on June 25, 2020 at 9:58 pm

      Laura,
      I’d love to her your stories of witness of how the ordinary becomes the extraordinary.
      Prayers as you continue your work in the hospital.

  6. Paula Modaff, S.P. on June 25, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    Carole,
    You have the gift of communicating God’s providential and unconditional love to all with whom you come into contact. Reading about these daily miracles heartens me as I attempt to live in love through Covid 19. Truly you are St. Mother Theodore’s daughter.

    • Carole Kimes on June 25, 2020 at 10:00 pm

      Paula,
      Don’t you just love being a daughter of St. Mother Theodore. Thank-you.

  7. S. Denise Wilkinson on June 25, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Carole, I have read your blog several times and the stories always make me cry. Your words are balm for the soul during these challenging days.

  8. Carole Kimes on June 25, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    Denise,
    We only have to look to the right or the left and we will find God’s healing balm …if we keep our eyes open in the midst of so much pain and challenge. Thanks for being such a mentor.

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