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
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.
- 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.
- 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.