“But You HAVE a Ministry”!

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

One of my assignments in recent years was transporting our older Sisters to medical appointments.  One of those Sisters, now some years deceased, had undergone a cancerous tumor removal.  I took her to her surgeon a few years later for a routine check-up.

Somehow, we got to telling the surgeon all the kinds of ministry we had engaged in over the years.  She may have asked where we had taught, assuming that all Sisters work in schools, but of course Mission Helpers don’t usually do that.  So, we went on with some enthusiasm about home visiting in country places, supplying needy families with what they needed, etc.  The surgeon was quite attentive.  At a pause, she said, “I wish I had time for a ministry!”

As if we had rehearsed it, the other Sister and I said in unison, “But you do!”  She looked surprised, so we went on: “You care for all these people with cancer, encouraging them to deal with it, follow all the after-care protocols – that’s all ministry – even if they eventually don’t recover!  Everything you’re doing is ministry!”

All three of us, I believe, left that brief encounter pleased with our lives and happy with each other.  The other Sister, who had considerable dementia, probably forgot all about our conversation after a few minutes, but I doubt the surgeon (still in practice) ever has, and I certainly haven’t!  It was a gift and a grace to each of us.




We Stood Together on September 11

A Reflection on September 11, 2001

By Fr. Paul Wierichs, C.P., who was a chaplain in the New York Office of the FBI on that date.

Sept 11Everyone remembers, and will probably always remember, exactly where they were and what they were doing on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I was chaplain for the FBI’s New York office. After returning to my office after my morning run, but before I got to my desk, all of my phones began ringing – my beeper, my private line, my business phone – all ringing simultaneously. All were people alerting me to the horrific events that had begun to unfold, starting with a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers.

Traveling into New York City I was struck by the number of New York firemen and police being called back to work. Before I entered into the Queens Midtown tunnel, I stopped for a moment and looked over in the direction of the World Trade Center and saw nothing but billowing smoke. As I rushed into the FBI’s New York office, close to the World Trade Center, the office was frantic – faces were grim – something I had never seen in this office.Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see in person at Ground Zero: the dust that permeated the air, the acid smell, the carnage, workers putting their own lives at risk to find survivors. I had lived in a monastery while many of my generation served in Vietnam. I could never truly appreciate the horror they went through. When I talked to people at Ground Zero who had served in Vietnam, they said this was more horrific.

During the first couple of days, standing there with my FBI raid jacket with “chaplain” on the back, I was overwhelmed by the number of firemen, policemen and other rescue people who came up to me saying, “Chaplain, may I speak to you for a moment?” I heard more confessions in two weeks than I had in years.

As a Passionist, I am called to preach the passion of Jesus. For me that means entering into the passion of people’s lives, particularly when they are called to carry a cross. We offer them hope, consolation, and love. I am honored that I was able to be part of heroic people’s lives. Looking into the eyes of everyone around I saw an inner wound to the soul itself. God was also present in those eyes, giving us all the strength we needed to go that extra mile.

Most law enforcement and emergency workers do not express emotion. This was not the case that day. I was standing inside the American Express building when six firemen brought out the body of one of their own. I said, “Let me offer a prayer.” The lieutenant called them to attention, hats off, and brought those men but also myself to tears.

What struck me about the heroism of firemen, policemen, and rescue workers was their total dedication to the task at hand. When people were running out of harm’s way firemen were running towards the crisis, risking their own lives to help others who needed assistance.

Their unyielding hope in looking for survivors amid all the tons of rubble, dust, glass and steel for more than two weeks showed the true character of each of them. Their outpouring of generosity reflected the outpouring of generosity from all people of all faiths, with their prayers and donations. People came together in unity that day. We can all remember where we were on 9/11, because we were all together.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud” –Maya Angelo

A Reflection on a New Call to Ministry by the Aging, by Sister Dolores (Dolly) Glick, MHSH

Ministry to Elders 2Aware seniors can see the world and others through the eyes of one who is aging. They are more sensitive to the needs of others and can reach out to their fellow seniors offering the many gifts they still have to share. Those of us who live in senior facilities see the opportunities for ministry—they exist all around us! And they all begin with just being present to the other.

Just now, I look around and can see calls to ministry that require nothing more—or less—than simply caring. Among them:

Visiting with someone preparing for surgery

Giving a wheelchair ride to someone unable to leave her room

Reminiscing with people about their good memories and those they have loved

Helping others to see the joys and blessings of aging

Being sensitive to inner, unspoken wounds

Bringing compassionate presence to the brokenhearted and despondent

Lending a listening ear

Telephoning someone you think may be lonely

Visiting those in hospice or nursing care units

Ministry to Elders 4The opportunities are endless.

What are the joys and blessings of your ministry? Become aware of the ways in which you can reach out to others.

May we live each day as fully as we can knowing that God’s grace will provide all the help and guidance that we need.

On "The Way" at Eastern Point*

A Reflection on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola

By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

*The title of this post is inspired by the film, “The Way” which is filmed on the Camino in Spain. Each year thousands of pilgrims walk hundreds of miles on the Camino en route to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Pilgrims began walking this route in the 9th Century to venerate the tomb of St. James. Many pilgrims now walk the Camino to discover aspects of the mystery of themselves.

Today, July 31, is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

We recently celebrated the feast of St. James the Great (July 25). St. James and his brother John were followers of Jesus and were referred to as the Sons of Zebedee in the Gospels. They (or their mother, according to one of the stories) made a request to Jesus that they be granted seats at the right and left of him in the Kingdom. Jesus asks them if they are willing to drink the cup that Jesus will be asked to drink in order to bring about that kingdom. Then Jesus quietly tells them that it is up to the Creator to designate places. Later we learn that James and John are with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is the night before the Crucifixion they cannot even stay awake to keep Jesus company as he struggles in accepting God’s will to go through with the pain and agony that await him the following day. Finally, all of the apostles desert Jesus in his Passion, the risen Jesus meets them in the Upper room, forgives them, bestows the Holy Spirit on them and commissions them to spread the Good News of reconciliation to all.

I reflect on the story of James and John and their relationship with Jesus at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where I am again directing the full Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I can’t help but be reminded how, like James and John, so many are called to participate with Jesus Christ in renewing the face of the Earth. James’ and John’s story is a metaphor for each of our journeys with the Lord, and how we, too, must learn what it means to be a disciple.

Pilgrims walking the Camino.

The Spiritual Exercises lead retreatants through a series of prayer experiences—“exercises”—that reveal God’s love for all of creation and God’s desire that all of creation be redeemed and charged with grace. Those who enter into the Exercises are invited to take a long, loving look at our broken world—the way that the Trinity would gaze on it—and to get in touch with our deepest desires to live in harmony with all creation. Retreatants discover God’s unconditional love for them in ever deepening ways. They are invited through a series of imaginative exercises to seek a deeper friendship with Jesus and make a commitment to co-labor with Jesus in his on-going work of redemption that restores all creation to his Father.

This summer there are 22 people being directed in the Spiritual Exercises. It is an ecumenical group and includes men and women ranging in age from 30 to 80+ with a wide range of life experience.


Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

–At the Mission Helpers’ Mission in Manzanita, Venezuela

Maria del CarmelThe annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on July 16, is a major feast day in Venezuela, and especially in the 16 villages of the Buria District and its capital, the village of Manzanita, which is home to the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the area’s patroness saint and the name of an 18th century church founded by the Franciscan Capuchin missionaries. That church was long gone when the Mission Helpers came to this undeveloped and impoverished region in 1990. There had been no church and no church presence in the district for many decades; the nearest priest was many miles away.

The first Sisters began their ministry by setting up a tiny worship space that has since blossomed into Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish. The church also serves as a community and outreach center for the villagers. It is the center of social and spiritual life in the region.

For the people of the Manzanita region, the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a weeklong event. Here is a recap of last year’s festivities:

Manzanita_Mt. Carmel 3 Kids dancing before the imageThe celebration began a week before the actual Feast Day with prayer services in all of the villages. On the Sunday before the Feast Day, Bishop Antonio Jose Lopez Castillo celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation. Twenty-two teenagers made Confirmation, among them were 12 Guajiros (indigenous people) from Yuba tribe who live at the Barquisimeto Boys Town.

To help the young people celebrate their Confirmation, the Mission Helpers organized a concert with a Christian Catholic band from city of Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara State.


The Feast Day itself began at 6:00 a.m. when women from the community prepared a meal that was served to everyone following the 10 a.m. Solemn Mass. At the Mass, 30 children from the villages made First Communion. At 3:00 p.m. the rosary was recited and at 4:00 the procession began.


Manzanita_Mt. Carmel 2 Carring StatueMore than 300 people came from the district villages as well as from villages across Lara State. They processed with the revered statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, leaving the church at 4:00 p.m., walking a distance of about six miles, and returning to the church at 7:30. There was a final blessing, followed by fireworks.

My beautiful pictureThe much-loved yearly celebration—a highlight of religious and community life—is organized and executed by the Mission Helpers with the help of a dedicated corps of Lay Missioners.