“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.




Reflections of a Baseball Fan

By Sister Dolores Beere, MHSH*

I am a baseball fan!  To be more specific, I am a Baltimore Orioles fan—an ardent Baltimore Orioles fan.

From the time I was a very young child I listened to baseball games on the radio with my mother and father.  They were both great fans. I remember one warm summer night in particular.  We were sitting outside on the front steps listening to the ballgame.  It went into extra innings and it got very late, but my mother was determined to listen to the end. When it was over she told my father to take her to the hospital, where she gave birth to my sister.  But she heard the end of that game first.

There was a Baltimore team before the Orioles that played in an old ball park on 28th Street.  My father took me there when I was about seven years old.  I loved it.

Later I went to games at the old Memorial Stadium, and, more recently at the new Camden Yards, where I was once hit by a ball during pre-game warm-ups.

While I love the game, I can’t say that baseball is a “religious experience,” but I think it’s a very spiritual thing when the players use their God-given gifts to bring so much enjoyment to people.  They have a calling.  And that’s to play baseball.  Cal Ripken was a good example of this.  He loved the game; he was a good sportsman; he was called to play baseball.

And, like Cal Ripkin, a lot of the Orioles are very involved with worthy local projects; they give back to the community, and especially the kids.  They’re role models.

For the players who take drugs to enhance their playing—that’s not using their God-given gifts, that’s just greed.

My ministry in Detroit lasted for 16 years, and I followed the Detroit Tigers, but I never became a fan.  In fact, one year I went to the season opener between the Tigers and the Orioles and cheered (loudly) for the Orioles.  We won.

I enjoy baseball—every single day, winning or losing.  One year they were zero for 21—not one win in 21 games!  But I was with them.  This year, I think they have a shot at the World Series.  That would be great.  But, it’s still early in the season, anything can happen.

I’ll be rooting for them, no matter what.

*Sister Dolores, who will be 90 in October, recently celebrated her 70th year as a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart.  But, she’s been a baseball fan longer than that.


My Ministry is a Privilege

By Sister Onellys Villegas

I am a counselor at the House of Ruth Family Safety and Support Center in Beltsville, Maryland.  I knew I was called to this ministry even as I went to the mailbox to send off my resume.  And, when I was told that the work would be in the area of domestic violence, I was sure that this was where I belonged.

I work primarily with Latina women who are referred to the Center by the courts, by other social service agencies that do not handle domestic violence cases, and by agencies that work with the Latino population in the area, which is a suburb or Washington, DC.

I see as many as 30 women each week—that’s too many, but I haven’t the heart to turn anyone away.  Entering into the inner world of another person’s life is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Together, the abused woman and I explore her pain with love, with trust and with compassion.  We work together toward her healing.

She shares her story with me and I learn about her history of domestic violence, about her parents.  I get to know where she is coming from.  It takes a long time before the woman realizes what is happening to her and, very important, that she does not deserve it!

This is the key factor in my counseling.  I tell them that there is nothing they could possibly do that would justify being beaten.  Nothing!  At first this passes over them, but when they’re ready, they come to the realization:  “No. I don’t deserve this.”  Only then are they ready to move on—and out.

I have been blessed by the trust that these women have placed in me.  They have inspired me by their courage in telling their stories and in making choices for their future.  These sacred moments of shared human feelings have moved me and transformed me.

Reflection:  Whose “inner life” do you share?  Do you think of it as a privilege or a burden?   

Hospice Ministry – “How Can You Do That?”

By Sister Carole Ruland, MHSH

I am a Hospice Spiritual Counselor/Chaplain at the Casa de la Luz Hospice in Tucson, Arizona.  I’ve been in this very special ministry for about two years. Sometimes, when I tell people this, they say, “How can you to that?  Isn’t it sad?”

I tell them that for those who feel called to this ministry, it is a gift. In fact, as I walk with those who are dying, and their families, I find that I am learning how to live a more meaningful life, and also how to prepare for death in a more meaningful way.

Desert Sunset, Tucson, Arizona, © 2010 Lisa Suttman, www.suttmandesign.com

As I minister at the In-Patient Unit, I spend time listening to the stories of patients and families and sometimes I am able to provide an opportunity for them to share their fears and uncertainties. Sometimes they talk about their faith and how that provides comfort on this end-of-life journey that all of us will one day take.

I also do On-Call ministry and can be called to the home when a patient is near death or has already died and the family wants a chaplain to be with them and pray with them.

Personally, I am blessed to be able to be conscious of all of the life we have received from our God—both the years of growing and the time of returning to the God who promises us eternal life.  This ministry is somewhat more difficult when the person or family does not have a spiritual background to support them at this time. But, even then, I can listen, offer a pastoral presence and support them in their journey.

I treasure the many different experiences I have had so far and choose to continue opening myself to the beauty and intensity of life and death!