By Margee Joseph
When my husband Eddie and I retired, we imagined ourselves having time on our hands with nothing to do if we so chose. It didn’t take long, however, before we yearned to do something constructive and fulfilling. Thus began our search into numerous volunteer opportunities.
Nothing spoke to us or sparked an interest until we learned about the Befriender Hospital Ministry training offered by the archdiocesan Family Ministries Office.
This ministry provides pastoral care to hospitalized Catholic patients and their families in Louisville. One day a week we visit such patients at a local hospital to offer spiritual assistance and to let patients and their families know that someone cares and is praying for them. The four principles of the Befriender Ministry are at the heart of our visits:
- God is present.
- As pastoral care ministers we care but do not seek to cure.
- We practice attentive listening.
- We provide a non-judgmental presence.
While still relatively new to this ministry, we have already found it to be gratifying and filled with many blessings. We actually make cold calls as we enter patients’ rooms and meet strangers at a most vulnerable time of their lives. We never know how we’ll be received. Whether positive or negative, however, we always remember God is present and everything is in His hands.
We visit all types of patients: some facing or recovering from surgeries; some dealing with illnesses; others undergoing medical tests; some receiving treatments or therapies and some in palliative care, nearing the end of their life’s journey.
While we have been received kindly and gracefully, what has impressed us the most is these patients’ faith and outlook in the midst of life-changing circumstances.
I met a young man who told me that upon receiving the diagnosis of his illness, he realized that God was inviting and taking him to a deeper level of faith. I was stunned at hearing such beautiful acceptance and faith. I walked out of his room feeling that he had given me more than I had given him.
Another time, I visited a woman who had been given only a couple of weeks to live. As I left she asked me if I would come and see her again. Less than a week before she passed away I once again visited and offered prayers for her and her family. Her meek acceptance of her fate humbled me.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz recently described mercy as the result of the love (of Christ) meeting misery. Thus, this ministry is the perfect way for us to practice and celebrate the Year of Mercy.
Misery is not always physical, and we have found ourselves meeting people who were struggling in other ways. Some patients are no longer connected to the Catholic Church, and we’ve had the opportunity to give them information on listening sessions that were held in the Archdiocese.
Sometimes a visit goes one step farther. My husband entered a room where a patient had gone for treatment, but his wife, a non-Catholic, was there. When Eddie identified himself, she revealed she wanted to know how to become Catholic. Since Eddie is on our parish RCIA team, he was able to give her the information she sought. Principle #1: God is present, and we never know how He is going to use us.
We have both encountered visits where the patient would rather talk about a life situation that concerns them. Once Eddie listened while a patient spoke of someone close to her who the patient believed was making some wrong choices. The patient was to the point of wanting nothing more to do with this person and expressed her feelings to Eddie. He practiced attentive listening, offered no judgment or advice, and only showed that he cared.
At the end of the visit, the patient had come to the decision on her own to give the person another chance and stay in contact. As he started to leave, Eddie gave her one of our prayer blankets, which are made for patients by various religious groups. The patient reached out and hugged him.
Sometime our rewards are very visible, and overall we have found this ministry very gratifying.
Befriender Hospital Ministry will be offered by the Family Ministries Office in April of this year. If you are looking for a ministry of mercy, check out this training by calling Michelle Herberger at the Family Ministries Office at 636-0296, ext. 1201.
Befriender Hospital Ministry training will be offered by the Family Ministries Office in April of this year. If you are looking for a ministry of mercy, check out this training by calling Michelle Herberger at the Family Ministries Office at 502/636-0296, ext 1201.
Margee and Eddie Joseph are members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.