By Michelle Herberger
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1
For many people, times of suffering and loss surface the opportunity to re-evaluate that which is most important in their lives. When one feels life — as it has been known — being stripped away, that which is most important is often found in relationships: relationship with God, with self and with others.
Consequently, times of suffering and loss are opportunities to evangelize and build relationships that can facilitate hope and healing.
Although suffering and loss is often met with resistance and a multitude of feelings, it is a natural part of living. A common event for us is illness, be it ours or someone’s we love; however, illness often separates us from the familiar.
A young woman recently shared her experience of being with her sister who was hospitalized. Even though she and her sister were actively practicing their faith, they were keenly aware of their inability in that moment to find their own way into the comfort of their faith. A BeFriender team member visited and offered to pray with them. The young woman spoke of how the church’s presence brought an immediate awareness of God’s compassionate care, drawing her and her sister even more deeply into their relationship with Christ and the church. They simply needed that personal touch to remind them of their own inner truth.
Members from various BeFriender Hospital Ministry teams often speak of visiting patients who, upon admission to the hospital, self-identify as Catholic. When visiting the patient however, they often hear stories of estrangement from the church for a period of time and for a variety of reasons. Due to the reflection that often accompanies illness, these individuals are seeking ways to connect again with their faith and their church.
BeFriender hospital teams offer a compassionate, non-judgmental listening presence to such individuals.
In Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II writes, “The Church’s pastoral concern will not be limited only to the Christian families closest at hand; it will extend its horizons in harmony with the heart of Christ. For all of them the church will have a word of truth, goodness, understanding, hope and deep sympathy with their sometimes tragic situations.”
With this in mind, the Family Ministries Office will once again be offering training for those interested in serving as a team member at one of the area hospitals. Training begins in August.
For more information, please call the Family Ministries Office at 636-0296 to register for a one-hour information session. Information sessions will be held at 10 a.m. every Wednesday in July at the Maloney Center.
The opportunities for evangelization are there in pastoral care, and the call has been given. Let us as church witness in hope, the love of Christ to those who are suffering.
Michelle Herberger is the coordinator of pastoral care ministries for the Archdiocese of Louisville.