BeFrienders ministry seeks help for hospitals

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

A hospital stay can be filled with anxiety and, sometimes, outright fear.

An outreach ministry in the Archdiocese of Louisville — the BeFriender Hospital Ministry — seeks to alleviate some of that anxiety by providing a prayerful presence for patients and their families.

And that ministry needs more volunteers to continue its work.

“This is a way of reaching out in hope to those who are experiencing loss or suffering,” said Michelle Herberger, the coordinator of pastoral care ministries for the archdiocese. “Oftentimes, this is as much for the family members as it is for the patient.”

Herberger said the ministry is intended to provide a non-judgmental, listening presence to patients and their families.

“The BeFriender role is not to come with judgment or answers or to fix the situation but to be a presence,” said Herberger, who is also the coordinator of the BeFriender ministry.

Currently, there are BeFriender teams at four local hospitals, including University Hospital, Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Baptist Health Hospital.

Ruth Lowe, who has served with the BeFriender ministry for about five years, said the outreach is vital because it shows patients that the church remembers and is praying for them.

“The fact that someone is praying for them, that someone cares how they are doing, is really very pleasant for them. It just makes their day,” Lowe, who is a parishioner of St. Louis Bertrand Church, said in a phone interview last week.

Lowe said hospitals used to represent a place of death and dying for her. But since she began volunteering with the BeFriender ministry, that’s no longer the case.

“Through this ministry, I understand death is nothing. It’s a beginning of another phase of our journey. I understand more than ever that we are on a journey where we can recover our health or we might not. Through it all, God is with us,”
Lowe said.

Gerry Hope, a parishioner of St. Athanasius Church, said he joined the BeFriender ministry after his retirement as a “way to give back.”

“It’s made me understand that we are all part of the body of Christ, that we do need each other to make us whole, complete,” Hope, who has been involved with the BeFrienders for several years, said in an interview last week. “At times the body is sick and we need people to come and lift us up. We need people in all stages of our faith journey.”

Practicing Catholics who are interested in learning more about the BeFriender ministry are invited to attend an hour-long information session this summer. Information sessions will be offered at the Maloney Center, 1200 S. Shelby St., at 10 a.m. on June 17 and 24 and July 1, 8 and 15.

Those who commit to the ministry will be asked to complete a training program. It will instruct volunteers in a variety of topics, including grief/loss, basic listening skills and finding God in suffering. Volunteers make a commitment to serve for two years at the participating hospital of their choice.

The next training program begins on Aug. 8 and continues on Saturday mornings through October. The cost of the program is $175.

To register to attend one of the information sessions or for more information about the ministry, call Herberger in the Family Ministries Office at 636-0296, ext. 1256.

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