…. PARISH – pastoral work
“There are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord.”
Since having to take early retirement some twenty years ago my ministry is pastoral work in an ever-expanding Parish.
This involves mainly visiting the elderly at home or in Nursing Homes, the housebound, the lonely, the sick, the bereaved and parents of children being prepared for the Sacraments. It also includes facilitating the preparation for the Sacraments by organising meetings for parents and children and preparing the group leaders and catechists for their role in this work. Working closely with school staff is essential in all this. Each week I visit our two Primary Schools.
I accompany and instruct those interested in the Faith and in becoming full members of the Church.
In addition, I help to organise Parish functions that help to build up the community – be they social or fund-raising for charity. I also support all activities where I live.
This variety of ministries is challenging, inspirational and rewarding.
‘Til God will.’
…. A REFLECTION – the twilight years
I sometimes use a river as a metaphor for my life’s story. This allows me to select a particular phase of my life, or a significant life experience, to focus on and so become more aware of the pattern of God’s dealing with me, where I am being led, and how to respond. As I look back on my life as a Loreto Sister, I marvel at how gently I was led along what the psalmist calls “right paths”.
My first foreign missionary experience in South Africa, 1949 – 1962, brought me face to face with the injustice of apartheid, an experience of waiting in hope. Then came a missioning to Kenya. It was 1963, the year Independence was declared, and a new self-governing nation was born. I was privileged to be part of it. A high point was teaching in Loreto Limuru, a National School, for ten years. This was the first Catholic school for girls in Kenya and it opened in December 1936 with seven pupils. 34 years later, the first intake of A Level students coincided with my time of arrival. It was a joy and a challenge to be part of the growth and development of these young women who would, in time, make huge contributions to the place of women in society and to the development of the nation.
In 1988, after re-training, I joined the staff of the University of Nairobi working in the Chaplaincy, in the Dean of Students Office, spending a day a week, working as a Counsellor, at the University Health Clinic. These were 12 of the most treasured years of my life.
In 2000 having been privileged to work in Africa for 50 years it was time to return to these Isles and allow our Kenyan Sisters contribute to the growth of their Church. Transitions are never easy. There was a time of doubt, loneliness, a deep sense of loss. From experience I knew that the One who is The Way would direct me.
A Seven Week Sabbatical, followed by an invitation to join the staff of the Kinnoull Spirituality Centre led me into yet another new Ministry. Soon I felt at home and was privileged to walk with the individuals and Groups who came seeking rest and spiritual renewal. What a graced time, what a privileged time! The programme included a Celtic Spirituality Course with a weekend trip to Iona. I loved those pilgrimages. Time spent on the island was inspirational, unforgettable.
As I re-visit my sacred story I feel humbled and very grateful for the many gifts.
Germaine March 2012.
…. Ministry with Asylum Seekers
‘We need volunteers to contribute to the development of a new Centre
to welcome and support asylum seekers coming to the U.K.
If you are able to give us some time please telephone 0845…… and come and see us’
Seeing that note in the parish newsletter 15 years ago, I was deeply moved to spend some time trying to make a difference to those who were no doubt in great suffering.
Without hesitation, I made an appointment and was welcomed, that very week, to the drop-in day and was plunged at the deep end. An asylum seeker named Alice, walked in the door and poured out her story, telling us how she had been tortured in her country and had no option but to flee.
This was my first time touching someone who had been tortured. My listening skills soon came into play, giving Alice my full attention and compassion while putting into practice the rules of avoiding enmeshment if Alice was to be helped.
I remember how that day we cut into small pieces the one pizza that one volunteer had brought and we shared it amongst us with tea and coffee. Three clients with similar stories visited the Centre that day.
As the weeks passed by, the number of visitors increased and the day we welcomed seven visitors, it felt like a large crowd.
The Centre developed rapidly. Today we welcome an average of 80 visitors on any drop-in day and the small room has expanded to three floors. The staff of one Manager, one Advice Worker and 5 volunteers has increased to 5 paid staff made up of a Centre Manager and her Assistant, 2 Advice Workers and 1 Counselor. Additional staff comprises 3 more Advice Workers, 2 English teachers, health visitors, experienced Job finders who help with CVs, interviews, and an average of 20 to 30 volunteers who come on different days.
Apart from the more skilled advice given by those trained Advice Workers who deal with the Home office, my role is Jack of all trades, from accompanying a client/visitor to court and sometimes accompanying a traumatised client to the hospital for a HIV test, to serving tea/coffee or cleaning the floor or playing with a child whose mother is busy sorting out a problem with an Advice Worker or registering new clients – listening and compassion being key to minimizing the appalling suffering of our visitors.
Ability to make a difference. How do I know that this is the case?
I let someone cry and hit the wall to release her anger at the injustices she is going through.
An Advice Worker told me later that a visitor told her, ‘I do not know the name of the lady who was with me when I was so angry, but she let me be… and I was greatly helped’.
Another time someone came back looking for me and told me, ‘Do you remember the time you spent on the phone advocating for me? My bills were greatly reduced then as you insisted that I could not pay…I want to thank you most sincerely’.
The atmosphere in our team is outstanding, there is no power struggle but great support and companionship amongst ourselves, all peppered with a terrific sense of humour!
Difficult to replace are those links in a team bonded for fifteen years amongst a group of people who work with the same goal of alleviating the suffering of people from whom we receive much more than we are ever able to give.
An IBVM Sister
…. Creative Retirement
‘Creative Retirement’ gives one the chance to do many things all in the name of ministry. When I started out, I taught primary school pupils and over the years I was able to watch them grow and develop into adults of whom I could be justifiably proud. This was evident when I met up with many past pupils in Toronto a few years ago. They had not only grown into splendid women but had adapted to their new country and were holding down very good posts in various fields of the public and private sectors. On that occasion, I was able to assure them that their former teachers remember them daily in prayer – for our pupils past and present – a phrase we so often heard over the years.
Recently I heard Rabbi Pete Tobias during the morning ‘Pause for Thought’ and he said that we should remember with gratitude those who had helped us in any way during our lives. I thought about many of the people with whom I worked in Kenya and two in particular stand out. The one who unstintingly gave me time (during the holidays) and help to prepare French lessons when I was asked to teach the subject and the one who always had ‘the kettle on’ when I returned late from school meetings, either the usual Parents’ meetings or fundraising ones. These meetings were a very necessary part of school life.
Since my return from Kenya I have had a sort of ‘stop gap’ ministry, (one has to admit that my size enabled me to fill a gap!) and was very happy to help in various areas of province life.
Now that “creative retirement” is on the cards, I feel that availability is a very useful thing to have and I am happy to help out where I can. Having watched the young pupils grow and bloom, I now watch the progress of the bulbs which I have planted in our garden and I look forward to a sea of daffodils and tulips in the not too distant future. Sister Thomas More
…. an Art Therapist
I work as an Art Therapist with children and adolescents who experience emotional distress.
A typical day involves an early start and I’m at my desk by 8.15 am where upon I catch up with my e-mails from the organisation I work for. Following this I see my first young patient at 8.30 am. The one-to-one session lasts 50 minutes – ‘the analytic hour’. During this time the young person has access to the Art Therapy room in which his/her art folder, art box and a carefully selected range of toys are available.
I sit beside the art table while the child gathers up paints or other art materials and begins to work. My stance is one of an interested adult. I wait while the communication from the child, both verbal and non-verbal emerges. When I find I have something helpful to say, I say it. But, until then I wait in quiet facilitation of the process. Usually quite a lot happens during the time we are together. Images evolve or the child uses toys to create images or scenarios thus we work together to grow in understanding of what these images mean for the child.
As the session draws to a close, I work carefully with the ending, as the ending of sessions and indeed endings of therapy offer the child/young person the opportunity to process their thoughts and feelings about such issues as separation and loss. In brief, we work with the child’s internal world where through art and play any blocks to healthy development can be addressed and worked with.
When the session is over, I take the child back to the waiting room where hopefully a parent or guardian has been waiting. There is a quietly handled transition as the child reconnects with his/her external world. Following this, my day involves either further sessions for other referred children, administrative duties, team meetings or time to process and think about the children.
When the day’s work is done, I return home and I give some time to prayerful reflection.
An IBVM Art Therapist