contact Kevin O’Brien firstname.lastname@example.org
During the last days of my husband’s life, God provided for us the blessing of Midwest Care Hospice Center. I call it a blessing because it was beyond expectations; I say God provided for us because their services and care were generously extended to our family. My husband went to heaven with a beatific smile; his face will remain in my heart forever. Needless to say, the meaning and center of my life changed suddenly. After 42 years of marriage, a life of love, togetherness, and sometimes struggles, life became directionless and without dialogue…
But deep down inside of me, a little fire started to rekindle: a fire in search of meaning, in search of service, and mostly, in special expression of gratitude. Yes, gratitude to that magnificent God always present, always there, always caring. “Do not be afraid I am with you always until the end of time” was resonating in my heart constantly in the midst of the fears, loneliness, and hard decisions. I wanted and needed to respond in total gratitude. That became the new motto of my life and I started searching for ways to make my life meaningful again.
Since early years, I have felt close to the spirituality of the Jesuits and many Jesuit friends have been at our table. Looking for help, a Jesuit friend suggested that I connect with the IVC. In April, 2012 I applied and the process started. At the same time, I established a closer connection with the Midwest Care Hospice Center and also benefitted from their grieving services for several months. When the time came to find an IVC ministry, I knew the MCHC was the right place for me.
At Midwest Hospice, I find myself in a challenging interdenominational organization where professionals and recipients come from a variety of different faiths, or in some cases, no faith. And indeed it has been a challenge: a nurturing and revitalizing experience and often, a humbling opportunity with many lessons to integrate on my journey.
With the opening of the new Hospice Pavilion in Glenview, I have been serving as the First Floor Receptionist which I call the Ministry of First Impressions. I don’t mean this title to be glamorous, but a reminding bell of my ministry. When entering the hospice facility, many visitors become overwhelmed by confusion, pain, mistrust, and worries. They are carrying the heavy burden of the unknown for their loved one and their care as well as for their own decisions in the coming uncertain future. Tears, anger, distant indifference, hard breathing, and expressions of stifled emotion are common. And every time I look into those faces and read the pain in their eyes, I know that a simple greeting, a comment, a hug, a phrase of reassurance and acceptance, is the essence of my ministry… deep down I ask the Lord to use my heart, my mind, and my actions to serve Him by touching those souls in pain with His Love. Other times, after a visit to the family member and upon leaving, there is another opportunity to reengage, to give a hug, to offer a smile, to reassure them of my prayers…
One day, while at my post, I received the special unexpected visit of the Eucharist. On a regular basis, volunteer Eucharistic Ministers come to visit and give communion to the Catholic patients. I was deeply moved when one day a woman offered the Eucharist to me at the front desk. I realized that the Lord was coming to visit me in that quiet distant place; it was a special moment for me that has continued to revitalize my ministry.
The volunteers and the professional staff at Midwest Hospice present living examples of dedication and unselfish giving. I have seen some of them early in the morning, really exhausted and sometimes in tears, after assisting a patient at the last precious moments of life. Within only a few days of arriving, the hospice patients truly become part of the family and deep relationships grow in a dimension that seems beyond the barriers of time. Every volunteer, staff member and patient become part of the total Hospice mission. In my simple responsibility to control and supervise the garage door (which welcomes new patients and offers a dignified ‘goodbye’ to those departing), I see the importance of my ministry because we are all contributing to a common blessed cause.
Even the architecture has been designed to create a soothing atmosphere of reverence and peace. In the front of the building, the Healing Garden has little creeks, flowers, and bushes to surround patients and visitors with a sensitive expression of life, tenderness and peace. Not far from the front desk where I sit is a beautiful chapel and meditation room that can be used by any individual or group for reflection, prayers or services. There is a wide open window looking to the healing garden and ending on the horizon with a marsh where cranes, ducks and other birds come to rest. In the background one can see the profile of the majestic towers of The Divine Word Missionaries at Techny. I glance at it from my desk and a silent but powerful connection with The Lord takes place. One cannot ask for more blessings. Here again, I am grateful, Oh Lord. St. Ignatius said that “it is important to see God in all little things.” In this ministry, all little things become a grand expression of the Lord’s Presence for His little creatures.
Lucia P. Hall is an Ignatian Volunteer in Chicago, where she serves at the Midwest Care Hospice Center. She is a retired Clinical Psychologist and offers workshops on Psychology and Spirituality to interested groups. She enjoys writing, traveling and contact with nature.
In the fall of 2010, one of the women in our Love & Lunch support groups, Cecilia, was dying. She was our translator. Because our support group which had sustained her through years of an abusive relationship was located in a church, she joined that church. In the two years of her life, Cecilia had gone through RCIA and been confirmed, attended every retreat we had and translated it into Spanish, and was a quiet spiritual force in our lives. She fought cancer for 9 years, and then it went to her brain. We supported her through the end or her life, helping her get into the same Extended Care Center as her mother, moving the support group to her bedside, giving her the first birthday party she ever had in her life, and loving her to death. We paid for her funeral, and housed her sister, Rosita who came in from out of town. Rosita made the rounds of all Cecilia’s support groups, meeting all her friends and hearing their love for her sister.
The Tuesday after Easter 2013, I got a call from Cecilia’s sister, Rosita. She told me their mother, Blanca, was now dying. I arranged for her transportation from the airport to the hospital, and waited for her call to bring her to her place for the night. She called once, left no message and when I tried to call, a weird busy came on. When she couldn’t contact me, Rosita resurrected her contact with her long lost brother to stay with him.
I also contacted the various people who supported Cecilia and Rosita 2 and ½ years ago. Their relationships are being resurrected, and their friendships renewed. The times we shared with Cecilia are always with us, and Rosita’s presence reminds us of Cecilia’s journey from the cross to her own resurrection.
When Rosita went to visit her mother on the first day, she looked at the whiteboard where they listed her mother’s caregivers. Imagine Rosita’s surprise when she saw the name of the Nurse’s aide (see picture) written just the way her sister used to write it. Sign of resurrection!! Cecilia is still taking care of their mother.
The trust and reliance of this family on God for sustenance is inspiring, and the response of the community to Rosita’s bravery in coming to be with her mother with no place to stay and no plan except to see and be with her mother all put me in mind of the community of believers that were present at the first resurrection. They were challenged to trust God in their fear.
Jane, one of the women in our Love & Lunch group called during Rosita’s visit with the Love & Dinner group to say that she needed prayer for her son’s back pain. Earlier today Jane had expressed her pain around the death of her younger son many years ago, and we were able to listen and pray for God to be present in her memory. She was able to receive that grace, experiencing that painful memory in a new way. At the meeting this morning Jane had spoken about Simon of Cyrene and how he had been forced to help Jesus to carry the cross, and how we joyfully and lovingly play Simon for one another.
Always intermingled, the cross and the resurrection. Daily we are volunteer Simons helping those we serve to carry their crosses, knowing that our service is to be escorts to the resurrection, and in escorting those we serve, to experience our own daily resurrection, new life, and deepening love. We do what we can to follow in those precious footprints left on the trail to Calvary so many years ago, leading to the Kingdom not of this world.
Please pray for Blanca as she enters her final days, and for Rosita as she escorts her mother to her sister Cecilia’s side. And remember our women and myself who are being Simon to Rosita and her mom. And yourselves as you escort those you serve to the place God is calling them to be.
Louise M. Sandberg is a IVC Spiritual Reflector and Volunteer, as Director of the Mary & Elizabeth Center which reaches out to women in need on Long Island, NY. She is a pediatric home care nurse, and facilitates Wildflower groups for women healing from childhood abuse, praying for healing of feelings and memories.
A fantastic blog post on April 30th by Vicky Risacher jumpstarted my thoughts around what it means to “come to the table” in terms of faith. Ms. Risacher’s story perfectly encapsulates the unexpected places and people who bring us hospitality in much the same way our Christ did.
The most obvious metaphor of a table we have in our faith is our sacrament of communion. Much could be said here about the different ways that different faith groups within Chrisitianity celebrate communion, or about the tradition-breaking ways in which Christ changed the Seder, or about transubstantiation. Ok, maybe not transubstantiation, but you get the point.
I have just begun the process of ordination in the United Methodist Church as a candidate for deacon. Though not charged with administering the sacraments, deacons are authorized in the Methodist church to assist in their administration. Now, that can sound pretty second class on first glance. My mentor, however, forced me to think of it in an incredibly empowering way when last we met: We should always be asking the question, “Who’s not at the Table?”
By extending the Table into the rest of the world, deacons are called to bring God into every messy, dark, powerless, and rejected place we can find. In fact, I would venture to say that it is in those places that we find the most need for the Table. If we think of the Eucharist as something that doesn’t just happen at the moment we take the bread and the cup, what does that require us to do in the world? And even if we do think of the Eucharist as that moment during our worship when we queue up and take the Elements, what do those people look like? Do they all look like each other? Are they the people who need God the most? And if they aren’t, why have they not found their way into the place in our communities that are supposed to be the most welcoming imaginable?
I sit front and center at my church every Sunday. I was hesitant to sit there the first few times my wife and I did so, but she plays music at our church and I wanted to sit next to her during the rest of the service. So, when we take communion, I’m always one of the first couple of people in the congregation to do so. I pray at the rail in front and then I sit down. Over the years, then, the most rewarding part of my communion experience has been watching everyone else in the church pass by and take communion. Right there. A few feet in front of me. Every single person. “The body of Christ broken for you.” “The blood of Christ shed for you.”
I can silently judge people all I want. I can inflate my own ridiculous ego. When each and every human being comes to the Table, he or she is exactly as loved, forgiven, and washed as I am. That completely reshapes me every week.
As our Christ reached across lots of culturally divisive lines (and angered the religious authorities in the process) so must we. Who is not at the Table, Church? Why aren’t we letting them eat and drink?
Kenneth J. Pruitt is a teacher by trade, and the Director of Volunteer Management at Kingdom House, an IVC partner agency focused on social services and founded during the settlement house movement. He is proud of St. Louis, his adopted home. His wife is far more attractive and intelligent than he. He loves what you’ve done with your hair.
One can hardly pick up a newspaper today without reading about our government’s ever-expanding use of armed drones, whether by our military over Afghanistan or by the CIA in countries where no war has been declared by the U.S.
Our country is leading the way in this “video-game warfare.” Drones can be easily deployed, are less expensive than sending troops or military jets, and entail no risk of U.S. casualties. For these reasons, drone warfare is supported by a large majority of Americans. But drone strikes have killed hundreds of civilians, violate international law, inflame local populations, and serve as a potent recruiting tool for extremists.
A lot of good information is available on the Internet on specifics of the U.S. armed drone program, including their legality, morality, and effects (see the information in this PSA for more links, including a link to a bibliography which we have put together). In the “Study” section below, you’ll also see an insightful article written by Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore council member Eli McCarthy.
We hope you will find this Prayer-Study-Action e-bulletin helpful in your own work to put an end to the use of lethal drones. Let us all say together: Not in our name!.
Members of Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore
PRAY: A prayer to end the use of lethal drones
We pray for all victims of U.S. drone strikes and call for an immediate end to the use of lethal drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. We ask all those who give orders, operate the drones, and manufacture and profit from the drones for military and CIA purposes to search their hearts and consciences, to hear the cries of the victims, to withdraw their consent from this immoral lethal weapon of terror and policy of assassination, to repent and to beg forgiveness from, and make reparations to, the victims’ families. We give thanks for groups of peacemakers like the Creech 14, the Hancock 38, Johns Hopkins 9, and many other peacemakers who have been arrested, tried, and jailed for their acts of nonviolent resistance to these murderous weapons, these killer drones, our American death squads of the skies. Amen.
STUDY: What are drones doing to us?
by Eli McCarthy
On May 23, the President laid out an updated drone policy to the Administration’s earlier legal argument in February for the use of armed drones. The ACLU responded to the February document with legal critiques. On May 21, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rightly raised “serious moral concerns” about the drone policy and called us to “consider the longer-term social and political impacts.” Academics have been offering analysis as well, such as Michael Walzer and Maryann Cusimano Love. For the most part these analyses consider laws of war, “just” war theory, and civil rights. However, Cusimano Love’s analysis notably mentions a key limit in that “just” war theory does not tell us how to build peace.
Focusing on the “just” war theory as the key frame of moral analysis for armed drones also fails to adequately engage our imagination for practices of nonviolent peacemaking. This focus also lowers our capacity to sustain peacemaking practices, and offers little insight into envisioning the just peace which “just” war theory purports to intend. “Just” war theory also depends on, but doesn’t develop, the “just people” needed to interpret, apply and revise the criteria.
But even more significant, “just” war theory doesn’t prioritize or illuminate a more important moral question about human habits. I recommend we shift the primary analysis of armed drones from law, “just” war theory and rights to the question, “what kind of people are we becoming by using armed drones?” The following discussion provides an example of where this ethical approach might draw us…
ACT: Actions to end drone warfare
If not us, then who? If not now, then when? We are the NATIONAL CATHOLIC PEACE ORGANIZATION. We need to speak out and educate everyone, but especially our fellow Catholics, on the immorality and illegality of the armed drone program. We recommend that PC regions and local groups review the presentation on drones that Bill Quigley gave last November at the Pax Christi gathering at our annual presence at Fort Benning to protest the School of the Americas. We also recommend that you attend the workshop by Medea Benjamin (co-founder of CodePink) on armed drones at our National Conference in Atlanta this June (and read her book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control).
Familiarize yourself with Bill’s presentation and other materials so that you can speak with knowledge and confidence and educate your local parishes or other groups on the significant evil of the drone program.
Establish (or join an existing) a presence at a local Air Force base, federal building (Justice, FBI, etc.), drone manufacturer, or university working on drone research. Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore has been holding a monthly witness in front of the CIA in Northern Virginia, where we witness truth to power.
Advocate and lobby your local Representative and Senators about the realities of the U.S. armed drone program, its immorality and illegality. We hope to have a sign-on ad in the National Catholic Reporter this summer to reach more Catholics about the armed drone program. We hope that you will sign on with us, both individually and as organizations.
We have the opportunity as the National Catholic Peace Organization to proclaim: ARMED DRONES: NOT IN OUR NAME!
We can say of most of the people we know that they are honest. Depending upon the context, we expect that those we trust will say what they mean and will act justly. We value honesty in others. How important is honesty as a quality in our own lives, in its various meanings and levels?
We are familiar with one basic meaning of honesty: that of not lying or cheating, whether on taxes or on tests, in speaking or in text communications. We might be especially solicitous about honesty in financial matters as one level of honesty, but less so when telling stories about some of our experiences. Honesty has more than one narrow meaning, and is not, in our experience, an absolute. To deliberately fail in honesty is to be dishonest. But honesty is sometimes our primary focus and guide, and at other times not, as when love for another requires keeping silence rather than “being honest” in an uncaring fundamentalist manner.
No matter how much we value honesty, we do not share equally with everyone all of our internal matters of mind and heart. When we are honest with others about some of our thoughts and feelings, opinions, judgments and decisions, we choose carefully what we share with whom. Though we learn to deeply trust some people, God is usually the only one with whom we can become completely honest about our innermost thoughts and feelings, our desires and doubts, our beliefs, hopes and loves.
Complete honesty with God might seem quite reasonable, because God knows everything anyway. But most of us have to negotiate honesty with God as carefully as we do with others, because trusting is not automatic, and is not primarily a result of logical reasoning. No matter how much we trust, we take a risk whenever we freely open ourselves to anyone, even to God. We do not know what the consequences will be within ourselves once we freely bring into a relationship some of our innermost thoughts or feelings, decisions or impulses, fantasies or judgments.
Although being honest entails some risk, our growth as a person requires honesty as much as plants require water. When we are honest with ourselves, we gain self-respect and confidence; when we are honest with others, relationships of mutual respect and love become possible. When we choose to share appropriate personal beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and aspirations with God or with others, two things happen simultaneously: we become more deeply aware of those particular aspects of ourselves, and we give to those with whom we share, the gift of knowing us as we are. Even though God knows us entirely, and others might know us quite well, when we consciously open ourselves to them, we offer a priceless and unique free gift, one that cannot be coerced.
Fear of being misunderstood or misjudged, or of not having our truth accepted, presents an obstacle to any real relationship. But only in and with honesty can we relate positively with a friend, counselor, family member or God. We can overcome our fears when we focus not only on what we hope to achieve, such as closeness, acceptance or love, but on the movement in our spirit that lets us know – beyond mere reasons – when this is an occasion when we need to open ourselves. With the support of such God-given mini-inspirations, we are able to move through fear to occasions of letting ourselves be known.
Honesty is not entirely something we do, or even who we are, but an ongoing experience of God watering our spirit that we might grow.
Father Randy Roche, SJ, Director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality, has an M.A. in Theology from Santa Clara University, and an M.S. in Counseling from San Diego State. He has served as LMU Director of Campus Ministry, Rector of the Jesuit Community at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, Director of Studies and Spiritual Director at the Jesuit Novitiate, and as Pastor, Superior, and Director of Diocesan Campus Ministry at the Newman Center in Honolulu.
Throughout his years of ministry, he has continuously deepened his own experience of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, while also acting as a guide in the Exercises for lay people and religious. Not surprisingly, his specialty is Ignatian spirituality as a tool for discernment in decision-making.
Flannery O Connor (1925-1964) is widely regarded as one of the great American writers of the twentieth century. Only in 1979, however, with the publication of her collected letters, could the public fully see the depth of her personal faith and her wisdom as a spiritual guide. Drawing from all her work this anthology highlights as never before O Connor s distinctive voice as a spiritual writer, covering such topics as Christian Realism, the Church, the relation between faith and art, sin and grace, and the role of suffering in the life of a Christian.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings
Gerard Manley Hopkins S.J.