To Withdraw and Draw Inward

by Andrea Noel

Spiritual retreat’s offer us an opportunity to withdraw from the routine of our busy lives, inviting us to go within and bring focus to the heart and soul. A spiritual retreat should help us create depth, space, time for prayer, and grounding. Every retreat is distinct and finding the right one that works for you takes intention. When selecting a retreat, you could consider the following.

  • What are you looking for in a retreat:
  1. Context and content
  2. Facilitators/retreat leaders
  3. Location and accommodation
  4. Schedule and duration
  5. Cost

Context identifies the set of circumstances surrounding the retreat, i.e. is it a group or personal retreat; Yoga or Church retreat; all-male or all-female retreat. Content relates to the focus of the retreat. What will you learn while on retreat? Is this particular area relevant to your spiritual needs at this time? It is also important to know who will lead your retreat. What credentials, experience, or learning does a particular individual, or individuals, hold in a specific area to help facilitate creating depth, integrity, and focus during the retreat?

Location and accommodation represent where the retreat will take place and where you will stay if over-night lodging is needed? Also, how do the accommodations contribute to the theme and feel of the retreat? Schedule and duration are important aspects to consider because it can greatly influence the cost of the retreat. The selected date for the retreat could also impact the entire retreat experience. For example, if you are at a retreat center with beautiful outdoor landscapes and you want to enjoy the open outdoors you would need to be mindful of the weather when scheduling your retreat.

Finally, you should consider the costs associated with the retreat. Retreats can range from $50-$500 not including travel costs. Set a comfortable budget for your retreat, including the retreat, accommodations, food, and travel costs. Do not correlate costs with the value of a retreat. You can go on a $20 retreat and leave rejuvenated and transformed. You can also spend $2000 and leave unmoved and frustrated. Being on retreat is less about how much you spend and where you are, it is more about your spiritual intent and the purpose of the retreat.

Here are a few of my favorite retreat centers in the Washington Metropolitan Area:

Dayspring Silent Retreat Center, Germantown Maryland

http://www.dayspringretreat.org/

Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center, Marriotsville Maryland http://rccbonsecours.com/home.html

Yogaville, Buckingham Virginia

http://www.yogaville.org/

The Shambhala Center, Washington DC

http://dc.shambhala.org/

The Belfry, Lexington Virginia

http://bellfry.org/

Another great resource for finding retreats nationally and internationally is www.retreatfinder.com

 

 

Fixin’ to Grow: How Our Mindsets Affect Us More Than We May Think

by Kathleen Gerwin

Picture this:

You’re back in grade school and you’ve just received that oh-so-dreaded report card; this time however, you’re full of excitement because the far column reads ‘A’ all the way down. You rush home, eager to show your parents, knowing they will be so pleased. They are most likely going to say . . .

“Honey, we’re so proud of you! Look how smart you are!”

Or

“Honey, we’re so proud of you! You’ve worked so hard!”

While both responses are valid and affirming, they speak to two distinct mindsets about the relationship between our capacity and our performance. The first reaction speaks to a fixed-mindset—the belief that all of our talents and abilities are innate and unchanging. In a fixed mind-set, we believe that our intelligence, athletic ability, artistic skills or any other trait is carved in stone—we got a certain amount of it at birth and we’re going to have the same amount when we die.

The second response speaks to a growth-mindset. In a growth-mindset, an individual operates under the assumption that growth and change can happen in any area of life, with effort and experience. A growth-mindset views capacities such as intelligence, athleticism, and creativity as constantly in flux and as faculties to be cultivated over time. This type of mind-set shows up when we acknowledge the process along with the outcome and view life with elasticity.

While it is certainly true that there is a strong argument for the role of Nature when it comes to traits (no one is going to argue that Albert Einstein or Michal Jordan didn’t have a bit of a natural leg-up!) research shows that individuals who hold fixed-mindsets about their abilities are far more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and are ultimately less successful than their growth-minded peers. This is due to the fact that fixed mindset individuals view success and failure as a reflection of themselves and their abilities. On the other hand, growth-minded individuals fortify themselves against many of the side-effects of failure by viewing their capacities as ever changing, and more of a reflection of their willingness to risk rather than their core identity.

Which type of mind-set are you operating from? What type of mindsets are you encouraging in your loved ones, clients and or those you minister to?

Just One Step

by Andrea Noel

At a recent visit to my alma mater, I encountered a group of students who chose to participate in the annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program. ASB is a weeklong service learning experience that students voluntarily substitute for entertaining vacations during spring break. ASB is spread nationally and internationally, involves graduates and undergraduates, and responds to the needs of marginalized populations.

Throughout the week, students live together and work in teams at various sites providing services to forgotten residents in local communities. Each day, they reflect on their encounters at these sites. During my visit with the Washington D.C. ASB team, I witnessed meaningful thoughts students shared about people they met at schools, homeless shelters, and hospices.

One particular student shared that there exists this overwhelming need for change in the world. In Washington D.C. there are too many homeless people, individuals dying of AIDS/HIV, children abused and neglected, schools closing and over-crowded, violent crimes increasing, and fixed unemployment rates. This student said it seems impossible for one week of service to make any difference in the lives of individuals who encounter so much scarcity, violence, or disregard. The student believed the work of the week seemed hopeless.

After hearing this, I recalled a prayer attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero. This prayer was written by Bishop Ken Untener, of Saginaw, November 1979, in celebration of the lives of departed priests.

“…The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete…the Kingdom always lies beyond
us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith…

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission…

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development…

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an

opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master

builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.[1]
Amen.

May this prayer shape our ways of being present to those we serve as pastoral counselors and spiritual caregivers. Although problems around us seem monumental, let us do whatever we can with love and care.


[1] Untener, K. (1979) Archbishop Oscar Romero prayer: A step along the way. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers/archbishop_romero_prayer.cfm

Deb Calhoun’s God-Led Path to Chaplaincy

(Deb Calhoun is a distinguished 2012 graduate of the Pastoral Counseling Department’s M.A. in Spiritual and Pastoral Care. She won the John R. Compton Integration Award for her pastoral presence and ability to practice pastoral integration in her work.)
 

Deb Calhoun

JoAnn: How did you find your calling to Loyola?

Deb: While working with a special family – members of my Unitarian Universalist congregation – I learned pursuing pastoral care with greater commitment was my path. My minister recognized it before I did. When I thank her, she denies that she deserves the credit. At first, I could not use the word “calling.” I kept saying “no” until finally I couldn’t any longer. I stumbled upon Loyola’s program. It was the perfect fit for me.

 
JoAnn: What is your lasting impression of Loyola?
 
 

Deb: Spiritual and Pastoral Care with Fr. Kevin Gillespie shaped me as a caregiver. He taught us Care of the Entire Person or Cura personalis and – “where there is a story, there is hope.” Being present to someone listening to their story is the foundation of how I do pastoral care. When you are really attentive to the story, the heart of the matter is revealed. That is where God is! I come to it with the skills that I need and God does the rest.

JoAnn: How is God found in your work?

Deb: When I have the right words for someone that aren’t mine – during a baptism a Scripture verse comes to me that I didn’t even know I knew, or miraculously I run into someone and events just fall into place so that I am able to meet a need.

JoAnn: How do you use your education in your work?

Deb: I draw a lot on Loss and Bereavement and Crisis Intervention. A one-day seminar on suicide prevention came back to me when I dealt with someone who was considering suicide.

JoAnn: Since graduating from Loyola what have you been up to?

Deb: Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).  I did one unit each at the Hebrew Home, Sinai Hospital and now Johns Hopkins. I have had different supervisors, groups, and clinical components and learned a variety of skills. Typically, someone does a full-time chaplaincy residency in the same place for all four units.  It is 60 hours a week – physically and emotionally intense. That was not the correct path for me. I have Muscular Dystrophy and I was not sure that I could handle it physically.

JoAnn: In your work in CPE, have you worked with people of various faiths?

Deb: Yes! My current supervisor is a ṣūfī, my supervisor-in-training is Episcopalian, and I had a Jewish Rabbi supervisor. I am comfortable praying with people of all faiths. I am leading the worship service at Johns Hopkins every other Sunday, and it is a surprise to me how much I love it.

JoAnn: Do you like your work?

Deb: Oh yes! I am where I am supposed to be. People ask: how can you do it? It is so sad to see people suffering. I think how lucky am I to be able to do the work that I do!

Deb Calhoun receiving John R. Compton Integration Award from Dr. Tom Rodgerson

Since our meeting, I learned that Deb Calhoun has been accepted to Earlham School of Religion to pursue her MDiv. We wish her well.

WWJP: What Would Jesus Practice?

Vernon WareWho is someone that you look up to as a counselor? Adler, Frankl, Freud, Perls (yes, Fritz and Laura), Ellis, Beck, May? The list of names goes on and on, but I wanted to suggest one name that you might not have considered. Jesus. One of the many titles that is conferred upon Jesus is “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) and I would hope that at least being “good” counselors is something that all of us have as a goal. So with that in mind, I wondered this simple question, WWJP? What Would Jesus Practice? Can we look at the life of Jesus and detect a partiality to a specific theory of counseling?

Would Jesus be considered a proponent of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) when he counseled a rich young ruler to consider giving up all of his riches to the poor, so that he could truly be fulfilled?

Would Jesus’s time with his disciples be considered a very intensive Reality therapy session since Jesus asked them to make the choice to be in relationship with him and the other disciples to change their lives?

Would Jesus be considered a proponent of Person-centered therapy because of his brief group therapy session with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) and the men who accused her, where he asked very few questions but changed the behaviors of both the men and the woman?

Would Jesus be considered an Adlerian because of his transformative meeting with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9)? Jesus met with someone who was hated, even by himself, and in one conversation changed his thinking about himself and fostered Zacchaeus’ social interest so much that Zacchaeus said that he would repay those he had cheated four times over.

Jesus broke many of the conventions of that time: working on the Sabbath, having conversations with women and having connection with Gentiles, just to name a few.  So could we conclude that he was a proponent of the Existential approach since he championed the freedom of persons to choose their own direction in life?  

And while it is uncomfortable for me to put Jesus and Sigmund Freud in the same sentence, I do have to admit that Jesus did have a skill at getting through other’s Ego-defense Mechanisms.

There is obviously much more that can be said on this topic and I hope that you will respond and do just that! I would love to hear your feedback and get your answer to WWJP – What Would Jesus Practice?

Top 5 Lessons I Learned in the M.A. Program

 The top 5 lessons I learned in the MA in Spiritual and Pastoral Care Program in no particular order are:

1. Be careful sharing your theology with others – What you believe about God may not be what another person believes, and even if you are well meaning you may hurt someone else by imposing your views.  In Theological Anthropology, Dr. Gerry Fialkowski told us many stories.  One that stands out for me was the story of what one well-meaning, but misguided person said to a child grieving for her mother.  It was not a pastoral response.  She said, “God needed your mommy in heaven, which is why she died.”  That child needs her mother.  Only a cruel God would deprive a child of her mother.  Is that the God I believe in? 

2. God is mystery – God continues to reveal Godself to us, God is continuously creating, and God’s work is never finished.  All we have are metaphors to describe God.  Our human minds do not have the capacity to fully understand God.  If you think you understand God, drop that concept you think you know because you have got it all wrong.  St. Augustine said, “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand.  If you understand, you have failed…”

I now live by that concept.  Surprise and discovery are what I find here at Loyola on this journey toward union with God. I am constantly reminding myself to stay open to new possibilities, new understandings, new invitations, and new calls from God.

3. Self-Care is Sacred.  – It is not selfish to practice self-care — it is self-preservation for someone in a helping profession.  We are so highly prone to burn out, and when this occurs we can cause harm to those for which we care.  “Physician heal thyself.” (Luke 4:23).  I have studied the wounded healers (like Henri Nouwen) who bind up their own wounds, and in so doing learn empathy/compassion.  They sooth others’ wounds because they first tended to their own.

4. I AM capable of being a spiritual director  – In my tradition of Roman Catholicism, priests and religious do most of the spiritual guidance.  It is only in the last generation that lay men and women have taken on a greater role in Ministry within the Church.  There are still many traditional and conservative individuals who would rather go to a priest or nun with a spiritual matter viewing him or her as “more qualified.”  I had carried this with me and it made me doubt my ability to be a spiritual director.  But then, I took Spiritual Direction with Fr. Brian McDermott, SJ.  He showed me that I do have what it takes, that I can be a spiritual director, and that anyone who has a true calling regardless of whether or not they have been ordained can companion someone in their spiritual journey.

5. There are distinct differences between spiritual direction, pastoral care, pastoral counseling, and psychotherapy – As I sit with someone in a spiritual direction session, often relationship issues enter into our space and that is okay.  The Spirit is there between us continuing God’s work of creating by mending fences, changing hearts, calling to conversion, reconciling, nurturing, tending, and challenging.   My directees and pastoral care receivers constantly teach me what they need from me. If I can assist them with that need then I will; however, if I cannot then it is time for me to refer them to another professional.

A plethora of personal growth and formation takes place here at Loyola.  I could communicate so many more lessons I have learned.  This is just a sample of life at Loyola as an MA student in the Pastoral Counseling Department.

Disordered Affection: Finding God in all the wrong places?

The phrase “disordered affections” captured my attention while I was reading James Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. St. Ignatius of Loyola first described disordered affections in his Spiritual Exercises as whatever keeps us from being free. It is an “affection” because we find it appealing. We are drawn to it. It satisfies a hunger – a need within us, and, after a while, it becomes an “attachment.” We think we cannot live without it. Thus, it is “disordered” because it is not “life giving.”

As I chased down its meaning, I uncovered how I use disordered affections in my life to distract myself from my path and growing closer to God. In pastoral counseling, it is easy to identify the disordered affections and attachments that are obviously not “life giving” and cause harm: substance abuse, alcoholism, hoarding, obsessive-compulsive disorder. But what about those disordered affections that are seemingly harmless like watching television, the Internet, reading, exercise, work, and, um, chocolate?

So, I did a little research and found a definition on This Ignatian Life :

 “Disordered attachments are those things (objects, experiences, activities, even other people) who become the focus of our desires and, consequently our time on this earth, rather than seeking the will and companionship of God.”

Hmmm. This might mean that my job qualifies as a disordered affection . . . but we’ll deal with that later. Here are some questions This Ignatian Life recommends we ask to identify disordered affections:

  • Does the object of your affection distract you from your focus to be closer to God? (Only after lunch and only when it involves chocolate.)
  • Is more of your time spent attending to these affections rather than the work you need to be doing? (No, I can eat chocolate and answer e-mail at the same time.)
  • Do you have a fear of feeling empty if you do not attend to your affections? (Darn it . . . yes! Only chocolate will fill that emptiness!)
  • Is your time spent trying to accumulate more time with or material objects surrounding your affections? (Hmm. I purchased the party-size bag of M&M’s® and carry it with me. At first, I thought I would just carry a serving size but what if it was not enough and I want more? It doesn’t make sense to BUY more when I already have $11.99 worth at home.)

Interestingly, St. Ignatius offers a way to overcome disordered attachments that might sound a little familiar to pastoral counselors:

  • Begin by naming the disorder. (Chocoholism.)
  • Admit that the disorder impacts your life and relationships. (Sigh . . . see the 3 out of 4 “yes” answers above.)
  • Remember your desire to move closer to God and your commitment to serve others. (St. Ignatius also reminded me that my desire is also God’s desire to be closer to me, and I never share my M&M’s® with anyone.)
  • Seek the grace to be strong and committed to your path. Rather than completely deny the object of your attachment, seek only to hold it openly, in ways that free your soul from fear. (I was inspired to purchase an M&M® dispenser and place it on the desk in my office. Now, people trickle in for a handful of candy and stay and chat for a minute or two.)

Ignatian spirituality calls for us to find God in all things. Even within a disordered affection, if I seek to find God and His grace, I will find my freedom and perhaps a few other souls along the way.

Time to Pull up My Big Girl Panties: Reflecting on Grief and Strength

“Time to Pull Up My Big Girl Panties”

 Yep—that’s what she said.  That’s exactly what she said. 

Who said it?

Dr. Kari O’Grady—a well respected pastoral counselor and scholar in the discipline of trauma and religious coping. 

What is she referring to?

She was quoting a former student and colleague in the Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care (PCSC) Department at Loyola University Maryland.

This is where Dr. O’Grady’s turn of phrase becomes meaningful—almost beyond words. 

Dr. O’Grady was quoting the Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, an affiliate PCSC professor and graduate of Loyola during a eulogy. Only days before, Mary-Marguerite was in the church office with the administrative assistant of her parish when a participant in their ministry to the homeless fatally shot both women.  He fled the scene and killed himself.

Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn

In the moment that Dr. O’Grady repeated the proclamation that it was “time to pull up her big girl panties” she was making a double entendre.  In the context of Rev. Kohn’s funeral, Dr. O’Grady was honoring the life spirit of a former student and colleague who chose hope over despair and who chose courage and compassion in the midst of fear and loss.

She was quoting Mary-Marguerite’s conviction to begin a new path upon receiving her doctorate only three years before.  It was one of those miraculous moments the heart stumbles on at a funeral…when a sense of being embraced by the spirit of life and love of the newly departed envelops the bereaved in the midst of their shock and sense of loss.

It could easily be a reminder of all that the PCSC Department at Loyola has experienced recently.  Almost unbearably, Mary-Marguerite is the third PCSC faculty member at Loyola to die three years—and the third to die an untimely and tragic death.

First, Dr. Kelly Murray and her 7 year old daughter were killed by a falling tree while idling at an intersection in their family vehicle during a storm in 2009; and then, a little over a year later, the department chair, Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi died from multiple myeloma. 

All three of these folks lived lives filled with meaning and compassion which touched the hearts and lives of many, many people.  (Their obituaries are linked below.)  And all three were colleagues and friends of Dr. O’Grady and the members of the PCSC department.  Until Rev. Kohn’s death, I did not know the upheaval that the department had already experienced.

In that moment I learned the words in the Loyola online catalog describing the Pastoral Counseling program as holistic and integrated are not just there to describe positive sounding academic endeavors in the abstract.  They are accurate descriptors of the program.  They describe not only the courses but also the clinical education, the professors’ interweaving clinical work with quality teaching, the structure of individual courses, and the meaningful faculty and staff relationships with students.

We PCSC students are being challenged to learn, grow and transform our lives in the same way that we hope to accompany others on a path of meaning making and healing. 

This is precisely what Dr. O’Grady was doing for those of us in the congregation at Mary-Marguerite Kohn’s funeral…encouraging us to “pull up our big girl panties” and receive our own sadness, loss, fears, and wounds.  Because…as she well knows… the only way through hurt to healing, is through the hurt with compassion for self and others.  And the encouragement she gave to us to gird our hearts and move forward, just as she was doing for herself, was the most profound teaching moment and modeling of lifelong learning healing I have experienced as I continue to seek to understand the call to be a “pastoral counselor.”

Grace and Peace be with you—and everyone whose lives you touched…

Dr. Kelly Murray:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2009-06-29/news/0906280083_1_loyola-college-murray-psychology-professor

Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi:
Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-10-31/news/bs-md-ob-joseph-ciarrocchi-20101031_1_catholic-priest-psychology-educator

Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-05-08/news/bs-md-ho-kohn-funeral-20120508_1_memorial-service-mix-tapes-doctorate

When Feeling Bad is Good

When feeling bad is good for you

Barbara Kass

Just as our bodies signal us to tend to our physical well-being, so our emotions act like messengers to mind our emotional well-being. When we are rested and energized, we can take on life’s challenges with ease. Feeling tired indicates we need to retreat and relax. Likewise, feelings of joy, contentment, and love say “everything is fine” while feeling angry, anxious, or depressed make us uncomfortable and think “something is wrong.”

The happiness road beckons all of us yet trying to follow that path by avoiding painful emotions is a gateway to living a less-than-authentic life. Meeting difficult emotions face-to-face is the foundation of resilience and can help guide our lives. When struck by a spark of rage or held immobile by despair or fear, we must ask ourselves: What purpose does this emotion serve for me? What am I trying to tell myself? How can this emotion best guide my decisions and actions in the next moments?

In his book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, author James Martin points out that any emotion can overwhelm us. We might feel a joy out of proportion to a particular event or moved to tears for something insignificant and wonder: What is wrong with me? In those distinct moments, we don’t quite feel right. There is a certain emptiness, a longing, a desire to connect with a larger understanding that seems just outside of our reach. Martin calls those moments invitations from God asking us to communicate with the greater power of our origination. And if we connect with the power that gave us this life – the power that wants us to have a good life – we know we are getting the best counseling available.

I frequent a blog, Domini Canes, where a recent post reminded me that we look to God for answers through prayer, but prayer is not a man-made action. Rather, prayer is a gift, a door eternally open to connection with God. We are both the seeker and the sought.

Our lives shout at us through our feelings and in the silent circumstances of our deeds. Your emotions will tell you everything you need to know about your journey. As you sift through the results of your decisions and actions, look at how your trials made meaning in your life and know the presence of God within you.

When the Unthinkable Happens: A Loyola Student’s Amazing Recovery from an Ischemic Stroke

I could only imagine the thoughts that were invading his mind as he lowered himself to the bathroom floor and dialed 911.  My friend/classmate, who I will call Al to respect his privacy, was scheduled to graduate from Loyola University Maryland in four weeks, with a Masters of Science (“MS”) degree in pastoral counseling.  He had taken the National Counselor Examination (“NCE”) that morning, and was still in the building, when tragedy struck.  For the next two months, Al exchanged the classroom for the physical and occupational therapy rooms, as he relearned how to perform basic activities of daily living (“ADLs”), with the goal of regaining his independence. 

Al had suffered a stroke, specifically a right anterior cerebral artery ischemic stroke.  This stroke did not create facial distortions, nor did it affect his mind.  However, his left side was weak, and in addition to an inability to control the affected muscles and limbs, he experienced pain and intermittent muscle spasms.  What the stroke did not affect was his positive attitude and sense of purpose.  And as I read his daily posts on Facebook, and the e-mail updates from his wife, I developed an appreciation for his faith in God and his personal power.  I had no doubt that recovery would occur, and it would happen quickly.

The daily updates were, in essence, progress notes.  Each day offered a reason to celebrate, and on the rare occasion that a relapse occurred, getting back on track was almost immediate.  I knew Al was an active member of his church, and as I followed his progress, I recognized that his relationship with God played a more essential role in his recovery than I had originally imagined.  One evening during a visit, we discussed his faith and how it related to his current situation. 

Al’s faith is rooted in the sovereignty of God.  He is certain that God was responsible for his illness, and he supported his belief with the Biblical teaching that all of our days are written and established before one of them has happened.  Therefore, he accepted the stroke as a marker on the road he was destined to travel.  I suggested a comparison with Job where God allowed the devil to persecute him.  Al did not agree, simply stating “because Christ has ransomed us.”  He said that God’s purpose is to glorify his son, and that God is dedicated to transforming each believer into the image of Christ.  Al also hoped that his illness would benefit someone, and his stroke would not be wasted.  I assured him that he had inspired me, and if I ever were to become ill, I would find a positive role model in him.

After almost 5 weeks, Al transferred to Encore at Turf Valley  to complete his final phase of inpatient rehabilitation.  Encore is located across the street from his church, and he was able to attend Sunday service.  As I sat with him during his last evening at Encore, I wondered what, if anything, in our Pastoral Counseling program could have prepared him to negotiate his life-changing event with such a positive attitude.  Al had acknowledged earlier feelings of despondency, and his fear of being handicapped for the rest of his life.  However, his faith helped him to set aside those thoughts and focus on healing.  And as I looked into his eyes as he spoke, I understood that I had found my answer.  Al’s ability to use his faith to effect healing was pastoral.

Al is at home now, and after two months of being cared for by others, he is testing his independence.  On his first day at home, he posted:  “Today, I am at home.  I made a pot of coffee.  I had breakfast, cleaning up after myself.  I am using a walker around the house, trying to remember to go slowly and to stay safe. But, I’m smiling.”  Al’s sense of purpose, his personal strength, and his faith in God continue to be strong, and have helped him through difficult times.  He still has a way to go to complete his healing, but his prognosis is good.  As I look back on Al’s journey, I am proud to have been his classmate, and to call him my friend.